There was no greater way to complete yet another peacefully gloomy rainy day at Delaware then spending the evening at Main Street’s coziest café. You guessed it – Brew HaHa. What you may not have guessed, though, was that the comfy coffee shop was home to “Night with the Pros” – PRSSA’s yearly networking event. This year’s event, planned by Program Director Allie Kory, was far more intimate than years before as Allie cleverly highlighted the importance of creating relationships in any aspect of public relations. Our members were pampered with indulgent pastries, endless coffee, and all of the couch space imaginable. These luxuries, though, were only the beginning of excellence we would witness that evening.
What could possibly add to the motion picture worthy perfection of the warm-lit coffeehouse? [Enter Christanna Ciabottoni – Senior Account Executive of Skai Blue Media] Christanna arrived with an ambiance of sophistication and exuberance, clad in a trendy pair of jean overalls matched with lace-up heels: the epitome of the PR maiden we have all aspired to be at least once in our lives. With the Devil Wears Prada meets Rachel Green vibe underway, we were joined by our second panelist of the night – Scott Mash, Director of Social Media and Web Services at Christiana Care.
As both Scott and Christanna began sharing their very beginnings of professionalism, we were assured of one thing: “we all have non-linear paths”, as Christanna summarized. She admitted she knew little to nothing about the PR profession in her early years of schooling, while Scott began as a basketball-playing accounting major. Fortunately for the world of PR, neither of their original plans quite worked out. As constantly questioning and stressing and struggling college students, this was incredibly reassuring to hear and an immediate breadth of relief merged with the coffee bean scent filling the room. We all find our path. For Christanna, the path might as well have been draped with luxurious red carpet. She dazzled us with the glamorous perks of her job at Skai Blue Media, including snapchatting Victoria Beckham while sharing an elevator, assisting the launch of her boss’s fashion line ~as an intern~, (a personal dream for Christanna, always interested in pursuing fashion), and attending countless photo shoots in NYC with her noteworthy clients. But, despite the slight jealousy that pinged as she reenacted a real-life experience with Kelly Osbourne (fabulous accent, by the way), members could not look past the fact that Christanna was extremely self-motivated, enthusiastic about her company, dedicated to her clients, and – most importantly – willing to go above and beyond.
A lifetime of PR fantasies fulfilled second hand and the night wasn’t even half way over. What if we cant all take part in the Serena Williams Fashion Show or rock a balayage bob? Scott Nash introduced a facet of the public relations profession we know and love that often goes underrated: health PR. Just how did this former mathlete gain 19 years of public relations experience at Christiana Care? Well, as he explained, it all began with a fax machine (a very dated one, at that). Scott took advantage of his college’s small size and began to build relationships within sports information, eventually inspired to become a communications major thus earning him several internships at his school (home to three Miss Americas, he was sure to point out). Scott, a member of PRSA, began as an agency intern and was quick to catch on to the importance of exceeding expectations. He shared that the idea he is most proud of in all his 27 years in the profession came when he was an intern and resulted in a full time job. An exciting job no less: there is, in fact, glamour in health PR.
As Director of Social Media and Web Services, much of Scott’s work involves social media strategy, mainly consisting of showcasing involvement in the community, strengthening his company’s brand, and costumer relations. He stressed that a lot of his and his company’s efforts are reinvested into the community – perfectly aligning with Scott’s desire to help care for people as inspired by his father, a minister. Scott also pointed out that one of his initiative’s main event involves a non-profit dance-a-thon at the Chase Center on Wilmington’s river front – the Zumba-infused evening basically sells itself. After hearing both extremes of PR professions and their overlapping elements of excitement and spontaneity, PRSSA members took away innumerable advice:
- Have Passion. You’ve got to be passionate about what you do. Working is easy if you “have the energy and mentality and love to do it.”
- Don’t expect a 9 – 5. In this profession, spontaneity is the name of the game (as we witnessed first hand as our third panelist canceled last minute as she had been working with a client until the late hours of the night). As Christanna says, “No two days are the same. My job is not a 9 – 5, its from when my eyes open to when my eyes close and sometimes in my dreams”.
- Go above and beyond. And that means way As both panelists stressed, the interns that really stick out are the ones who are willing to do anything and everything, never wait for a task to be assigned, and are never afraid to share their ideas. Christanna began at Skai Blue as an intern at age 24 and she was not letting her dream company go. She asserted herself onto staff like a full time employee, offering to do any job and attending client meetings, interviews, and events. For Scott, it’s about time to revisit that fax machine. Although he was only an intern, he wasn’t afraid to sell his ideas even though most think that is not an intern’s place. *Note: Both Christanna and Scott emphasized the distinct difference between confidence and drive to succeed, and arrogance and entitlement. Basically, “get in good with a company and make yourself a resource so they can’t let you go”.
- Build relationships with those you work for and with not because its part of your job, but because you want We know, we know – networking is everything. But instead of sending an “I’m just following up…” email, pick up the phone and invite them for coffee (might I suggest Brew HaHa?). Relationships between PR professionals, clients, and even journalists don’t have to be one-sided. Find a way to make it mutually beneficial. Remember: “Everyone is a contact, no matter who they are”.
- Build your personal brand, but don’t focus everything on it. As our professionals warned, “you have to have the skills and be able to back up what you’re putting out there”. Be authentic and don’t spend too much time labeling yourself. Even if you’re the CEO of your own company, keep making those t-shirts in your basement in whatever free time you have, if that’s what you love to do. But don’t forget to also in your free time “stay in touch and be genuine about it”.
- Perhaps most importantly, our panelists answered the long awaited question: how do I maximize my time in college? Their response ranged from an array of invaluable tips including, “don’t think inside the box of your major, learn how to do a variety of things” and “its never too soon to start thinking about internships” and “do a lot of reading and writing” (know who you’re working for, let them know you’ve been keeping up to date with their work), and finally “find a mentor!” For Christanna, her mentor was her best friend.
And with that, the night had come to an enlightening end, and our minds were swelled with excitement and inspiration for our futures. According to Christanna and Scott – who both survived job searches during the recession of 2010 – all it takes is enormous passion, a willingness to surpass expectations, an innate desire to meet new people, and authenticity. (And sometimes even that one more pastry for the road!)
Thank you to our phenomenal panelists:
Senior Account Executive
Skai Blue Media
Scott M. Mash
Director of Social Media and Web Services
Contribution By: Kara North
Kara North is a sophomore Communications Interest major and Writing minor. She currently serves as PRSSA-UD’s Operations Director, and is a Social Media and Marketing Ambassador for the Blue Hen Leadership Program. She can also be found behind the camera on Hens Sports Night for STN49 or up in the press box tweeting for @DelawareBASE. Connect with her on Twitter @KaraRNorth and LinkedIn.