A recent Grand Valley alumna has helped spread the “Laker Effect” all the way to Michigan’s east side with the opening of her very own bridal boutique. Lori Conerly is a 22-year-old who graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University having majored in both Communications Srudies and Advertising and Public Relations.. She is originally from Detroit and decided to make her home city the home to her new business, LeeAnn’s Luxury Bridal Boutique.
Conerly got her experience in the bridal industry from working as an assistant manager at a bridal shop in Grand Rapids during college. She combined her experience within the industry and her knowledge of Ad and PR in order to support her vision for LeeAnn’s Luxury Bridal Boutique.
Growing up in Detroit, Conerly noticed that there were no bridal shops actually in the city, forcing brides to have to travel far distances in order to find their perfect dress. This makes the wedding process for Detroit brides inconvenient and hectic, when it should be a fun and happy time for them.
Conerly also wanted to help contribute to the rebuilding of a better Detroit, since she
knows so many people have a negative perception of the city and don’t see it for all the culture and innovation it provides. While she was growing up, Conerly got to experience all the great things the city has to offer and is now helping increase those things with the opening of her boutique.
All of these things helped spark Conerly’s idea to create a bridal shop in the heart of Michigan’s east side, so that Detroit brides can have the convenience of finding their dream dress in their hometown.
Conerly said she uses just about everything she learned from her classes to help run her business. She explained that the campaigns she created in her classes as an undergrad were especially helpful in every step of creating her business plan.
Conerly also said that she saved a lot of money because she didn’t have to hire a PR or advertising firm to help promote her business. She was able to create her own press releases, media kits and promotional material due to the skills she learned from her classes.
“I think a lot of times people undermine having an APR (Advertising and Public Relations) degree because they don’t know exactly what it is or what all it entails,” Conerly explained. “But having this degree has absolutely, without a doubt prepared me and laid the framework for me to be able to start this business. APR is all about planning, preparing, timeliness, and consciousness… everything that you really need to start and operate a business.”
Conerly said that one thing she wished she would have done if she could go back would be to start planning and preparing her business while she was still in college. She would have started saving money, stocking her inventory and started creating her business plan even before she graduated, to give herself a head start.
Conerly has helped bring the “Laker Effect” back home to Detroit with her after graduation. Her personal mission and vision, combined with the knowledge she gained from Grand Valley, helped drive her to establish her very own business and start impacting lives, one bride at a time.
Jaclyn Ermoyan, a 2017 graduate of the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations Program, has earned the PRSSA National Gold Key Award. The award goes to students who excel in their academic study of public relations, have pursued ambitious professional development opportunities and are leaders in their PRSSA Chapter. It is the highest individual honor given by the national organization.
In May, Ermoyan was honored by the West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA) as its Student of the Year for 2017.
While at Grand Valley, Ermoyan served as the CEO of the award-winning, student-run public relations firm GrandPR, which is a part of the GVSU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). In this role, she managed a team of more than 25 students and various projects for community clients. As the CEO of GrandPR, Ermoyan participated in the 2016 Public Relations Student Society of America’s National Conference as a panelist and expert in student-run firm processes, organizational structure, retention and success.
Ermoyan also went beyond the APR major to be involved in the GVSU community. She was a co-creator of Humans of Grand Valley in 2013, which shares Laker experiences and aims to encourage a strong sense of community on campus. Ermoyan was also an integral part of planning the TEDxGVSU event in February. She was the 2017 recipient of the Thomas M. Seykora Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Campus Community.
During her time at Grand Valley, Ermoyan gained professional experience working in University Communications, the Career Center and University Development, and participated in the Cook Leadership Academy. She is currently doing a post-graduate internship at Quicken Loans.
During a family trip to New York City when he was in the 3rd grade, Jacob Cochran told his family that one day, he wanted to live there.
After graduating from the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations program in 2015, Cochran started out working at a marketing agency in Grand Rapids. It didn’t take long for him to set his sights on New York.
While looking for opportunities in his dream city, Cochran came across Carrot Creative, a digital advertising agency. It seemed like a perfect fit because it was owned by VICE Media – a company he had been interested in – and it specialized in the digital space.
After a couple rounds of interviews and a presentation, Cochran was hired by Carrot Creative to work on the Chipotle account. The team created all of Chipotle’s digital and social media content. Cochran was a part of campaigns like the national launch of chorizo (a new menu item), which involved creative elements like Snapchat geofilters and lenses, as well as media buying. Cochran said that while working at Carrot was a great experience, he wanted to work on something other than fast casual dining.
