By Megan Palumbo & Brian McLoughlin – Co-Editor-in-Chief & Sports Editor
Public Relations Alliance (PRA) hosted a Young Professionals Panel on Nov. 8 in the newly renovated Arnow Campus Center. The panel featured seven women in public relations, all under 30, who have found success in their career.
Panelists included Maria Gallagher, Account Manager at Shift Communications; Jackie Blundell, Senior Account Executive at Red Lorry Yellow Lorry; Katie Schur, Senior Corporate Communication Specialist at Boston Scientific, Alecia Detka, Senior Executive at Inkhouse; Chanel Benott, an Account Director at Greenough Brand Storytellers, and Danielle Johns & Ashley Owen, who are both Senior Account Executives at Aria Marketing.
Each panelist introduced themselves before PRA Advisor Professor Kristina Markos led a Q&A discussion with questions prepared by the PRA. Professor Markos “knows on the top of her head who has expertise in what and it just enhanced the fluidity of the event,” said Vice President of PRA Lily Rivera.
The panelists offered advice and shared their skills for working in public relations. In a world influenced by media, staying up-to-date with the news, events and trends is how to stay on-top of the profession.
Tools like Cision, TrendKite and even Google are helpful for researching trends. Multiple panelists echoed everything they do in PR is some sort of research project, finding the best information to accurately serve clients. Gallagher went on to add “make sure to look ahead, check the news, stay connected, making sure you are focusing short term, but not forgetting about long term objectives.”
The panelists also emphasized to succeed in PR, one needs to be passionate about the work. Public Relations requires effort, urgency and the ability to “fake it until you make it.” They stressed to not be afraid to ask questions when struggling, to be observant and stay organized. The panel agreed failing to do these things early on in the job are red flags.
The event was conceived when Professor Markos brought in the panelists, and the students set up the rest of the event. President of PRA James Kappatos said, “We have always preached that we want to bring in guest lecturers so that not only we can learn and network with them, but also so the Lasell community can also be impacted in a meaningful way.”
Rivera said, “Public relations intersects with a variety of fields and so that was something we definitely wanted to expand upon people’s knowledge [about] that, and just make people feel welcomed.”
The executive board put a lot of time into how they advertised this event. “Part of PR is getting as much coverage as possible for your client,” said Kappatos. “We treated our panelists as a client…we wanted everybody to know about them.” There were brochures including each panelists’ photo, bio and company that they worked for. “We wanted to give our panelists a human face…people respond more to that,” said Kappatos. PRA’s Marketing Coordinator Carly Smith said, “We did a lot of social media blasts during that day and prior days [leading up to the event].” Additionally, the school newspaper, school photographers and Lasell College Television Club (LCTV) covered the event.
For Kappatos, a big takeaway was seeing the reality of public relations. “A lot of the times in the classroom we practice and train and study for being the top executives, being the editors to being the kind of people who call the shots,” said Kappatos. “When in reality, a lot of the times when you’re going into the field, you’re starting from a very entry level position, learning the ropes and a lot of the times you do most of your learning actually in the career that you choose.”
After the panel portion of the event, students and panelists transitioned into a networking session. Students took advantage of one-on-one connections with panelists, many with business cards and resumes in hand.
Senior communications major Kelsey Hoak attended the event in hopes to network for a future internship in public relations. “I wanted to learn more about what it is to be in the industry and to get some inside perspective,” Hoak said. “I think overall it ran smoothly and I definitely liked how it was casual afterwards to go and talk to the panelists.”
Smith said networking with the panelist Ashley Owen afterwards was reassuring. “She gave me really good advice…but you don’t really pay attention to it unless it’s from someone in a professional field,” said Smith. “Hearing it from someone like Ashley tell you, ‘you’re on the right path don’t freak out, you’re doing just fine’ was really nice to hear and see where the future might hold.”