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At the PRSA National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, this past October, entrepreneur, licensed therapist and Forbes contributor Bea Arthur spoke to hundreds of public relations professionals, as well as students attending from the PRSSA National Conference down the street, about her unique perspective on success, pitching and a new form of public relations.
As a founder of multiple businesses (Pretty Padded Room, The Difference) dedicated to revolutionizing the way people receive therapy and mental health resources, Arthur has built not only a health and wellness brand around herself, but a brand of entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy. Her young age only exemplifies her success, to which she continuously stressed the secret is resilience. With strength, stamina and stubbornness, she claimed you could accomplish anything. Where do you start? “All you need is an obsession,” she said.
She then invited volunteers to pitch their ideas to her in front of the entire ballroom. She gave critiques and suggestions on all of them, coming up with new ways for them to phrase their selling points on the spot and encouraging them as well as everyone in the room to begin looking at psychology as a new way to approach public relations. Whether you are writing copy, pitching a client’s business or just communicating with someone in the press, so much of public relations is rooted in pitching, and so much of pitching is rooted in psychology.
She encouraged everyone in the room to think about not only who they are pitching to, whether it be the press, investors or customers, but also the mindset of the person on the receiving end of the pitch. Are they a member of the press looking for why they should tell their audience your story? Are they busy investors looking for less buzzwords, more actions? Are they customers looking for the reward in what you’re selling? No matter what, she said, the art of a great pitch is all about answering three questions: what you are doing, who you are doing it for, and why you are doing it.
Despite being a woman of color under the age of 30, Arthur did not seem to feel any pressure to tone herself down or to prove herself to the large ballroom full of seasoned professionals. In fact, on top of giving practical advice on entrepreneurship, she openly spoke about the mistakes she has made in her career, from what she deemed an “embarrassing” appearance on the television show “Shark Tank” to the failure of her first startup, which led to her being so in debt she had to couch-surf until she found her footing.
She spoke about these failures with the confidence of someone who believes in themselves. According to her, these were only bumps in the road, and they helped her understand how to properly pitch ideas and use her knowledge of psychology to get what she wants. Being in the room, it was easy to tell that her attitude and outlook on life, which resembled someone with more strength and endurance to last a lifetime, were truly inspiring to all. “The best part about going through hell,” she said, “is that you come out on fire.”
By Emily Hillhouse, VP of Diversity and Inclusion
I’m about to burst your bubble: If you assumed that learning should end once you leave the classroom or graduate, you’re sadly mistaken. Learning is everything, especially in public relations. PR Daily recently noted that having a passion for learning is one of the “must-have qualities for communications professionals.”
I know learning can sometimes sound dreary and prolonged, but it doesn’t have to be.
When I refer to learning, I don’t necessarily mean the regular or dry lecture style, slide-formatted, note-taking system we have all come to learn and live by as we climb the ladder of education. What I really mean is it’s imperative to submerge your mind in industry happenings through news, social media, television or whatever fits your lifestyle.
The best part about PR is that it doesn’t require a two-hour lecture. It really just requires you to fully engage in experiential learning opportunities (ELOs), which by The University of Alabama’s definition, is an in-depth experience related to one’s academic area of study.
Whether you choose to do so through reading, listening or applying topics to practical situations, actively engaging your mind in outside experiences is how you can develop the innovative and strategic thought process PR pros own.
Below are three tips to help you activate experiential learning outside of the classroom:
It’s time to stop dreading the act of learning, but to start embracing it. A desire to learn is what drives today’s fast-paced media environment, and suggests the admirable trait of curiosity. As physicist William Pollard once said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
By Skylar Spencer, VP of Finance
About a month ago, 14 eager University of Alabama students boarded planes to Boston accompanied by suitcases filled with business casual attire, and résumés and business cards fresh off the press.
Some of these students were veterans of PRSSA’s National Conference. Others, including myself, had yet to experience anything like this five-day event. However, both groups shared the same excitement, proving that this is truly one of the most unique opportunities open to public relations students across the country.
After a whirlwind of presentations, conversations and sight-seeing trips around the city of Boston, I boarded the plane back to Alabama feeling physically exhausted, but (surprisingly) mentally energized. At 40,000 feet, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the weekend. Although I have a notebook filled with inspiring quotes and various notes from the conference, there are five key things that every public relations student can learn from this experience.
1. Business cards are not dead.
As a junior in college, I do not want to know how many hours I’ve spent drafting and critiquing my résumé. However, I had yet to even think about designing a business card before attending National Conference. While your résumé is great to bring to a job interview or to a one-on-one meeting, National Conference proved that business cards remain the easiest way to pass your contact information on to someone who you’ve briefly met.
2. Diversity in PR is growing and it is very exciting.
Although it may sometimes seem to be a buzzword that is tossed around in conversation, bringing public relations students together from across the country confirms the unique backgrounds and perspectives that our generation offers. Meeting individuals from countless universities with such different experiences opened my eyes to many new ideas and aspirations, which left me so excited about where our generation will take the public relations field.
3. In such a large and diverse industry, you must define your personal brand.
Many of these students will be your competition for future jobs and internships. You must figure out what makes you stand out from everyone else. What unique experience can you bring to a job? What values shape your outlook on the industry? Your personal brand is more than a choice in the color scheme or layout of your résumé. It is fundamental to how you present yourself to others in person and on social media.
4. Go into every conversation with a purpose.
At any event, you should have an idea of who you want to talk to and what you ultimately want to gain. You’ll likely know some of the attendees beforehand, so spend time developing how you will pitch yourself. Know that no one likes to waste time, which means that you need to do your homework and have a plan for your conversations. You should also have business cards on hand, but do not give them to anyone who does not ask for them.
5. Investing in yourself pays off.
Chances are, you’re probably already involved in a club or pre-professional organization. While you are already one step ahead of those who are not involved, I cannot stress enough how important it is to do more than just show up. Seek out opportunities and take full advantage of those that are presented to you. Make an effort to meet new people and to volunteer for events and projects. It takes some sacrifice, but you’ll be thankful in the future when you see how much you’ve grown.
Halle Russo, PRSA Liaison
All blogs are written by general members of UAPRSSA and Capstone Agency.