As graduation approaches, it’s normal for seniors to feel nervous about entering the real world and their success in the future. Juniors, too will be searching for summer internships and building their resumes. I have gathered some great insight from a Grand Valley State alum, Morgan Yingst to calm the winter semester jitters. Although Morgan’s career is in Public Relations, her advice and experiences are applicable to any field.
Morgan holds the Senior Communications Specialist position at the Illinois Supreme Court, where she writes news releases daily in regards to updates on the Court or judicial appointments and vacancies.
Morgan feels that GrandPR has prepared her for her current role. Morgan joined GrandPR when she was a sophomore. She started as an Account Associate, and with a lot of hard work and ambition, she became the CEO. Morgan gained experience writing and sending news releases for GrandPR clients, including the City Lights Music Festival and ArtPrize. Her experience working with different clients with a variety of needs gave her the confidence to send out statewide news releases in her current position. Whether it be in GrandPR or any other organization that you are involved in, step up and take on a new task. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will help develop confidence.
Confidence is essential in Morgan’s workplace, specifically, because she is the youngest on her team. Morgan utilizes her communication skills that she acquired in GrandPR, so she can present herself as knowledgeable and ensure her voice is heard.
Obtaining a position at the Illinois Supreme Court is not an easy task, but Morgan worked at the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the largest voluntary organization for attorneys in Illinois, prior to getting her current job.
People say it’s about who you know when getting a job. This is partially true in Morgan’s case. Her supervisor at the ISBA left to become the Director of Communications for the Illinois Supreme Court. He informed Morgan of the opening, and she seized the opportunity.
It is not uncommon that people enter a career that differs from what they had planned or even studied. However, Morgan always knew she was passionate about writing. At a young age, she entered short stories into local contests and served as an editor for her high school newspaper and yearbook. Morgan had a prior knowledge of public relations going into Grand Valley and declared that as her major at orientation. Morgan indicates “after my first semester of classes, I knew it was the right fit.”
On the other hand, Morgan did not expect to be in a nonprofit or government industry. Throughout her college years, she was convinced she wanted to do corporate communications. Morgan wants to encourage college students to explore various industries, research different organizations, and expand their skill set while they are young. Morgan admits “I’m not an expert in the judicial system, and that’s okay!” Her secret to success is having the courage to ask questions in order to communicate as an expert.
Why earn a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations?
Setting yourself apart from the rest of the career-driven people in your field is important when on the hunt for a job. There is a lot of competition out there, and in the Public Relations field, making sure that you stand out amongst your colleagues is a must. Earning a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations is a great opportunity to build up your resume as a student approaching graduation as well as graduate with an advantage as you venture into your profession.
What exactly is the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations?
The Certificate’s purpose is to help students gain a head start in their individual professional development and differ from their peers. The Certificate tests students’ understanding in the following fundamental concepts: communication models and theories, business literacy, ethics and law, and program research, planning, implementation, and evaluation.
How do you earn the Certificate?
The required preparation course before taking the Certificate Examination used to be only an in-person course, but the UAB and PRSA Educators Academy have recently launched an online study course option that provides an alternative and perhaps more convenient way for students and faculty. The process of earning the Certificate involves four steps:
Complete the application for the Certificate.
Confirm eligibility with a faculty advisor at your university. A student must be within 6 months of (before or after) graduating in order to be eligible for the Certificate.
Complete the Certificate preparatory course or the Principles of Public Relations Online Study Course.
Study for and take the computer-based examination for the Certificate.
GVSU APR students:
If you earn the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, let the GVSU APR Program know! It is a big deal to set yourself apart from the competition and it is an accomplishment that should and will be recognized as you enter your career field and #StandOutInPR.
GVSU Advertising and Public Relations alumna, Katelyn Davis, has recently been appointed as the newest board member of the Automotive Public Relations Council (ARPC).
Davis cites that:
“The APRCis a network of public relations professionals dedicated to the advancement of the automotive industry. It serves as a networking and information resource with the unique focus of finding best practices for promoting the industry and building relationships with the media and OEM customers.”
Davis currently works as the Corporate Affairs and Communications Specialist at Yazaki North America. Here, she oversees all of the internal and external communications including corporate marketing, branding, public relations, social media, and employee communications. Davis joined the ARPC shortly after her career began and was recommended for a seat in the fall, and voted in shortly after.
