Alumna Kristina Green Focuses PR Career on Community

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Kristina Green speaks on behalf of LMCU.

Kristina Green sees her public relations job in terms of percentages. She rattles off the breakdown of her work for the Lake Michigan Credit Union(LMCU) without hesitation—60% volunteerism, 30% support to the credit union’s southwest and southeast regions for sponsorship and philanthropy, and 10% for various employee and community giving campaigns.

The 2012 graduate said she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do while she was in college, but she knew Grand Valley had given her good skills. It was through several experiences that she saw the possibilities for her career path.

“In my junior year I realized that social media could be a career,” says Green, who worked for four years at the GVSU Career Center and started their social media in her junior year. She was also the Vice President of Public Relations for the GVSU Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA) chapter and an account executive for GrandPR, the student-run PR firm. “I also did social media as an intern at Quicken, and that led to a job. I found out that writing is varied and fun and energetic.”

Working at LMCU since 2017, now as Senior Community Relations Specialist, Green does

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Green gets active in a ‘Community Crew’ shirt on an LMCU project.

even more types of writing and many other duties. Her main task is to get LMCU staff involved in the communities where they work.

“Volunteering has been embedded in LMCU since 1933 when it was founded as Grand Rapids Teachers Union,” she says. “The founder really wanted to give back and our main cause today is education.”

Green found a software called “YourCause” that she uses to get volunteers to sign up, track hours, send reminders, and offer related articles. She says the tool is a one-stop shop for corporate volunteering and gives her great metrics.

“Volunteering is good for the community of course but also for LMCU,” Green explains, describing the ‘LMCU Community Crew employees wear when working in the community. “Volunteering allows staff to give back and they have a more invested approach to the organization. They come back from a volunteer activity more engaged and refreshed.”

Besides volunteering, Green has also been involved in community philanthropic and sponsorship activities and events. For example, the organization helped raise $17,000 for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and collected 3,500 bags of school supplies.

Green advises current students to get involved on campus, network, and use resources, starting with professors. She says she’s grateful to have learned a lot of skills in college, but it’s the people and connections that really pay off.

This job is what I feel like is what I was set to find,” she says. “At the end of the day, community relations is about supporting the community which is a passion of mine.”

Nick Convery Directs Digital for Major Brands

Nick Convery has managed digital strategy for several major brands since graduating in 2013.

Nick Convery has overseen creative digital strategy for an impressive list of major global brands. Most recently he has led digital strategy and investment for TruGreen, Alfa Romero and Maserati. This month he will transition from his role as Director Digital for Blue449, a full-service media agency that is part of the Publicis Group, to Director Digital for Publicis Collective.

“My responsibilities will remain the same,” Convery said. “This includes leading client conversations about digital best practices including data protection and privacy, negotiating with media partners, and planning digital strategies and tactics that align with what each brand represents.”

Convery’s career since graduating in 2003 began as a broadcast TV and radio buyer, a role he was in for five years.  He next joined Starcom, GM’s media agency of record, in their digital trafficking department.  After a year in that role he moved internally to the Cadillac media planning team.  When Starcom lost the GM business, he joined the media planning team at Universal McCann to work on Temper-Pedic, Nationwide Insurance, and Aldi.  After working there for a couple of years, he joined the newly formed digital team at Carat (GM’s current media agency).  He started off as a supervisor on the Buick/GMC accounts, and was promoted to Associate Director after a year.  He joined Blue449 as a Director in Feb 2019.

Convery still values what he learned in college more than 16 years ago when much of the current digital technology and practices did not exist.

“What I learned in earning my degree is what I carry with me to this day,” he said. “I learned that advertising as a whole is an ever-changing landscape and that I need to be prepared for those changes.  It also taught me the value of working within a team when everyone has different backgrounds and different points of view and how to pull that all together to make one cohesive product.  The professors I had were amazing because they were teaching from a point of real-world experience so they were able to weave in how things really work with the curriculum.”

One of Convery’s best memories is a group project in his campaigns class. His group had the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum as a client. He and the classmates on the team and named their agency “4 Girls & a Boy” and even made up business cards. Their final project was more than 60 pages of overview, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities as well as strategies and tactics to meet the client objectives.  He proudly showed this work on every interview he had after graduating, and has kept the bound project to this day.

Convery’s best advice to current students about to graduate is to read trade publications such as Adweek and AdAge to stay current with practice in the field of advertising.

“I cannot stress this enough, because this is the question I ask the most when I’m interviewing candidates for junior roles,” he explained.  “The ones who can speak to what they’ve read and what they believe it to mean with a thoughtful point of view are the ones that stand out to me.”

GVSU AdPR Alumni Named CEO of RAVE Restaurants, Win Detroit PRSA Chapter Award

Two Advertising and Public Relations alumni recently made the news.

