PR Career Success: Four Rules to Live By

By Christine Pietryla, Senior Vice President at Walker Sands

In September, I had the pleasure of speaking with PRSSA members at my alma mater, University of Florida. During my presentation, I shared what a typical day as a PR executive looks like as well as some advice about starting and advancing your career in public relations.

While there are no shortcuts to a successful career in PR, I did share a few important tips that will help you thrive in your career and achieve your personal milestones.


Read Every Day

My day always starts with reading. Read early and often – everything from books to articles to blogs to social media posts. During interviews, I ask candidates to describe what and how often they read. Why? Because reading and staying informed are important for helping you speak intelligently about current trends and events in the course of everyday PR interactions.

Stay Focused on the Big Picture

It’s important to establish your long-term goals early in your career, and understand why you are choosing that path. I’m not expecting you to have all of the answers at first, but you should have a clear sense about where you want to be ten years down the line. You have to know your destination before you can determine how to get there. Otherwise, you may be disappointed when its feels like your career lacks purpose later on.

Advocate for Yourself

Being your own best advocate is a fundamental part of achieving your professional goals. But many young professionals take a misdirected or passive approach when it comes to advocating for themselves and their careers—and that’s a big mistake when it comes to career advancement.

Young people must get past the misconception that just because they are young, they can’t add value in a conversation with their more senior colleagues. Individuals who recognize the value in their experienced colleagues and communicate their ideas intelligently will shine, regardless of age or seniority.

Build Your Personal Brand on Social Media

Often, recent college grads delete their social media profiles when they are job hunting. This is a misguided and potentially harmful decision. Instead, young PR pros should be present on social media and use it to build valuable connections during a job search.

Don’t get me wrong … you should definitely take down those questionable photos that depict you doing Jello shots at your fraternity kegger. But don’t be afraid to show off your personality with photos of you and your friends going out to dinner or doing other fun activities.

At the end of the day, be yourself and remember that good PR is about hustle, hard work and dedication. If you focus on doing your best, being confident in your abilities and staying curious, you can set yourself up for a successful PR career.

Follow Christine on Twitter @cpietryla

UF PRSSA does nonprofit PR with UF Donate Life

By Savanna Wood, UF PRSSA memberImage

UF Donate Life is a college branch of the statewide nonprofit organization Donate Life Florida, which aims to saving and enhancing lives through the promotion of organ and tissue donation. The main purpose of the UF organization is to encourage UF students and Gainesville residents to sign up for the online organ and tissue registry. UF PRSSA's University Service Committee provides UF Donate Life with its public relations and communications services.

ImageThe committee plans and executes a yearlong campaign with the organization in oder to achieve its purpose. Members who are a part of the committee draft press releases, compile media kits and launch grassroots marketing campaigns for UF Donate Life on campus.


According to Donate Life Florida, there are roughly 7 million registrants as of October 2013. More than 4,500 Florida residents need organ transplants. No one is ever too old to sign up to be a donor, and every registrant can make a difference. Someone loses a loved one every day because of the organ and tissue shortage, but the passing of an organ donor can bring a positive light by saving the life of someone in need of a transplant. UF PRSSA and UF Donate Life are helping to make a difference.


UF PRSSA University Service Directory Barbara Dimajo oversees the committee and works exclusively with UF Donate Life to help expand the organization. Her committee helps with branding and events around campus.

“This year we have set a goal of 100 organ donor sign-ups each semester,” said Dimajo.

This goal is higher than last year’s, but Dimajo is confident in her team’s abilities.  The committee also helps in the planning of UF Donate Life’s most important event at the end of the year.

The biggest event UF Donate Life puts on every year is Life-A-Palooza, which takes place in April during Organ Donor Awareness Month, is a night filled with food, giveaways and musical performances. Dimajo said the organization also brings in speakers ranging from organ recipients, to organ donors’ families and others who fight for the cause.


Being involved with UF Donate Life can be very beneficial. Dimajo said that working in public service public relations, like she does with UF Donate Life, is a great way to help prepare her to work in the government sector after graduation.

Visit Donate Life Florida to register as an organ donor. When asked how you learned of the organization, please make sure to choose “College Campaign” and then “UF” from the drop-down menu.

For more information on UF Donate Life and how to join the University Service Committee, please email Barbara Dimajo at

North Florida PRSA Luncheon Experience


By Jessica Albert, UF PRSSA Member PRVille

I had the opportunity to “Meet the Media” at a luncheon with the North Florida PRSA chapter in Jacksonville on Wednesday Oct. 16. Our parent chapter invited leading people in the media so practitioners could develop contacts with the people that they could potentially pitch ideas to for their clients.

The event was extremely beneficial to me as a public relations senior because I was able to see how I could connect with local media in my career. I gained valuable insight and was able to network with local professionals who actually practice the skills I’m learning about.

During the session, I heard a number of ways the media likes to receive pitch ideas and how we could effectively send out press releases.  Public relations is such a diverse field that we as future practitioners should prepare to expect almost anything.