While studying advertising and public relations at Grand Valley, Davis always knew that she wanted to work in the technology industry. Specifically, she knew she wanted to do work that would help change the world. However, upon graduating in 2010, she found herself searching for a job during a difficult time for the economy. Over the course of a year, she applied for 200 jobs all across the country, but eventually found herself working as a social media recruiter for an automotive supplier. Shortly after, Davis attended an industry event where a speaker discussed the importance of the automotive industry and how there is no other tech industry with as expansive of a reach than automotive.
“He went on to talk about how automotive is one of the world’s largest and oldest global industries,” Davis said. “There isn’t Google in every country and not every person is carrying around an iPhone or Android, but there are vehicles on every continent taking water and supplies to even the most desolate and remote areas of third world countries. This really opened my eyes. I wanted to work in tech. I wanted to change the world. Well here was my chance (in automotive). From then on I set.”
The thing that Davis loves most about working in the corporate PR world is that she gets to be a jack-of-all-trades, not just a PR person. In corporate it is public relations, communications, advertising, event planning, writing, project managing, and everything else all rolled into one.
She encourages APR students to consider getting experience within the automotive field as it is a great opportunity to get hands on with a global industry.
“At the very least, if you decide automotive isn’t for you, you will have had major experience to draw from,” Davis said. “Being able to understand and be a part of a network that spans the world is invaluable experience that can really be applied anywhere.”
Katelyn Davis has been involved with the ARPC for the past five years and continues to do great work within this industry everyday. Congratulations to our APR alumna on this great achievement!
Nicole Tallman, a 1998 graduate of the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations program, had a varied career out of college. She worked at several corporations and in higher education before moving to government public relations. Now she has the unique PR role of a speechwriter in the office of the mayor in Miami-Dade County
PR professionals often write speeches for clients or bosses or co-workers. But to do it full time for a government office is unique. We asked Nicole to share more about her career path and current role, and she graciously obliged.
How did you end up becoming a speechwriter for the mayor in Miami-Dade County?
After graduating from GVSU in 1998, I was fortunate to land a job as a media relations specialist for Haworth. After five years there, I took a role in the Internal Communications Department at Siemens Logistics & Assembly Systems in Grand Rapids. Soon afterwards, I was offered an advancement and relocation opportunity as manager of internal communications and community outreach for Siemens Communications in Boca Raton, Florida. When the majority of that company was bought out by Nokia, I decided to venture out of the corporate world and try something new: higher education. I worked as a ghostwriter/speechwriter, and essentially, the director of internal communications and community engagement, for the president of Miami Dade College. I served in that role for eight years before I was recruited by the Office of the Mayor of Miami-Dade County to serve as his sole speechwriter.
What do you like about speechwriting and focusing on that as compared to all the other forms of public relations work you have done?
My passion has always been writing, and that is the narrative thread in the story of my career. In this day and age, it is rare to get paid well to write all day (and often into the night), and I am very fortunate to have a job that allows me to do what I love and earn a good living.
What I love about speechwriting is getting the opportunity to use all of the tools in my rhetorical toolbox, and seeing the difference that the words that I write really make. There is immense power for good, for change, for education, action and encouragement, in the spoken word … and that power lies in both what is said and what is not said.
As someone who loves verbal and non-verbal communication, writing speeches blends the best of both worlds. Writing a speech involves a love of research, psychology, the art of persuasion, a deep understanding of the audience and message. It involves an open mind, flexibility and ability to work quickly under intense pressure. One must also be relatively egoless. After all, a speechwriter is not writing in his or her voice, but in the voice of the orator. A speechwriter must adopt a persona in a way, take on the role of the person who will deliver the speech and stay true to that person’s voice.
There is also beauty in simplicity with speechwriting, and writing speeches takes a different kind of skill than writing press releases, briefing materials, editorials, marketing pieces or ad copy, for example. You must write in a “natural” way that mimics actual speech patterns, and there is a great emphasis on delivery.
Give us a sense of the types of speeches you write, for what audiences, and with what objective? Discuss the process a little bit in terms of how you work with the mayor during the speechwriting process.
I write an average of two to three speeches every single day (Monday-Sunday). Some of those are massive speeches, like the Mayor’s Annual State of the County Address to residents that highlights accomplishments and shares his vision for the upcoming year. Some of those speeches are short, like welcoming a group of out-of-town guests to special events hosted at one of our County venues, like Miami International Airport or PortMiami.
