On Tuesday, Oct. 19 I arrived back to California after spending five days in Washington, D.C. for the 2010 PRSSA National Conference, a conference for public relations students in PRSSA chapters in colleges and universities across the nation.
The conference featured guest lecturers, workshops, seminars and plenty of networking opportunities with real professionals in the public relations industry.
I had the best time of my life there as I had the chance to learn more about what the public relations field entails as well as immersing myself in a setting where I was exposed to so much diversity. Never in a single setting have I mingled and networked with actual students and individuals that hail from places like Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Ohio, Iowa and so forth. All this can be partially blamed on me not having much experience traveling but I digress.
The individual sessions and speeches at Conference gave me a greater insight into the inner workings within the field and the challenges public relations professionals encounter on a daily basis. Some of the many important lessons I took out of the various sessions include:
- Establishing and managing relationships – crucial for professionals in order to work together with the necessary parties to accomplish the work they are put out there to do.
- “I need you, you need me” – people can only get what they desire if they work together and be resourceful to each other. It’s no surprise journalists and public relations professionals often have a very contentious relationship but as long as a connection is established between the two and both are willing to cooperate to get things done, a more positive and reputable relationship can be established.
- Use your PR power to do good things – especially important in nonprofit PR, the ability to communicate a certain problem or cause in order to raise awareness will lead to people coming together to find solutions to the problems that people face and make our world a better place to live in. Abusing the power of PR will only hurt causes and destroy credibility as well.
- Campaigns are about helping people, not selling a product – when it comes to political campaigns, it is about how candidates will make a difference for everyone. For campaigns pertaining to an issue or problem, it is about reaching out to people and how they can mobilize to make things better.
- Social media at the heart of Obama’s 2008 campaign – social media has rapidly grown in importance over the last few years and Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is one great example. He was able to get young voters to turn out in record numbers at the polling booths on Nov. 4 due to his campaign’s commanding social media power through the use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and text messaging. Since then, it is important for political candidates on all levels to utilize social media to maximize support for their campaigns.
- Ethics – credibility is key and abusing the public’s trust by means of dishonesty, unethical tactics and behavior and other counterproductive measures will only hinder people’s ability to use public relations for good measures
I’m relatively new to public relations as I have only been a communications -public relations major since January. Prior to that, I was in the journalism concentration. Even though I haven’t been a public relations major for very long, I feel that in this short amount of time I have learned a lot about what public relations is all about and what I should expect once I enter the workforce. To me, public relations is important because it is all about working with people to change how people view certain things in life and in society. The power of PR holds tremendous potential to influence people, convey how great things can be and how it matters to them.
If I had to define what public relations is, it would be where professionals work with stakeholders and clients to promote the best possible image and reputation for individuals and institutions. My personal definition would be a profession where it is about communicating with the public about people and institutions that impact the world and our society. Whether it is Campbell’s Soup or Exxon, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority or the CDC, President of the United States or an ordinary citizen who makes a difference in his or her community, public relations involves putting the best foot forward to representing people, companies, organizations or government agencies to convey why they matter to the public and society in general.
I am very grateful to be involved in PR, realizing that I can do so much more to make a difference in the world by becoming involved in the many functions that involve public relations. I hope to learn more as I go along and to continue on this wonderful path. I owe big thanks to Cal State Fullerton PRSSA and PRSSA National for convincing me that public relations is the right way to go.
Now, to look forward to Regional Activity, National Assembly and beyond…