Member Monday: Greg Rokisky

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Name: Greg Rokisky
Position/Company: Marketing Manager, Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB)
PR/Social Media Freelancer
Location: Lansing, Michigan
Education: Michigan State University
Social Media Handle: @GregRokisky

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
I usually tell people I literally stumbled into PR but, the truth is, I think fate played a much bigger role than I let on. I always loved writing and storytelling in grade school and had a penchant for being heavily involved with student government. After becoming my residence hall’s president my sophomore year, I got involved with MSU’s campus wide Residence Halls Association executive board. I wound up the Director of PR and, shortly after, I landed my first official PR internship. The rest started to fall into place from there.

How did you find internships/jobs?
My curiosity is simultaneously my biggest strength and weakness. I always look for things that interest me in places that might not be where others are looking. I worked for the on-campus food service chain at MSU, Sparty’s. After doing my time frying chicken tenders and flipping burgers in one of the sites within the residence halls, I applied for an HR role that eventually transformed into a communications role. When it came to most of my jobs, they came about based on where I wanted to grow my skills—one was at the company I was interning, the next a full-time opportunity working remotely and my current role as a manager to broaden my traditional marketing and nonprofit experience. Be curious…you never know the answer if you don’t look around and ask questions.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
It’s one I’m still facing—I have unrealistic expectations to produce perfect results every time, both from myself and others. Perfect rarely happens. Sometimes, you won’t be even 60% happy with your work but it’s what you can do given deadlines, resources, time, etc. I just remind myself that sometimes I’ll outperform what I expected and others I’ll underperform and hopefully, in the end, they all balance each other out. It reminds me of a new book I just started, where the author suggests we stop trying to be well-balanced and, instead try to be well-lopsided people.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
The most valuable things I’ve learned in life, professionally and personally, have come through doing. Therefore, it’s all about saying yes to as much as you can lopsidedly balance and put yourself in slightly uncomfortable positions throughout life…probably forever. I’m a huge proponent of learning and believe education, however you choose to define it, should be a lifelong process.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
Relationships, sincere relationships, truly matter—and not only if you’re in PR. Being in PR certainly helps nail down the importance of relationships, but I can’t even count how many times my relationships have led to something. My freelance work has all come from relationships I’ve built. My PRSA involvement, locally and nationally, have come from my relationships. Jobs and recommendations have come from relationships. Some of the best memories, laughs, professional conversations have been had because of the time I’ve put into my relationships. Jobs don’t get us through tough times, people do; we should spend more time appreciating our relationships (makes note to self).

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Everything is becoming more and more integrated and data-heavy. Don’t be afraid of Excel.

Seriously…math and data are your friend.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
It goes back to the relationships, in part, and also the opportunity to get your name out there. Not many industries can you begin your career and be able to join a group that allows you to contribute your insight to a national blog (insert shameless plug to write for PRSA New Pros blog, The Edge). That, paired with the opportunity to enjoy catered professional development and networking with other new professionals in your field going through similar struggles, wins, losses and the like is priceless in my book.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
That oftentimes trying to be what you think professional success should look and act like proves to be way less valuable and effective than embracing the magic of who you actually are.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
My favorite existing animal are penguins; my favorite non-existing animal is a unicorn (although they exist in my heart). Despite having neither as a pet, I do love my dog Fitzgerald—named simultaneously after F. Scott Fitzgerald and President Fitzgerald Grant III from Scandal.
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Member Spotlight: Ally Cladwell

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Name: Ally Caldwell
Position/Company: Account Coordinator at Güd Marketing
Location: Lansing, Michigan
Education: Communications, Michigan State University
Social Media Handle: @AllyCaldwell_

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
When I graduated from high school, I originally wanted to study political science because I found the political process and campaigning very interesting. However, I changed my major to communications once I realized the additional doors it could open in terms of industry and scope of work. Once I began the upper-level coursework, I knew it was the right fit for me.

