UGA PRSSA’s “PRofessional Connection 2010″: An Absolute Must for Future PR Pros
Yesterday, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the sixth-annual “PRofessional Connection,” hosted by the Drewry Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), an award-winning student group at the University of Georgia. The chapter, which operates through the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, is unique in that it’s the largest chapter of any within PRSSA, a pre-professional public relations organization made up of more than than 285 chapters nationwide. The Drewry Chapter has not only recently won an award for “Student Organization of the Year” on the UGA campus, but has also been recognized for making strides in bringing diversity and top-notch programs to both the national PRSSA organization, as well as to the PR industry in general.
In case you’re unfamiliar with “PRofessional Connection,” I’ll get you up to speed on it, and tell you why you should go next year.)
PRofessional Connection is first and foremost a networking event that brings several dozen PR industry professionals to the UGA campus for the purpose of teaching students about the field and scouting for potential work opportunities. Companies are always looking for the brightest students as prospective interns and potential employees, and students from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication are always on the lookout for internships. It’s practically a match made in heaven.
Each year, the pros take the lead on teaching valuable workshops and panel discussions on working as a professional in the field of PR, as students ask thoughtful questions and take notes. I had the awesome opportunity to serve as a panelist for a discussion about what a new college graduate should generally expect working in the industry the first six months after graduation. It was an engaging conversation between students and professionals.
This also was the first year that a career fair portion was introduced into the mix, and it turned out really well. As a representative of my company Terrapin Blue, I had the chance to meet dozens of brilliant and qualified students, many of which who’ll be competitive candidates for spring and summer PR internships. I fully expected to meet at least a few great students, but I had no clue that so many would be on their A-game. I was very definitely surprised to see that all of them had GPAs well above 3.5, along with relevant PR coursework and solid extracurricular activities. If that weren’t enough, many of them were only junior standing, but had already completed several (as in three or four!) public relations internships. Needless to say, I was quite impressed.
Slick Use of New Media
Another thing that surprised me about “PRofessional Connnection” was the cool use of new media throughout the event. After following UGA PRSSA on Twitter a few days before, I noticed that they’d created a separate account for the event, and presented their followers with a hashtag that would be used to “live-tweet,” or stream posts in real-time, as it was the event was taking place. You only have to search for the #PRCONN hashtag to see how effective it was. This was a great idea, and truly helped create a “buzz” for “PRofessional Connection,” before, after and during the event!
It was funny to see people texting on their phones during my panel discussion, only for them to approach me later and assure me that they weren’t bored; they were actually taking notes and posting them on Twitter! I’d never realized that new media could be integrated so well into an event of this nature, but it was. Students and Professionals would meet at the career fair, exchange business cards and résumés, and a few minutes later, find each other on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook. I know because I got a few requests myself throughout the day.
PRSSA provided students and professionals with breakfast refreshments and a full banquet luncheon. The food was delicious, and we were also treated to an engaging speech by Porter Novelli exec Brad MacAfee, who gave some poignant words of advice to all considering a career in public relations. (If you missed his amazing speech, check out students’ notes by searching for the PRCONN hashtag above.)
Everything You Could Want in a PR Networking Event
“PRofessional Connection” was a carefully planned-out, A-quality affair. It was obvious from the first moment I stepped into Tate Grand Hall that countless hours of preparation had gone into organizing this conference. The event ran like a finely oiled engine, and in my opinion, was the pinnacle of what a young PR pro could want in a pre-professional networking event: access to PR execs, helpful workshops, résumé critiques, good food (yes that’s important too!), the list goes on… UGA PRSSA covered all bases.
I’d like to give a major shout out to Marah Lidey, current Vice President of the UGA PRSSA chapter and a personal friend of mine who invited me to participate in the event. She had one of the biggest hands in planning “PRofessional Connection.” I wanted to say thanks to Marah and all of the other PRSSA execs who made this event possible. I hope that I can continue to be part of it in the future.
(Click here to download a PDF of this year’s program.)
Did you attend “PR Conn”? Wish you could have gone? What did you think of the event? Share your thoughts in the comments below.