New Professional Spotlight: Shannon Nicholson


Name: Shannon Nicholson
Job Role: Program Director, West Virginia University Office of Graduate Admissions
Education: B.S. Journalism, ’14, M.S. Data Marketing Communications, ’17 – WVU Reed College of Media
Social Media: @shannonicholson (Twitter) and @shannonpauline (Instagram)

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?

My first job in the industry was at a small, B2B advertising agency in Morgantown, WV. I was exposed to all facets of marketing: content development, direct email, digital advertising, media relations, social media, traditional media, and website design (to name a few). What I did not know before I started my Junior Account Manager position was the importance of tying campaigns to business goals, breaking down department silos, and utilizing collected data to be relevant and timely. Enter the Data Marketing Communications, fully-online, graduate program. This program allowed me to bridge my interest in the business-side of marketing and my growing expertise in the field.

How did you find internships/jobs?

As a WVU student and alumni, I have an amazing resource at my disposal- MountaineerTrak powered by the Career Services Center. MountaineerTrak was my first line of defense. During my years as an undergrad, the Reed College of Media hired a Director of Student Careers and Opportunities, Eric Minor. Eric’s weekly “opportunity” email quickly became my go-to resource. Eric is the perfect liaison between current students looking for experience and alumni looking to provide that experience as a way to give back to their alma mater.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my young career has been introducing new procedures, and strategies from the ground up. In my current role, I assumed that after six months and I’ll be like a well-oiled machine and have already implemented new strategies. I soon realized that implementation would take closer to one year. The next year will be spent analyzing, and the following year will be about growth and optimization. It is hard not to get ahead of myself and want to be at year three, today! Really, the biggest challenge is not trying something new, it is pacing myself to check one step off the list at a time. Devoting 110% to each step without getting ahead of myself and potentially losing sight of details that could later derail all that the team has worked towards. Slow and steady wins the race.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?

Differing experiences, bring perspective. In my Data Marketing Communications cohort, students had varying backgrounds in data, graphic design, marketing, sales, etc. Listening to each other’s viewpoints helped the entire cohort approach problems with an open mind.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?

You won’t know unless you try.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?

There are a lot of different ways to apply your marketing/PR knowledge. Don’t limit yourself to certain industries or titles. Today, there are more opportunities than ever to be creative with your knowledge.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?

I think the biggest benefit of the New Pros section is the opportunity for engagement and networking. PRSA boasts amazing partners, and communities for growth and learning. I was particularly drawn to the #NPPRSA Twitter chats. Twitter chats have been a great outlet to informally discuss specific topics with others in the industry. I have found that those who participate want to engage and share. Even simply reading through threads has helped open my eyes to areas outside of my expertise.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?

You will never stop learning. When you think you know enough, there is always more. It is important to be vigilant about the changes within your field.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.

I have a Bengal Cat that is about 20 lbs, who acts more like a small dog than a cat.

This New Professionals spotlight is sponsored by West Virginia University. If you are a member of PRSA New Pros and interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.


Facebook Pixel: Diving into Analytics

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.

Headshot 2018





Picking your battles: brand engagement

Everyone loves brand involvement, but there are times and places for it. A brand should know when to pick a fight or to just let it go. Let me show you three examples of good, bad and the okay in brand engagement. When mentioning a celebrity or brand you are picking your battle and it is best to evaluate all outcomes before name dropping. Social media allows ways to build loyalty or look awful.


Bad Example: Watch for someone known for rants

Since 2009 when Kanye infamously stole Taylor Swift’s moment at the VMA awards, we should know that he is outspoken. He later wrote a song about making her famous for his latest album, but Pizza Hut UK did not get the point. Kanye went on a Twitter rant about how he was in debt, but could still afford designer clothes and furs. Carter’s clothing and Baby Gap was smart enough not tweet to Kanye that they might be a cost-effective alternative. However, Pizza Hut UK didn’t consider that. It was hilarious at first because they tweeted for him to fill out a job application. The laughter ended when Kanye replied, “He needed more money in order to bring more beautiful ideas to the world.” Pizza Hut UK made matters worse by tweeting a fake resume with multiple spelling errors and a reference of Taylor Swift that was crossed out. It ended up poorly reflecting on Pizza Hunt in the end.

Okay Example: Beyoncé and Red Lobster

In the lyrics to “Formation,” it stated when they would frequent Red Lobster. Beyoncé is a hard person to say something about and she has her fan base the Bey Hive, which can sting you if you say something particularly negative about Beyoncé. Although Red Lobster saw a 33% increase in sales the week of the release of Beyoncé, they faced criticism because it had too much of a pun. In addition to a lack of response time, they also stated they had “Cheddar Bey Biscuits.” The tweet received over 14,552 retweets. However, the tweet garnered positive and negative reactions from people.

Great Example: An Internet star is born and a Chewbacca Mask

When Candace Payne broke the record for Facebook Live views, Kohl’s ran to support her. They surprised her kids with their own Chewbacca masks as well as a monetary credit to Kohls’. Candace could be viewed as an ad for Kohl’s because she mentioned them and their product. Needless to say, that mask sold out on Internet sites. Kohl’s won by thanking her for her loyalty. Not to mention that Payne seems like a grateful person because she reminded her children to give thanks. Unlike a celebrity, Candace Payne is a normal person who happened to stumble upon a brush with fame, which makes Kohl’s seem like a relatable brand that is appreciative of their loyal customers. This will be interesting to see if over the next few weeks Kohl’s stocks increase for a company that has been experiencing a drop in stocks.

emma-hawesEmma Hawes is currently working as a freelance social media content creator, while attending graduate school online at Purdue University. Hawes has a bachelor’s degree in communication, with concentrations in journalism, public relations and broadcasting from Mississippi State University. In college, Hawes was a freelance broadcasting technician, working behind the scenes for games with ESPN. When she is not behind her MacBook, iPhone or camera, she enjoys watching comedy, reading and cooking. Her fictional idol is Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation.

