By Shannon Crosby, director of finance
On Saturday Feb. 21 I attended the PRSSA “Topping the Charts” 2015 Western Regional Conference at Biola University in La Mirada, Ca. About 50 PRSSA members came from all over including University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Arizona State University, San Diego State University, California Poly, San Luis Obispo, CSU Dominguez Hills, CSU Sacramento, CSU Fullerton and CSU Northridge to attend the conference.
The conference’s Saturday session started out with a wonderful opening speaker, Hongmei Shen Ph.D., APR. Dr. Shen is a professor at San Diego State University and has published 16-refereed journal articles, four book chapters, 25 conference papers and been on seven conference panels. She has a professional background in media relations, marketing and journalism in both China and the United States. Dr. Shen did a presentation called “The Ying and Yang of Work and Life.” Dr. Shen discussed work-life conflict and how to manage your time, strain and behavior. Dr. Shen also discussed the inequality of pay concerning male and females in the public relations industry. She stated that men make approximately $8,000 more than women in the public relations industry. If you would like to know more about Dr. Shen I recommend following her on twitter @profshen.
After the first presentation we started 20-minute workshops, which were called breakouts. The first breakout was called “Seal the Deal with an Effective Interview,” with Angela Burrell, APR. Burrell is the public relations manager for Universal Services, the fifth largest security solutions and janitorial services company in the United States. Burrell gave excellent tips on acing an interview such as doing your research on the company, exuding confidence, using a strong voice and tone, making eye contact, listen carefully to each question and prep yourself. The second break out was called “Winning Resumes and Interviews” with Mark Strom. Strom is the lead management consulter in the United States for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Storm discussed the importance of cover letters and the proper format for writing them. He also stated his top resume killers, which include typos, lazy and juvenile writing, sloppy or “cute” formatting, hyperboles, jargon in the wrong place and disconnecting your life’s “e-trail.” He also stated that his pet peeve is millennials using casual language during interviews and he feels that it is more professional to use proper language. After the breakouts there was a career fair that included Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli. There was also an opportunity to get professional headshots done.
After the career fair everyone got together for lunch and a really fun speaker panel “Setting Yourself Apart” Topping the Charts in Your First Five Years. The speakers included Jessica Airey, an assistant account executive at Edelman, Jade A. Stevens, a special products manager at the California Wellness Foundation and Community Health Center, Daniel E. Jackson, a programing coordinator at E! Entertainment and Ruben Ochoa, digital strategist at Burson-Marsteller. The speakers gave excellent advice for new professions such as remaining teachable and visible, working with senior leadership, ask a lot of questions, ask for feedback and take ownership of your mistakes. They also recommended getting to know reporters, publications and their beats.
Following the speaker panel we dispersed for the second round of breakouts. I attended “Nonprofit PR” with Emilie Perkins, the communications director for Girl Scouts of Orange County. I also attended “Think Like a Journalist” with Rachanee Srisavasdi, the senior media manager at Golin. Srisavasdi gave a wonderful presentation on how to pitch effectively to journalists.
After the second round of breakouts, everyone got together for a cute happy hour, which gave attendees a chance to network and discuss what we learned at the conference. An elegant dinner and a final inspirational presentation with Jenny Wedge followed the happy hour.
I enjoyed this conference and met so many new friends and connections. I am excited to keep in touch with all the amazing people that I met and recommend that everyone check out at least one conference while they are members of PRSSA.