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.


Member Spotlight: Hanna Porterfield

Name: Hanna Porterfield
Senior Account Executive at Development Counsellors International
Location: New York, NY
Education: B.S. in Advertising and Specialization in Public Relations, Michigan State University
Social Media Handle: @citygirlhanna

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
It’s funny, I was always reading and writing growing up, but never thought of it as a career because I didn’t necessarily want to be author. I began college as a mathematics major, with a goal to be an actuary. While that didn’t work out, loving numbers still comes in handy for calculating results and ROI of work. After changing my major I looked into advertising and marketing. Public relations was a specialization at the time, and the more I learned, the more it became for me. Internships and PRSSA involvement solidified my career choice.

How did you find internships/jobs?
Well, for internships I looked at my college job website and internship websites that I can’t even remember the name of (and they’ve probably since changed and been updated!). The question I think people actually want answered as a new professional is how to find a full-time position that will launch their career. For this, it takes time; looking for a job can be a full-time job, with late nights sending resumes, cover letters and follow-up notes all while you’re in school or working. I suggest setting up job alerts so that you can get potential positions emailed to you and all of your time isn’t spent going down a rabbit hole searching. LinkedIn and PRSA are good for this. Also think outside the box – literally every type of business needs PR.

I found my first (and current) job by putting my all into it. This means you’re going to have to make sacrifices. For me, that meant setting up 10 interviews during my senior year spring break and paying my way to New York City. When asked in an interview why I wasn’t on the beach, I said I could go to the beach the rest of my life, but I wanted a career in NYC. It paid off and I had two job offers before graduation.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
One that comes to mind is when my first boss quit about a year and a half after I’d been at my company. It seemed like the end of the world to have a manager I liked and respected leaving so soon. In the end, it was for the better. Having a team member leave–while probably increasing workload–will ultimately give you an opportunity to step up to the plate and grow. For me, that resulted in my first promotion and an even more supportive manager than I previously had.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
The most valuable things I’ve learned for my career have been though experience, not school, without hesitation. While college classes provide a good foundation, you cannot learn without doing. I cant stress enough the value of internships and your first jobs. When asked to present to public relations classes at my alma mater, I always share case studies of projects I’ve worked on, and try to apply to the topics in their textbooks.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is simply to work hard. My dad instilled the word ‘industrious’ in our family, and that’s really motivated me to work hard no matter what I’m doing, in my career or otherwise.

Do you have any advice for PR pros early in their career?
Keep learning. It’s amazing how much can change in the PR industry just within a couple of years being in it. Read industry news and blogs, and keep any certifications you might have up to date. Bring up professional development budget in your annual salary reviews.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
Having a network of PR professionals across the country who are going through similar things as you in their career. From Twitter and LinkedIn to MyPRSA, there’s no shortage of ways to get in touch with other members. While mentors are an important part of your career trajectory, being able to bounce ideas off people who are in a similar role to you, but at a different company, is helpful. Plus, make the connections now and run the world together later!

Is there anything you wish you would have known before becoming a new professional?
Outside of the actual office setting and your first career, I wish I would’ve known to keep balance and that it’s okay to say no to things. I have been extremely involved with lots of organizations during college and since graduating, but am just now learning how to balance priorities and make time for myself. You need time to rejuvenate to thrive. Put your all into organizations and side projects you’re passionate about, but don’t spread yourself too thin. For me, serving PRSA is one of those priorities.

Name one little-known thing about yourself.
I won my hometown’s Punt Pass and Kick in 6th grade for females and went on to the regional competition.

Hanna Porterfield is Chair of PRSA’s New Pros Section and a senior account executive at Development Counsellors International in New York. She is a graduate of Michigan State University. Connect with her on Twitter @citygirlhanna.


If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight blog series, please complete the following form. Or reach out to us via email at

Career Transitions Twitter Chat Highlights: Preparing for a Full-Time PR Career

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the Transition Month #NPPRSA Twitter chat as we discussed ways new grads can plan and prepare for a full-time career in public relations.

May Twitter Chat Highlights PR Career

Specifically, we’d like to thank PRSA and Joe Cohen, APR. Joe is Chair of PRSA & senior vice president at MWW, a leading global independent public relations firm.

Join us again on June 5 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.

How can you enhance your current role by building upon previous experiences? What are ways PRSA can serve you as a new professional? 

Learn more about PRSA and the PRSA New Pros Section at PRSSA members can receive free PRSA New Pros Section membership with promo code AM14 when you join PRSA as an associate member.

Lauren Rosenbaum soversity prsa new pros prssa


Lauren 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.

Diversity and New Pros: Be a Storyteller, Make a Difference

As new professionals in the public relations field, we constantly work with people of all walks of life across many disciplines. Working with a diverse range of people opens our eyes to the possibilities and opportunities out there.


That being said, the PR profession is not as diverse as you might think despite ongoing and tremendous progress that has been made. According to the PRSA Foundation, ethnic groups make up 30 percent of the U.S. population yet only 10 percent of minorities work in public relations.

When most people hear about diversity, the primary identifiers that come to mind include race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. There are many more than that, some of which you might least expect. What makes everyone unique and different in their own ways most likely falls under this category. To name a few, it also includes income level, religion, disabilities, socioeconomic status and age.

Addressing such issues is no easy task yet very much achievable. Local PRSA Chapters can do their part in working on diversity initiatives custom tailored to their communities in order to help diversify its memberships. PRSA members can serve as mentors to PRSSA students of all walks of life as a way to provide professional guidance and support to help prepare the next generation of leaders.

One attribute of PR professionals is that we are storytellers. We all have stories of our own to tell based on our knowledge, experience and upbringing. As no two stories are completely alike, it is having those unique stories that makes us diverse. By learning from one another about our differences, it helps us become competent professionals as a result. If we want to stand out as professionals getting started in this field, it is important that our individual stories be heard to help ourselves advance in this profession.