I write a lot of speeches to keep residents informed about what the Mayor and his administration are doing to improve quality of life in Miami-Dade County. These are speeches on topics like improving public transportation; job creation, economic development and diversification; public safety and youth violence; sea-level rise and climate change; technology; and affordable housing. Miami-Dade County has a diverse community of 2.7 million residents, and more than 60 percent of those residents are foreign-born. As the community continues to grow and change, the Mayor attends quite a lot of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings. The Mayor also speaks on a variety of local and national panels, and often needs talking points and backgrounders prepared for those events.
My interaction with the Mayor really varies based on the type of speaking engagement. I put in a lot of effort during the first six months of my career to learn his likes and dislikes, so I am given quite a lot of autonomy. For major speeches, I often sit down with the Mayor, his Chief of Staff, Director of Communications and various subject-matter experts to gather content and hear what key messages should be communicated. It’s ultimately up to me to take those key messages and turn them into a speech that will resonate with the audience. There is usually very little revision needed because I do my homework upfront. Major speeches are rehearsed with the Mayor, but minor speeches are discussed often minutes before delivery, if at all.
What advice do you have for current students in terms of government PR and speechwriting as a career option?
Read and write as much as you can. Go out and listen to good speakers and bad ones. Watch the body language of the speaker, the tone he or she uses, the speed of words delivered, and even the pauses. All of these are important elements to master. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Above all, study rhetoric and audience analysis, and learn how to write quickly and accurately.
In terms of government, it certainly helps to understand politics, but it’s more important to understand people. A good government speechwriter is in tune with the needs of the people (or residents) the elected official serves, and can communicate the elected official’s message in a way that people understand and relate to.
Add anything else you’d like to share with current students and our professional community who may be interested in speechwriting.
My undergraduate studies in PR at Grand Valley State University were great preparation for my PR career, in combination with my graduate studies in English and Technical Communication at the University of Central Florida. The way we communicate constantly changes, so it’s important to stay on top of communication trends, technology and the evolution of the English language. Never stop learning and improving.
A panel of local professionals joined Grand Valley State University Advertising and Public Relations students on November 3, 2016 in the University Club of DeVos Center to discuss branding. After the panel discussion, students and professionals broke into teams to network and participate in a hands-on branding activity.
The panelists for the evening included Jenna Morton from 616 Development, Rob McCarty from The Image Shoppe, JD Osman from Amway, Julie Sheeran from 834 Design, and Raul Alverez from Getting The Stuff Done Group.
Each panelists brought unique experiences and contributions to the discussion. The first question provoked different answers from each of the panelists by asking them to define what a brand is and what it means to them. Sheeran discussed the difference between visual identity and brand, while encouraging the audience to think about what makes their brand different. She asked the audience, “What do you want people to feel and experience when they pick up your product?”
To answer the same question, Osman walked around and asked students in the audience what their favorite brand was and why. He questioned if it was the product or the values that made this brand their favorite. Alverez and McCarty shared their experiences of working with creatives, as neither Alverez or McCarty do the creative work, but participate in the many more things that go into a brand.
Professor Frank Blossom, who coordinated this event, continued the discussion by asking if brand something different than branding. The panelists agreed that brand is the perception and the promise, where as branding are the activities and the tactics done that create the feeling, logo, color scheme and news releases.
After the panel discussion, time was spent doing a brand development activity for SteadyFare, a local rideshare program that competes with Uber and Lyft. Groups were created and students were given a creative brief, tasked with creating a brand description, position statement, new tagline and communication tactics.
After the activity, each team was given the opportunity to present their ideas and discuss with the large audience. The professionals in attendance seemed to be pleased and impressed with the results, commenting that in the professional world, this work normally takes months, rather than in the minutes that the students accomplished it in.
Grand Valley’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) wanted to do something a little different this year. We have a weekly blog that goes out written by members that discusses different topics, but what else can we do to differentiate ourselves from other chapters who also have blogs? What is something other chapters haven’t done yet?
This podcast is available on mixcloud.com, iTunes and soundcloud.com. It originally started as a biweekly podcast, but the content started becoming too timely to wait, so we are now a weekly podcast. Episodes air Wednesdays at 2pm. As mentioned, we try to stay up to date on events and be as relevant as possible. Part of that included covering the recent PRSSA National Conference that took place October 21-25. A lot happened here, many
speakers gave advice and words of wisdom to soon-to-be PR pros in a positive way. But then something rather negative surfaced and we agreed it was an opportunity to use the podcast as our voice on an issue we felt as aspiring professionals needed to be addressed.
