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What I learned from Illinois State PRSSA

Me with some of my new friends at Illinois State University.

Me with some of my new friends at Illinois State University.

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.

 

 

JourneyCast Podcast w/ Ben Butler

Late last spring, I had the chance to first chat with Ben Butler over Twitter. As we got to talking, I realized how incredibly prepared and focused he was. Ben interviewed me for his blog and we finally got to meet in person in October at the PRSSA National Conference. 

In this edition of the JourneyCast, I chatted with Ben about his start in PR, why he decided on a solo PR career, and what drives him every day.

The JourneyCast with Top Hat IMC’s Ben Butler

On your phone or tablet? Download the podcast on iTunes!

Ben Butler

Ben Butler

Guest Post: A Mentor That’s a “Grand Slam”

[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.

mentorEnter 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 industrySpeaking 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’ careersLitwin 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.

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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. 

Improving Yourself as a PR/Social Media Pro

When it comes down to it, we don’t know everything (Captain Obvious statement). From time to time, we are challenged with strategies, tactics, and platforms that are new to us. So what do you do? While this may sound like an easy enough answer, finding trusted pros and avenues to get educated (or re-educated), can be tough.

improving who you areWhen I first started out in public relations, most of what I learned had to be self-taught. Even as I ventured into social media, much of the knowledge came from a little trial-and-error. As PR, marketing, and social media continue to evolve, we must do the same. I always quote friend and colleague Stephanie Florence and her “Student Always” mantra.  We can never stop learning; it is the only way to improve. I compare it to a baseball player taking extra batting practice or looking at game film.

Here are a few ways to continue to grow, whether you are a new or experienced pro.

  • Find pros that are learners, not Jedis– I’ve always appreciated pros that share what they’ve learned. They don’t tell you what you should know, they tell you what they continue to learn. People like Amber Naslund, Deirdre Breakenridge, Kirk Hazlett, and Chuck Hemann. They are always sharing what they’ve learned over the years, but they also soak up new ideas every day. It’s something to emulate.
  • Personal audit/SWOT analysis– This is something I started to do with students earlier this month. A personal audit can be valuable in getting yourself to take a critical look at your career. I do them every quarter to see if I’ve slipped, gotten better, or plateaued. The SWOT analysis is something I love to do. It forces you to pick out your weaknesses. But, it also shows where you may be missing the boat on something. Try it!
  • Twitter Chats- If you are on Twitter, it’s a good bet you’ve taken part in one or more since you’ve first signed on. What you may not realize is that these aren’t just chats, but virtual classrooms of learning. Whether it’s #PRStudChat, #CMGRChat, #NPPRSA, or #BrandChat, these gatherings of students and pros can be an invaluable tool to you. I’ve participated in all of these chats above and each time I do, I come away with something I can apply to my business and/or clients.
  • Lean on organizations like PRSA/PRSSA- Both have incredibly valuable opportunities to grow as a professional. If you can’t make it to a national conference, make sure to go through the websites and see what is being offered. PRSA national has a solid slate of webinars/events and PRSSA’s Progressions blog is a perfect mix of student and professional advice.  Your local PRSA chapter is also a great tool. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Social Media Club. They have many outstanding roundtable events that help to push the learning envelope.

If you don’t learn something new from the above, let me know where you are learning and how you are becoming a better pro.

Let me be your CEO of You coach!

I want to make your personal brand great!

I want to make your personal brand great!

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.

Tuesday Tip: My Thanks to YOU!

This has been a wonderful year. One of growth, success, and honors. But, it would not have been possible without YOU. So, as I make my last post of 2013, accept my thanks for a year I won’t forget.

THANK YOU, ALL!

The Passion Principle

One of the many points that I mentioned during my CEO of You talk on Oct. 26 in Philadelphia was that you have to have passion to make your personal brand work. If you are nonchalant or ambivalent, it will show in your brand. You have the opportunity to be great, so why not jump at the chance to do so.

1420035_820830198011_132505009_nMy daughter celebrated her 7th birthday this week and we ordered cookies from a new cupcake shop in our area, Prohaska’s Oh, Sugar. We had never tried them out, but their Facebook page showed that the products looked pretty awesome. When I went to pick up the cookies for my daughter’s class party, Jeanette, the owner, was there. In talking to her, I immediately saw just how much she enjoyed what she was doing. The passion showed in her products and as well as in her demeanor. You could hear how passionate Jeanette was about making her business a success and, by the looks of the comments on her Facebook page, it’s working.

What this little trip to a cupcake shop continued to prove to me is that passion is the center of all success. Whether you have a business of one person or 100,000, if you don’t have the drive for what you do, you might as well not do it at all.

At some point in our lives, we lose a little bit of that passion. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. But, it’s up to you to find a way to get it back. During PRSSA’s National Conference, I mentioned a number of times how much being there really energized me. The energy of the speakers and students re-ignited my passion for public relations and being a better professional.

Ask yourself these two things if you feel like you are starting to lose your passion: What can I do to improve myself/my career? What is the one thing that I truly enjoy about my life? If you can find one answer for each question, your passion principle can be fulfilled. While you may have an “A-ha Moment” in your life, you essentially have to have the passion to move forward. Life without passion is not great. It’s flat. But, life with passion opens up a completely different way of looking at how you want to succeed.

To paraphrase Robert F. Kennedy, some people go through life and ask why? I chose to see things that never were and ask why not? Ask why not… because your passion will emerge and take you to great things.

What is your passion principle? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

PRSSANC and Making a Difference

Photo credit: Sarenna Lawson (@SarennaMarieL)

Photo credit: Sarenna Lawson (@SarennaMarieL)

A week ago today, I left for Philadelphia, Pa. and the 2013 Public Relations Student Society of America’s National Conference (PRSSANC). The buzz leading up to the event was incredible and the energy that filled the Loews Philadelphia Hotel was infectious.

I had the honor and pleasure of presenting “CEO of You: Creating Your Personal Brand.” To say I was blown away by the response before, during and after the talk, is a vast understatement. You could see the passion in the tweets and questions. I meant what I said on Oct. 26, “America runs on Dunkin’? No, America runs on PRSSA!”

After talking to students afterwards about personal branding, I realized one simple thing: In our lives, PR can make a huge difference. Why? Because it’s in our power as students, new pros and seasoned pros to do so.

I stressed in my talk about being great. That wasn’t something I just said to sound cool. I meant it. We all have the power to shape lives by being great. Your personal brand is an extension of you on social networks, websites and in personal interactions.

Would you seek advice from someone who is average, or below average, or would you ask advice or guidance from someone who has shown they can be great at something? If you want to be the best, you listen to the ones that have achieved something more, something greater. Your personal brand can make a difference to those around you.

If you took anything from my talk at PRSSANC, I would hope it would be that you have the power to make your personal brand great and be the CEO of You. Your brand may be good now, but you can make it greater for the future. In turn, you can make a difference in the lives of fellow students, new pros, and experienced pros.

After all, PRSSANC inspired me to want to be something more than I am right now. I want to make a difference for my clients, my business, and YOU. Let’s do this together!

Personal Audits and Your Brand

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.

The CEO of You

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!