Catching Up with Past PRSA New Pros Leaders: Where they are today and their advice

Past New Pros Leaders

PRSA’s New Professionals section is a membership organization 1,100 people strong. And with a combined social media following of more than 15,000, it’s easy to tell there’s a network of New Pros “alumni” and supporters across the country. We recently caught up with some past-Chairs of the section to see how PRSA involvement has shaped their careers and where they are now.

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Sarah Siewert, 2011 New Pros Chair
Vice President, Ketchum — Chicago, Ill.

Leah Moon, 2012 New Pros Chair
Marketing Program Manager, Esko — Dayton, Ohio

Heather Sliwinski, 2014 New Pros Chair
Senior Account Director, Gravitate PR  — San Francisco, Calif.

Nick Lucido, 2015 New Pros Chair
Vice President, Global Practice Development, Edelman — Chicago, Ill.

Brian Price, 2017 New Pros Chair
Corporate Communications Manager, Starwood Retail Partners — Chicago, Ill.


What is a piece of advice you have for today’s new professionals?

Sarah: Build your network before you need it. By its nature the PR/marketing industry relies on relationships – from your first job offer to a client referral – take time to foster and build it starting in the classroom and volunteer positions.

Leah: Don’t be afraid to speak up. Give your opinion. Stand out.

Heather: So many learnings I’d want to pass on. First, say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, especially if it scares you. The biggest risks I’ve taken in my career have turned out to be the most rewarding. Second, be proactive, take chances and make the most of every experience you get.

Nick: Read more, subscribe to, and pay for good journalism. A deep understanding of business, government, media and non-profit organizations will make you a more informed counselor to your clients.

Brian: PRSA and New Pros offer many benefits to assist in building a career. From wide-angle industry perspective, developing mentors to tips on how to succeed everywhere from strategic thought to holding productive meetings. Those who are most successful seem to integrate that into their development on top of great effort where expected from supervisors, rather than a replacement for going the extra mile with daily production.

Sarah: In addition, maintain heart and hustle. No matter the role, assignment or client new pros who stand out most show up with passion, curiosity and a never-ending sense of urgency.

Any other closing thoughts or wisdom?

Sarah: Every opportunity in my career is rooted in a PRSA connection. It’s the best investment in your career to take time to volunteer and participate – don’t just be a name on a sign-in list.

Leah: Travel as much as you can. Experience new cultures, food, life.

Heather: Ask for what you’re worth and always negotiate (especially if you’re a woman and/or person of color). It’s hard, but you have to force yourself to do it.


Porterfield,Hanna_headshot2017This Q&A was compiled by Hanna Porterfield, 2018 Chair of PRSA’s New Professionals Section. Based in Chicago, but frequently on an airplane, she is an account manager at NYC-headquartered Development Counsellors International. Hanna is a graduate of Michigan State University. Connect with her on Twitter @citygirlhanna.

Twitter Chat Recap: Let’s Talk About PRSA and You

PRSA Twitter Chat

Twitter Chat Recap: Let’s Talk About PRSA and You
By: Emma Finkbeiner, PRSSA Immediate Past President

Last week, PRSA New Professionals co-hosted a lively Twitter chat with PRSSA, engaging both new professionals and PRSSA members in a conversation about the transition from student to professional. Check out some of the highlights from the chat below.

@PRSSANational: Let’s kick off the chat with a question for everyone. How did you discover public relations?
https://twitter.com/PRSSANational/status/996556588503609345

@OFlynn_Emily: A1: My mom is a marketing manager in the healthcare industry. When I was in high school, she told me that she thought I’d thrive in the public relations field. Now I’m entering my senior year of college in a major I’m so passionate about! #HappyMothersDay #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/OFlynn_Emily/status/996557556595281921

@nicole_graney: A1 #PRSSA: I discovered PR with the help of a lovely mentor, @cmwooll, who took me under her wing as a high school student and showed me how I can use my writing to tell stories. She’s been helping me tell them ever since!
https://twitter.com/nicole_graney/status/996557803870441472

