On November 5, PRLab hosted a guest panel featuring public relations practitioners who are also PRLab alumni.
The guest panel provided an insider’s take on the various aspects of the public relations and communications industry.
PRLab is the nation’s longest-operating student-run public relations agency. It is an award-winning agency that provides Boston University students with practical public relations knowledge, training, and experience. The agency has received multiple awards, including but not limited to: 2018 Agency Elite Winner for Best Training/Education Program, 2018 PR Daily Media Relations Award for Cause Marketing Campaign, and 2018 Bronze Bell Ringer Award for Cause Marketing Campaign in honor of PRLab’s PRoBono 2017.
Each panelist at the event chose a different career path in the world of communication, making the panel diverse and representative.
Panelists included Leah Ellner, media planner for Groupe Connect; Monique Derico, account executive for Influence Central; Paige DiToppa, account coordinator for Corporate Ink; Emma Marshall, assistant account executive for C+C; and Stephanie Epstein, senior account executive for SHIFT Communications.
“Our motivation is to show students how applicable their PRLab experience is to the real world of communications,” Professor Amy Shanler, PRLab’s co-faculty advisor, said. “Our purpose was to show the broad range of career opportunities available to students from generalist and traditional PR agencies to a specialist, like influencers to an ad agency.”
The panel discussion started with the panelists introducing themselves, giving short descriptions about the firms for they worked and about their positions. They then went on to discuss a variety of topics, including challenging campaigns and clients, how to maintain healthy client relationships, the demanding nature of the industry, and how experience from PRLab helped them in their careers.
While speaking about challenging clients and campaigns, Derico emphasized the importance of client service and how it helps to retain business with a story about her own client experience. She also explained the importance of empathizing and compromising with your client to achieve an objective.
Ellner spoke about communicating with clients. “Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone,” she said. “Email is good, but sometimes, things can get misconstrued in email. You can have a quicker, easier conversation if you just pick up the phone.” Ellner has dealt with many situations that could have gone awry by using this method.
DiToppa made a valuable point about knowing what clients want before they know they want it. She stressed the importance of in-depth research and the habit of keeping up with relevant industry updates. She also acknowledged that though it can be difficult to be two steps ahead of a client, it is well worth it in the end.
When it came to discussing daily routines, Epstein chimed in.
“Reading the news; if you read the news for two hours of your day, that is time well spent,” Epstein said. “It allows you to keep an eye on the trends [and find] new reporters you should be reaching out to.” She also said that she spends 75 percent of her week doing media relations and related activities.
Marshall provided insight about her experience with a PR agency. She emphasized that PR professionals will always have to be proactive and take on new tasks because of potential shifts in employee structure. Transitions and changes, although unforeseen, are very common in an agency setting, and it is necessary to always be prepared.
The discussion garnered positive reactions from the students.
“A lot of my questions surrounded how to make that jump from where I am now to where I want to be because that can be confusing to navigate,” communications student Amrit Gill said. “So, I think the biggest thing for me was seeing how other people did it and seeing how maybe I can emulate that for my career.”
After the panel came the opportunity to network with the panelists. This provided the PRLab members with the opportunity to have one-on-one discussions and to hold conversations about specific topics.
“I had the chance to speak with Stephanie Epstein, and it was really great to learn a bit more about the culture there [SHIFT Communications] and her work,” Olivia Zed, a public relations graduate student, said. “It was great to talk with them one on one outside of the panel.”
“It’s inspiring to see how PRLab has informed these panelists’ careers,” Katie Chiffer, PRLab’s president of operations, said. “This agency panel is an example of the unparalleled networking and professional development opportunities PRLab affords its student staff members and its executive board members.”
Prachi Kabir, Staff Writer
Prachi is a Communication Studies graduate student from India who believes good research is more exhilarating than a good read. Needless to say, she is an avid reader, wannabe wine aficionado, professional daydreamer and hopeful to make a career in PR. Apart from reading, she loves sleeping and eating in no particular order.