Tips for Students during COVID-19

Students around the region: We hear you. There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in the communications industry right now, and it can be daunting to think of your next steps in the midst of the current crisis. But one of the key characteristics of a good public relations professional is being nimble and pivoting to maximize any opportunity. Below, the PPRA Board shares some tips for building the foundation of your career during this time. We encourage you to reach out, connect with us and get engaged – now is as good a time as ever to start forging the professional relationships that will serve you well throughout your career!

We’re so #PPRAProud of you all, and we look forward to welcoming you to our community. To learn more about PPRA and how it supports students, reach out to the Co-Chairs of the College Relations Committee: Ryan Wall and Thomas Logue.

“Take note of examples of organizations that are really practicing stellar public relations at this moment. Then reach out to the people behind those organizations, introduce yourself as someone who is entering the field, and let them know what you noticed about their good work. Ask if they’d mind having a Zoom coffee meeting as an informational interview. I’m doing this too and making new connections as a result.” – Adam Dvorin, Media Relations Director, Winning Strategies; Adjunct Professor, Temple University adamdvorinppra@gmail.com

“Remember that nearly every industry is struggling, so try not to take it too personally. Use this time to hone your skills, relax and reconnect with loved ones. The rest of your life will be spent in the rat race anyway! :)” – Alexa Johnson, Senior Marketing & Communications Manager, Visit Bucks County alexaj@visitbuckscounty.com

“Get creative and stay hungry. Find new ways to make connections. Even though it’s our profession to watch the news, don’t give in to the ‘doom and gloom.’ We will get through this.” – Anthony Stipa, Communications Manager, PHLCVB; Temple alum anthonystipa@gmail.com

“Find something you care deeply about and volunteer your communications skills to an organization that supports your cause. You will make a world of new contacts and build your portfolio at the same time. Keep a diary of your COVID-19 experience. You are living through an extraordinary time in history. You are a writer, so write! Also, reach out to alumni from your school who work in communications and ask for informational interviews now. One of my best employees ever came to me that way. When someone we had just hired took another job, the woman who had the informational interview got the job! Finally, know that ‘no’ isn’t final. It means ‘not today.’ Keep in touch with the network you build. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what happens over time.” – Bev Volpe, Partner, Snap2 Marketing/PR; Penn State alum bev@snap2mkt.com

“Research companies in the news, research their web sites and who their spokespeople are. Pay attention to universities and non-profits.” – Bonnie Grant, Executive Director of  PHL Life Sciences, Philadelphia’s Convention & Visitors Bureau; Temple alum bonnie@discoverphl.com

“Join professional organizations in your desired field. Network as much as you can. Taking the first step to a new connection can make all the difference. And remember to nurture these relationships.” – Deirdre Hopkins, Director of Public Relations, Visit Philadelphia; PPRA President deirdre@visitphilly.com

“While there may never (I hope) be another event that affects the world on such a scale, there will always be obstacles to overcome. Understand that and prepare for them, even if it is getting used to the sense that you cannot control every variable. Learning to be flexible, how to pivot, how to adapt, is one of the most important skills one can have in their career and in life. It allows you to see new opportunities and let go of the things that don’t work anymore. That’s not to say ‘give up on your dream’ but know that most paths are not a straight line. Try to learn new things and add skills wherever you can find them. Be open to new employment that may not fit your ideal job description.” – Hope Corse, Director of External Relations, Science History Institute; Temple alum hcorse@sciencehistory.org

“Invest in yourself, professionally and personally. Use this time to read a book, learn a language, make a bucket list. Consider what this pandemic has shown us about the future of work and consider enrolling in a free course to fine-tune your digital skills.” – Jennifer Micklow, PR Account Director, Brownstein Group; Rowan alum jmicklow@brownsteingroup.com

“Use this time to reconnect with others. Invest time in your relationships and they will often pay dividends in the future. Don’t let fear or self-doubt keep you from reaching out. You’ll often find that people are generous with their time and advice.” – Kellsey Turner, Account Manager, Vault Communications; La Salle alum kturner@vaultcommunications.com

