A Guest Post By Jolene Levesque, American University Student & PR Expanded Blog Contest Winner
I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) as a second semester freshman after developing an interest in public relations. One year later, I have realized that PRSSA offers many opportunities for students pursuing careers in public relations, including networking events, internship postings, and service initiatives. These opportunities align with three main areas of the organization’s mission statement: enhancing education, broadening network and launching careers.
1. Enhancing Education
Our PRSSA chapter hosts bi-weekly chapter meetings for members to hear from guest speakers regarding current public relations trends. The most recent one was focused on public relations disasters and social media. Our guest speaker, Bob Pickard, shared his thoughts regarding setbacks that companies face from his experience as a social media expert. I left the chapter meeting feeling more aware of how social media can affect disasters in the public relations industry. I also learned some of the most effective ways for companies to use social media, including communicating with the public and keeping media profiles up-to-date. During my time in PRSSA, the chapter meetings have ranged from learning how to elevate your brand, increase your social media presence, or ace an interview. These hour-long chapter meetings every two weeks have deepened my interest in public relations.
Membership benefits extend past the events that students can attend. PRSSA sends out a monthly online newsletter, which contains current public relations topics and information regarding PRSSA. There are also a variety of scholarships available to members, which support academic achievement, pursuit of education, and leadership accomplishments. Moreover, many chapters have student-run firms which work with real-life clients. Next semester, I plan to become more involved in our on-campus firm, Eagle Communications, to get client experience.
2. Broadening Network
PRSSA members are given many opportunities to broaden their professional network. The first is the annual national conference. This four-day event features a variety of speakers who cover a range of communication topics. My first national conference was last October in Boston, Massachusetts. I connected with members from across the country and learned about their chapters. As American University PRSSA’s current Finance Director, I sat down with finance directors from other schools to learn about different fundraisers that they have done to raise money. I was able to hear Morgan Spurlock, the actor and director of Super-Size Me, discuss advertising and marketing techniques and Judy Smith, the inspiration for Scandal, talk about crisis management. Without having been a member of PRSSA, I would not have had the opportunity to attend this national conference and meet an array of public relations students from across the country.
Other ways that PRSSA allows students to broaden their network is through connections with members of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the parent affiliate to PRSSA. PRSSA is made up of 10,000 students. PRSA, however, has over 21,000 adults who are currently working or previously worked in the public relations field. Members of PRSSA are given opportunities to communicate with them through different events and functions.
PRSSA has pushed me to think about launching my career through the connections I have made and the experiences that I have had. I recently met someone at the airport who noticed the PRSSA sticker on my laptop and told me that she was a member of PRSA. After connecting on LinkedIn and getting together in person, I now have a mentor that I can look to for guidance on how to sell my experiences in order to benefit my career.
American University’s chapter also has an internship board, which members can browse for opportunities across the country. PRSSA offers a broader internship and job center for members to search for open positions. Members can also upload a resume for employers to look at and get additional resources through a resource manual.
Lastly, PRSSA is going to help me launch my career by offering a discounted PRSA membership after I graduate. Being a member of PRSA will allow me to connect with other public relations professionals and continue to enhance my knowledge of the public relations field long after I graduate. I will have access to workshops, conferences, and trainings which will further advance my career.
PRSSA’s mission is to enhance education, broaden networks, and launch careers. During my first year as a member, I have benefited from each part of the mission in multiple ways. This organization has been valuable to me because I feel better prepared for my public relations career. I have a better understanding of what public relations is and a support system I can go to for career advice. Public relations students should become involved with PRSSA because of the many benefits that it offers for students interested in communication. I believe that any public relations professional, no matter what age, would gain important insight from this organization.
Jolene Levesque is a sophomore at American University, studying public relations and business administration. She is currently the Finance Director for AU’s PRSSA chapter. She plans to be involved in the chapter’s student-run firm, Eagle Communications, next semester.