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Young Professionals Panel: Sierra Swalve, Meg Burton and Savannah Bass

Updated: Feb 24, 2019

Never have I ever…moderated a panel before!

I had the opportunity to moderate the Young Professionals Panel at The University of Alabama’s Southeastern Regional Conference. The panel consisted of Siarra Swalve from Porter Novelli Atlanta, Savannah Bass from Peritus PR and Meg Burton from Brassfield & Gorrie. It was a pleasure to have these UA alumnae come back to speak about their first year in the public relations industry. 

The second day of conference occurred in the Ferguson Theatre. It was a rapid fire session during which I ran through a list of questions: “How was your first year in the PR industry?” “What are your best pitching tips?” Basically, these were all the answers that would help us get our lives together.

The session started with, “What was your biggest challenge during your first year in the industry?” The answers ranged from time management to standing out to adaption.

As we enter this field, we have to learn to adapt to the office culture. How do we do that? Swalve suggested getting involved and hanging out with the other interns or co-workers. For example, at Porter Novelli, there are different groups or “circles”. There is a foodie circle, a kickball circle and so on. Get involved with your office and show how excited you are to be there. You will stand out from the others. Also, like Bass suggested, learn how to prioritize. Time management is a struggle. Learning what takes precedent in our lives will make life a little easier to manage.

The answer to one question completely threw me for a loop and made me feel a little more grateful. The question was, “How do you balance your work and social life?” The answers from all these women remained consistent. They are still working on it! Don’t freak out that you haven’t mastered time management. It’s hard to prioritize, especially when you first start off at a company. Even Keri Potts, senior director of communications for ESPN, stated in a later conference session that time management isn’t something that a person masters until well into their 30s. It’s a scary thought, but also reassuring after hearing these successful women admit to still needing help in that department. We are all still trying to figure ourselves out and, in turn, figure out how to prioritize.  

Before we start applying this advice to our lives, we actually have to score that internship or job. With an endless stream of applications flooding HR offices, how do you differentiate yourself? Besides having a personalized application, make sure to send out ‘thank you’ notes. Send them after your interview so you remain a front-runner in the company’s mind. As another tip, consider becoming involved in your community before the interview stage. Volunteer, help out with nonprofits and immerse yourself in the culture of your surroundings. 

Take advantage of every opportunity that comes along. Be involved with your office, and your first year in the public relations industry is sure to be a success.

As a parting thought, one of the questions that was not asked: What is one thing that you wish you knew either during college or after graduating about the field that you know now?

-by Brittany Ray, Regional Conference Social Media Committee Leader 

Brittany Ray was the social media coordinator of the Southeast Regional Conference. Now that it’s over, she is hoping to further her involvement in UA PRSSA. Want to chat? Email her at


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