GrandPR CEO Serves On National Conference Panel

GrandPR CEO Serves On National Conference Panel

After four hours of driving, faulty hotel reservations, and almost losing our luggage, GVSU PRSSA has made it to Indianapolis! Friday morning marked the unofficial start of “Crossroads of Public Relations,” the 2016 PRSSA National Conference. 

The first session of the weekend was a student-run firm workshop, where I had the opportunity to sit on a conference panel and share my experiences thus far as Chief Executive Officer of GrandPR.  Each of the three panelists were able to speak about the structure of their firms and their current successes and challenges.

Katie Ronzio, Executive Director of Cardinal Communications, has a staff of about 75 students and Ellie Breslin, Firm Director of Hill Communications, has a staff of about 50, while GrandPR has a staff of 25. Each of our firms have campus departments, local businesses and nonprofits as clients; the larger firms have some regional and nablue backdrop with panel members speaking at row of black tablestional clients as well. 

With over 150 students in attendance, the backgrounds of each panelist differed greatly to appeal to all the different levels of the audience members. From not having a firm, to not yet nationally affiliated, to developed firms, the panelists spoke about concepts that would benefit everyone in the room.


  • There are many different organizational structures that student-run firms can have. It’s important to find one that works for your chapter.
  • Speaking in front of a large group of pre-professionals is intimidating, but it becomes easy when you are passionate about the topic.
  • PRSSA members are amazing. I’ve never met a more dedicated group of students who are all spending their weekend building themselves personally and professionally.

This is only the start to an amazing experience. Follow along with our live blogging series this weekend (over on the GVPRSSA blog) and use #PRSSANC on social to join the conversation!

CEO Pro ShotJaclyn Ermoyan | Chief Executive Officer of GrandPR

Jaclyn Ermoyan is a senior majoring in advertising and public relations and minoring in nonprofit administration and international relations. An experienced member of the GrandPR team, Jaclyn spent her summer working at the GVSU University Development office and in University Communications. Jaclyn can often be found Snapchatting, posting about her love for Grand Valley, or making to-do lists. An avid learner, Jaclyn is always looking to expand her knowledge and apply it in new ways. She loves to innovate, create and problem solve.



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.


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.  












Alumna Mabin Does PR for Media Organization


Mabin GRBJ
Madison Mabin in her office at Gemini Publications.

Madison Mabin, a 2013 graduate, knew when she was an Advertising and Public Relations student that she would one day be working with the media. She just did not anticipate she would be working for the media.

Mabin works for Gemini Publications, the publisher of  Grand Rapids Magazine and the Grand Rapids Business Journal, among other publications. She handles social media for Gemini and its various publications. She also manages the local publisher’s special events, including “40 Under 40” and “Newsmakers of the Year” annual receptions. Another aspect of her job is to manage trade agreements between the publisher and various businesses and organizations.

Three years past graduation, and in her second career job, Mabin still values the education at GVSU that set her up for success.

“Classes were hard but prepared me,” she said. “I took it seriously and worked hard. I showed work I had done in various class assignments in job interviews, and that got me hired.”

The hard work in school paid off. After making the move to Gemini for more responsibility, she was told  more than 400 applied for the job she now has.

She has already noted with excitement success in her current job. Recent events she managed and promoted sold out and had record record attendance. To do this, she creatively integrated social media with event planning and promotion. For example, she had award nominees share photos and a haiku and posted those in a series to promote the event and generate interest. Of course, attendees shared the posts about themselves in a true social fashion.

Mabin encourages current students to work hard and take advantage of opportunities both in and out of class. The tough standards in class assignments help her handle the demands of her job now.

“Social media sounds fun and it is for two weeks but then you have to be creative and come up with new ideas constantly,” she said.

A hint to current students reading this: Mabin takes interns and is interested in upper class students who have had necessary course work to help her handle the demands of social media and event management.

Ad and PR Students Win Honors in National Competitions

Students in the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations major program have earned recognition in national advertising and public relations competitions. Both teams worked for two semesters to create campaign plans and present them before a team of judges.

