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.


Congratulations to the PRSSA National Committee

The PRSA New Professionals Committee would like to congratulate our 2018-2019 PRSSA National Committee members. We know they’ll accomplish much as members of this committee and as leaders for the future of Public Relations as they progress through their careers. 

NEW YORK (March 14, 2018) —The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) announced the election of its 2018–2019 National Committee during its annual National Assembly in Miami, March 8–11.

More than 200 students and advisers from across the country and the world converged in Miami for the four-day meeting. During the Assembly, attendees participated in career- and leadership-training events, and learned about the Society, their member benefits, how to pitch public relations, and networked with their peers and public relations professionals.

The 2018–2019 National Committee, which begins its one-year term on June 1, 2018, will be led by National President Andrew Young, of Middle Tennessee State University. Young previously served as vice president of external affairs.

New National Committee members also include:

  • Vice President of Career Services: Alyssa Murtagh, Ohio University
  • Vice President of Chapter Development: Nicholas Goebel, University of Florida
  • Vice President of Digital Communications: Briana Spears, Millersville University
  • Vice President of External Affairs: Rosa Ambriz, Texas State University
  • Vice President of Member Services: Trevor Rayhons, University of Northern Iowa
  • Vice President of Professional Development: Ashleigh Kathryn, University of South Florida
  • Vice President of Events and Fundraising: Ryan Will, North Carolina State University
  • Immediate Past President: Andrew Cook, Brigham Young University*

*This is a regular transition from the presidency.

About the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA)

The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is the foremost organization for students interested in public relations and communication. Founded in 1968 by its parent organization, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), PRSSA includes more than 10,000 student members and advisers and is active on more than 350 college and university campuses.

Finding a Company Culture That Fits

think about what motivates you, makes you feel comfortable and helps you thrive. (2)

“You’re a catalyst to your own happiness, you know.”

That’s what NONONO says in its song “Pumpin Blood,” and that phrase has stuck with me.

With so many factors in the world that we have control of, we have the ability and responsibility to make our happiness a priority.

So how do you stay happy in the hectic and exhausting field of public relations? Think of what you need in a company culture that will make you happy and successful. Yes, you. Not what your parents want for you, what your friends want or what society says you want because you’re a millennial. What’s going to make you enjoy going to work most days? (Let’s be real, nobody wants to go to work all the time.) What will be an environment you can be successful in?

Are you a cubicle-loving, in-house PR person who wants to work in the automotive industry or maybe someone who likes the fast-paced, open-concept agency that works with consumer products?

It’s all up to you.

There are so many factors that contribute to company culture, so think about what motivates you, makes you feel comfortable and helps you thrive. Come up with a list and write it out, though it may seem tedious, so you have something to refer to.

Once you have built out a list of what you’re looking for, rank the items from top to bottom according to the importance of each. It’s likely you’ll have to make compromises when it comes to your list of ideals, which is why you need to determine what matters most. Then, you’ll be able to match that list against employers you’re interested in working for.

At Piper & Gold Public Relations where I work in Lansing, Michigan, we openly communicate about our company culture and what we call our #Truths that shape it. From our familial office relationships to our persistent mentality of always improving, our twelve #Truths lay out how, what and why we do what we do, as well as why it’s enjoyable at the same time. We created them during a team brainstorming session based on what already existed and have lived by them ever since.

I understand not all businesses have #Truths but most have a distinct culture that they’re willing to discuss with you – so do your research and ask questions about company culture before starting a new gig, your happiness and success may rely on it. After all, new professionals aren’t all about happy hours and foosball tables – we want much more than that.  

hannahHannah Leibinger is an account strategist at Piper & Gold Public Relations, a boutique agency in Lansing, Michigan, that specializes in government, nonprofit and small business public relations. In the Lansing community, she serves as the chair of communications for Grand River Connection, new professionals co-chair and a director at large for the Central Michigan Chapter of PRSA, social media coordinator for Giving Tuesday Lansing and a member of the Old Town Commercial Association business development committee. Connect with her on Twitter (@hleibinger) and LinkedIn.

The Do’s and Don’ts for Making 2016 YOUR Year

I believe 2016 is going to be a big year. You know what I mean, how some years take much more space in your memory than others when you look back. It’s an overwhelming inkling, like the way you feel a sticky summer breeze and can just know it’s going to rain. Yes, 2016 is going to be a big year. It’s an election year for starters, but I think it’s something in our collective energy that’s buzzing for change. So as we take our early steps into 2016, here are some tips to be more intentional and make sure our efforts go toward making this new year bigger and better than those that came before it.


  1. Drink more coffee.

Kidding! Though new health standards say you can have up to five cups a day now. Which is great news for those of us who need a little java courage to tackle early morning segments. So, to good health!

