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USU hosts 4th annual regional public relations conference

February 26th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Allie Jeppson

LOGAN—Public relations students and professionals will discuss “Putting the PR in Professional” this week during the 4th annual Mountain West PR Conference, sponsored by Vivint Inc. and the USU JCOM Department, as students, faculty, professionals and sponsors come together at the USU Eccles Conference Center March 1-3.

Hosted by the JCOM Department’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and underwritten by a $10,000 donation by Vivint, a Utah-based home security and automation company, this year’s regional conference will feature speakers from across the country, including three PR professionals from New York, a former NASA public relations practitioner, and representatives of several companies.

Workshops and speakers will focus on topics including business, marketing, speech communication, and social media will all be covered, says conference chair Jackie Berryhill, a JCOM senior. “There’s a little bit of everything for everyone.”

PR major Rob Goates, PRSSA’s treasurer, agreed. “I think all subjects relate to public relations. Obviously, this is an event catered towards public relations students, but everybody is welcome.”

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One benefit for students is the opportunity to meet with professionals, gain advice, and network with possible employers.

“We want to open doors for students,” PRSSA President Zach Bosh said. “We want to give them opportunities for building relationships with professionals that could turn into jobs or internships.”

PRSSA’s faculty adviser predicts this fourth regional PRSSA conference will build on past successes for the student PR group. “We’ve got much better speakers, much better sponsorship and better student and professional support,” PR instructor Preston Parker said.

Speakers include JCOM alumnus Jake Moon, co-founder and vice president of Method Communications in Salt Lake City, Vivint vice president Kristi Knight, Chris Thomas of Intrepid Hybrid Communications, JCOM grads Nile Easton, director of communications for the Utah Department of Transportation, and Trina Patterson, director of communications at ATK, which builds rocket boosters for NASA. Click here for the full conference schedule.

“Even as students, our people are already crowding some of the best media professionals in Utah, and this conference is one example of that,” said JCOM Department Head Ted Pease.

The goal of the conference is to bring students and professionals together, he said.

“For our students, it’s great to be able to compare notes with students from other campuses and with PR professionals,” he said. “For the professionals—especially Aggie alumni—it’s a chance to come back to campus and see what our students are doing.”

“Some of these conversations in-between sessions turn into careers,” he said. “That’s a win-win.”

The conference will include a series of panels and workshops over two days, a Q&A panel of USU JCOM alumni, a social media workshop, and a number of networking sessions with conference sponsors.

But students aren’t the only one’s who benefit. Sponsors also use this event to their advantage.

“The JCOM department as a whole is being recognized as producing high quality . . . graduates that are ready to go out in the work force even before they graduate,” Parker said. “So the professionals see this as an opportunity to get their name out there to get the quality students.”

While this can simplify the hiring process, sponsors also receive their own information about implementing successful public relations.

Many small businesses don’t have the means to go out and hire big PR agencies, said Tamara Watson of Utah’s Own, a company specializing in marketing Utah products, from honey to apple beer.

“So what we do is we get involved in this conference and learn about things, then pass it on to different companies,” Watson said.

For the conference’s primary sponsor, Vivint Inc.—one of the largest home automation companies in North America—the conference helps to get their name heard, and helps them grow new communication professionals.

“As much as we can get our name out there and interact, get our faces in front of people, the better,” said Vivint sales manager Trevor Maddox. “We love putting on this event.”

Last year’s regional PRSSA conference attracted about 100 students and professions. Organizers hope for a bigger turnout this year.

The conference costs $20 for PRSSA members, $35 for non-PRSSA students, and $90  for PR professionals

“We wanted to make it affordable to students,” Berryhill said. “For a wonderful conference, those are screaming prices.”

Organizers say the conferences is a great professional and educational opportunity for students and professionals alike.

“This is the greatest public relations event in the state of Utah for any collegiate student, ever,” Goates said.

For more information, visit the JCOM department’s PRSSA Mountain West Regional PR Conference website.



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