How to Know When to Leave (or Stay) at a Job

Should I leave or should I stay? When do you really know it’s the right time to move on from a job for something new? A difficult question to answer, but one that many people face in today’s working world. Gone are the days that you are expected to, or want to stay in the same job, in the same workplace, for the rest of your life, but when do you know it’s time to move on and start looking for a new job? Here’s what you should consider.

Is there room for improvement?

The first thing to look at is if there is room for improvement in your current role. Figure out what it is that you like and dislike about your role, and how you could potentially address the dislikes. Often time’s employees are so hesitant to speak up to their managers about their dislikes on the job, when in reality, their managers may be able to help you see a way to make it more enjoyable.

What are your long-term goals?

Next, think through what your long-term goals are. Think about where you would like to be in the next 5-10 years, and what you are going to need to do or learn in order to get you to that point. A good employer will want you to grow with them as oppose to leave for a different opportunity, so by expressing the things you’d like to work on, you could end up with new opportunities that will help you reach your long-term goals. If you don’t see your employer assisting you in reaching these goals, it may be a sign that you should look for one that will.

Can you grow in your current workplace?

Take a look at if there is room to grow within your own organization. Is there a position you can see yourself moving up into if the opportunity presented itself? Is there a chance that you could be promoted within your organization to something you’d enjoy better? In larger organizations this is often a plus, but in smaller organizations, where a higher and better position may not exist, that may be a sign you’ll have to move out of the company in order to move up and forward in your career.

Are you happy?

Last but definitely not least, ask yourself if you are happy in your current workplace. Sometimes it can just be the role you are currently in that’s making you unhappy but the actual workplace is a place you genuinely enjoy working at. Other times you may just be completely over the place that you work, and know that even if you had a different role, you still wouldn’t be satisfied. If there isn’t a chance that you think you could work with your current workplace to improve your role, or move to a position you’d like better—then that’s a sign that it’s time to move on.

Moving on from a workplace that you’ve grown in and are comfortable at can be a tough decision, but in terms of your happiness and your employment, it’s okay to be selfish. If you have grown out of your current career, and don’t see a chance for you to develop professionally anymore, your employers will understand your want to move on to something that is better for you.

Lauren Marinigh is a PR and marketing professional based out of Toronto. You can learn more about Lauren at or on Twitter at @marinighPR.

Three Quick and Easy Ways to Build Your Online Community

Three Quick and Easy Ways to Build Your Online CommunityWe know for the good old- fashioned sales funnel to work, your message needs to have the widest possible reach.

In an online and socially-driven world, that means brands need to pay attention to building their online communities. But, it doesn’t have to be complex or take hours a day.

Here are a few ways to use some common social media tools to get you where you need to be in just minutes.

1. Use Twitter searches.

The Twitter search feature allows you to look for tweets and users talking about a specific topic. Perhaps your company is a car dealership. You can search for the phrase “new car” and peruse the tweets for potential customers. You can narrow the search down to tweets near you, and you can even use the Advanced Search feature to find tweets in a specific zip code or date range.

Once you find your new potential audience, interact! Find those tweets about needing a new car and respond to the user with a link to the latest deals on your website. Encourage them to stop in to your dealership. Follow some of the users.

When a brand interacts with a user on social media, that person feels like he or she is getting special, personal attention. This is essential for creating brand loyalty, and, ultimately, revenue for your organization.

2. Stay on top of trends.

Facebook now displays a list of topics that are trending in its network on every user’s home page.

When you click to expand the topic, you can see more articles on the topic, Facebook posts from individuals named in the stories, what people in your own network are saying about the topic, and a live feed of reactions to the topic from all over the world. Use these trends to create customized social content to draw new users into your online community.

A word of caution: This is only effective if your brand is relevant to the trending topic. If you try to involve your brand in the wrong trend, it could turn into a PR disaster.

For example, if Car Company A is trending because it announced a massive recall, your dealership, which sells vehicles from Car Company B, could post an article about your product’s safety ratings and an offer for an extra 10 percent on a trade-in of a Car Company A car. Your brand and content are totally relevant to the trending topic.

Things start getting a tricky when the trending topics involve politics, tragedy, natural disaster, etc. It is best to avoid linking your content in these sensitive situations. Any content or comments made in bad taste will turn into a PR gaffe.

3. Do an Instagram promotion.

With nearly 300 million monthly active users, brands can’t forget about using Instagram. The visual-only platform is the perfect place to show off products.

Launch a photo contest by creating a hashtag relevant to your brand and encouraging users to send in their own photos that pertain to the topic. Offer a special giveaway for those who engage with your brand through Instagram.

Don’t forget to do your part by interacting with the users and their photos. “Like” some of the photos that are posted and respond to comments as much as possible. Remember that two-way communication is imperative for building an online community. Let the community know you’re listening.

Jennifer MaterkoskiJennifer Materkoski is a graduate of Kent State University with a Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications with a specialization in Public Relations. She has worked as a writer and editor for both newspaper and television and as a member of a non-profit marketing and development team. Materkoski is the owner and principal consultant of a boutique public relations firm, Songbird Public Relations. She is an avid sports fan, a yogi and also owns and operates an online store selling essential oils and natural products. Materkoski resides in Wheeling, West Virginia with her husband and son. Find her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @MrsMaterkoski. She can be reached via email at