PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Professional Profile: Kelly Rossman-McKinney

For our PRSSA Chapter’s monthly publication, ImPRessions, we highlight a professional who has made a significant impact in the public relations industry. This month, I had the pleasure of talking to Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of the Rossman Group. She recently became our Professional Advisor and our whole team is looking forward to working with her.

Here’s what she had to say about the industry and why she loves what she does:

How did you get started in the public relations industry?

I don’t remember if there were any PR classes when I went to college at Wayne State, but my interest at the time was initially psychology, in which I majored.  I had a great part-time job at channel 50 in Detroit, tho, and fell in love with TV so I added what was then called radio-tv-film as a second major. Turns out the combination is terrific for the PR profession. My career in TV was short-lived due to an early marriage and relocation to Battle Creek, but I ended up working at the Capitol and having several great jobs that included significant work in what I eventually realized was public relations.  I tried a couple of times to get a job at the only PR firm in town at the time – Publicom, founded by our own Rick Cole – but never – repeat NEVER – got hired.   MSU’s own Ned Hubbell – for whom your chapter is named – was the first person who actually recognized – and helped me realize – that the work I was doing in state government was really public relations.  He helped me pursue accreditation and was immensely helpful when I started my own firm.

What do you do in your current position with your firm?

A little bit of everything – but I still love client work the best.  I don’t do as much hands-on writing of basic communication tools – news releases, etc. – but I still write – or help write –most of the strategic plans and most of our pitches.  I am also on the phone way too much, spend an awful lot of time emailing, or I am in meetings with clients or potential clients.  Most of my real work – the strategic thinking – ends up being done after everyone else goes home.  There are certainly aspects of running a business that I have to attend to – but those responsibilities are more like chores than the client work will ever be!

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Three things:  crisis communications, pitching new clients, and public speaking.  I really love the challenge of helping an individual or an organization navigate the sometimes treacherous waters when something bad happens to them.  We’ve worked on all kinds of interesting crisis situations, from looming strikes to employee deaths to embezzlements to blown-up propane tanks – and lots in between.  The challenge of helping figure out what a potential client needs – and how best to convince them that we are absolutely the best firm to help them (i.e., pitching) – still gives me a thrill, even though we’ve done it hundreds of times over the years.  It’s really fun trying to figure out what a client wants to accomplish and how to get them to the finish line.  And last but not least – I love public speaking, whether it’s a 20-minute keynote to a thousand people or a day-long workshop for 10 – it’s energizing.

What do you do in your free time (if you have any!)?

Right now, I’m a total football bleacher mom.  Although my oldest son is long out of the house (he is deputy director of the Senate Democratic Communications office), I still have three younger kids at home.  My sophomore son and 10 of his JV teammates got moved up to the Grand Ledge High School varsity team for the play-offs, so I’m at every game.  Basketball and volleyball season are right around the corner, so I plan to hone my bleacher butt skills for the next several months!

What advice you would offer to students?

Depends on what students want to know, but in general, my advice is pretty simple – be curious, ask questions, pay attention to what’s going on in the world, find your voice – and dress, speak and act like every encounter is a job interview – because it just might be!


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A Social Media Workshop from a Pro

On Friday, our PRSSA Chapter had the pleasure of hosting one of the social media greats to come in a run a hands-on workshop. Shannon Paul of the Detroit Red Wings showed us everything from setting up accounts, why each social media platform is important and how they can be integrated in public relations.

As a student with a couple of internships under my belt, I am finding the best way to supplement what I am learning in my classes is to get experience and get involved. Besides finding an internship, workshops and seminars that such organizations as PRSSA offers fill in the gaps to make you a more well-rounded pre-professional. Here are some of the things that we touched on:

  • Social media is an information trade. While traditional print media is only one voice yelling at a large group of people, social media offers the opportunity to have direct conversations online. Cool? Yeah, it pretty much is.
  • Using and understanding SEO (search engine optimization) is key to having a strong presence online. There is not need to have a clever headline if it won’t show up in a Google search.
  • The people who are best at social media are the ones who are the most human. Don’t endlessly self-promote, don’t change who you are, and most of all, don’t be that guy. Be a human!
  • The future of the public relations industry, for my crowd, at least, is straddling the fence between social media and traditional public relations. You don’t want to only know how to use social media tools and be able to play on Facebook all the time. But you don’t want to only know how to write press releases and make follow-up calls either. Know both. Again, try to be as well-rounded as possible.
  • Social media is a tool, not a channel of communication. Supplementing a public relations campaign with social media tools, especially today, is the key to success. Shannon called social media “connecting the dots,” and I think that’s a pretty cool way to put it.

Then, we got on the computer and set up new accounts. The first thing Shannon recommended was to set up a Google Reader account and start reading. Shannon showed us how to use Alltop and find blogs that interest us. Here’s what I read:

I read a lot more, but those are the best. I totally recommend that you add them to your Google Reader, too!

Also, Shannon talked about joining the discussion on social media. Comment on other blogs before you start your own. And always remember to promote other blogs more than your own. Again, don’t be that guy.

Lastly, it is important to remember that as a student, it’s OK to make mistakes on social media. Whether it’s a misspelled word on your blog (it’s happened to me) or an inaccurate opinion that you tweeted (it’s happened to me), you’ll live. Always ask for feedback, encourage people to comment on your blog or other forms of social media, and learn from others. That’s how this blog got started.

What do you think? Was Shannon crazy or right on target?

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