Nationally recognized, professionally based and enhanced by multitudes of learning opportunities, the Public Relations Student Society of America hosts an event located in different cities around the country, each year, in order to bring students and professionals together. PRSSA National Conference provides public relations students with the opportunity to network with other members and professionals while also attending workshops, organized by well-know companies (like Coca Cola and General Motors) that guide them towards a future in PR.
Every year, the University of Oregon PRSSA executive board attends the National Conference to learn about what it takes to be a thriving public relations practitioner as well as a strong leader.
This school year, my team travelled south to Atlanta, Georgia where we attended multiple workshops and networking sessions daily, all over the span of three days. Our team learned about various outlets of public relations including: crisis communication, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage PR and different types of media relations.
The conference started with a dinner in the hotel’s (fun fact: the hotel the team stayed at was the one from the second Hunger Games movie) main ballroom. But as public relations students, we know that networking never stops. The team met [and have connected on LinkedIn with] PRSSA chapters from all around the nation like, New York and California and also networked with the national PRSSA advisor Tina McCorkindale (@tmccorkindale). But this was just the beginning. For the next few days, our board attended different workshops and info sessions and listened to various keynote speakers, meant to motivate all the aspiring public relations professionals in attendance. Maritza Rendon, PRSSA National Conference first-time attendee and UO PRSSA Chapter Vice President says, “You don’t understand how big the organization is until you go. Thousands of professionals and students attend this event in order to help each other. It has been one of the greatest opportunities I have had in college.”
So then what did we learn? Scott Williamson, VP of Public Affairs at Coca-Cola, spoke about the successes of great communicators and added that strong public relations practitioners must be great writers and great communicators. And that greatness must never change. We were also given Williamson’s lessons to success:
Six Lessons to Success by Scott Williamson
- Ignore the Data: Never let it take over the sixth sense.
- Be simple. Be clear. Be awesome.
- Sweat the Details: You never know who is watching.
- Belief Matters
- Question the Impossible
- Hold Out For Both Marshmallows: Do not settle.
At the end of his speech, Williamson asked the packed ballroom, full of envious public relations students, a question – “So what is your Coke story?” We all gave it a thought and I have been thinking about it ever since.
So how about this – My Coke story is the time I went to PRSSA National Conference in Atlanta with my executive team and at the end of our first day, we sat in our hotel room, talked about our career goals and each cracked open a refreshing can of Coca Cola.
Written by: Sophie Lair, UO PRSSA Chapter President