Alumna Rachel Sipperley Launching ‘Rent My Wardrobe’ App

By Delaney MacKenzie

Alumni Spotlight Header 3I 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.”

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Alumna Rachel Sipperley started a wardrobe sharing app in Dallas.

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:

Facebook: Rent My Wardrobe

Instagram: @rentmywardrobeapp

Twitter: @rmwapp

Pinterest: Rent My Wardrobe

APR Alumna Katelyn Davis Appointed Board Member of the ARPC

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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 APRC is 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.”

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Katelyn Davis

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!

 

Alumna is Speechwriter for Miami Mayor

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

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Nicole Tallman, ’98, is a speechwriter in the Mayor’s Office in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

, Florida.

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.

Local Professionals Share Branding Tips to APR Students

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By: Jaclyn Ermoyan

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.

PRSSA Chapter Starts One of Nation’s Only Podcasts

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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?

A podcast.

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.apr

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 darcyke@mail.gvsu.edu or tweet me @kaydarcc.

40 Under 40

By: Chantal Shaw

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.

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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

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

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.”

img_2454As 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!

 

APR Speaker Series- Rick Albin

By: Corinne Laratonda

The University Room at the Devos Center downtown makes you feel as though you have stepped back in time for just a moment. For the majority of students, like myself, it almost looks like a place that you shouldn’t enter because you just don’t belong there. But, on Wednesday October 5th APR students and faculty, with a few other interesting individuals, gathered together ready to discuss politics with local broadcaster Rick Albin. As I prepared to listen to the presentation, there was one question on my mind: what is Rick Albin going to teach us?rick-albin

Albin is the main political reporter for WOODTV8. He has interviewed every president since Gerald. R. Ford. He has worked in radio and on television in five states, discussing a variety of topics including political debates. His experience ranges from local governments to national politics. Albin is also the host of the show “To the Point” that airs Sundays at 10 a.m. on WOODTV8

The presentation was focused on the idea of messaging in politics, a complicated topic. Albin discussed how the messages found in both campaigns have remained consistent through the duration of the election season. He pointed out specific insights from both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton’s campaigns. Most importantly, he explained how both of the candidates use rhetoric that is similar to rhetoric used in previous presidential campaigns.

Ablin shared that the problems discussed in the debates are comparable to the issues discussed in previous elections he covered. So, the majority of the issues discussed are nothing new, despite current beliefs that this election is unlike any other. At the end of the day, the main points are safety, security, and economic stability.

“The issues are the same as in every election I covered; they’re just doing it with more food fights,” said Albin.

“Food fights” is an interesting, yet truthful way to describe the behavior between the candidates during previous debates. From twitter wars to full on trash talking on live television: these candidates make civil conversation look impossible. But, Albin firmly believes that this is not the worst presidential election in our nation’s history. Despite the many individuals who are worried for the future of our country, he believes that our country has made it out of worse conditions than this.

The final point of the presentation dealt was about social media. It’s very obvious that social media has played a huge role in the current presidential campaign. Both candidates are avid users of Twitter, and have often communicated with supporters through social media. There is a unique level of connectivity that has not been allowed in previous elections because of social media. But, Albin noted that despite all its benefits, social media can also make individuals bias.

“Social media has changed campaigns because people can self select sources, of information and keep out contrary views,” said Albin.

With the number of news sources at our fingertips, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed and slightly biased when choosing our news. Social media allows people to look up sources based on their already formed political opinions. They choose sources that match these opinions, and spend the time scrolling through the same articles from these sources. When individuals scroll through their timeline they may come across contrary opinions posted by members in their friends list. When this happens, arguments may begin causing unnecessary drama on different social media platforms. But, facts are facts and social media is becoming a main outlet for news, biased or not.

Rick Albin was a perfect way to start off this year’s APR Speaker Series. Overall, the presentation was very informative and entertaining. He gave students a unique understanding of the key messages in the campaigns, and helped them understand that the state of our country is not as bad as we think (which is something that the majority of Americans need to hear at the moment). It will be interesting to see what happens after this year’s election.

 

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Corinne is a senior at GVSU majoring in Advertising/Public Relations with a minor in French. When she is not in PRSSA/GrandPR meetings, she enjoys volunteering with her sorority sisters in Delta Zeta.