PR Advanced: Be the Change

Nearly 150 students attended Boston University’s Regional Activity, “PR Advanced: Be the Change,” and inspired themselves to be the change in the public relations field. Attendees heard from amazing speakers at companies such as IBM and MTV, and agencies such as APCO Worldwide and Burson-Marsteller.

First Keynote — Jon Iwata, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at IBM

The event started with the first of two keynotes, Jon Iwata, senior vice president of marketing and communications at IBM. Mr. Iwata was extremely influential as he spoke about the strengths of public relations and the four steps we must take as public relations professionals to be successful in our careers: forge a shared belief, spur people to act, sustain behavior and enable advocacy.

The keynote concluded with a recap about Watson, the IBM super computer that easily defeated two human opponents on Jeopardy! Mr. Iwata spoke about the importance of Watson and how over one million tweets mentioned the computer, IBM and the game show itself during the week Jeopardy aired. He also explained how IBM planned to take Watson on a “world tour” to help spread IBM’s message of technology for mankind.

Agency Panel: Worldwide

The first panel I attended covered working for a public relations agency. This breakout session was extremely beneficial because it provided various perspectives on the industry.

Panelists included:

  • Barri Rafferty, Senior Partner and Director at Ketchum New York
  • Meaghan Smith, Senior Account Supervisor at Edelman New York
  • Katherine Wilburn, Consultant at Gagen MacDonald in Chicago

Advice from the panelists included diversifying your classes beyond what’s available in your major and learning the importance of public speaking.

Entertainment: MTV Networks

The second breakout session I attended was about MTV Network’s communication strategy. Our speaker was Mariana Agathoklis, director of communications.

Ms. Agathoklis spoke about how various MTV shows rely on both buzz and content to be deemed successful. Using the “Jersey Shore” as an example, she explained how the show gained attention because it was deemed to be insensitive to Italian-American culture. The show premiered to great ratings, and each subsequent episode increased its viewership because the content was intriguing to watch.

In contrast, Ms. Agothoklis discussed “Skins,” the MTV show that also had a great deal of press. Although the show’s ratings were as expected in the premiere episode, viewership went down the next week. As Ms. Agothoklis explained, this was because the audience felt the content wasn’t there like it was with “Jersey Shore.”

Margery Kraus, CEO and Founder of APCO Worldwide

Margery Kraus, CEO and founder of APCO Worldwide, emphasized that the changes going on in the world encouraged APCO Worldwide to set itself apart from other agencies by its vision and core values. Because of disappearing resources, the digital revolution, beginning work in inexperienced markets, a new balance of power among foreign nations and new global economic opportunities, its vision remains relevant and engaging.

Ms. Kraus revealed the true secret of APCO Worldwide’s success: passion. Passion makes its team smarter, makes public relations more than a job and builds long-term relationships. Passion is the “secret sauce” that allows a mid-size agency to compete with global giants. She encouraged all participants to have that same passion to achieve their goals in the changing world of today.

Career Panel

The last speaking session of the day was also the most educational for students looking for jobs and internships.

Panelists included:

  • Stephanie Deitzer, Founder and President of Style at Work
  • Eric Leist, Emerging Technology Strategist at Allen & Gerritsen
  • Kate DiChristopher, HR Manager at Marina Maher Communications
  • Maggie van der Leeuw, Manager of Human Resources at Burson-Marsteller

Some lessons I learned included having a good online presence that shows you are an expert in your field, dressing appropriately for the culture of the company at which you interview, and being engaging and knowledgeable when interviewed.

In Conclusion

The event was capped off with a career fair that gave students the opportunity to mingle with representatives from companies like Porter Novelli, Fleishman Hillard and Cone.

In addition, our two keynote speakers, Jon Iwata and Margery Kraus, became trending topics on Twitter in Boston and #pradvanced became a trending topic throughout the United States.

Overall, “PR Advanced: Be the Change” was an amazing opportunity for all who decided to spend their Saturday learning more about the public relations industry. I thoroughly enjoyed my time learning from professionals and networking with the future stars of our industry.

Here are pictures from the event.

Maurice Rahmey is the social chair of Boston University’s PRSSA Chapter. He can be contacted on Twitter @mrahmey.

Did you attend Boston University’s event? What information interested you? What new information did you learn that benefits you as a pre-professional public relations student?

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