Alumni Thrive in Travel PR

Travel and tourism public relations is something taught in the Fundamentals of Public Relations course at GVSU, and it comes up in several other courses. It’s just one of many speciality areas of practice within public relations and advertising. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) even has a Travel and Tourism Special Interest Section.

So it was interesting that two alumni who have made careers in travel and tourism popped up in recent media.

Dave Nitkiewicz (2007), the Specialty Markets Sales Manager at Experience Grand Rapids, was featured in a recent episode of the ‘PR Hangover’ podcast.

Then, Brandy Henderson (2010), was mentioned in a Grand Rapids Business Journal article about Ludington tourism. Henderson started doing PR for Ludington and is now the executive director of the Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

These are just two examples of how a degree in Advertising and PR can lead to good jobs in the travel and tourism industry.

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Alumni Go From Campus to Capitol

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Rachel Doane, Rep. Roger Victory, and Jared Rozycki in the chamber of the Michigan House of Representatives.

Rachel Doane and Jared Rozycki have gone from the GVSU campus in Allendale to the state capitol in Lansing. Both graduates of the Advertising and Public Relations program, Doane (2013) and Rozycki (2017) now work together as communication advisors in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Doane works on the Health Policy Committee and Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Committee. Rozycki covers the Military and Veterans Affairs, Oversight, and Insurance committees.

Doane says her job is to ensure the public is informed of the legislative activity that happens in the committees for which she is responsible at every state of the process–bill introduction, committee testimony, House passage, and ultimately, signage by the governor. In addition to  writing press releases and drafting speeches for legislators, she said joining committee members for visits around the state is a fantastic part of her job.

“I’ve joined the committee at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, The Henry Ford Museum, Art Prize, and even had the opportunity to try out and electric bicycle when the committee was considering a bill that would allow the use of e-bikes on state trails.” Doane said. “I tag along with the representatives to take photos of the committee proceedings and include them in my press release about the research the committee is doing to further Michigan’s tourism industry. “

Rozycki’s work is similar for his committees and legislators. He also handles media relations, writing and pitching op-eds, working with journalists to set up TV interviews, and organizaing press conferences.

“I write for all 63 representatives of the Republican Caucus,” Rozyci said. “It definitely took a while to get a hold of all 63 of their voices in my writing – especially since some are really conservative while others are moderate.”

Both credit internships as a key to them landing their current jobs. In the summer of 2016, Rozycki was an intern in the Constituent Relations division of the Executive Office of Governor Rick Snyder during the crest of the Flint Water Crisis. In the winter of 2017, he interned at Truscott Rossman – a PR firm that specializes in grassroots issues – at their Grand Rapids branch.

“Through all of the connections I made at both internships, I was able to apply to the job where I am at today,” Rozycki said.

Doane, who had several other jobs before landing in her current position, also remembers the media relations writing class and the newsreporting class as setting her up for what she does at work today.

“Now I know that if you want to write effective press releases, you really have to know how to think like a journalist if you want the media to have any interest in your content,” Doane said.

Rozycki also expressed appreciation for media relations writing and the various types of writing he learned in the class, as well as the ability to pitch story ideas and op-eds to journalists.

“There are some days where I write 3 op-eds or 35 press releases within the work day,” he said. “CAP 321 (media relations writing) helped prepare me to write quickly but effectively. Sometimes in government PR, there isn’t 45 minutes to finish a press release or op-ed, there is only 5 minutes. Politics is very opinionated, so op-eds are more frequent in government than other avenues in PR. CAP 321 helped with how to pitch as well. Because of the pitching techniques I learned, many of the the op-eds I have written have been covered in big-time publications such as the Detroit News, MLive, Detroit FREEP, Crain’s Detroit Business as well as getting press releases in nearly every Michigan publication and some in Wisconsin and Ohio publications.”

In addition to internships and classes, Doane and Rozycki both have advice for current students interested in careers in PR and government. Rozycki stresses paying careful attention to the news. Doane, who minored in political science, credits that and some advanced knowledge of the political process with helping her to get and succeed in her job.

Alumna Uses PR Skills to Start Detroit Bridal Shop

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Lori Conerly

Written by APR student Gabrielle Guglielmetti

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

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The store front of Lee Anne’s bridal boutique.

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.

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.

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.

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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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFbkVL1X9M8

Chip and Dan Heath followed up with Made to Stick – why some ideas survive and others die. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bs9NbxJHV-w

And now Jonah Berger pulls it together with Contagious – why things catch on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfSs_hOAkzY

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? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAl28d6tbko Is the story message relevant to the product, candidate or cause? Is Blend Tec a powerful blender?

 


Post by: Frank Blossom, affiliate professor

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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

Networking

“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!


ElleOHara
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

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 http://www.interninmichigan.com. 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 – http://www.gvsu.edu/soc – 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 howardp@gvsu.edu, 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

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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.