1.5 Don’t check your email/social media pages until an hour after you wake up.

Email, Facebook statuses, news headlines all can have a major affect on your mood, which can alter the way you frame your day. Let yourself have a media-free hour and put the reigns back in your hands. Whether you chose to blast a pump-up morning mix or eat breakfast with your original thoughts. Use the time to touch base with your kick-ass self and start each day with your best foot forward.

  1. Write things down.

This is not just to make your 3rd grade cursive teacher feel validated. Studies show that handwriting notes facilitates memory, cognitive function and also helps with your creative process. (Click here or here for proof.) Maybe it has something to do with how writing in ink relinquishes your ability to backspace, making it a more permanent declaration. Whatever the reason, if handwriting my to-do list could ensure I don’t accidentally skip a thing, I’ll hand-sign myself up for that.

  1. Don’t be afraid of a phone call.

Speaking of going old-school… Humor me. Tap your phone and click on your recent calls; how many outgoing calls did you make besides those to your mother? It’s widely agreed that things like sentiment, sarcasm and even the contents of conversations get shortchanged through text, and yet 90% of the time when presented with both options, we chose the less efficient. Don’t be afraid to dial. An hour-long texting conversation can be communicated more personably over a ten-minute phone call. I mean this for both our personal and professional lives. PR is all about relations. It’s hard to have relations with a digital ghost.

  1. Put effort into “doing you.”   

The worst thing you can do – at any point in your life, not only at the start of the year – is allow yourself to feel comfortable coasting on autopilot. I understand life tends to throw a lot at us and sometimes all you have time for are “survival tactics:” sleep, work, eat, work, Netflix. And that’s fine. We’re at a unique stage in our lives where the effort we put in now can and will shape the course of our careers. But I think we need to stay mindful in making sure we don’t forget to build a life as well. We all have interests besides work that make us tick, and if you can’t remember what those are, go discover them! Be it painting, running, photography, cooking, traveling, guitar etc. Dedicate time for it and don’t lose touch of that part of you. It’ll likely be what sparks your next big idea into a full flame.

The new year can either be seen as another month, no better nor worse than that before it (besides the lack of holiday sweets delivered at your door), or as a wonderful opportunity; to evaluate what we’ve done well, what we maybe didn’t do so well at and set goals (not resolutions) to gradually build on for the months to come. I challenge you to look at 2016 as a blank canvas of opportunity. Choose one thing you’d like to accomplish, professionally or personally, and add a brushstroke each day. It’s going to be a “big year” after all, so don’t be afraid to choose bold colors.

gtzQK8HpMegan O’Neal graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, emphasizing in mass communications. She is currently the PR & Social Media Manager at Marketing Design Group and volunteers with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, freelancing for the public relations department. Connect with her on Twitter @megannenicole.

How to Stand Out in the Sea of PR Pros

PRSA THE EDGE OCTOBERThere’s great news! The economy is looking up for today’s job seekers, but that doesn’t mean companies are just hiring anybody. In today’s job market, tenacity and creativity go a long way.

Employer’s want to know you were productive between the time you graduated and the time you applied to your dream job with their company. They love to see that you are committed to your career and gaining valuable experience independently. After tailoring your resume, updating your LinkedIn profile, going on informational interviews, and actually applying with a compelling cover letter, we often complain that the job hunt is a job within itself. The hustle is real but is well worth it once you land a job you love.

Prepare yourself for job-hunting success by creating a job hunt strategy. This goes beyond updating your online presence and applying to jobs but actually making strategic moves to land the job you want. Think organization. Create a list of companies you want to work at vs. companies you would love to work at. Use this list to prioritize time spent on cover letters and networking. Create a google doc and track the applications you send and the responses you receive. Keep in mind the date you applied and the date you followed up. Did you land an interview or was their no response at all? Log it!

Public Relations is a career that requires constant learning. While you are searching for full time positions, strategically introducing yourself by reaching out to companies you the companies on your “love” list. Share the relevant skills and accomplishments that would add value to their company and why you are interested in working with them. Show your passion by volunteering to assist in a project part time or on a paid contract basis. This is the perfect time to prove that you are an asset to the team.

Set yourself apart from other job seekers by taking on alternative positions that are related to the industry. A great way to gain experience is to serve as a Brand Ambassador at local events. Some of the top brands are represented at local festivals and doing a great job marketing their product is attractive to employers. Have you ever thought about asking your local coffee shop if they need some help with their social media? I mean you’re always there anyway applying to jobs, right? The least they can offer in return is a free cup of joe. Create a Social Media Strategy Proposal for them and if they like it, ask them to pay for you to implement it. If not, you have a social media strategy to add to your portfolio.

What are you doing to stand out from the crowded job market?

i-zthGPGn-XLJasmine L. Kent, a member of PRSA-NCC, focuses on building community through dynamic events and engaging online marketing as a freelance integrated communications professional in Washington, DC. Keep up with her on Twitter at @LoveJasPR or visit