“Use this time to develop new skills – there are so many free courses out there right now, it’s a great time to take some on Adobe Creative Suite, photography, videography, SEO, Google Analytics, Facebook Advertising and more. These are the skills that will set you apart when you’re trying to get hired in a hyper-competitive environment. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals right now – we’re all figuring this out together and 9 times out of 10 the person you’re hoping to connect with will be willing to chat.” – London Faust, Digital Media Manager, Bellevue Communications Group; PPRA President-elect; Temple alum lfaust@bellevuepr.com

“Use this time to build your portfolio. Review past projects, refine them. Get additional feedback and work to put a stellar collection together.” – Melissa Fordyce, Executive Director, Marketing & Communications, Philadelphia Foundation; Temple professor; Villanova alum melissa.a.fordyce@gmail.com

“Read. Read. Read. Know what is going on in the world from many perspectives. This will help you become an asset in PR or any field and will help you have thoughtful conversation with prospective employers, mentors and the media.” – Michelle Sonsino, Director of Marketing and Communications, Germantown Friends School; UPenn alum msonsino@germantownfriends.org

“During this time of social distancing it’s important to have a polished digital portfolio. Update your LinkedIn profile by publishing articles on relevant topics to the area of communications or public relations that you are interested in. This will help you stand out from the competition. You may not have the opportunity to meet prospective employers in-person so become familiarized with video-conference interviews. The days of handshakes may be behind us but making a good first impression will never go out of style!” – Nina Rodebaugh, Adjunct Professor – Digital Analytics for PR, Temple University; Immediate Past President, PPRA; Cabrini alum nina.scimenes@gmail.com | Twitter: @NinaScim |LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ninascim/

“When I was a sophomore, a summer internship I thought I had secured fell through and I was devastated. But, a week later, I found another opportunity that ended up forming the foundation of my professional career. Don’t compare yourselves to others, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to adhere to a strict timeline. Attitude is everything, and if you keep your chin up, you’d be surprised to find that the world is often smiling back at you, cheering you on.” – Ryan Wall, Account Executive, Brian Communications, La Salle alum rwall@briancom.com | Twitter: @ryan_wonderwall | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ryanmwall/

“First, be sure to take care of yourself. This is a strange and uncertain time and it’s okay to be uncomfortable with that. In the same spirit, once you’ve settled in, take the time to think about what you want, your immediate goals and plan accordingly. Figure out how you can get your dream job or internship – does it require you to know a specific skill? Then, find a free, online class. Do you need to reach out to someone in that field? Do some virtual networking, or send an email to a professional (that includes professors!). During this time, build a clear roadmap for yourself and put it to action!” – Samantha Byles, Senior Account Executive, Bellevue Communications Group; Temple alum sbyles@bellevuepr.com

“Always follow up after applying for a job! Don’t assume “they don’t want me.” They probably are just busy. I got internships at the White House and U.S. Senate by simply making a follow up call – in both cases, they called me back right away and I’d secured the internship by the next day. Following up shows that you’re committed, responsible, and mature.” – Sarah Maiellano, Owner, Broad Street Communications sarahmaiellano@gmail.com

“The COVID-19 crisis will likely put a freeze on communications hiring for some time, so set the stage for success on the other side of this. Use every opportunity to make yourself more marketable. 1) Closely follow the news. We are living in a watershed moment that will likely change the way communications professionals think and operate. Be conversant in how this has impacted our world. (You don’t want to be caught off guard in an interview). 2) Bolster your resume. Whether you’re simply touching it up or getting new certifications outside of the classroom, do what you can to make your resume stronger your peers’. 3) NOW IS THE TIME TO NETWORK. Set aside 15 minutes (or more) every day to research a company or agency that seems interesting to you. See how they operate. Reach out and share your story. (You were looking into their company because they appeal to you in some way, and you’d like to learn more.) Have a genuine conversation with them, (avoid asking them about openings) and learn everything you can about where you might want to land in future.” – Thomas Logue, Account Executive, AKCG – Public Relations Counselors tom@annekleincg.com

Top 10 PPRA Firsts

As the outgoing PPRA president, I wanted to share my reflections on our last year without taking up time from the busy program at our recent Annual Meeting Reception, so I decided to put a Top 10 list together for our blog.