@robyn_rl: A1: Accidentally! My first job was at a bar/restaurant in my hometown & they decided they needed some marketing things designed & some outreach done to local organizations & media. So I volunteered & loved it #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/robyn_rl/status/996557337065377792

@PRSANewPros: New Pros: What are some of the benefits of becoming a PRSA Associate Member and joining the PRSA New Professionals Section?
https://twitter.com/PRSANewPros/status/996558349746483202

@GregRokisky: It’s such an affordable rate, it’s perfect to test the waters in the #PRSA universe…and you’ll find there’s no turning back because you’ll meet just the most wonderful colleagues, friends, mentors and people who just get you // #PRSSA #NPPRSA
https://twitter.com/GregRokisky/status/996559086861934592

@Gemrick: My favorite benefits of joining @PRSA is access to an extensive job board, and the MyPRSA and New Pros community forums that connect you to everyone in PRSA. You can ask questions, seek advice, and get help from peers and experts! #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/Gemrick/status/996559444908572672

@citygirlhanna: The greatest advantage, to me, is being able to bounce ideas off my peers. While having mentors is important, it can be very helpful early in your career to chat with those at your same level about their experiences, as all companies and industries are so different. #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/citygirlhanna/status/996559697112129537

@PRSSANational: Students: What are some of the challenges you’re facing or concerns you have as you prepare for the transition from student to professional?
https://twitter.com/PRSSANational/status/996560118438400001

@bridgetmurtha_: A3: Personally, I have learned so much in all my classes as a student but I am nervous about applying what I have learned about the field when becoming a professional. Overall, practice makes perfect & in order to grow within PR, I will have to try! #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/bridgetmurtha_/status/996560664926842880

@adcook22: A3: How to continue setting achievable goals at the start of your career! “Get a job”, “graduate” or “work in x area” of PR were almost automatic as undergrads, but starting your career is a path that’s much more personalized  #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/adcook22/status/996561139625615360

@Marissa_218: As I enter my senior year of undergrad, I am confident in my PR abilities but the job search/find process is very intimidating! #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/Marissa_218/status/996560671277043712

@PRSANewPros: New Pros: How did PRSA and the New Professionals Section help you smoothly transition from student to professional?
https://twitter.com/PRSANewPros/status/996561872718528514

@KayAnnePR: NP Answer: One of the greatest benefits of joining @PRSA for me is that I was able to continue the relationships I made in #PRSSA.
https://twitter.com/KayAnnePR/status/996562926701043713

@efink101: It provided me with a network of peers that are going through the same things as me, so we can relate, but also a network of mentors who want to lift up new professionals. It kept me engaged in the profession beyond my job. #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/efink101/status/996563796377432070

@Gemrick: I can confidently say that @PRSA and New Pros helped my transition feel seamless. During my last year of undergrad, I was heavily involved with my local PRSA chapter, and attended as many events as possible. (Come through student pricing!) #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/Gemrick/status/996564005882867714

@PRSSANational: Students: How could PRSA and the New Professionals best assist you in your transition to the profession and the professional Society?
https://twitter.com/PRSSANational/status/996563682208501760

@KEW_photo: Any help is needed and appreciated!  I loved @PRSAChicagoYPN event with the recruiters this was really eye opening that it is important to work with professionals who specialize in the job hunt #prssa
https://twitter.com/KEW_photo/status/996564406145204224

@nicole_tobias32: I think having a new professionals mixer hosted by your local PRSA Chapter would be a great way to connect with others who are in the same boat with you! Especially if someone has moved from out of state to work in your area! #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/nicole_tobias32/status/996564589222428672

@AllisonMellor: I would love to see local #PRSA representatives at #PRSSA chapter meetings! This would be the perfect time to hear more about membership benefits and new industry trends.
https://twitter.com/AllisonMellor/status/996565848566386688

@PRSANewPros: New Pros: What are the best ways to get involved when first joining a local PRSA Chapter?
https://twitter.com/PRSANewPros/status/996565396114300929

