PR Advanced: conference helps students create personal brands

On February 27, more than 200 college students from Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island came together for the fourth annual Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Regional Conference hosted by Boston University. This year’s theme: Brand Yourself.

Numerous industry professionals flew from all over the country to the conference, held in the Boston University Photonics Building. The day began with a keynote address from Penelope Trunk, founder of Brazen Careerist, and ended with a keynote address by Fiona Morrison, Director of Brand and Advertising at JetBlue. In addition, breakout sessions were lead by representatives from Dunkin’ Donuts, the Boston Red Sox, Come Recommended, Whole Foods and Carrot Creative.

Event co-chairs Rachel Sprung and Chelsea Alexander agreed the best part of the day was the HR Panel. The panel consisted of Kate DiChristopher of Marina Maher Communications, Christopher Gaturu from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Jason Glashow of Fleishman Hillard, and Maggie van der Leeuw of Burson-Marsteller. These four industry experts answered questions from the audience and Tweetdeck on everything from how to build the perfect resume to proper phone etiquette.

During one breakout session, Heather Huhman, president and founder of Come Recommended, shared the importance of building your personal brand online. She discussed how to create an online portfolio and utilize other online tools to get your name out there. Twitter, she said, can be a great tool when used properly. “If you constantly pop up on people’s twitter feeds, you will continue to stay top of mind,” Huhman says.

A career fair followed the conference, featuring representatives from more than 20 companies, including Edelman, Cone, Burson- Marsteller and HubSpot, among others. Conference attendees had an opportunity to walk around and meet the various representatives, an important step in personal branding. According to Sprung, “Networking is so important. Once a professional hears about you, once you brand yourself to them, they’re going to talk. They’re going to talk to their friends.”

Professor Steve Quigley, PRSSA advisor was extremely pleased with the turnout of the fourth annual conference, calling it the “fourth and the finest.” Quigley said, “You’ll go to conferences like this that are a day long and you’ll pay 600, 700, 800, 900 dollars to go. Twenty dollars is what students pay for this thing, and this is every bit as good, in my opinion, as any of the top tier conferences I have been to in my career.”

Former national president of PRSSA, Brandi Boatner, was also impressed by the day’s festivities. “BU is known for hosting really good regional activities. It’s just kind of tradition. You know when they put in the bid it’s going to be something really good, and it’s going to have high attendance. It’s usually going to have really good speakers. I know that you have had high caliber speakers in the past, so I didn’t expect anything less. I came here today and said ‘wow, this is why BU is the best.’”

Students left the conference eager to go out and start creating their personal brands. “Like Penelope Trunk said, you just have to wake up and pick one thing to do each day to develop your brand and I’m going to wake up tomorrow, and that’s what I am going to do,” said Alexander.

To learn more about the PRSSA conference, please visit

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