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Some of you may recall that 2016 is “My (Leap) Year of Firsts” – meaning I’m daring myself to try something new for the first time every single day this year.  Since PPRA’s calendar year is mid-year to mid-year, here are my Top 10 firsts from our 2015-2016 PPRA programming year:

  1. Founding the PPRA Sylvia Kauders 50-Year Club
  2. Jeff Jubelirer’s Hall of Fame Luncheon
  3. Mayor Nutter performing Rapper’s Delight and Mighty Writer Christian Precise reading her poetry at the Gold Medal Luncheon
  4. Greeting Card Workshop at Magic Gardens
  5. Launching the Firm Founders Series
  6. Grape Expectations outdoor fashion sketches at City Tavern
  7. Launching Networking 101 at CBS 3
  8. The “Meet the Messengers” breakfast panel with Mayor Kenney’s communications team
  9. “Kicking” off our exclusive in-studio breakfast program at CBS 3 with Margaret Cronan (and our matching boots)
  10. Lu Ann Cahn (a.k.a. the inspiration behind the “firsts”) interviewing Philadelphia Media Network Publisher Terry Egger

There were a lot more highlights, but the reason I’m emphasizing these experiences is because they were all “firsts” for PPRA.  We were not afraid to take risks and try some things differently.  For example, we revamped PResence – PPRA’s monthly e-newsletter – and the open rate has nearly peaked at 50 percent.  What were your favorite #PPRAfirsts from this year?

Furthermore, I would like to sincerely thank our PPRA members for their support and dedication.  It truly has been amazing to experience these “firsts” and grow with my PPRA family.  Thanks to all for the memories that will last.      

Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway is the immediate past-president of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and director of communications and marketing at the Philadelphia Bar Association.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @MZApoetry.

Member Get a Member

Congratulations to the following PPRA members, who all won prizes in the final “Member Get a Member” contest of the program year:

  • Cooper University Health Care System Marketing Manager Amanda Bednar, who received passes to Helium Comedy Club for referring her colleague Kate Johnston, who is also a marketing manager at Cooper University Health Care System.
  • Buchanan Public Relations President Anne Buchanan, who received tickets to the Philadelphia Folk Festival for referring Philabundance Deputy Communications Director Stafanie Arck-Baynes.
  • Brian Communications Assistant Account Executive Rachel Christie, who received Phillies tickets for referring Gregory FCA Account Coordinator Olivia Noble.

  • Anne Klein, who is founder of Anne Klein Communications Group, received a gift card to Hard Rock Café Philadelphia for referring Sandee Bengel.
  • Independent communications consultant Jessica Lawlor, who received a gift card to Hard Rock Café Philadelphia for referring Alexa Johnson, public relations manager at Visit Bucks County.
  • Lisa Simon, who is president of Simon Public Relations Group, received a gift card to Hard Rock Café Philadelphia for referring Amy Buckman, who is manager of public relations and special events at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

In addition, Adam Dvorin, media director at Winning Strategies, referred Della Bozeman.

Thanks to Cashman Public Relations, Lisette Bralow, Helium Comedy Club and the Phillies for providing this month’s prizes.

Finally, thank you to everyone who helped spread the word about joining PPRA.

The State of the Industry

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Public relations professionals from PPRA, PRSA Philly and PBPRS gathered April 19, 2016 for the third ever State of the Industry event. As attendees enjoyed a filling breakfast, PPRA President Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway welcomed the audience followed by PRSA Philly President Kimberley Ciesla and Philadelphia Black Public Relations President Vincent Thompson. Next, guests transitioned into the main part of the event which consisted of four interesting panel discussions about the state of public relations in Philadelphia organized into two breakout sessions.

During the first breakout session, “Staying Out of the News: Insight from Philly’s Top Crisis PR Experts” event attendees had the opportunity to learn more about crisis public relations from some of the top Crisis PR professionals. The panel consisted of Cathy Engel Menendez, Director of Communications for PECO, Joshua Peck, PR Head at international law firm Duane Morris, and Christopher Lukach, president and member of the ownership team at Anne Klein Communications Group. Neil Foote, president of Foote Communications LLC and the National Black Public Relations Society, moderated the conversation, introducing various challenges faced by professionals who perform crisis management. By the conclusion of the session, audience members learned the importance of getting the facts, identifying the ideal spokesperson, sharing a plan for dispensing information with stakeholders and setting the tone for a crisis during the first response. The panelists also explained the importance of preparing for crises before they occur, already having established relationships with C-suite executives and being able to communicate the values of your organization when in doubt.