How did you find internships/jobs?
I found my first few internships by applying through my university’s job portal. However, I found out about the internship that led to my current job through my network. A good friend put me in touch with my eventual supervisor – I interviewed and got the internship.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
Change is hard. One of the biggest challenges in my career was making the initial leap from school to my career. There was no longer a clear path. While school provides many opportunities and options, it’s fairly straightforward in terms of the timeframe and milestones. In my career, I had to decide where I wanted to be, what I wanted to be doing, what other activities and organizations I wanted to be a part of. And the scary but exciting part is the fact that I can change my mind at any time. I am still asking myself these questions.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
Experience is crucial – and getting experience while in school is big advantage. I am thankful for my internships and relevant job experience because it ultimately led to me to where I am today. Anything I’ve learned that is tactical has helped me immensely – such as writing, event coordinating, and public speaking, among others.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
“You can’t fill from an empty cup.” Whether you think you have time for it or not, self-care is very important! And it’s something I am still learning to prioritize.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Follow your interests. If you are interested in traditional PR and media relations, pursue it. If you are interested in social media, look for related opportunities. I have students call me, email me, send me resumes, but the people that stand out are the people who have a clear interest. It’s really hard to help someone who doesn’t know what they want and what they are interested in. But always keep in mind that your interests can change at any time. You’re not locked in.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
I love being able to connect with my fellow PR professionals from across the country. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, so meeting people is always a fun way to take a break from the norm – and meeting people from hundreds of miles away is even more fun, especially since they can share in many of the experiences.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
You don’t have to have all the right answers. After I graduated college, I thought I had to know everything and so I put a lot of pressure on myself to learn everything I possibly could to keep up with my peers. It’s great to learn and it’s great to set goals, but don’t be afraid to admit to not knowing something. It’s impossible to know everything!

If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

Member Spotlight: Erica Hammett

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Name: Erica Hammett
Position/Company: PR Account Executive, MP&A Digital & Advertising
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Education: Public Relations, Virginia Tech
Social Media Handle: @ehammett16

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
I attended community college for two years after high school, which gave me the opportunity to do my general college courses and take time to think about what I wanted to study at a four-year university. My mother is in human resources and public relations so I was familiar with the industry growing up. It was a natural fit and I’m so glad to pursuing a career in public relations.

How did you find internships/jobs?
I found all my internships by reaching out to local businesses close to home or at Virginia Tech. I interned at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Tech YMCA. I wasn’t sure what type of public relations I wanted to do so I was willing to learn about various fields.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
Dealing with hurricanes Irma and Maria that hit the Caribbean. It was my first time handling a crisis. Many of our clients were affected so for the next few weeks we were in crisis mode, providing clear and accurate information. It was a good lesson that without communication and teamwork none of it would’ve been possible.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
Communication is key. Team work is crucial. Everyone contributes a piece to the puzzle. Small or big, every piece helps with the end goal.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
You have to chase after what you want, it’s not just going to fall into your lap.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Speak up! If you don’t understand something, want to learn more or have questions, don’t stay silent.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
Transitioning from PRSSA to PRSA is crucial for your career in public relations. Everyone is in the same situation as you, graduating college and beginning their career. Although you don’t frequently meet with people like you do in PRSSA, you have a community of people you can interact with through MyPRSA Communities, webinars and events. You always feel informed about opportunities and it’s comforting to know you have a group of people you can turn to for questions or advice.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
Research what type of work you want to do, see what jobs are out there. Learn as much as possible about similar career fields (business, marketing, and advertising). Whether it’s a minor, online courses or just staying updated about news/trends in those industries, it will help you tremendously.

If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

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Member Spotlight: Jon Kovach Jr.

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Name: Jon Kovach Jr.
Position/Company: Manager of Innovation
Location: Heber City, Utah
Education: Communication & Business, Utah Valley University
Social Media Handle: @jonkovachjr

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
While earning my associates degree in business at the LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, UT, a two-year trade school, I took a class entitled “Business Communications” where I learned the essential tools for strategic messaging. While in the class, we were challenged to send a letter of request to our supervisors and to generate feedback. Applying all that I had learned from class and from the text book, I crafted a message asking for a raise and generating a leadership position promotion for myself. I was granted the job and the raise upon my request. It was then I discovered my passion for business communication and it was both several instructors of mine who insisted I study public relations.

