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USU alumni, professionals on campus for 3-day regional PR conference

March 18th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Allie Jeppson

LOGAN—Students are rarely encouraged to spend time and effort on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but public relations professionals at the Fourth Annual Mountain West PR conference emphasized that social media have become and important tool.

The three-day conference, sponsored by the Department of Journalism & Communication and its Public Relations Students Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, drew a variety of professionals and students. Marketing, public relations, technology and non-profit professionals were all present, and though their jobs are different, each understands and shared the important role that social media plays in the business world and public relations. The conference was underwritten by a $10,000 donation from Utah-based Vivint, a home security company.

“The Internet is how we find out a lot about new businesses,” technology entrepreneur and conference speaker Amanda Peyton said. “As the social web grows, it will be a really, really, important tool in terms of discovery of businesses and new products.”

Sarah Reale, a JCOM alumna and social media coordinator at Salt Lake Community College, said social media are still a relatively new tool, and businesses are just beginning to take advantage of online capabilities.

A former USU PR & Marketing staff member until 2009, Reale said social media wasn’t part of the PR mix when she was working at USU. “When I started, no one in the entire office knew about Facebook or Twitter,” Reale said. “Now I’m trying to convince people that they need to have a strategy behind it.”

Many conference speakers noted that social media strategy consists of making a personal connection and creating interesting, quality content that engages people.

Mallory Blair, co-founder of the New York firm, Small Girls PR, shared with students a few rules for online engagement. Each social media interaction should be kept authentic and include listening, sharing, giving, playing and teaching, Blair said.

“We try to treat social applications as you would treat a friendship,” Blair said, “because every brand has skills.”

However, successful public relations is not only about interaction, said S. Max Brown, vice-president at Rideau Recognition Solutions. Public relations also includes what is said through social media

“The only thing that we put out there is quality content,” Brown said. “Connecting today is about dialogue.”

Brown explained that in order to be effective in social media, 90 percent of one’s time should be spent talking about others and building up them and their products.

By using social media in innovative ways, you can build the public relations into the product in ways that will get people to talk about it. “This helps to tell stories that people want to read about,” Peyton said.

Another important skill addressed at the conference is being able to adapt to change, said JCOM alumnus Jake Neeley, social media marketing manager at UK2 group.

“Things have changed a lot since [I graduated] and two years from when you graduate things will change even more,” Neeley said. “What you’re learning now won’t be as relevant in two years.”

Brianne Olsen, another USU alumnus and public involvement project associate at The Langdon Group, a Salt Lake PR and public engagement agency, agreed.

“My lesson in social media has been to learn as I go,” Olsen said. “I’m not an expert in Twitter or social media campaigning, but I feel like it is such an important component to our industry that you have to be on trend with what’s going on.”

With over 25 speakers, conference attendees were able to learn through multiple speeches, social media workshops and professional development and networking sessions.

“[The conference] was very effective because they had spokespeople that better related to our age,” PR junior Drew Van Dyke said. “I felt like the topics were kept current and pressing issues that PR people need to be concerned with now.”

For PR majors Danielle Parker and Jackie Berryhill, the PR conference chair, the conference was motivating.

“I’m way behind,” Parker said. “It motivated me to get on it and be productive.”

“The learning experience has been unbelievable,” Berryhill added. “It gives me a lot of motivation.”

Community professionals who attended the conference felt the same way.

“Everyone had a different story to tell,” said Carolee McMullin, owner of Adornit Carolee’s Creations in North Logan. “It gave us a different perspective of different items that we could incorporate into our business.”

Overall, the conference proved successful, said PRSSA Treasurer Rob Goates.

“I thought this was going to be a great conference,” Goates said. “It went above and beyond that in my opinion.”

With the best feedback since it began four years ago, the conference succeeded in engaging attendees from many diverse angles, said PRSSA adviser Preston Parker.

“You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t come to this conference,” Parker said. “This is an entire semester’s worth of information in three days.”


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  1. One Response to “USU alumni, professionals on campus for 3-day regional PR conference”

  2. By Diantha Leavitt on Mar 19, 2012

    Wow. This conference sounds incredible. I totally want to come next year. Thanks for sharing.

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