Olivia Lason ’17, an M.A. in Public Relations student, and Kelsey Foy ’16, an M.A. in Strategic Communication student, recently attended the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Tri-State Conference in New York City. The conference’s theme, What Now? Maintaining your PR Integrity in the Post-Truth Era, featured panels on a variety of topics, including diversity in the industry, digital advancements, and crisis communication.
The conference began with a keynote address from Melissa Ben-Ishay, Baked by Melissa founder, who spoke about how she developed her nationally-recognized business through the power of public relations. Following her inspirational speech, professionals from top organizations such as Uber, IBM, and Hulu held panels discussing pressing industry issues and best practices in communication.
Learn about Lason’s experience at the conference:
“This was my first conference experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend taking advantage of any professional conference. Although I’m a graduate student, the panels made me feel like I was part of the industry. It was a pleasant change from my typical classroom setting – here, professionals from all across the industry were coming together and discussing key trends that affect their business lives. And even better the concepts they were discussing were exactly what I am learning in the classroom.
I found the panel on diversity to be the most interesting. Each speaker was passionate about their companies and very open-minded when discussing the associated challenges. We talk about diversity in the classroom, but seeing the conversation in action was inspiring. One of the speakers mentioned that clients are ‘demanding cultural nuance… they want different cultural voices in the room.’ This spoke to me because even in my studies, I wish more students would enthusiastically share their opinion. It made me put another criteria for my future-career checklist – make sure I work for a company that encourages and shows that it respects diversity, of all kinds.
Moving forward, I am excited to share my experience with my fellow classmates in our discussions, especially when talking about the importance of storytelling. In my Theory and Evolution of Public Relations course, Dr. Kristen Koehler, always mentions that to be effective with your audience, you have to speak to the ‘why’ of what you are doing. The importance of showing that same ‘why’ by storytelling was the key takeaway of the event for me. Authenticity, trust, and genuineness are the hot topics in the industry at the moment – and it was great to see it in action.”
Read about Foy’s experience at the conference:
“I sincerely appreciated this conference for relating my graduate studies with my undergraduate public relations background. As a student and working professional, I believe industry conferences are essential for those looking to gather fresh insight, network with industry leaders, and become reminded about why they chose this career path. Last year, I attended AdWeek, which is a week-long conference covering a vast selection of communication topics. What attracted me to the PRSA Tri-State Conference was its small niche in the industry, which I knew would provide a focused panel selection. It was interesting to see how public relations has turned into an integrated communication field, with professionals taking on multiple roles and responsibilities for a brand.
‘Authenticity’, ‘FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)’, and ‘the death of the traditional press release’ were key phrases repeatedly brought up throughout each panel. Expectantly, brand growth was the primary topic of discussion. Melissa Ben-Ishay, founder of Baked by Melissa, discussed the importance for brands to gain trust by staying ‘authentic’ and true to their message despite technological and consumer growth. Brianna Gays, corporate communications manager of Hulu, emphasized FOMO as a public relations term she consistently hears. She shared that in order to attract consumers to your brand, you want them to feel like they are missing out on something special. Terri Trespicio and Paula Rizzo, media coaches at Lights Camera Expert, discussed how traditional press releases and long pitches are no longer acceptable. Media relations professionals should choose one aspect of a client and think about why that specific story will be helpful to the media’s audience, then craft a one paragraph pitch detailing the story.
A panel I thoroughly enjoyed was on crisis communication, which featured Julie Townsend, vice president of communications at ABC, and Tony Loke, vice president of Weber Shandwick. The discussion closely related to my current master’s thesis on consumer trolling behaviors, and I was able to connect current industry practices to my topic. Overall, I felt this conference reminded me of my love for public relations and allowed me to stay current in the happenings of my industry.”
The College of Communication and the Arts encourages students to attend academic and professional conferences that relate to their research interests and career goals. Conferences serve an important role in the graduate student experience by exposing students to new research and professional trends within their field of study. Conferences vary in size and topics, ranging from those with broad themes, such as the National Communication Association Convention, to those that target specific academic and practitioner communities, like the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Conference or PRSA Tri-State Conference.
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered. A Ph.D. program is currently under development.