Local Professionals Share Branding Tips to APR Students


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


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.


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!


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.