555The other portion of the audience attended “The Influence Behind Philly Brands” during session one. This event was moderated by David Brown, Founder/Managing Director of the Marketing Collaborative and assistant professor of teaching at Temple University. Janeane Tolomeo of Di Bruno Bros., Trevor Prichett of the Yards Brewing Company and Paula Butler of Visit Philadelphia sat on the panel for this discussion.  Each professional discussed some of the unique challenges their brands face and the ways they leverage their brand’s Philly connection to meet their bottom lines. While Visit Philly tries to make cultural connections with Philadelphia and the outside world to engage their audiences, Yard Brewing Company competes with large companies on their small budget by appealing to Philly loyalty and using social media, traditional PR and multimedia content to develop campaigns like their “Brew onto Others.” Tolomeo explained that the Di Bruno Bros employs market research, high level connections and influential partnerships to keep their finger on the pulse of consumers.

The second breakout session focused on two different subjects: social media and changes in healthcare. In “We Snapped, Posted & Tweeted… What’s Next?,” Rakia Reynolds, CEO and Founder of Skai Blue Media, and Matthew Dickman, Executive Director of Digital Communications at Comcast Corporation, shared their expertise with the audience. After tweetgiving brief professional backgrounds, Boyd and Dickman dialogued about their recent shared experience in the Comcast lounge at SXSW. They reminisced about how Comcast spent 1/10th the amount as many other brands at SXSW but generated more engagement by providing great content, incorporating various forms of social media and creating an interactive and engaging space. Boyd and Dickman continued the discussion providing advice about strategically growing interaction on social media, organic posting versus paid search, determining the appropriate content according to platform, incorporating snapchat for large companies and more.

Other professionals who attended the event elected to attend “From Consumerism to the FDA—How Changes in Healthcare Impact Communications.” Rachel Schwartz, Vice President of Tonic Life Communications discussed the role that patient bloggers play in affecting policies in the healthcare industry. Leah Sheppard, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing and Communications, also spoke about the more active role patients are taking in healthcare consumerism. Rather than simply following doctor’s orders, patients have begun to take agency advice in seeking out physicians and institutions and it is shifting the conversation in this field. For Charlotte Sutton, Health and Science editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she recognizes the rise in patient stories but what she looks for is the data underpinnings of these increasing patient stories.

 

After the breakout sessions, the audience heard from April Mellody, Deputy CEO of Communications of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Committee. The 2016 Democratic National Convention is coming to Philadelphia this July and Mellody is responsible for all aspects of official convention communications. A short Q&A session followed Mellody’s spiel that broached topics from communication challenges Mellody’s staff may face to volunteer opportunities. Attendees left the third State of the Industry event more informed about changes in the field of PR and with more insight about the state of Philadelphia in the near future.

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Jameeda Rucker is a senior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication and minoring in Spanish. Jameeda has held five public relations internships and multiple leadership roles in pre-professional organizations including her current role as Vice President of Public Relations for Temple’s Chapter of PRSSA. You can connect with Jameeda on Twitter @_JRPR_ and on LinkedIn here.

Member Get a Member Winners: Niki Gianakaris and Abby Rizen

Congratulations to PPRA Members Niki Gianakaris and Abby Rizen for winning the March “Member Get a Member” contest.

 

Gianakaris is the Director of Media Relations at Drexel University. She referred her colleagues Lauren Ingeno and Frank Otto.

Rizen is the Director of Media Relations at Vault Communications. She referred colleagues Amanda Michelson and Rachel Jakubowitcz.

The two will receive a prize package that includes a gift card to the Hard Rock Cafe Philadelphia, a gift certificate to U-Bahn and BRU Craft and Wurst and tickets to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Helium Comedy Club and Eastern State Penitentiary, among other gifts.

Now, members have another chance to win prizes for recruiting their friends, clients and colleagues to PPRA. The third “Member Get a Member” contest kicks off today and runs until 5 p.m. on Friday, March 31.

You could win a package that includes restaurant gift cards, event tickets, and more. The prize is designed to exceed the $175 membership fee.

Here is how to get involved:

  • Work your network to let people know what YOU like about PPRA and why they should be a part of our organization.
  • When you refer someone, make sure that they mention your name when they register. New members will be tallied. The person who recruits the most members is the winner.
  • This contest is open to all members, including General Members, Board Members and Committee Chairs.

Good Luck!