GrandPR 2015-16
The 2015-16 GrandPR staff. A team of 5 students from the student PR firm earned honorable mention in the national Bateman PR campaign competition.

A team of students from GrandPR, the student-run public relations firm, won an honorable mention in the 2016 Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Bateman competition. The year-long competition this year asked student teams from across the country to spark local and national dialogues about education. The 5-member GVSU team focused their campaign on the GVSU of the Student Veterans of America (SVA).

Out of 70 entries, GrandPR was one of 16 Honorable Mentions. The firm was recognized among programs much larger and older than that at GVSU such as University of Florida, University of North Carolina, Brigham Young University and DePaul University.

“Our team was able to practice the public relations processes we learn in the classroom while also helping out a great on-campus organization,” said Elle O’Hara, CEO of GrandPR and one member of the 5-person team. “My team and I worked hard from start to finish and receiving an Honorable Mention gives us all confidence to move forward with our careers in the advertising and public relations fields.”

This was the fourth time students in the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations program entered the Bateman competition, but the first time a team from GrandPR entered and the first time GVSU placed placed in the national competition. GrandPR plans to continue entering the competition in the coming years. The team’s faculty advisor was Adrienne Wallace.

NSAC team 2015-16
Students on the 2015-16 National Student Advertising Competition team did a campaign for Snapple.

Meanwhile, 19 students on the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) team earned a third place finish in District 6 of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) District 6, which incudes college teams from Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. The first and second-place teams were from Purdue Calumet and Michigan State, respectively. There were 150 teams competing nationwide doing a campaign for Snapple, with only the top finisher in each district advancing to finals.

Students were pleased to finish so well alongside some much larger schools in the district.

“Our third place district place highlights the phenomenal education and experience GVSU offers,” said Ben Kaluski, Project Manager for the Grand Valley team.

Additional recognition went to Aubrey Leko, presenter and team Creative Director, who was honored with the “Best Presenter” award.

“I could not be more proud of this team, said Assistant Professor Robin Spring, who advised the team.  “They took the challenge and had the grit to see it through.  They uncovered insights based on months of research, created a complex and refined campaign, perfected the presentation and wowed the judges.  The competition was tough, yet we have once again shown that Grand Valley can compete with some of the largest and most respected programs in the country.”

GVSU’s NSAC teams have consistently placed in District 6 competition, and once previously advanced to the national finals.

If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.

If it Doesn't Spread

Today the grand slam in advertising, PR, and digital com (let’s just call it all strategic communications – communication with a purpose) is content that spreads, goes viral and generates a lot of earned, free media.

So how does it happen? Can you create content that spreads

Let’s start with the core question, “Why do we share, post, tweet, retweet, pin, vlog, Instagram and every other manner of digitally sharing with friends, colleagues and peers?”

Social currency.

It’s not what the content says as much as it’s what the content says about us.

It says we’re in the know. Smart. Have the inside track. Ahead of the curve. Cool, Hip, Funny, Fashionable. We knew what color the dress was. Our sharable content shapes how others see us.


That’s the core idea driving why some ideas stay, stick, tip and others wither and fade away.

Malcolm Gladwell ignited the concept in The Tipping Point – that singular, simple moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

Chip and Dan Heath followed up with Made to Stick – why some ideas survive and others die.

And now Jonah Berger pulls it together with Contagious – why things catch on.

When you look at all three books you see a pattern, a few common characteristics which can help transform your communication – boost your idea’s chance of virality and put it on the fast track. Content worth sharing because it gives you, the sender, resender or writer social currency.

In other words, “How cool am I because I sent you this?”

Let’s take a look at how you can craft your content.

Is the content simple and concrete? Can the idea be expressed in a single sentence? Is it visually memorable? Can it be explained in human actions so that are easily understood and can be shared with consistent meaning?

 “You’re not you when you’re hungry. Snickers satisfies.”

Is the content a story? Stories stick. We have an innate need for narrative. We share stories, not pie charts.

Is the content remarkable and unexpected? Let’s combine story and unexpected.  Did you hear the story about the blender that turned an iPad into dust? Is the story message relevant to the product, candidate or cause? Is Blend Tec a powerful blender?


