A few weeks ago, I was absolutely thrilled to visit the campus of Illinois State University and it’s nationally recognized PRSSA chapter. The visit was part of “March Brandness,” an extension of my CEO of You talks I’ve held via Skype and at various conferences.
This talk wasn’t something that was thrown together by ISU PRSSA, it was months in planning. It started back in December of 2013, when Hailey Lanier reached out, followed by Marrison Worthington, the chapter’s president and vice president, respectfully. After Skyping in to a chapter meeting (and getting jealous about the Jimmy John’s they were eating), I was able to see why they have been recognized as an award-winning group. When it was finally time for my visit, I was treated to, frankly, some of the more professional students and future pros I’ve ever met.
Here are three things I, ultimately, learned from my visit and being a Redbird for a day.
Proper Planning- From the moment I gave the thumbs up to visiting the campus, ISU PRSSA shared ideas on promoting the talk via email, Skype, and phone conversations. Planning is a key component of any successful event. If you haven’t planned for every possible contingency, something will go wrong. In this case, chapter leadership thought of everything. From transportation to campus visits, ISU PRSSA even gave me an itinerary of what the day would look like from the minute I landed to the day I left.
The Value of Mentors- One my first stops on campus was Fell Hall (the mecca of ISU’s Communications program). It was there I was introduced to, among others, Dr. Pete Smudde and Tom Lamonica. After talking to both gentlemen, I realized why the students held them in such high regard. They have taken a vested interest in the education and development of these students. They have helped to shape the future careers of many of the chapter members. Both also stressed the importance of the March Brandness event. Every student needs a mentor to give them support, honesty, and advice when necessary.
Show Off Your Surroundings- When I landed, I was greeted by Marrison and Hailey at the airport. Both ladies gave me the lowdown on Normal, Ill., including what businesses were based there, as well as a great understanding of the ISU campus. I was given a great tour by both ladies and then was joined by Ali Seys, who discussed the unique food truck, Two Blokes and a Bus. From there I was treated to lunch at the Pub II’s, with its outstanding cheese balls (and members of the e-board) and Sugar Mama Bakery’s delicious cupcakes. I felt as if I had been to campus and surrounding Normal before, thanks to how well the group educated me and helped me understand this great area. It also proved to me that working and living in a town or city is more than just saying, “I live in XX.” You should know as much as possible about your surroundings. It could come in very handy.
Ultimately, this trip also proved to me how outstanding PRSSA is. I’ve spoken to many chapters and students over the years; I have never, ever been disappointed in the passion, drive, and dedication each of these student show. Case in point, on April 9, it was announced that Illinois State’s PRSSA chapter was awarded a Pacersetter for the month of March 2014 from PRSSA National because of how well March Brandness went. I could not be more proud to have been part of such a great event with great people.
Big thanks also go to Ryan Smart, Melissa Fortes, Abby Brennan, Shelby Ray, and the many other great members that made this trip so memorable!
Learn more about Illinois State’s PRSSA Chapter by checking out their website.
[Jas’ note: I first met Corinthea Harris via Twitter and noticed she was at Rowan University. We then chatted at last October’s PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. It turned out we had something in common (aside from being from South Jersey): A great mentor.]
After a whirlwind year – having three internships, trying my hand at being an RA, resigning from the RA position to take a career opportunity, realizing I graduate in May and so much more – and when I say what I’ve accomplished out loud, I sometimes ask myself how someone so tiny could handle such a large work load? How did I possibly handle everything on my plate at one time?
The answer: my grand-slam mentor.
Enter Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA. Litwin acted as a teacher and mentor, won various public relations (PR) counselor and broadcast journalist awards, owned and operated Hello, Sports Fans!, umpired numerous baseball games and – most importantly – acted as a life coach to me and many other students and professionals.
