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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Pro Bono Work: Professional Development for a Good Cause

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By Elizabeth McGlone

My pro bono work for nonprofits started with a rejection letter.

I had applied for a position at a PR agency but wasn’t selected. I was disappointed but also determined to learn from the experience. My first step was to get advice about how to become a better job candidate for future opportunities. A contact at that same PR agency suggested

pro bono work as a great way to build my own skillsets while also helping an organization that was probably short-handed when it came to PR.

It was one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments.

Finding the right organization.

I began researching nonprofits in my area that do work for causes I am passionate about. One non-profit in particular stood out to me, National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, Indiana, and with my top choice in mind, I reached out to the organization.

NAMI was thrilled that I was interested in doing pro bono work for them! In fact, my point of contact had been a PR volunteer who later transitioned into a full-time role in their communications department.

Getting the right experience.

In my first conversations with NAMI, I made it clear that I was looking for an opportunity to gain experience in areas of PR that I hadn’t previously had exposure to, namely media relations.

Fortunately, this fit with NAMI’s needs and my timing was perfect. Their annual mental health and criminal justice summit was approaching and they needed help writing promotional content and getting media coverage.

The summit has since concluded, but it was incredibly satisfying to see the results of my hard work. I was tasked with finding media coverage of the event and secured a local reporter who published an article on the mental health program discussed in the workshop. This is publicity and attention that the program may not have received otherwise.

Working through the challenges.

Although my pro bono work for NAMI was extremely rewarding, it hasn’t been without its obstacles.

One of the biggest challenges was nurturing the relationship with NAMI and meeting the deadlines and goals that I set for myself. This wasn’t easy with a full-time job, other volunteer commitments, and my own hobbies that I also had to balance. NAMI’s employees also had their own responsibilities and it was my responsibility to maintain open lines of communication. I had to be proactive and persistent, providing updates on my tasks and asking for new ones. Each week I blocked out time on my calendar to work on NAMI-related items so I could make steady progress and meet deadlines.

Overall, my experience was enjoyable and invaluable to my professional development. It is fulfilling to know that my expertise is helping a cause I am passionate about, and it’s exciting to watch my skillsets grow. I’m excited to see how this opportunity grows and changes, and also what other opportunities the future holds.

What do you do to volunteer your PR services to nonprofits? What is most important to you when you look for a volunteer opportunity?

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Elizabeth McGlone a native Hoosier and a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Pinnacle Solutions Incorporated. She is an active member of the PRSA Hoosier Chapter, serves as a committee member of the Professional Development Special Events/Networking Committee, and is a co-chair for the New Pros Committee. In her spare time, Elizabeth does pro bono PR work for local nonprofits, including NAMI and Phi Beta Kappa Alpha Association of Indiana, and also enjoys biking and backpacking. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Facebook Pixel: Diving into Analytics

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By: Cait Crenshaw

If you’re a PR professional dipping into the world of digital media, the learning curve can be daunting. Don’t let the jargon of website code or analytics deter you. Digital analytics are powerful because we can prove an ROI and use the data to make creative adjustments. The Facebook pixel is a tool everyone should mobilize if you are running Facebook ads.

What’s a pixel? The Facebook pixel is a piece of code, and because it’s code it is not for PR professionals to shy away from. Within the Facebook ads manager, you can activate a pixel for your account and grab the code. The next step is when your team’s website guru comes in and installs the pixel code on your website.

It is possible to get more granular with a Facebook pixel. Facebook has given us nine different events for nine different actions that someone may take on your website. Keep in mind the Facebook pixel should align with the overall goal of the Facebook advertising campaign. Are you driving traffic to view specific content on the website, make a purchase, or sign-up through a form? Choose the goal of your Facebook ad campaign before making any other decisions.

By far the best advantage from using a Facebook pixel is custom audiences. Since Facebook can see when someone visits your website with the pixel, you can mold your audience in ads manager even more granular than audience targeting. With the pixel, it’s possible to retarget people who visited a particular page or who visited during a specific time. For clients on a deadline or e-commerce clients, these custom audiences can translate into ROI.

The Facebook pixel also provides powerful insight into how and where people interact with your Facebook ad. Are most people interacting with it from mobile or desktop? Little tweaks to the creative image or copy of a Facebook ad can give your message the competitive edge in the noisy online world that resonates with your audience.

What actionable insights can your team gain from launching a Facebook pixel?

