A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Although I am only a sophomore I was eager to take this chance and run with it. Despite costing an arm and a leg, I enjoyed the experience as it motivated me as a student studying public relations and provided me with valuable insight into the world of PR. I would like to utilize this platform to lay out three reasons why I enjoyed the conference.

1. Networking

In the past, I have gone to networking events, but nothing too large. They were all in the Greater Grand Rapids area and the networking mainly took place between students, professors, and a handful of PR professionals. The National Conference was unlike anything I could have expected. Perhaps it was because most of the attendees were around the same age and therefore easier to interact with, but networking was extremely simply. There was no pressure to mix or mingle with those around you. It could be as simple as turning around, shaking a hand, and swapping social handles and you just made a connection in a foreign city. These connections were more than just a greeting and sharing names. These people you network with become the people that you explore the city with, attend panels and sessions with, and hang out with at the days end.

2. Panels

Just like general assembly meetings at our local chapter, the National Conference hosted sessions where a speaker would talk about a certain subject and their experiences in the world of PR. These professionals, who are well-known for their work, would offer valuable knowledge about starting a career, what a career would entail, how to manage some of the bumps along the road, and much more. The speaker would then open up the floor to questions from the audience. One of my favorite sessions was ‘The Transformation of PR” hosted by Mike Fernandez from Burson-Marsteller. He talked about his vast amount of experience in PR which varied from being one of the youngest and first press secretaries in D.C. to working with the soy industry. He mentioned that the way he got his start in public affairs was by wandering the streets of D.C., knocking on doors of public officials and asking for a job. Since I am interested in working in public affairs, I was going to ask how one might get a start in the field today, since knocking on doors doesn’t seem like a very viable option today. Sadly, I waited in line for the microphone, but never got my chance to ask my question as the Q&A was cut short due to another session starting soon. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the session.

3. Travel

I am not one who travels very often. I had, embarrassingly, hardly ever left the state of Michigan without my parents. I was excited, to say the least, to take the chance to travel without them holding my hand. Boston was a beautiful city that seamlessly integrated modern buildings with the traditional architecture and history. Our hotel was close to the water, only a short walk away, which offered us an amazing view. I have never met more social squirrels in my life. All in all, it was a worthwhile and memorable trip.


Burson-Marsteller. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from

Fernandez, M. (2017, October 23). Mike Fernandez (@Cogit8). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from

PRSSA 2016 National Conference. (2017, October 12). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from




Networking – Healthcare PR

As an Advertising and Public Relations major at Grand Valley State University, all I ever hear is network, network, network. The importance of networking is emphasized in all of my CAP classes. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”. Since this activity is so important within the field of public relations, I am not only expected to, but, required to take part in networking.

One networking “event” I attended was a meeting of GVSU’s PRSSA chapter. PRSSA is an acronym for Public Relations Student Society of America. As a member of the organization, and also a committee member of the APR Alumni Relations Committee, I have been to every meeting. At the most recent meeting on Wednesday, November 30th, I heard Rick Jensen and Michael Yoder from Spectrum Health speak about healthcare and public relations. From this event, I learned about how structured public relations is within the healthcare system. The two talked about how it is very conservative field to be working in. They emphasized the fact that PR within healthcare is very different. Something that was found humorous during the meeting was Rick Jensen’s loathing for the photo release forms.

He described the photo release form as being one of the biggest pains of healthcare PR. This form is a piece of paperwork that must be filled out by any person in a picture that may be released for public relations purposes. This means that any time Spectrum Health posts a picture on Twitter, in a newsletter, or some form of advertisement, they must have written consent from every person in the picture. Furthermore, media relations specialists  must be cautious when taking a picture in a hospital, taking careful steps to avoid accidentally releasing private patient information. The picture I took, with noticeable difficulty, below would have to be combed over to see if there is any information that could not be released. I would even have to get permission from the other two in the picture, Rick Jensen and Hunter Burin, to post this picture!

Clark, E. K. (n.d.). [Evan Clark, Rick Jensen, and Hunter Burin at PRSSA]. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
Another point that was expressed by the two was messaging. We’re not talking about texting or DMing, but rather the message that your content is attempting to portray. Michael Yoder stated that learning and knowing the tone and voice of your message is critical. Healthcare is a sensitive subject which, in turn, makes the content itself sensitive. Knowing what to say and how to say it is detrimental when releasing content. Healthcare PR is not the place to post a quick picture to Facebook or send out a simple tweet. Overthinking what you’re about to post might not always be a bad thing.

All in all, I learned a lot from these two speakers. I never thought that I would be interested in this field of public relations, though, you never know where the road may take you. During this meeting, I even posted a tweet myself wondering if this is a career path I could see myself taking. Gaining this knowledge from people who have experienced it first hand is extremely helpful and one of the many reasons that networking is key.