BY: ROSALIE BASEMAN
On November 6th, 2018, I had the pleasure of hosting the annual Night with Pros event on behalf of PRSSA’s University of Delaware chapter. This event is an evening that is highly anticipated each year, as it gives our members a chance to learn from and interact with experience professionals, and a chance for them to give back to the next generation of those aspiring to work in the field of public relations.
This year we had a panel of five professionals joining us : Mary Ellen Payne, Erin Donovan, Jaimi Blackburn, Michele Besso, and Lauren Mancini, all of whom are alumnae of University of Delaware and who were very excited to return to their alma mater. With careers in industries ranging from telecommunications, environmental concerns, and health, to the arts, hospitality, and retail, our panel members were able to offer a broad scope of experience and knowledge.
After brief introductions, the panel opened with a discussion of how PRSSA and PRSA has shaped their career in public relations. While the student chapter was not yet founded at the time when some members attended University of Delaware, they all emphasized the tangible significance of being a part of a professional organization such as PRSA to make connections between other public relations experts, not only to network for clients and projects, but also to advance in their understanding of the field – especially as it rapidly changes.
The diverse experiences of our panel members allowed for extensive and engaging discussions of various topics as they relate to public relations. Some of our panel members started their careers before the dawn of social media, while for others, digital media relations was immediately part of their job. We were therefore able to discuss their experiences in the transition from traditional to digital media, and the challenges (and benefits) that come with it. Michele and Jaimi initially worked as news reporters, so they gave our members the inside scoop and advice on how best to pitch a story and how to effectively communicate with reporters to make their jobs easier – which would ultimately benefit the client if their story got covered. Jaimi and Erin both opened their own public relations firms and they shared with us the importance of networking in order to build and maintain a client base, as well as advantage of working independently and having control over projects and management. Another topic that was discussed was the difference between in-house versus agency public relations; Mary Ellen was able to speak to the opportunity of watching a large brand such as Verizon Communications grow and adapt itself over an extended period of time, all while maintaining its image and identity, and Lauren discussed her appreciation of the many different fields and industries that she gets to work on, even as a small agency such as Tipton Communications.
The panel members fielded questions from the member audience, and they all stressed the importance of having an internship experience, especially to get hands-on work in the field that will aid young professionals in their skill and understanding of public relations. After the panel discussion, we opened the floor so that PRSSA members could have a chance to converse directly with the panel speakers and further their connections. Altogether, the night was a success, and we look forward to more excellent Night with the Pros in the coming years!