@KirkHazlett: Not exactly a “New” Pro, but…get involved! Volunteer to serve on a committee. Help with event promotion or at the registration table. Be there. Be seen. Become a resource. @CCPRSA @USFPRSSA @utprssa @PRSATampaBay #prssa
https://twitter.com/KirkHazlett/status/996565781885411328

@GregRokisky: Ask! I met with a few local board members I’d developed relationships with and others I didn’t yet know and, it turned out, there was a need for a chair for the @PACEAwards—our local awards! No one else wanted it, so I said yes. Even as a new pro, you have skills! #PRSSA #NPPRSA
https://twitter.com/GregRokisky/status/996566119103246336

@efink101: 1) See if there is a Young Professionals Network. 2) See if there are any committees or subcommittees you can join and help out with. 3) Offer to be a liaison to the #PRSA Chapter’s #PRSSA Sponsor Chapter(s).
https://twitter.com/efink101/status/996566487572893701

@PRSSANational: Students: What other questions do you have about joining PRSA, the New Professionals Section or launching your career?
https://twitter.com/PRSSANational/status/996567213044895748

@EmilyZekonis: If you could go back in time and take one class you missed out on to help you in your PR career what would it be? #prssa
https://twitter.com/EmilyZekonis/status/996567261447114752

@alyssamurt: As an upcoming senior, I think it is always beneficial to hear how new (and old!) pros got their first job. Any tips are much appreciated! #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/alyssamurt/status/996567487281090562

@Ashleigh_K_W: What certifications or hard technical skills could students learn to gain an edge? We know writing is a must, but are there any programs we should be studying? Muckrack? Sysomos? #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/Ashleigh_K_W/status/996568287390715904

@ambewelch: Some of us new grads don’t have jobs or internships lined up fresh out of college, what advice for new pros that are struggling to find employment? How should they stay motivated through their job search?  #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/ambewelch/status/996569255968690176

@PRSANewPros: New Pros: What is your best post-grad tip for success during your first year as a new professional?
https://twitter.com/PRSANewPros/status/996568919434547200

@JaCeyLynn_Y: Work hard and try to make a name for yourself. If you see an opportunity, don’t hesitate to take it. Also, don’t forget your organization skills you acquired in school. #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/JaCeyLynn_Y/status/996569597431156736

@sarahgdougherty: Late to the party! I’d say take things in stride and have a good attitude. Things may not come naturally at first, but bringing a positive outlook to the table and being willing to work hard and try new things will set you up for success and make you a go-to on your team #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/sarahgdougherty/status/996570480340537345

@GregRokisky: There’s a small window, even as a new pro, where you have the free time. Take advantage and say yes to as much as you can handle and figure out where you fit—the more you move up the less time for those things you have! #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/GregRokisky/status/996569316819718144

@efink101: For me personally, be resilient and don’t take things personally is my best advice. Starting a new job and becoming a professional rather than a student is sometimes difficult, but if you work hard and show your value, you’ll be fine. #PRSSA
https://twitter.com/efink101/status/996570879080484865

Thank you to everyone who participated in this chat. The conversation doesn’t have to end here! Students, feel free to reach out to members of the PRSA New Professionals Section any time with questions about transitioning from PRSSA to PRSA. And don’t forget, when you transition from PRSSA to PRSA Associate Membership, you can join for free using code AM18.

Answering The Tough Questions

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Weighing the ethics of any situation may seem like something better left to those with more experience under their belts than we New Pros. Questions of ethics are the tough questions.

But being an ethical professional isn’t magically bestowed on PR pros once they have a certain amount of experience. That would be nice, right?

As PR professionals, the closest thing we have to an ethics fairy godmother is PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards, or BEPS. BEPS is responsible for developing PRSA’s Code of Ethics and counseling professionals through ethical dilemmas and practices.

Since an ethical professional can’t be born overnight, New Pros has teamed up with BEPS to answer any and all ethics-related questions to celebrate Ethics Month. Throughout the month of September, we’ll be collecting questions from New Pros via this form. BEPS will answer each question and we’ll share the answers in a blog post and across our social media between Sept. 25 and Sept. 30.

