This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the PRSSA National Conference in Detroit. Growing up in the the suburbs of the city, I was proud and excited for the conference to be in my backyard. Even more exciting was the energy and zest PRSSA and PRSA members brought to the city. With more than 3,000 public relations practitioners in Detroit, it was a really great time.
My first conference was last year in Philadelphia, and since then, I have attended every national event. This year, I was able to network with new people, see new practices and participate in unique sessions. More importantly, I relearn at every conference how dynamic and elastic the PR industry is. I also leave these conferences motivated and excited.
Besides the breakout sessions, I found those PRSA general sessions with a speaker outside the PR industry to be the most valuable. Some pretty incredible speakers with extensive backgrounds in the industry lead the breakout sessions, but to me, an outsider’s perspective on the industry and on business in general is even more valuable. I came to this conference with about 30 other MSU PRSSA students, and every one thought that the general session speakers weren’t relevant to public relations.
Just because the speaker isn’t the CEO of a huge PR agency does not mean that they can’t offer real advice to public relations practitioners.
When we work with clients, the audience of any campaign probably won’t be the ones who put together the campaign. As public relations practitioners, we communicate to families, students, adults, the baby-boomers and everyone in between. We also communicate to the nerds, corporate executives and journalists. That’s why Craig Newmark, Bob Lutz and Mitch Albom were able to make such a strong impact on me. Here is what each had to say:
- Craig Newmark of Craigslist discussed his experience founding a start-up Internet company that would become one of the most visited sites on the Internet. My favorite part about his presentation was that he still does work at the bottom of the company- he works in customer service to ensure that his consumers are satisfied with his product. How cool is that?
- From a more corporate perspective, Bob Lutz of General Motors discussed why communications is so valuable. To me, I was so relieved to hear from a guy who supports communication and values it sincerely. He was honest and blunt, and made sure to remind the audience to keep up with the times. Communication is a constantly evolving industry and we as professionals need to always be learning and integrating new tactics. PRSA’s ComPRhension blog does a great job recapping what he had to say here.
- As a Detroit-native, I have know about Mitch Albom for a long time. I know that he’s a sports writer, a talk show host, a columnist, and a host of other things. He told us the story of how one of his books was written. He also reminded us of the power of connecting with people and networking. Even as students, we can start building these connections and maintaining them. Follow up with the people you met this weekend and contact them once in a while. Hey, you never know what might come out of your network.
Even though there were so many positive aspects of the conference, I felt that the conference was a bit lacking on practical social media advice, and I think that represents the knowledge and expertise that is still being acquired. In the social media sessions, we were told to join the conversation, learn how to use the tools and be smart about usage. But how can we use social media for our clients? How should we not use it? What are some case studies on social media?
All in all, this was a great reminder of the ethical, professional and knowledgeable industry I am hoping to enter upon graduation. I relearn at every conference how great this industry really is and how bright its future is.
For all PRSSA/PRSA attendees, what did you think of the sessions? What did you take away from this conference?