Brandon Solano (1994) was named CEO of the RAVE Restaurant Group. Solano previously worked in advertising, public relations and marketing roles in the food industry for Domino’s Pizza and Pei Wei Asian Kitchen.

Megan (Peterson) Bonelli (2013) won the Nancy Skidmore Award for Distinguished Chapter Service for her work with the Detroit Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is a member of the board of the Detroit Chapter of PRSA and currently works as a senior account executive with the public relations firm Franco.


Students, Alumni, Faculty All Win ‘PRoof’ Awards from WMPRSA

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(Left to right) Sabrina Antcliff, Amanda Rogers, Sean Billisitz, Trevor Bryan, Courtney Fogle, and Dr. Adrienne Wallace were all winners at the 2019 PRoof Awards.

The Grand Valley State University Advertising and Public Relations program was well represented at the 2019 annual PRoof Awards. Students, alumni and faculty from the program all received recognition at the annual awards ceremony held May 22 in Grand Rapids.

The awards, presented by the West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA), recognize the top public relations tactics and campaigns as well as several individual awards. The WMPRSA chapter covers an area from the Indiana border to Traverse City and from the lakeshore to the center of the state.

Students from the student-run PR firm GrandPRreceived three Gold PRoof Awards. In the category of “Tactics/Podcasts” the group won gold for its ‘PR Hangover’ podcast, hosted in 2018-19 by Courtney Fogle. They also won two gold awards for campaigns in the “Events and Observances more than 7 Days” category, one for the Sawyer’s Day Campaign done with Grand Valley Athletics and one for “Timeless 10,” a campaign to celebrate the 10thanniversary of Grand PR, accepted by Sabrina Antcliff and Amanda Rogers.

Individual awards went to a student, an alumnus, and a professor in the program.

Trevor Bryan, who was the GVSU PRSSA President in 20180-19, was recognized as the West Michigan chapter’s student of the year.

Sean Billisitz, a recent graduate now working at Truscott Rossman Public Relations, was named the 2019 Newcomer of the Year.

Adrienne Wallace, an assistant professor and faculty advisor to PRSSA and GrandPR, was named the 2019 PR Professional of the Year.

The GVSU Ad and PR program were also involved behind the scenes. The PRoof committee included two students—Morgan Schafer and Amanda Hume.

WMPRSA received a record 131 entries for this year’s awards program. Also, the judging standard was more rigorous and aligned with PRSA’s national Bronze and Silver Anvil awards criteria. All entrants had to achieve a minimum number of points. Tactics were judged on planning, creativity, technical excellence and results. Campaigns were judged on research, objectives and strategies, execution, and an evaluation of meeting measurable objectives.


GrandPR Celebrates 10 Years

Sarah Myles
Alumna Sarah Myles, a former GrandPR CEO, came to the anniversary party with a copy of her national affiliation application.

In 2009, students Charlotte Milligan and Doug Clemente started something that has proven to have a legacy. The pair, as part of the GVSU chapter of PRSSA, started a student-run public relations firm and called it GrandPR.

In the spring of 2019 Milligan came back to celebrate the firm’s 10thanniversary along with other alumni and students who have been involved with the firm over the years.

“It was absolutely amazing to see so many students involved with GrandPR,” Milligan said. “I enjoyed hearing how the organization evolved and continues to grow. The best part is that it’s doing exactly what the goal was when we started it back 2009–it’s helping students get real-life and hands-on experiences so they can launch their career after graduation.”

Since the launch in 2009, the group has maintained consistent leadership. The students

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Alumni from as far back as 2009 and as far away as Detroit and Chicago came back to mingle with current students.

pass on management roles each spring to an incoming group of officers, account managers and staff. Over the years they have taken on dozens of clients, gained and maintained national affiliation from PRSSA, and participated in Create-a-Thon events.

“This is the tenth year that GrandPR has been Nationally Affiliated through PRSSA,” said current GrandPR CEO Sabrina Antcliff at the anniversary event. “Being nationally affiliated is a feat. There are hundreds of PRSSA chapters, and we are one of only 25 firms that are affiliated in the nation. The firm has to go through a rigorous application process for every three years, so being nationally affiliated for a decade is something worth celebrating! “

Students have the found their involvement in the group to be fun as well as educational. Former CEOs and firm staff have landed good jobs in west Michigan, Detroit, Chicago and elsewhere.

The CEO and officers have already been named for the 2019-20 school year and are eager to continue the tradition.

Alumna Unique DaCosta Combines Love of Advertising and Music in Job at Pandora

Interviewing Kiana Lede (Singer)
Unique DaCosta interviews singer Kiana Lede as part of her job at Pandora.

Unique DaCosta, a 2017 graduate with a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Advertising and Public Relations, has what many would consider a dream job. She is a Creative Operations Assistant at Pandora, the popular music streaming service.