Now, I would like to hear from you. Each month, I hope to feature on this blog a new professional of different backgrounds and how it relates to your experiences as a PR professional. Speak from the heart so that we can all understand where you are coming from. If you are interested in submitting your story, email I look forward to hearing from as many new professionals as possible.


Simon_Oh-5Simon Oh is the diversity liaison for the PRSA New Professionals executive committee. He is currently a graduate student at San Jose State University, studying transportation management. His professional background includes public affairs and community relations within the transportation field. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Introducing Your 2014 Section Executive Committee

We’re excited to introduce your 2014 PRSA New Professionals Section Executive Committee! This team has committed to a year of helping you develop as a public relations professional. We’ll do this by connecting you to valuable industry resources, providing thought leadership across disciplines and offering opportunities for you to network with peers across the country.

To kick the year off and get to know them a little better, we’ve asked our Committee members to share their favorite benefit of being a PRSA member. Check out their responses and get involved!

Heather Sliwinski, Section chair
PRSA has added immeasurable value to my early PR career – not only have I found every PR job I’ve had through connections I’ve made through PRSA, but the opportunities for professional development through free webinars and in-person conferences are tremendous. If you’re on a budget, there are a host of Twitter chats, like our #NPPRSA, and online content to browse through to keep upping your PR game. PRSA people and programs are such a fantastic resource for all new professionals.

Nick Lucido, Section chair-elect and membership co-chair
My favorite part about PRSA is being able to connect with fellow members across disciplines and regions to build my network. Having a strong network is essential for new professionals and PRSA is an incredibly powerful tool to aid you in building this cohort.

JR Rochester, membership co-chair
My favorite benefit from PRSA is the availability of mentorship and professional development. PRSA is made up with thousands of professionals who have a wealth of knowledge in all areas of PR and can guide you as you grow in your career. The PRSA Mentor Match is a great resource made available as well.

Jessica Noonan, blog co-chair
I enjoy attending PRSA events in person, especially the PRSA International Conference. While engaging online is always available, nothing is more valuable than face-to-face interaction with industry leaders. We also have some specific opportunities to engage as a new professional at the annual conference!

Lauren Gray, blog co-chair
The best parts of being a PRSA member are the professional connections and professional development opportunities. It’s been very valuable to connect with other professionals to build my network and attend national events, webinars and other learning opportunities as I continue to grow.

Robert Martin, newsletter co-editor
The webinars are something that I value about my PRSA membership. The on-demand archive has a helpful webinar for nearly every industry topic you can think of, and participating in a live webinar (many of which are free for members) is a great opportunity to network and share ideas with other PR professionals.

CNJ HeadshotCandace Johnson, newsletter co-editor
I appreciate PRSA’s commitment to helping new professionals transition from college life into the work force. Besides the very useful professional development webinars available, my favorite benefit of PRSA is the opportunity to cultivate mentorships. The supportive, professional connections are invaluable. I am continually inspired to develop into my best professional self by the members I have had the opportunity to meet.

Janelle Huelsman, programming co-chair
My favorite benefit of PRSA is meeting, networking and learning with fellow members. PRSA offers great opportunities for New Pros to collaborate with their peers on industry trends and insights, and it also allows us to learn from more experienced practitioners who are constantly setting high standards for our field and the Society.

Hilary Jurinak, programming co-chair
I love that PRSA offers access to thousands of industry experts in the PR field which allows for endless networking, industry insight and new career opportunities. The networking opportunities have been valuable for my professional development and I enjoy making new connections through national and local PRSA events.

Amy Bishop, social media co-chair
Professional development experiences are one of my favorite parts of my PRSA membership. Attending PRSA International Conference, listening to webinars on-demand and attending district events are an excellent way to continue to learn about the industry and connect with other professionals.

Lauren Rosenbaum, social media co-chair
My favorite PRSA benefit is the vast amount of resources we have access to as members, whether it be publications like Issues & Trends, Public Relations Tactics, The Public Relations Strategist or the opportunity to look through award-winning campaigns. I appreciate the team that puts these resources together so we can all continue learning and growing together as a Society, and so I can always be a student of my craft.

Nicole Bersani, mentorship co-chair
In college, PRSSA was a great way to network. Now, in PRSA as a new professional, that is still true but it is at a whole different level. What I love most about PRSA it that it gives us the opportunity to connect with and learn from hundreds of new to senior professionals – and all around the globe.

Mike DeFlippis, mentorship co-chair
One of my favorite PRSA membership benefits, among others, is the free online webinars throughout the year. As public relations practitioners know all too well, we have hectic schedules.  These webinars (available on-demand after their first run!) are a fantastic resource to keep up with industry trends, helping you bring even more value to your clients every single day.

Simon Oh, diversity liaison
My favorite benefit of PRSA is the abundant networking and learning opportunities that give me a better sense of how I can become a competent public relations professional. From meeting with professionals in person to attending PRSA International Conference sessions, there’s always something new and insightful to learn that can strengthen your professional profile.

Jessica Lawlor, PRSSA liaison
How can I choose just one PRSA benefit?! Besides the fantastic networking, conferences and leadership opportunities, I really love the PRSA Issues & Trends e-newsletter that hits my inbox each morning as I sit down at my desk to start my day. The useful stories, links and tips included keep me up-to-date on the latest happenings and trends in the PR industry in a quick and easy-to-read format.

Scott Thornburg, PRSSA liaison
Like many people, the concept of “public relations” was a little fuzzy until after I had some work experience under my belt. Even then, PRSA taught me most of what I know about my current profession. The mentorship, connections and professional advice have been invaluable to me.