I say grand-slam mentor and life coach because Litwin constantly went above and beyond. To prove it, I developed the following list of ways he helped me and others:
1. Available 24-7, like a true PR pro. No matter the task, Litwin had an ever-revolving door and inbox. He made time for his students in his office and answered emails even when he really didn’t have two seconds to spare.
2. Listened. Until Litwin, I hadn’t met a person who actually actively listened. He didn’t drop the conversation after you said what you had to say. Instead, he asked questions to figure out the next appropriate step. (And he had this ability to make you feel as though you were a top priority.)
3. Researched. Once he figured out what you wanted or needed, he would take you through a force-field analysis to ensure you made the best possible decision.
5. Stayed on top, if not ahead, of the industry. Speaking of research, Litwin kept up with the latest trends and best practices in the ever-changing strategic communication industry.
6. Taught real-world lessons. Litwin’s career accomplishments helped him teach real-world lessons in the class room and in advisement sessions. And he shared any new industry information he learned instantly. (Also, he wrote a book that acts as a go-to resource for many strategic communication professionals.)
7. Advanced students’ careers. Litwin cared more about others than he did about himself. He constantly put others first and did whatever he had to do. With this mentality, you could put money on the fact that he had plenty of connections to various public relations professionals – which he selflessly shared with students to advance their careers.
Seven may not seem like enough reasons to proclaim someone’s record-breaking personality, but I can’t simply put into words the countless things Litwin did for me and other students – leaving a lasting impression.
And since Litwin advocated for baseball and sports, I figured my “grand-slam mentor” metaphor remained appropriate.
He definitely helped me navigate the bases of my college career, pre-professional career and sometimes my personal life. He truly umpired my life and helped me build my personal brand, so that I would have the confidence in myself to one day hit a home run on my own.
I will never have enough at-bat opportunities (words) to possibly hit enough home runs (thank yous) to repay him for everything he taught me. I can only hope other people have a chance to score a mentor like Litwin.
Corinthea Harris is senior at Rowan University. She will graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in public relations and advertising. Currently, she is the Global Communications Intern at Campbell Soup Company.
Over the last four months, the CEO of You series has taken off even more than I expected. The apex was appearing at the PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia last October. The response from the students in attendance and on social media was frankly overwhelming and flattering.
In the weeks following, I had time to think about how CEO of You would move forward. I’ve talked with a number of students since October, whether it be over social networks, Skype, or email. The one thing that kept echoing in my mind was: “I need to do more.” But what would that “more” be? I have the answer.
Starting today, I’m happy to announce that I am offering one-hour personal branding sessions for students and new professionals, on an individual basis, for FREE. During these sessions , I will do everything I discuss in my talks: Do a personal SWOT analysis and personal audit on you and your brand, as it appears right now. We’ll then discuss your understanding what your brand is. And, yes, when I say this is free, I mean it is FREE.
So why am I doing this? It’s simple… I love what I do as a professional and I’m passionate about personal branding. And I want to help you have a passionate, energetic, and professional brand.
Let’s work together and make you the CEO of YOU! Reach out to me at Jason.R.Mollica-at-gmail-dot-com.
On Oct. 26, I’ll be speaking at PRSSA’s National Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. (Cue the Rocky theme!) It’s an incredible honor to be back in the city where I got my degree (#TempleMade) and my first job.
The title of the talk is “The CEO of You,” which focuses on personal branding. Whether you are a freshman, graduating senior or new professional, your brand online is extremely important. Here is my latest Thursday Thought on doing a personal audit as part of your brand.
How are you checking yourself weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Let me know in the comments.
I’m beyond excited to be traveling to Philadelphia in a few weeks to be part of PRSSA’s National Conference. Not only will I be visiting the city I got my start in, professionally, I’m also getting a chance to share something I’m passionate about: Personal Branding. The title of my talk is, “The CEO of You.” In this video, I explain a little of what PRSSA members can expect in the talk and what you can expect in the days leading up to this.
Let me know your thoughts and I hope to see you in Philly!