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.

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.

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.

The Ever-changing Landscape of Press Trips

Press Trips(1)

It is crucial public relations professionals understand how to balance working with editors, bloggers and social media influencers in today’s digital world. News is abundant, and everyone is consumed with information overload so staying updated on current trends and who is controlling it is key.

Mixing Traditional and Modern Media
Hotels and resorts need money and resources and with the constant changes, public relations professionals need to ensure the resorts are getting their return on investment. It can’t be ambiguous. Unlike editors, freelancers and influencers don’t always have a confirmed assignment with a major publication, but there needs to be substantial information to properly vet clients.

“I can write something using your blurb, but to actually see with my own eyes and to use all of my senses to experience a place produces a quality piece full of descriptive language and palpable passion,” says Michelle Winner LuxeGetaways Lifestyle Editor and freelancer. “The result of a good press trip is exactly what writers are taught to do in their work: don’t tell me, show me. In the end the writer’s job is to compel the reader to visit, taste, see and do, too.”

You can learn more about press trips from Michelle Winner, Jill Robinson and Tamra Bolton at the PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference in New Orleans for their session, Press Trips: The Evolving Necessity.

It’s much easier to vet a New York Times travel editor versus a travel blogger. It’s easier for clients to understand the value of a national newspaper than a personal blog. However, these days people want to hear about other’s experiences because it’s raw and word-of-mouth is still one of the leading ways to create buzz.

We work with travel bloggers, but the vetting process is usually much more in depth than an editor with a confirmed assignment. We start by reviewing their work, checking statistics, social media presence, and if their niche audience works for the client. We need to have solid information to back up our recommendation. For example, a family focused travel blogger would be more appropriate than a fashion blogger at a family-friendly resort.

Newsrooms are Nearly Nonexistent
Newsrooms have cut budgets and many travel writers were the first to go. With the rise of social media, many influencers have been successful in their efforts while others abuse it. Many influencer requests show a loyal following, but lack of interest in a mutually beneficial relationship.

According to PR Moment, up-and-coming influencers think that numbers are what matters and not engaged audiences. Many requests, such as videographers who film models and night clubs requesting a complimentary stay at a five-star family-friendly luxury resort are, solely focused on themselves and not showcasing the destination and resort.

How are you adapting to this ever-changing landscape?

View More: http://fremontphotography.pass.us/ericarawErica Hammett is a PRSA member and the Public Relations Account Executive at MP&A Digital & Advertising in Virginia. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech. She’s also a member of the PRSA New Professionals and Travel and Tourism interest sections. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.