Post by: Frank Blossom, affiliate professor

FB Choker Shot 2014
Professor Blossom teaches advertising, PR, creativity and story making classes at GVSU. He developed his brand building skills as a copywriter and Creative Director at Leo Burnett, DArcy, Noble & Associates and Felder Communications Group. In 2001 he founded The Polishing Center and serves as Head Coach helping young creatives build their portfolios and interviewing skills. Additionally, Frank manages Frank Communications and serves as head referee for the Creative Smackdown – a creative competition showcase bringing together students from all over Michigan with advertising and design professionals. For the past 20 years, The American Advertising Federation, the National Student Advertising Competition, and other ad associations have tapped Franks experience to judge local, regional, national and international advertising competitions. Frank serves on the Board of Directors of the Womens Resource Center and facilitates visual and verbal communications for VSA. In 2010 Frank was awarded The Silver Medalthe American Advertising Federations highest honor to professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the advertising and marketing industry and who have been active in furthering creative excellence and responsibility in areas of social concern.

The Importance of Networking in APR


“Oh, I am a terrible networker.”

“Those types of things give me so much anxiety.”

“Those things don’t really matter any ways.”

What do these three sentences have in common? They’re all wrong. Networking is very important in any line of work and it isn’t as scary as you make it out to be. Basically since the beginning of time (or since the time you spent on the playground), you have been networking. How do you think you made friends? You told them a little bit about yourself, what you like, what you don’t like, etc. Then like magic, you became friends. See that wasn’t so scary. So, why can’t you muster up the courage to go to a networking event where there is probably food and wine? What is the million-dollar answer? You’re being a chicken. Or lazy. A lazy chicken.

Networking is important because it can lead to many different opportunities. You never know whom you are going to meet or who knows whom in a room full of people. Obviously some networking events are better than others, but you never know who can make an introduction for you. Every relationship you make matters, which is key to successful networking.

If you think you’re a horrible networker, don’t. It is important to have confidence, so fake it until you make it. Chances are there is someone else in the room that is just as nervous as you but you would never know. If you exude confidence, it will rub off on other people, create conversations and a make great first impression. If you’re still nervous, come prepared with a few easy talking points that will lead the conversation. But remember not everyone is going to be nice and responsive, that’s okay. Develop thick skin and understand that if someone doesn’t respond to your follow up or show interest in the conversation, it’s not personal.

The best thing about networking is that it pushes the boundaries of your comfort zone. Like stated above, you never know who you’re going to meet or where an opportunity is going to present itself. Networking allows you to meet all different types of people and learn more about what they do in the field. There may be a side of your profession you never thought to explore and a simple conversation can open your eyes to it. Nothing exciting ever comes from sitting in those four walls of your comfort zone, so knock them down.

To prove the above sentences wrong, it is pretty easy:

  1. “Oh, I am a terrible networker.” No one is a terrible networker; all you need to do is be yourself.
  2. “Those types of things give me so much anxiety.” Fake it till you make it!
  3. “Those things don’t really matter anyway.” Wrong, you never know who you’ll meet to give you advice, conversation or even a job.

So have fun and be confident! If you absolutely feel terrible at the event then leave. 9 out of 10 times, you will meet someone and the conversation will start flowing. But you’ll never know if you don’t put yourself out there!

Eleanor O’Hara is a senior at GVSU majoring in advertising and public relations and minoring in business. She looks forward to growing her PR leadership and project management skills this year as CEO of GrandPR and a board member of GVSU’s PRSSA chapter. Eleanor’s professional experiences include interning with the American Diabetes Association in Chicago and 834 Design & Marketing in Grand Rapids. After graduation, she hopes to enter a Chicago PR agency and become an Account Executive. In her spare time, Eleanor loves to bake yummy treats, hangout with her friends and family, and watch reruns of One Tree Hill and Grey’s Anatomy.