After graduating, I would strongly consider joining a chapter of PRSA. The meetings are usually scheduled once a month, and the networking opportunities are truly amazing. Just at the one luncheon I met so many interesting people and talked with fellow Gators. I heard personal experiences and found that my public relations degree can take me anywhere.

Facebook to Launch Social Search Engine

     Suppose you’re in New York City for a job interview, and you’ve never been there before. You’ll only be there one night, and you want to find somewhere nice to eat during your visit. With more than 4,200 restaurants to choose from, how do you decide where to go?
     Before the Internet existed, you could talk to friends and family for references on where to dine. Now, you can simply search “restaurants in New York City” on Google to find a destination. If you wish to further investigate your restaurant choice, you can even read restaurant reviews on sites like Yelp, Zagat or Urbanspoon.
     Facebook’s Graph Search, announced Jan. 15, will soon offer another yet another option.
     Graph Search is a search engine that gathers results for users based on their friends’ likes, photos, check-ins and more. It combines the ease of an Internet search with the unique make-up of a person’s social network to provide instant results to a search as specific as: “restaurants my friends have been to in New York City.”
     Facebook presents Graph Search as an important addition to its website, labeling it as the “third pillar” next to its Newsfeed and Timeline. If Graph Search is as big a deal as anticipated, businesses may have to adapt their branding strategy on Facebook.
     According to an article in The Huffington Post, Graph Search has the potential to cause brands with multiple locations to find their Facebook strategy “turned on its head.” Corporate pages will decrease in value because Graph Search is geared to provide practical, nearby results, which increases the influence of local pages.
     Graph Search is being tested for user feedback so it can be refined before its release to the general public. It will initially offer basic search categories such as people, photos, places and business pages, and it will be continuously adapted to include more.
By: Rachel Stephens, University of Florida PRSSA Communications Committee 

2012 PRSSA National Conference in San Francisco: Bridging the Gap

 This year PRSSA held its National Conference in San Francisco with the motto “Bridging the Gap.” The whole point was to bridge the gap between pre-professionals in public relations and others who are already working in the industry. Needless to say, the 2012 National Conference did that – and so much more for me.
       The first day of sessions started off with Timothy Jordan, a senior developer advocate for Google, as the keynote speaker. His speech gave insight into what the future of online communication can be and why it’s important to use online tools to promote business while still maintaining a close connection with friends.

     After this, it was time for roll call of all the attending PRSSA chapters. While standing on ballroom chairs, UF PRSSA did a cheer and gator chomped, finally finishing it all off by Tebowing. That’s one of the great things I noticed about going to National Conference: it brings your chapter together and you learn to support each other.
     The fantastic thing about how conference works? There are several sessions at a time and you get to choose to go to the ones that best fit your interests and curiosities. Oh boy, was I glad I chose to go to Media Training featuring President and CEO Trahan Associates, Joseph V. Trahan III.
     Trahan was so enthusiastic. He spoke about his career in the military and handling public affairs in government. He also gave tips on how to direct to the media and how to prep others to do the same. Some of his advice was to always show sympathy/concern in times of strife and to never settle for a generic phrase that just any spokesperson can say. He remained animated throughout his entire presentation and that allowed me to retain so much of his information. I was really glad I chose to hear him speak.
     I could go on and on about every speaker, but the main aspect of National Conference is that you truly learn so much in so little time. There were also joint sessions with PRSA where you have a chance to mingle and network with professionals already working in the field. I didn’t mind that I would wake up at 7 a.m. and put on business clothes because it was a sneak peak into what I would have to do if I want to be a future professional.
     All the people I met at conference were what made the experience so worthwhile. I met other PR students from different universities and got to experience a fantastic city, San Francisco. Conference was about personal growth and going to all the sessions made me realize how much I can do with a degree in public relations. Sessions ranged from sports management, to hospitality, to tourism and crisis management. There is something for everyone, and I really hope that all of you can make it to next year’s conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 25 -- 29, 2013.
     I leave you with a quote of one of the keynote speaker at a joint session with PRSA. Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, said, “In order to succeed spectacularly, you need to be willing to fail spectacularly." What the 2012 PRSSA National Conference was all about: taking risks and believing in yourself.
By: Ana Gomez, University of Florida PRSSA Online Strategy Committee 