Have a question, but prefer to remain anonymous? No worries! Just select that option on the form before you submit your question.

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That’s a wrap!

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Thank you for joining us for New Pros Week 2017!

Each year, PRSA’s New Professionals Section puts together a weeklong celebration of PR’s new, aspiring and up-and-coming professionals. Working together with PRSSA and PRSA, we organize conversations and programming that highlight the great things new pros bring to the profession.

This year, we decided to take it a step further and focus not only on our successes and newness, but to explore the opportunities out there for us to grow and learn as we progress through our careers. We worked to build conversations around what we need to know and what we can to to set ourselves up for career-long growth, how we can find and utilize a mentor relationship to grow as PR professionals, what we can do to give back and cultivate future PR talent, and the importance of building and maintaining our networks. In addition to conversations, we created handouts and guides to help members find their own path to success.

If you missed any of last week’s New Pros Week events, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!

Celebrating New Pros doesn’t have to be limited to just one week of the year!

If your organization or PRSA chapter is interested in engaging New Pros and creating programming for them, here are a few of our tips.

  • Host a special viewing of a PRSA webinar for new professionals
  • Sponsor a Networking Mixer or Happy Hour at a popular local restaurant or bar
  • Coordinate a job fair or career connection event for new professionals
  • Host at an event or workshop at a local company or agency
  • Create a mentor program
  • Host a happy hour or meetup around one of our upcoming programs

What’s in Your Toolshed: Advice from fellow New Pros

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When we began planning New Pros Week, we began discussing what kind of theme would best tie everything together and give members concrete advice and next steps once the week was over. As we mulled topics over for different programs, there were a few things we kept coming back to: what do New Pros need to be successful and what do we wish we had known before we entered the working world.

The answers to both of these questions are key to professional growth, the theme we decided on for New Pros Week 2017. To gather the best advice we could, we asked New Pros from all over to share their insight with us and the wider New Pros network. Below is advice from fellow New Pros.

What tools & skills do New Pros need in their toolshed?

New Pros need to be curious, whether it’s staying on top of new trends in the industry or learning a new skill, the genuine desire to learn something new everyday will keep you at the top of your game. I think it’s also incredibly important for PR pros to be level-headed and solution-oriented. PR is a balancing act of ever-changing priorities, client expectations, personal workloads, among other things. A calm demeanor and inquisitive attitude will definitely help you conquer any challenge thrown your way. Arielle Schrader, NYC

“New Pros need to know how to manage several projects at once and prioritize things.” Alyssa Thys, Atlanta

“PR pros need to know how to write!, AP style, understand social media, be able to see things from multiple perspectives, and be proactive.” Laura Fooks, Dallas

“New Pros need to be willing to learn and ask questions of professionals who have been in the business longer than you.” Ruthann Campbell, Tallahassee

“New pros need to be self-starters and pick up new skills quickly – especially in agencies. Things change rapidly and you have to be proactive about keeping up.” – Veronica Mingrone, NYC

“I consider two skills to be most vital. First, writing. You need to communicate clearly, and effectively to your co-workers, clients, and consumers. Second, decision making. This is particularly important if you want to be an effective leader.” Anne Deady, Houston

“The greatest skill New Pros, and PR pros in general, can use to their advantage is the thirst for lifelong learning. Many people get busy and don’t take the time to stay on top of certain trends or target audiences. If you make learning a daily habit, and seek out others who push and encourage you to learn, you’ll find great success! Additionally, seek out things that make you uncomfortable. If you’re comfortable you may have fallen into some complacency which doesn’t encourage learning (see above point). If you always push yourself into strategically uncomfortable situations, you’ll demonstrate a willingness to go above and beyond!”Greg Rokisky, Lansing

“It seems like the landscape of PR is drastically changing. So fast that it’s hard to keep up. New Pros need to have two skills: curiosity and persistence. I call them skills because I believe they can be fostered. Curiosity keeps you asking “why” and persistence “how.” Develop these two and you cannot fail.” Seth Kingdon, Charlotte

“Write well. This doesn’t apply only to media materials, but everything involving words – emails, presentations, social media and so on. Beyond spelling and grammar, being creative and concise are key.” –  Natalie Bailey, Charlotte

“The most important career skill is the ability to learn and adapt quickly. In a media environment disrupted by technology, young PR pros must demonstrate their ability and commitment to mastering new skills all the time. There is also a tremendous amount of media to consume. New Pros should be experts at synthesizing this information and developing relevant client recommendations.” Peter Walpole, NYC

“I think an incredibly valuable skill for new pros to have is self-awareness. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and understand what your value add can be from both a client and internal perspective. Once you hone in on your strengths, it will become easier to work on your weaknesses and help you become a more well-rounded professional.”Annelise Campbell, NYC

“I think the number one skill to be successful in PR is writing. From news releases to blog posts and even 140-character tweets, it’s so important to be able to communicate clearly and engage your audience.”  Caitlyn Ryan, Charlotte

What do you wish you had known before that may have helped you grow where you were planted in your first job?

“Find and be a mentor. Maintaining relationships in a variety of fields – not just PR – can be meaningful when you need advice or a reference, and there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone else be successful. It’s important to have someone ahead of and behind you on the career jungle gym that can offer a different perspective and help you navigate your journey.” –  Natalie Bailey, Charlotte

“In an agency setting, don’t always pine after the accounts you think you’d be good at – keep an open mind and an eager attitude and you may surprise yourself. When I first started out, I was determined to work with clients that I already had an interest in. When I joined a technology-focused team (an area I had zero experience in), I found myself learning and loving the industry more than I thought I would. It’s important to expand your creative boundaries and stepping outside your comfort zone is a great way to do so!” Paige Raiczyk, NYC

“I wish I was reminded that there are many different, unique paths to success, especially in such a vast industry like PR. My biggest advice to New Prosentering  the working world? Determine what success means to you individually, then work really hard to accomplish your goals. There’s no need to directly compare your path to anyone else’s and, remember, every experience is valuable.” – Arielle Schrader, NYC

“Before I entered the working world, I wish I really knew the power of networking. If I could go back in time, I would have joined my local PRSA chapter immediately. It’s invaluable.”Caitlyn Ryan, Charlotte

“I wish I would have known that life as a new pro goes quick, so say yes to as much as you can while you have the time. The more you grow as a professional, the more responsibility you take on and the less you can say yes to. Entering the working world means you have the freedom to explore and find your likes, dislikes, side projects and more!” – Greg Rokisky, Lansing

“Beware of the office gossiper.” Alyssa Thys, Atlanta

“There are high levels of turnover throughout the PR industry, particularly in junior-level roles. The lesson here is that your best network is the people around you. It is critical to build strong relationships with your colleagues, including those you intern with. The industry becomes smaller as you advance in your career and if you’re lucky, you will likely work with many of these people again down the road.” Peter Walpole, NYC

“The more you learn, the more you will be asked to do. Learn how to prioritize and say “no” when you can’t keep up with your current workload.” Ruthann Campbell, Tallahassee

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help! In agency life things can get extremely hectic. If you have too much on your plate, seek out a more senior person for help. Chances are a senior person can offer advice and solutions that you may not have considered. If you are feeling very overwhelmed, get in the habit of communicating it before you burn yourself out.”Annelise Campbell, NYC

“You need to adapt to your surroundings and be open to change. Be fluid. Sometimes you will be handed a task you are not crazy about – but it will grow your skillset and boost your value.” Anne Deady, Houston

“I wish I would’ve had a better understanding of analytics, Google AdWords and web development.” Laura Fooks, Dallas

“Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, take every opportunity possible to learn and network. You’ll end up finding your place in the industry sooner than you think.” Veronica Mingrone, NYC

What’s the best advice you have for other New Pros? What skills do you think are essential? Comment below or tweet at us!