Let’s Talk Internships


Let’s talk about APR internships…

Most of you know me as affiliate professor Peggy Howard, an instructor of public relations classes. You may not know, however, that I am also the coordinator for the internship program for the APR major. It’s the internship program that I would like to talk about. For some of you, the internship requirement may be a source of frustration or just a vast unknown.  Yet, scheduled at the right time in your education pathway, it will prove to be one of the most important classes of your academic career. Since understanding brings clarity, and usually acceptance, I have answered the Top Five most often asked questions about internships below.

How do I find an internship?

Laker Jobs is a good source for finding internship opportunities. Now is a good time to check for internships being offered this summer. Check back frequently. New opportunities are added regularly. Other sources are friends. Do you have a friend/acquaintance that has recently completed an internship? How did he or she find the internship? Is it an internship that might be of interest to you? Family is another good source of ideas. Family members may work for a company that is looking for an intern, or may have friends who know about an internship opportunity. Ask professors or your academic advisor. Do a Google search, and check out Lastly, call a company where you would like to intern, and ask if they have an internship opportunity, or would like to. Many students have secured an internship opportunity by just asking for one.

How do I prepare for an internship?

Applying for an internship is the same as applying for a job. You need to have a resume and portfolio prepared for your job (internship) interview. Prior to the interview, develop goals you would like to achieve during your internship. What skills do you want to practice/hone? What work experiences are available with the internship? Discuss your goals/questions as a part of the interview process. There has been an increase in recent years of employers seeking interns to develop and/or manage their social media platforms. That’s good experience for students. However, there are other important skills to build in preparation for a career in public relations or advertising. Those include writing news releases and other communications tools, copywriting, design, planning, etc. The internship should provide you with a wide variety of experiences, allow you to develop portfolio items, and build the confidence you need for seeking a job in the career you choose following graduation.

Why did I have to complete two 300-level classes before applying for an internship for credit?

The primary purpose of an APR internship is for students to gain real-life work experience. If you haven’t completed skill-building classes offered at the 300 level, the internship experience will be diminished for you, as well as your employer. How will you be able to write a news release with skill and confidence if you haven’t completed the media relations writing class? Or write ad copy without first completing advertising copywriting?  There are two public relations classes (for those of you whose emphasis is public relations), and two advertising classes (for those of you whose emphasis is advertising) that are highly recommended for completion BEFORE registering for an internship for credit: CAP 321 – Media Relations Writing, and CAP 320 – PR Management and Cases. For advertising students, CAP 315 – Advertising Copywriting, and CAP 310 – Advertising Management and Cases.

What do I do to get approved for an internship for credit?

The first step is to secure the internship. Secondly, go to the School of Communications website – – and click on internships for students and review the information. Complete the Internship Agreement and submit it. You will be notified via email when your agreement has been approved. Keep in mind that there is no class to attend, just completing the internship is the class; however, you do need to register for the internship like you would any other class you are completing. Once your Internship Agreement has been approved, I will issue you a permit to register for the “class.” You must be approved, and register for the internship BEFORE completing the internship. Other questions? You can email me at, or stop by my office during office hours.

Why does the APR major require an internship before graduation?

Once an internship has been completed, you and your employer complete on online evaluation regarding the internship. Students are also required to write a 1,000 word essay about their experience. There is a consistent theme in the hundreds of evaluations and essays I have read in recent years. Like, “this internship has prepared me for seeking a job after graduation. I am grateful that Grand Valley requires an internship,” and, “I wasn’t sure that I had chosen the right major until I completed the internship. Now I am anxious to graduate and start my career.” GVSU requires an internship because it is essential to your education and prepares you for a successful, fulfilling career.

Yes. Securing an internship can be a challenge, but consider it practice for searching for a job. Use it to stop procrastinating on developing a job-winning resume and portfolio. Look at it as an opportunity to practice your interview skills. Completing an internship is an important component of your APR major. Embrace it. Be enthusiastic. Make the most of it. It will be a decision that you won’t regret.


Post by: Peggy Howard, affiliate professor

Peggy Howard is an affiliate professor in the School of Communications. She teaches public relations classes for the APR major, and serves as the APR internship coordinator. This is Professor Howard’s tenth academic year at GVSU. Prior to joining the GVSU faculty, she spent 20 plus years in health public relations and public relations firm work.