“My role here is pretty multifaced but to sum things up I am the Executive Assistant to the VP & Executive Creative Director,” DaCosta explains. “I sit at the intersection of our Brand/Content and Advertising Creative teams. This means that I assist each team with logistics, project management for artist captures, social media videos/campaigns, audio for our stations, on-boarding new hires, event planning and anything else that they throw my way!”

Between Grand Valley and this job in the San Francisco Bay area of California, the Illinois native earned a Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises (MSLCE) degree from Northwestern University. She took courses such as Pitching and Persuasion, Entertainment Law, Leading Creative Teams and more. As part of the program she completed a summer internship  at Pandora Media in the summer of 2018. After the internship, she returned to graduate from Northwestern and Pandora hired her full time.

She still thinks fondly of her days at GVSU.

“Taking Advertising and PR classes at GV really helped me build a foundation for my professional interests and career,” she says. “Working on an intimate level with artists was actually one of the goals I identified while speaking with Professor Adrienne Wallace back in 2017.”

DaCosta’s team just did the project management and creative work for Pandora’s newest product offering and marketing tool for artists: Pandora Hosted Stories.

“It’s a unique feature that combines the power of podcasts and music to tell amazing stories,” she explains. “Hosted Stories allow artists to curate music playlists combined with voice tracks explaining what inspires their music and sharing exclusive stories about the development and history of each song.”

Meanwhile, DaCosta is pursuing her own creative pursuits. While at GVSU she started a podcast with a friend. They are planning to relaunch it this year with more creative and interactive elements.

Alumnus Travels World Before Returning to Job in Global PR

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Langlois enjoys a view in Indonesia.

Austin Langlois, a 2013 graduate with a major in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Spanish, knows his way in the world.

In the past year, the peripatetic PR professional has been all over Europe, including Croatia, England, Spain, Germany, Greece, and Italy. He’s been to the Canary Islands, Iceland, Egypt, Lebanon, Mexico, and Bali.

Unlike some college students who see the world right after graduation before settling down, Langlois had some good work experience before embarking on his global adventures. He was a full-time intern at Amway while in school, and then hired after graduation. He worked with the company from 2014 to 2017.

In 2018 he moved to Miami to work at a tech PR firm with a unique agency model where each staffer was the only person on an account. Work was all retainer based and what Langlois calls very intense. He was expected to have 30 media placements per month. He left after 7 months but had gained great experience—he got clients in the New York Times, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Men’s Fitness, and CNBC as well as other national media. He honed his media relations skills and pitching at this job.

But it was a former boss who got him trotting the globe.

“My old boss at Amway said what would you do if you could?, and when I said travel she said why aren’t you doing that?” Langlois explains. “So I sold everything, shipped a bunch of stuff to my parents’ house and booked a one-way ticket to Bali.”

He was based in Bali. From there he went to Thailand, Japan and Korea, as well as other places mentioned above.

“I went where the weather was good,” he said. “I would stay three weeks to a month, sometimes less. I came in as tourist and also worked remotely. Then at a coworking place in Bali where I frequented they asked me about being a marketing director. So I did that for four months before deciding to come home.”

He made a living while traveling by freelancing for magazines and doing public relations for a handful of clients, including Amway and Boxed Water and other clients he picked up remotely. He wrote articles for Bon Apetite, Grand Rapids Magazine, TimeOut Miami, While he could easily work remotely, he did occasionally have to join conference calls remotely at 2 am.

“I was making enough,” he said. “It’s cheaper to live outside the U.S .so you don’t need to make as much. I didn’t have a lot of expenses by not having a car. A lot of people look at travel at this big thing but you just take steps like anything else. You have to sell stuff, budget, look at costs of living in different places, and understand priorities and objectives in traveling. For me it was to work and travel at the same time.”

Eventually, Langlois wanted more stability. He had kept in touch with Amway and they were one of his clients, for whom he had done media relations, crisis communications, corporate communications, executive communications, speechwriting, strategy and planning. Hired at the beginning of 2019  to return to the home office, his role is social media for Amway Corporate and he is PR lead for Home and Durables brands, a $1.5 billion brand.

Langlois has advice for students that is characteristically adventurous.

“Always take the meeting,” he says. “Even if you’re not looking. Explore every opportunity. I’ve interviewed everywhere from British Ambassador office to Samsung. Sometimes I wasn’t a fit, sometimes they weren’t, but you learn about other companies, workstyles, leadership, and where you fit in the competitive landscape. Also, it’s good to try to find a position outside your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to look for jobs outside the country or outside your career trajectory or plans. You may find the experience will be useful or that you find that it was more enjoyable than you imagined.”

You can see Langlois’ articles and photos of his world travels on his website: