2019 International Conference Part 2

This is the second blog post sharing the experience at the PRSSA 2019 International Conference in San Diego, California, taking place October 18–22, 2019. Read the first post here.


With roll call out of the way and students welcomed, Saturday’s portion of the 2019 International Conference continued with a series of breakout sessions.

PRSSA National President Nick Goebel (left) moderating a panel featuring Marissa Rubenstein and Andy McGowan (Photo by Brook Farrell)

Some students, like University of Cincinnati Chapter Treasurer Alex Horton, attended a Sports PR session where National President Nicholas Goebel moderated a discussion with Andy McGowan and Marissa Rubenstein. Horton appreciated how McGowan shared skills to develop for a career in the industry. “As someone who wants to one day work for a pro basketball team, those [tips] are going to be really beneficial for my future,” he said.

The Ohio State University’s Chapter President Konni Lorenz had the chance to check out the session on adapting to an ever-changing industry. The session was sponsored by Nebo, whose President, Kimm Lincoln, led the conversation. Lincoln was able to practice what she preached, using changing technologies and presentation styles to engage the audience. Lorenz noticed this, sharing that Lincoln, “used multiple super engaging videos that kept me interested in what she was saying.”

During one of the last sessions of the day, Katherine Keeber learned from Flock Rally’s Tracie Broom and Merritt McNeely about the campaign they put together, bringing 400,000 people to South Carolina for the Great American Eclipse. Keeber, vice president of finance for the Hugh M. Culbertson Chapter at Ohio University, wants to use the information gathered to create a campaign in Dayton, Ohio, for the 2024 solar eclipse. “This session was really exciting for me — hearing a case study about an event that has no precedent. It really inspired me to look at communities near me to see what we can do moving forward,” she reflected.


Sunday started out with a PRSA general session, where attendees heard powerful words from Bob Woodward. With tons to think about, Firm Director Micah Carroll from Northern Michigan University particularly remembered Woodward’s insight regarding nonverbal communication. Woodward shared a story about the signals that Former U.S. President Bill Clinton gave off. Carroll’s takeaway was to, “think more about my nonverbal communication and how I am being proactive to grow in my communication skills.”

A later set of breakout sessions occurred and one popular session was focused on handling social media trends in the era of Generation Z. Erika Prime, who heads Taco Bell’s digital and social experience team, led the students in discussion. Deontre’ McCray, Chapter president at Claflin University, recognized the importance of the conversation that Prime started. Noticing Prime’s recognition that a person must know their audience on social media, McCray said, “a lot of times, people don’t know that PR entails social media, and you need to know your audience for that as well.”

The National Committee split up into sessions by position to encourage local leadership to speak with people in similar roles from other Chapters. One vice president, Kati Gauer of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Chapter, reflected on her session. “We focused a lot on things we had to work on, but we also focused a lot on the positives that come out of PRSSA and how it improves people for their future,” Gauer said.

After Chapter leaders discussed their roles, students rejoined PRSA for a military panel led by Laura Ling. A speaker with an inspirational story, Ling left attendees with so much to think about. One thing that stuck with North Pacific District Ambassador Milan Williams was based on Ling’s stories on crisis communications. “Public relations is meant to just inform people and get your message across, but you have to remember the human side of crisis communications. There are people that this affects,” he shared.


As the sun rose on the Golden Coast, students and professionals reconvened in the ballroom to listen to a panel of global agency representatives consisting of Jennifer Gottlieb, Jim Joseph, Heather Kernahan and Barby Siegel. Taylor Lemay from the Utah Valley University Chapter thought about how the advice from the panel could apply, saying that, “being able to evolve your creativity with the merging of PR and marketing is going to set you apart in your professional career.”

In the same room, attendees heard from Vicente Fox and Martha Sahagún de Fox, former president and first lady of Mexico. Sara Larsen of Utah Valley University was inspired by former President Fox, seeing, “what we can do as leaders and what we should be doing as leaders.”

Appropriately titled, the PRSSA special session was hosted by David Glanzer, chief communications and strategy officer at Comic-Con International. Glanzer was more than happy to provide insight into how the comic book convention is planned and executed. Christopher Alves, University of Rhode Island Chapter president, learned “how to skillfully wield the phrase, ‘no comment.’ We are so cautioned against it, but I feel like if it is used correctly, it can be very powerful.”

Equally powerful, however, is the energy felt in the rooms throughout the 2019 International Conference. Look out for future posts on this blog sharing more of the wisdom that people picked up during such a phenomenal weekend.

Interviews for this post were conducted by Terrell F. Merritt, Zach Ferenchak and Dieter Tirado of the 2019–2020 Publications Committee.

photo of Terrell F. MerrittTerrell F. Merritt is the PRSSA 2019–2020 vice president of brand engagement and serves as the editor in chief of Progressions. They are a senior studying advertising and public relations at City College of New York’s Department of Media and Communication Arts. Follow them on Twitter @terrellfmerritt and connect with them on LinkedIn.

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