How did you find internships/jobs?
During my undergrad, I completed 5 internships with several national and international brands including: Cotopaxi (an online, outdoor retailer), Coldwell Banker Commercial Advisors in Salt Lake City, and Spectrum Science Communications in Washington, D.C.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced yet in my career has been taking the leap from one industry of comfort to another new and interesting industry. Though public relations and corporate communication can be virtually equivalent in it’s demands, the adjustments in creativity and strategy have really stretched me as a professional and has challenged me to learn more and more every day.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
The most valuable thing I’ve learned is quality-created relationships is vital to your success. You can pitch ideas all day. You can write up media alerts and construct strategies all day long. But without true, quality relationships brokered through trust, interest and respect, you cannot truly succeed.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
The best advice I have receive is to couple your learning between mentor and mentee relationships with the power of a mastermind group or accountability group. I’ve learned that mentors aren’t always going to be the Master Yoda’s in your life. Therefore, learning all that you can from mentor figures, researching their every move, and applying what you learned is only half the effort. You don’t just need a mentor in life. You need a mastermind group to hold you accountable to your goals and to achieve the success inspired to you by your mentors. In the past 12 months and because of the accountability in my mastermind group, I have written a book, pre-launched a podcast, started two businesses, and have climbed the ranks in my profession.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Be curious. Ask lots of questions. Be willing to go out into the world and learn. Develop a habit of researching everything. Become a master Googler. Without natural curiosity and a hunger to learn, you will face the same mundane patterns in your life. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. In order to achieve things, you’ve never done before, you must take action in ways you’ve never done before.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
The greatest benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section is the MyPRSA Communities. I love pushing out questions to the general body of professionals in PR throughout the globe in MyPRSA. It is the closest thing to a virtual mastermind for PR pros. I use this discussion board so often because I always get feedback from different people and have wonderful, educated discoveries from those who have experience.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
If I knew everything then my career wouldn’t be fulfilling. No. Your career is something you need to strive to learn new things every day. I read about a book per week. With each new book and the many discoveries, I find new ways to increase my professionalism and develop stronger relationships.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 12 years old. It started with helping my mom with a vending machine business. Then I had a lawn care business at age 14. At age 16, I became a local DJ and Master of Ceremonies. Hundreds of events later, I have dabbled in international micro financing. Currently, I own a recreational tackle football league in Utah, a network marketing team through 3-Worx, and a private consulting business for professional development and strategic business planning. I also travel and do public speaking to various groups and organizations. So many things to learn and try so that I can be a better professional in PR and communication.

If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

Member Spotlight: Alex Greer

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Name: Alex Greer
Position/Company: Assistant Account Manager, PR at Rhea + Kaiser
Location: Chicago, IL
Education: B.A. in Advertising, Michigan State University
Social Media Handle: @AlexGreer22

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
Shortly after transferring to Michigan State University, I realized I wanted to combine my writing skills with my passion for social and digital media. I became an advertising major, enrolled in PR classes and got involved with several extracurricular activities across campus. After joining PRSSA, I eventually landed my first internship and began my career in the industry.

How did you find internships/jobs?
There are a ton of great resources online for locating jobs and internships. Sites like LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster are constantly being updated with new opportunities and can be applied to with one click. Organizations like PRSSA and PRSA also provide members with newsletters containing exclusive job leads. Make sure to update your resume and monitor these sources so you don’t miss your next great opportunity!

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
My first job was working with a client in an industry I had almost no background in, and I was frequently being tasked with writing long-form content pieces. During this time, I asked questions religiously and tried to absorb as much information as I possibly could. While it was certainly stressful at times, I formed productive habits and routines to help manage time, retain information and maximize productivity. Today, I stick to these routines and produce content assignments in no time.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
People notice when you are putting in extra time and effort. Going above and beyond is the quickest way to get to the next level. It may take time, but you’ll eventually reap the benefits.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
Like any other industry, mistakes are bound to happen. When you make one, don’t beat yourself up over it. Focus on correcting the mistake and taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Never make the same mistake twice!

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Keep an ongoing portfolio of your best writing content. Employers want to hire professionals who write well, so be ready to prove you can with samples from the past.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
I think Twitter Chats are the most underrated benefit of our section. We discuss the latest trends in PR, digital media and marketing and provide helpful tips and strategies for growing your career. Twitter Chats also allow you to connect with young professionals across the country in real-time. Join the next chat using #NPPRSA on Twitter!

Is there anything you wish you would have known before becoming a new professional?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Reach out to people who inspire you. Find a mentor at your company or through PRSA. Grow your network and never stop learning. Doing these things from the beginning will benefit you in the long-run.

Name one little-known thing about yourself.
I was the first person to complete the social media program at Central Michigan University.

If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

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