On Friday and Saturday, about 130 students from 14 different universities in the northeast came to State College to attend Penn State’s PRSSA Chapter’s Regional Conference.
The theme of the conference was “Passport to PR” because the Conference Committee was “inspired by the belief that the public relations field can take one anywhere.”
The conference officially kicked off on Friday night with a pitch competition. Students were split into groups and were given one of three scenarios: increasing tourism in Genovia, Winterfell, or Diagon Alley. With about twenty minutes to create a successful public relations plan, the students immediately went from strangers to coworkers. Judges from Penn State Berks and Harrisburg selected the top three groups, with a twitter poll deciding the ultimate winner. The night ended with #TeamDiagonAlley claiming victory.
The next morning students gathered bright and early to listen to Keynote Speaker Christina Cassotis. Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, described how she went from a public relations practitioner to the head of Pittsburgh International Airport. With a passion for aviation and a knack for getting things done, Cassotis showed the students that the public relations field is truly full of infinite possibilities.
After listening to the Keynote Speaker, attendees broke off to listen to speakers of their choosing. Rebecca Shapiro, an agency account strategist at Google, spoke about untraditional paths in public relations while Zainab Javed, former digital director for the PA Democratic Party, preached about the power of online campaigns.
Ketchum media specialist Zach Dugan shared his tips on building media contacts and pitching your own personal brand. Across the hall, Erica Walsh, client staff assistant at Burson-Marsteller, guided students on how to transform an internship to an entry-level job offer.
Once the speaker sessions finished, students sat down for a lesson in dining etiquette. Interviews over lunch and dinner are becoming more and more common. Students learned that how one acts during a meal could make or break the interview.
With full stomachs, students were eager to sit through the final speakers of the day. In one room, Ellyn Fisher from the Ad Council spoke about the beauty of public relations in the non-profit sector. Next door, Jennifer Bullion, Director of Communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins, gave the audience a glimpse of life behind the scenes with the best hockey team in the league.
Penn State’s Regional Conference Committee can call this event an absolute success. Students left the conference with a suitcase full of knowledge and a ticket to any PR opportunity in the world. Penn State, where can your career take you?