One PR pro made a sexist tweet about a woman speaker using the National Conference hash tag. This started to spread like wildfire.
One main influencer in the recognition of this was Heather Whaling (@Prtini) as she called out this tweet. She also wrote a blog about this experience, laying out a way to actually combat this from happening besides just tweeting about disappointment.
I reached out to Whaling and asked if she could come on the podcast and discuss what happened. She’s in Ohio, however, so we had to do a Skype call and record it to put it online. She agreed immediately and that podcast went out Friday, October 29, 2016. It can be found here .
The goal of our podcast is to get a mixture of student and professional opinions about varying topics, as well as a recap of our meetings and interviews with the professionals who speak to us. PRSSA meetings are an experience. We as students get to meet some amazing influencers and PR pros and the best way to capture them is by getting firsthand accounts from speakers themselves or students who experienced the meeting and record the conversations. Podcasting is something I love doing, more so being able to host the podcast and interview and meet some amazing people.
My name is Kelly Darcy and I am the host and producer of GV PRSSA’s podcast, PR Hangover. I am an Advertising and Public Relations student minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexualities Studies. I started dabbling in broadcasting as a hobby when I joined GV’s WCKS The Whale two years ago. I had a radio show that I recorded and put up as a podcast. As any other student, I am not exactly sure what I want to actually do with my future, but I am determined to have as many skills in my toolkit as possible.
If there are any questions for me about podcasting, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @kaydarcc.
Each year, the Grand Rapids Business Journal recognizes the best of the best in the annual 40 Under 40 event. Throughout the night, these top young business leaders are honored for all of their hard work, success and accomplishments.
Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend this prestigious event and sit amongst some of Grand Rapid’s most successful leaders. The night was filled with great entertainment from music and a comedy show to a video reel of all of the honorees. While it was truly inspiring to hear from all of the honorees, there were two specially that stood out and left a lasting impressing on me.
The 2016 40 under 40 event recognized two of our very own GVSU Advertising and Public relations alumni: Rick Jensen and Adam Russo.
Rick Jensen has an extensive background in communications and public relations including working at Davenport University, SeyferthPR and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Since then he has won multiple Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Proof Awards, was named President of West Michigan’s PRSA Board of Directors in 2015, and continues to have a successful career as the Senior Media Relations Specialist at Spectrum Health.
“I am honored and humbled to be included among such a wonderful group of well-known professionals and community leaders,” said Jensen. “As a PR professional, it means even more for the profession that our work is being recognized by business leaders and validated by such a prestigious list and publication.”
Jensen said that GVSU helped set him up for success in career through the great things he learned from the amazing professors in the School of Communications.
For aspiring PR professionals, his biggest piece of advice is to land an internship early on and get involved within your major.
“My first internship was highly influential in landing my first job out of college, and the relationships I made at that time are the building blocks on which my career is built upon today,” said Jensen.
Adam Russo is deeply rooted in the West Michigan communications community where he has had an extremely successful career thus far working previously at Haworth and SeyferthPR. After gaining experience working with global brands like Amway and Haworth, regional companies like Comcast and Varnum and several different nonprofits, Russo began his own public relations firm, COM 616. He will also serve as the next president for the West Michigan PRSA chapter.
“I’m truly honored to be recognized with the 40 Under Forty award,” said Russo. “When I looked at the full list of honorees, I was humbled by the level of everyone’s talent, experience and leadership. “
Russo said that GVSU provided him with the foundation that he was able to build his career on. He also advised students to recognize their network as one of their most valuable resources.
“Start building your network while you’re in college,” said Russo. “Get out and meet as many people as you can. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and meet new people.”
As an aspiring PR professional, I take every bit of advice from the real pros that I can get. We’ve been told countless times that entering this field will not always be easy and things will never be handed to us. And sometimes, the future can seem kind of scary. However, at Grand Valley we are fortunate enough to be provided with countless opportunities for professional and personal growth. We are given the tools necessary to help us survive in the “real world” and be successful within our chosen field of advertising and public relations. Jensen and Russo are proof that with hard work come great rewards. Their professional success is a testament to the idea if you work hard enough, make great connections and relationships, and get involved within your field- you really can accomplish great things.
While attending the 40 under 40 event, it was clear to see the passion that each honoree had for their career as well as the city of Grand Rapids. Congratulations to both Rick Jensen and Adam Russo on representing our great city and our great school!