By: Katie Thornsberry
Last weekend, members of our PRSSA chapter headed to Chicago for a regional conference. The theme was “The Loop Chicago: Divergent” separating us into factions, like the movie, according to our interests with the types of PR industries we are interested in.
Before the conference, members that had arrived in Chicago got separated into their factions and headed off on agency tours and a scavenger hunt in the windy city. Our chapter, along with other chapters in the region, either went to Fleishman-Hillard and Ketchum, Golin Global, or Comcast Sports Broadcasting Network. We all got to see into the agency side of PR (in pretty amazing firms if I may add) and ask professionals any questions we had. The scavenger hunt took us to some major tourist attractions in the city, including The Bean and Crown Fountain in Millennium Park.
At the end of Friday, we all headed to Edelman (another incredible firm) to participate in a case study and be judged by professionals on the staff there. They presented the case to rebrand Starbucks to get away from the girly, basic image, and appeal to more men and diverse people. We got into groups, brainstormed, worked with many people that we had just met for the first time and came up with some pretty great ideas.
The conference began with many incredible professionals in the public relations world speaking to us. The first panel we were presented was Advertising vs. PR. We heard professionals from different agencies and advertising firms give advice and answer questions. The main points I learned from this panel was that it’s more about understanding and working together than public relations and advertising “versing” each other. Also, Kathleen Henson, owner of Henson PR Consulting, brought up an amazing piece of advice that stuck with me: “Act like you can.” If you are hesitant to begin a new task, or don’t believe in yourself to do something, just act like you can do it. You’ll prove to yourself what you are capable of and grow as a professional and person.
For the remaining segments, we broke off into seminars of the different PR industries that interested us. First, we either listened to professionals from entertainment PR or fashion PR. For the next groups, it was either political or nonprofit. We all had a chance to discover the different sides of PR and form an idea of what we could see ourselves doing in the future.
Lastly, we all came back together to listen to Maureen Bausch, the CEO of the 2018 Super Bowl. We heard her story of how she started her PR career at the Mall of America before it opened and handled their crisis of the negative comments it was receiving. She helped to turn the negativity around and make it known as the major tourist attraction it is today. She touched on how to have brand protection and continue growth so things won’t get boring and sales won’t die down. She showed anything is possible when you work to achieve it and you may fulfill dreams you didn’t even know existed. She did begin as a fourth grade teacher after all, and now is the CEO of a major sporting event!
Overall, it was an amazing weekend exploring Chi-town, spending a little too much money on souvenirs, making new connections, learning more about the industries, and bonding with our PR peeps. We all learned some great advice and have amazing memories to carry with us from this trip!