A 360 Degree Look at Public Relations [PRSSA 2014 Regional Conference]

The Columbia College of Chicago PRSSA Chapter knows how to put on a Regional Conference. The Loop: A 360 Approach to Public Relations in Chicago resembled a mini National Conference and had everything from agency tours to a case-study competition to a full day of rock-star speakers.

Photo Courtesy of The Loop Regional Conference
Photo Courtesy of The Loop Regional Conference

The conference kicked off the morning of March 7, 2014 with a variety of choices of public relations agency tours. The options included both global agencies, such as Golin Harris and Edelman, and local agencies, such as Red Frog Events and Motion PR.

A select group of conference attendees were then invited to a case-study competition held at Ogilvy. Participants were split into groups, given a mock company in the midst of rebranding and were asked to come up with a campaign to launch the rebranding in less than an hour. Participants pitched their campaign ideas to Ogilvy employees who gave helpful feedback after all of the presentations. Some of the feedback given at Ogilvy included keeping goals in mind when designing campaigns and understanding the differences between social media and traditional media tactics.

A mixer was held Friday evening as a networking opportunity for attendees with a surprise speech on networking and first impressions from the founders of Chicago-based food, fashion and philanthropy agency Cece and Melinda: Raymi Productions.

The second day of conference on Saturday, March 8, started bright and early with an appearance from PRSSA National’s Vice President of Public Relations Ben Butler followed by a keynote from Derek Cuculich, the director of public relations for Onion, Inc. His presentation provided the top five tips to getting noticed and advancing in a career in public relations. In order, these tips were:

  1. Be available
  2. Network
  3. Follow up, keep communication open, ask questions
  4. Write, write, write
  5. Leave your ego at the door

Cuculich put particular emphasis on the concept of networking, something public relations students know well.

“Don’t be too cool to network,” Cuculich insisted, “If you don’t build relationships, you’re as good as spam email.”

Three breakout sessions, each an hour long with two options each hour, followed Cuculich’s keynote.

Speakers of the afternoon included Kevin Saghy, the manager of communications for the Chicago Cubs; Caleb Gardner, the director of social media and content for Organizing for Action and President Obama’s social media platforms; and Roland Cailles, the director of social media at Superfly Presents, which created the Bonnaroo music festival. A wide variety of topics were covered by these and four other session speakers.

Cailles’ session focused on the obstacles millennials face in the working world and how to overcome these stereotypes. He emphasized hard work and dedication saying, “I don’t believe in what people say, I believe in what they do.”

The closing keynote offered profound advice about building a career in the industry and an inside look into fashion public relations. Ryan M. Beshel and Kate Jacobsen worked together to provide attendees with an energized final session beginning with a light-hearted mega selfie similar to that of Ellen DeGeneres’ at this year’s Oscars.

After the fun came the hard-hitting advice. Beshel spoke prominently of making impressions in attitude and physical traits. “I can tell if your world is crumbling around you by the look on your face, so hide it,” Beshel stated.

Beshel also emphasized the importance of being open to new opportunities stating, “Don’t try to force your path, follow it. If you stay open, things will come to you. The universe is speaking very clearly, so pay attention.”

The closing address was given by PRSSA’s National President Brian Price. He talked highly of the booming public relations industry in Chicago. He and the other speakers highlighted that, not only in Chicago, but also all over the world, public relations is full of youthful, energized, stylish, fresh and creative people.

By the extent of this conference recap, you can tell that Columbia College Chicago PRSSA’s conference lived up to its name: 360. It encompassed all areas of traditional and modern public relations and offered a variety of events, tours and speakers to cover a 360-degree view of the industry.

Emma Finkbeiner is a sophomore at Northern Michigan University majoring in public relations and double minoring in journalism and art and design. She enjoys her job as a resident adviser and as a newly employed summer orientation staff assistant. She hopes to continue working in student affairs and eventually obtain a career in fashion journalism and public relations. Follow her on Twitter @efink101.

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