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.


March 2015 #NPPRSA Twitter Chat Highlights: Preparing for a Crisis

Twitter Chat 3-18 SquareWe’d like to thank everyone who participated in the March #NPPRSA Twitter chat as we discussed crisis communications–how to prepare and how to react.  We would especially like to thank Jonathan Bernstein, President of Bernstein Crisis Management.

Join us again on April 15 for our next #NPPRSA chat and stay up-to-date with PRSA New Professionals on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Review highlights of the chat below. What did you learn from the March chat? How can you prepare for your brand’s vulnerabilities before a crisis? What can you do to minimize damage once a crisis hits?


You can receive FREE New Professionals Section membership for PRSA throughout March!

Lauren Headshot 1.3MBLauren Rosenbaum is the PRSA New Professionals Social Media Co-Chair and Co-Founder of Soversity, a public relations and digital marketing company. You can connect with her on Google+LinkedIn or Twitter.

Get Involved With New Pros in 2015

If you’re like me, the end of the year is a time to reflect on successes and challenges from the past year, as well as make plans for the upcoming year. New public relations professionals face a lot of challenges: a fast-paced and competitive job market, demanding clients and colleagues, and an evolving industry with an array of new channels and tools.

One of the best things you can do for yourself in 2015 is invest in your career to help stay on top of these challenges. The New Pros Section is designed for this person. My partners on the New Pros leadership committee are dedicated to building programs and opportunities for advancing the careers of our members. If you’re not already a member of the Section, consider joining now and jump starting your professional development.

If you’re looking for ways to get involved, here are three to plan for in 2015:

  • Take part in the PRSA New Pros Section: As a national group, you have the opportunity to engage with fellow new professionals across the country who work for agencies, nonprofits, large and small organizations and more. We offer regular virtual programming, a Section members-only e-group, a newsletter, engagement on our social channels including regular Twitter chats, and host a month dedicated to New Pros in November.
  • Get active in your local New Pros group: If you’re looking for more in-person programs and activities, you can check out your local PRSA Chapter. Depending on the sponsoring PRSA Chapter in your area, there might be a local group of young professionals who get together for different programs and networking events. Reach out to your local Chapter’s leadership to see how you can get involved.
  • Mentor a PRSSA student or Chapter: One of the best ways to enrich your career is to begin mentoring and giving back to students. Whether it’s an informational interview, guest speaking at a local PRSSA Chapter or offering to be a sounding board, giving back to the profession of tomorrow is an important part of a public relations pro at any level. You never know if that student will become a client, colleague or even your boss.

How are you planning to advance your career in 2015?

Lucido_NickNick Lucido is the incoming Chair of the New Pros Section. 

Mentor has more than one definition

We all know what a mentor means. But do we know who each of our mentors are? What about mentors who don’t have the professional title of “mentor” – what about “unofficial mentors”?

Let’s start with the first definition: mentors. These are the people you’ve either connected with through a program or have asked to provide guidance. Moreover, professional mentors.

Then, there’s unofficial mentors. These are the people who you to not only go to for career advice, but also for everyday life lessons.

Fill in the blank: I surround myself with ________ …like minded people, positive people, good-hearted people, etc. Whatever that blank is, that’s where you’ll find your unofficial mentors. Unofficial mentors are those you look up to but don’t always associate an official title with: your mom or dad, sibling, best friend, co-worker on another team, someone you met while volunteering, etc.

While mentors are usually the professional relationships you go to for career advice, unofficial mentors are the ones you go to for everything, sometimes subconsciously.

My unofficial mentors? My mom and dad who I always go to for not only family guidance, but also financial advice (I am two years out of college and still call them about insurance policies). My best friend and boyfriend who is in medical school, the most positive person I know and never lets stress overcome him (even though his field requires sick patients, surgeries and what seems like never-ending standardized tests). Also, one of my best friends and cousins who despite a few struggles has immediately and confidently started creating a new path that includes finishing school and building a family.

It’s good to find those mentors who share professional advice (when to make those career moves, how to gain leadership skills, etc.). But it’s also good to discover and not forget about your unofficial mentors. Both types of mentors can help guide you throughout life tremendously.

Who are your mentors and unofficial mentors?

NicoleBersaniNicole Bersani is the social media coordinator for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. She also serves as the PRSA New Professionals Section mentorship co-chair and volunteers at Midtown Educational Foundation as a tutor/mentor for young girls in Chicago. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn

Three PR skills they don’t teach you in college (and three skills they do!)

College-Classroom-stockbyte-592px-304Whether you consider college the glory days or workhorse days, one thing is certain: You sure learned a lot.

But, once college is over, new pros quickly discover that the learning has only just begun. Real world success requires a mix of on-the-job lessons and your years of college training.

If you’re in the early stages of your PR career – or you’re a seasoned pro looking to enhance your experience – here are three skills they didn’t teach you in college that you should add to your toolkit.

  1. Be proactive. For most students, college is all about procrastinating. But, once you enter the real world, procrastination could become your worst enemy. Instead of waiting until the last minute, set personal project deadlines a few days ahead of your actual deadline so you can review and deliver your assignment early. Proactivity also extends beyond deadlines. You should constantly be looking for new growth opportunities within your workplace, asking for assignments that challenge you and build your career. Getting ahead of deadlines and demonstrating your desire to learn all things PR will help you stand out to company leadership – and who doesn’t want that? 
  2. Be flexible.  While in college, students usually know all assignment deadlines and tests dates from day one. The syllabus rarely changes, and when it does, the change is followed by complaints and chaos. But it’s different on the job. You must be flexible and open to last-minute changes and adjustments. This may mean you have to stay late to finish a project one day, or you must work through lunch to finish a last-minute presentation. Don’t get huffy about it. Adapt with a smile and get the job done. Your supervisor will notice and remember it. 
  3. Be engaging. This tip is two-fold. First, try as they might, it’s tough for professors to teach students how to be engaging on social media. You have to be natural when you engage with followers on behalf of a client, and it takes time and real world practice to build the right tone and develop your brand’s voice. Second, you need to develop interpersonal relationship skills early on. Whether it’s client relationships or interacting with superiors, the more comfortable and confident you are engaging, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

With so much to learn, the first several years on the job can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you did learn quite a few important skills in college that will come in handy down the road. You must remember and leverage these skills from day one. Some of these include:

  1. Research, including the SWOT analysis and communication research,
  2. AP Style, a requirement for pitching and writing in the PR world, and
  3. Public speaking in front of your peers and professors.

As you enter and thrive in the real world, don’t be intimidated by the amount you have to learn. Embrace it. You’re being paid to learn from some of the brightest leaders around – your co-workers!

What did you learn in your first year on the job? Share your thoughts below!

Stephanie Vermillion headshotStephanie Vermillion is a senior account executive at Wordsworth Communications, a public relations agency in Cincinnati. She is on the PRSA Cincinnati Leadership Team and is part of the PRSA Cincinnati New Pros Committee. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn and Twitter (@SMVermillion).