The Golden State of PR
By Jessica Treviño
December 24, 2019
This year I got to attend my first ever Public Relations Student Society of America International Conference(PRSSAIC). Try saying that ten times fast. I have wanted to go to International Conference since I joined PRSSA at Texas State and PRSSA and PRSA foundation granted my wish by choosing me as one of the few awarded the PRSA Foundation Student Travel Grant 2019. When I got the news I was honestly shocked I tried not to get my hopes up, telling myself I probably wouldn’t hear back from anyone. Once the shock settled I was overwhelmed with excitement. I just had an amazing experience at the Leadership Rally in May, so I could only imagine all that I would experience at PRSSAIC. To add to the excitement, this would be my first time in California a place I’ve dreamed of visiting and it happened to fall on my 25th birthday!
Luckily the foundation approved of me arriving a day early, so that I could attend the career tour with ease which also provided me with a full day of exploring. I remember it was sunny with the breeze, providing the perfect weather for walking around outside without breaking a sweat. It was a fresh breath of air since Texas decided to skip fall this year. Of course my type a self had already instagram stalked, saved and created an entire folder of all the places I wanted to visit for the perfect experience and insta’s. Gotta do it for the ‘gram ya know! After hours of exploring I was exhausted and had the hotel room, with a perfect view, all to myself so you bet I went back and enjoyed some quality me time.
My day began with me getting ready for my career tour at BAM Communications! Their office was really cool with all the modern decor, featuring a lightbox sign, a neon light sign, floating bookshelves and wall art. They talked to us about their different clients, tactics and backgrounds.
After the tour I attended the Keynote Session with Will Collie, the head of Edelman’s Southern California business. (Disclaimer: I regretfully left my computer in my hotel room on this day, so my notes are based off of images, insta-stories and scratch notes. I did my best) The main thing I remember from Collie’s session was the getting a first look at the, then never before seen, Taco Bell Hotel video. He also talked about PR, what it is, what it isn’t and what it needs to be. He talked about the approach which is to evolve, promote and protect, as well as channel strategy by creatively leading with earned, owned and paid content. He also touched on brand trust stating that 81% must trust the brand to do what is right but only 34% actually trust that. In order to build trust you need evidence and data.
Next I got to experience a special chapter presidents’ leadership workshop with Cheryl I. Procter-Rogers, APR, PCC, Fellow, MBA, MA. Cheryl is a senior consultant and executive coach at A Step Ahead Consulting and Coaching. She discussed the tools needed to be a transformational leader, which were delegate, feedback framework and emotional intelligence, organizational skills and communicating for outcomes. She also talked about the importance of emotional intelligence and how it relates to communicating effectively. She showed us a video emphasizing the importance of words and that using them differently can change your results.
To end the night I attended the opening night bonfire celebration. After spending the day learning, growing and being professional, this opportunity allowed us to let loose and be ourselves. Many people know, especially PR students, how outgoing we can be so this bonfire allowed us to embrace our true selves in a fun way. It was amazing and probably one of my favorite nights of the conference!
Not going to lie, it was a little rough waking up on this particular morning because I enjoyed some delicious California wine the night before but I pushed through and made it just in time for the Welcome Awards and Chapter Roll Call. Since I had never attended conference before I had no idea what this was but I soon caught on and was terrified. There were amazing chapters at this conference with like 15 people attending from their school with amazing chants including the badass Lizzo chant from Scripps PRSSA. All UTA had was two attendees, when it got to us I really debated between remaining silent and actually representing the school. The other girl that attended was seated elsewhere in the room and it all happened so fast that I’m not sure if I stood up alone or not but I gave my best, go mavs and sat down. (lol it was awful)
My favorite session from this day was attending ‘The 9 to 5s of PR: The Difference in Agency and Corporate Life with Hannah Riffle and John Soriano’. They touched on the differences of the two in terms of work, opportunities and growth. Something they said that really resonated with me was to keep in mind that perks are easy to mistake for culture and that many agencies mask perks as culture so to look beyond that surface level and be cautious when choosing a place to work. When interviewing, it’s important to ask questions to see if the company is a good fit for you.
I was really looking forward to this day because I got to hear from Brandi Boatner, who I had just heard from a couple weeks prior at the PRSA Dallas UnSummit event. She was fabulous to say the least and super informative, she really peaked my interest in data analytics and working towards a job with IBM one day.
Of course, Brandi did not disappoint! She emphasized that “in order to succeed you have to fail” but to remember that failure and self worth do NOT go hand-in-hand. She also kept it real letting us know that as PR professionals we need to get comfortable with business literacy in all aspects such as budgets, income sheets, margins and more. The best advice she gave to us is The Art of Negotiation, telling us to keep in mind that negotiations need to be a win-win based on what ALL parties need and working for all concerned is vital. As new professionals it was important to hear her say, “just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it.” She encouraged us to ask the maximum amount that can be offered for the position, she reassured that this question is not taboo and that they should tell you the amount. If you feel or they feel that the maximum amount is not what should be offered at the moment, to ask how you can make the maximum. Reminding us again to do our homework and know the facts and figures of the business dynamic of the organization.
She left us with tons of knowledge, while uplifting us immensely. She said that PRSSA is a top notch talet, and to be PRSSA proud. Brandi Boatner herself is a child of PRSSA and attributes the organization to her success in life. She finished her presentation with a list of free certifications that are offered to us to help us learn and grow outside of the classroom, as well as separate us from others. Unsurprisingly Brandi received a standing-ovation from her audience, the only one of the conference I might add, and a long line of students dying to interact with her afterwards. If I could attend a conference or event that features Brandi Boatner every month, I would. I seriously encourage and recommend looking into her!
I spent the day catching up on my rest, because I always get severely ill when flying and being well-rested helps my immune system immensely. After that I had to spend my time packing before my flight, making sure I didn’t forget anything. Dallas had experienced severe storms the night before so I secretly hoped my flight would get cancelled. I never wanted to leave this beautiful city and was super sad to miss the Awards Ceremony Dinner. I missed out on getting my grant award in person, getting a picture with the other winners and an opportunity for formal attire, which any one who knows me knows I love.
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget and be grateful for forever. I could not thank PRSSA, PRSA Foundation, Jennifer Little and UTA PRSSA enough for the chance at this. I hope to one day give back to y’all in the amazing ways y’all have given to me, or at least try! Cheers to being PRSSA Proud.