“I also wanted to see what a large, more traditional New York City ad agency was like,” he said.
Grey Group is a much larger, global agency based in NYC that has been around since 1917. Grey works with some big names, such as Canon and Volvo.
“They also continuously win the award of ‘Agency of the Year,’ so for me, Grey was a place where I wanted to be,” Cochran said.
Cochran landed an account executive role with Grey on the UPMC account. Cochran said he finds the work for UPMC, a medical center and hospital group, more rewarding than what he was doing for Chipotle.
“My old account director at Carrot used to say, ‘This isn’t a matter of life and death’ when something didn’t go the way we planned, whereas working on UPMC, it kind of is,” he said.
Cochran also enjoys working at Grey because their clients trust them and give a lot of room to play when it comes to developing campaigns.
“Overall, I’m just really excited to be working on an account that really makes a difference in the world,” he said.
Cochran credits the internships he had while a student at GVSU for creating a good foundation for his career.
“I’ve had numerous agencies and coworkers comment on how diverse my background is,” he said. “I had an internship every year I was at GVSU, in politics, fashion, and branding, and I’ve had nothing but positive reactions from professionals within the industry about how interesting and unique my professional background is when it comes to advertising and PR.”
Cochran also appreciated the diversity of the faculty in GVSU’s APR program.
“I think it’s important to have a good mix of professionals who can give you a better understanding of the industry,” he said. “John Stipe was great; his teaching style looked at the industry through a more traditional lens. Professors like Adrienne Wallace have a more current view of the industry. It’s the unique mix of professors at GVSU that really help you gain a better understanding of the advertising and PR world.”
Cochran also had some advice to share with current students.
“Think big,” he advises. “I know classes can be stressful and projects are overwhelming when you have 10 at a time, but while you’re in university, use this as a time to think bigger about what impact you want to make on not only your career, but the industry as a whole. While you’re in school, use that time to get a better understanding of where you want to end up within the years following graduation.”
It worked out for Cochran.
“I wanted to work at a digital ad agency in NYC, and I made it happen,” he said.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Grand Valley alumna Rachel Sipperley by phone to learn about her time at GVSU and her journey since graduation. Because she dual enrolled in college courses while in high school, Sipperley came to GVSU with junior standing. She graduated early and debt-free in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations. After graduation, she set her sights on Dallas, with its market fit for up-and-coming professionals. She made the move to Texas without the comfort of knowing anyone there.
Since moving to Texas, Sipperley has made one return trip to the GVSU campus. She revisited her college days while giving her high school senior cousin a tour of GVSU last summer.
“The campus looked completely different than when I went there,” she said.
She was also impressed to hear that last year was the first year Grand Valley had the same number of undergraduates as the University of Michigan.
When reflecting on her years as a student in the Advertising and Public Relations program, Rachel shared one of her favorite memories: her final senior project in Professor Peggy Howard’s class, where she conducted a full PR analysis for Hudsonville Ice Cream. At the end of the project, she toured their factory, sampled some ice cream, and visited the corporate offices.
Sipperley’s first couple of jobs in Texas ranged from working at a local church to being a top sales executive for a few different companies. Although she was very successful in these roles, her position as sales executive was eliminated from each of those companies. Disappointed at her loss of job security, she decided to create her own business using her knowledge and experience.
Dallas is a lively city full of exciting functions each month, and with that comes the need to get new formal attire to wear. So Sipperley came up with the idea for an app, Rent My Wardrobe, which serves as a type of online community closet.
“A lot of companies that have blown up in the last few years are centered around this idea of facilitating a peer-to-peer exchange, but not actually selling a product or service, like Uber and Airbnb,” she explains. “It’s about creating a platform for consumers to interact with each other.”
So that is exactly what her app does. Rent My Wardrobe’s goal is to target cities with a high concentration of professionals in their mid-twenties who regularly attend galas and charity events. These are women who are seeking to “rent” others’ dresses in order to save money and not have to buy a brand-new dress of their own.
Sipperley’s journey in starting her own business began with teaming up with developers to assist with the overall design and aesthetic of the app. She also hired people to handle the coding and to ensure the uploading process of the app runs smoothly.
“Even though my degree is in Advertising and Public Relations, I never had any classes or formal education on developing an app because this wasn’t around back then, Sipperley said. “Marketing and advertising has changed drastically the past eight years, especially through social media.”
The experience of launching her own business has shown her a new side of advertising through social media. She has been connecting with online influencers from all over the nation to spread the word about her app and gain followers.
The app is launching this spring.
You can read more about Rent My Wardrobe on its website, or find the app on social media:
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.