Cait Crenshaw is a PRSA member and Communications Manager at Signature HealthCARE. She is an alumna of the University of Louisville. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Leveraging your PRSSA Leadership Experience to Launch your Career

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Leveraging your PRSSA Leadership Experience to Launch your Career
By: Emma Finkbeiner, PRSSA Immediate Past President

For recent graduates, standing out amongst your peers in the job search is crucial. In a competitive industry, leveraging the leadership experience gained through PRSSA membership can help you do just that. I spoke with four former PRSSA National Committee members about skills they learned through PRSSA involvement and how they used their experiences to help launch their careers.

Brian Price, PRSSA 2013-14 National President
Corporate Communications Manager, Starwood Retail Partners

Heather Harder, PRSSA 2014-15 National President
Communications Manager, RSE Ventures

Laura Daronatsy, PRSSA 2015-16 National President
Communications Leadership Development Program Associate, Lockheed Martin

Veronica Mingrone, PRSSA 2015-16 National Vice President of Career Services
Analyst, Canvas Blue

What did PRSSA leadership experience teach you about professionalism?

Brian: “I think it showed I took my profession and professional development very seriously. But, you need stories to back it up to show why and how PRSSA experiences are so valuable. Seek out leadership positions not just to have the line on your resume, but for the development that comes with it.”

Laura: “PRSSA helped me launch my career because it allowed me to learn what professional behavior looked like and how to emulate it.”

Veronica: “PRSSA taught me how to interact with professionals at much different stages in their careers than I was. Now, I feel better prepared to engage with senior leadership at my company and, more broadly, at networking events. Knowing how to approach others confidently and keep in touch with them has been instrumental in my career.”

Heather: “Engaging with senior PR professionals as a student taught me a lot about when to speak up and when to listen.”

PRSSA leadership positions are volunteer positions. How is this type of leadership experience different because of that fact?

Laura: “PRSSA taught me it’s not enough to just show up. Raise your hand. Be a volunteer! Help someone else out. You have to be a giver, contributor and follower before you can truly be a respected leader. By thinking about what you can contribute, you’re already doing a crucial part of leading — leaving the place, organization or person better than the way you found it.”

Veronica: “Regardless if your aspirations are to serve students as a Chapter leader or on the National Committee, the operative word is “serve.” Any position you hold in the society – at whatever level – will likely be a time commitment and a good amount of work.”

What did you learn from leading a group of your peers?

Brian: “Much more than group projects in classes, PRSSA taught me to work with a group of my peers. Now, I do it all the time at work, especially when I was at Edelman with so many like-minded colleagues. In PRSSA, you work for clients, projects, fundraising programs with people you (hopefully) like personally, but also respect professionally even when there are competing ideas and different approaches. It’s just like a good workplace in that sense.”

Laura: “I referred to my leadership positions multiple times throughout my interviews because I had learned so many lessons — both good and bad — by leading my peers. It definitely helped (still helps) me in my job now because I know how to manage a project when working with people completely different from me.”

Heather: “Coming into a PR firm with leadership and management experience, I was immediately recognized as someone with the potential to manage our interns and given more responsibility because of the skills I’d developed in PRSSA.”

How did the network you built from involvement in PRSSA benefit you as you began your career?

Brian: “PRSSA prepared me the most by developing my network. I was active in PRSSA outside of just my Chapter, and met many influential professionals and rising new professionals. They became mentors and trusted resources who helped me through the job search process.”

Veronica: “I was able to leverage PRSSA in the job hunt by tapping on the connections – both peer and professional – that I had made in the four years I was a member. These people knew the value of PRSSA and what it meant for my professional development.”

Heather: “You have to continue to cultivate the network and keep in touch with everyone interesting that you meet. It really was useful for obtaining the recommendations that helped me get two very important jobs in my career. I don’t know that I’d have gotten those jobs without being able to call up some PRSSA/PRSA mentors and have them put in a word, because I’d kept a genuine connection with them.”

How did your leadership experience help you stand out among the crowd?

Laura: “You can set yourself apart as a teammate and a leader simply by putting in a little extra time and effort.”

Veronica: “PRSSA gave me an opportunity to lead – and I don’t think I would’ve had experience managing a team this early in my career were it not for the society. It allowed me to become confident in my leadership abilities, to explore my career interests, to travel and figure out where I wanted to move post-grad, to become an ambassador for my university and well-known in my program – and the list goes on and on.”

Heather: “Once I brought it up and explained how much management, leadership and hands-on experience it had given me, I was able to immediately standout as someone with a unique experience and a passion for the industry. These skills helped me prove myself to get more responsibility very early in my first job.”

It’s important to note that the leadership journeys of these four individuals are far from over. All four have continued their development by joining PRSA, serving on the New Professionals Executive Committee and getting involved in local PRSA Chapters. Leadership and professional development is truly never finished, and dedicating time to an organization like PRSSA or PRSA shows your continued interest in the industry and your own professional growth.

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.