Diversity in the Workplace

 Diversity in the workplace is inevitable. At last Wednesday’s UF PRSSA meeting, Lori VanNess explained the role of diversity in the workplace and Jarrod Cruz related these roles to his position on campus.
     VanNess, the AT&T associate director of retail sales operations said her company defines diversity as “something you can see.” You can see when someone looks different, she said. She went on to explain the importance of making employees feel included through the company’s 11 employee resource groups.
     Cruz, the director of intercultural engagement within UF multicultural and diversity affairs, describes diversity as broad and complex differences between people. He said he believes these differences are brought on by the multiple identities that people can have. He said we maintain these identities through factors like family, values and religion.
     When asked about the different cultural subgroups at UF, Cruz explained the groups all come together under certain organizations. For example, the Institute of Black Culture tends to bring together the other black organizations on campus through communication. He stressed that the diverse organizations must communicate with one another in order for them to be productive. This is similar to in the workplace. VanNess explained AT&T employees come together during employee resource groups to discuss projects that include the other departments. This brings everyone together in an efficient manner.
     According to VanNess, as a part of AT&T’s goal to create a more diverse workplace, the company has been focusing on recruiting women and people of color from a regional level. “We just want to make sure that everybody is being represented,” she said. She said she sees how many of these people have been promoted. In the past, white males have seen more promotions, but the company is trying to create more balance and provide opportunity for advancement to all employees.
     Cruz’s take home piece of advice for students looking to be more diverse to employers is to immerse themselves in different cultures. He advised students to develop their multicultural understanding and competence through expanding their social circles. Cruz said in order to do this, students must step out of their comfort zone. For example, they could attend a meeting full of people who look different from themselves. He said this will help develop students’ cultural understanding. Cruz stressed that now is the time for them to take advantage of the diverse environment UF has to offer.
     VanNess advised students to get involved with different communities. She said this will help students get to know obstacles they could be faced with in bringing together people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. She said this will help you learn to adapt how you act no matter what community you work in.
     Both speakers brought great advice and insight to the panel. They encouraged students to get educated in diversity now, while they still have the opportunity take advantage of the diverse UF campus.
By: Annie Uzar, UF Public Relations Student Society of America Member

How Choice of Speakers at Political National Conventions Helps Reach Voters: A Lesson in PR Tactics

Every four years the atmosphere in the media takes a shift toward the impending presidential election. Two of the most anticipated events in politics are the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Independent or have another party affiliation: Watching both national conventions is a perfect way to not only get informed on pressing issues of the election, but also to watch public relations practices in action. In order for candidates to get their constituents’ votes, candidates must know their constituents and be able to appeal to a vast range of needs. The speakers at both national conventions were key in attempting to reach as many different demographics of voters, and especially important in tallying up the Independent vote. The conventions allow both parties to highlight their accomplishments and generate support in weak areas, using PR strategies is an integral part of this process.

     According to an article on, Hispanic voters hold the key in this year’s election. This isn’t just a matter of opinion; an appeal to Hispanic voters was evident at both the RNC and DNC. With minorities (especially Hispanic) leaning toward Obama in the polls, the RNC had to reach this demographic.  The choice of Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez to speak at the RNC was a PR strategy by the GOP to identify with Hispanic voters, even more so after its anti-immigration stance in the primaries did not fare well with minorities.
     On the other hand: Since President Obama is up for re-election and under scrutiny from Republicans for not keeping his promise of change, it was in the Democrats best interest to showcase what he has accomplished during his four years in office. An example of this was Arizona mom Stacey Lihn speaking on how Obamacare is benefiting her daughter, who was born with a heart defect. She explained that the Affordable Care Act prevents insurance policies from placing a lifetime cap on most benefits, emphasizing that this will allow her daughter’s insurance to cover the surgeries she needs. She even stressed the fact that if Romney wins and repeals Obamacare, she doesn’t know how she will be able to pay off her daughter’s medical bills. This PR tactic appealed to mothers across the board (even those with healthy children), while it also appealed to people with hefty medical bills. Plus, it demonstrated Obama’s reliability against Romney’s criticism. It highlighted that he did what he promised in the healthcare sector, a huge platform point in his 2008 campaign.
       Both conventions gave plenty of examples that showcase the careful PR strategies behind political campaigns; choice of speakers was only an aspect of it. From camera cues and angles, to video montage filled with inspiring music and citizen testimonies, public relations continues to silently dominate the behind-the-scenes work in politics throughout this election.
Link to article:
By: Ana Gomez, University of Florida PRSSA Online Strategy Committee

Warner Bros. & "The Dark Knight Rises" Shooting: A Lesson in Crisis Management

When a gunman opened fire on a movie theatre audience during an opening night screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., the tragic fate of the victims would overshadow the success of the summer blockbuster. Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, came to recognize the scope of the tragedy and make several bold decisions to manage the crisis including:

1. Weekend box office totals for the film's July 20 (Friday) release were not provided until July 23 (Monday) out of respect for the victims and their families.

2. The studio canceled the Paris premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" and all cast interviews on July 20, the day of the shooting.

3. The trailer for the film "Gangster Squad," which features a movie theater shooting scene, was removed from screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises." TV advertisements were also pulled for the Batman movie nationally.

Finally, early on Friday, July 20, Warner Bros. released this statement: "Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."

How "social" is social media?

The managers of social media sites are trying to get people to become fans of their pages or follow their Twitter accounts. Once people start following Twitter and become fans of Facebook sites, the next goal is to get those users to read the content -- not just skim the content, but read and retain it.

That is a very difficult task. Some companies and organizations are using prizes to lure in users to "like" statuses or to comment on event pages. Other companies make competitions to see who can which users gain the most friends in the shortest time.

How "social" is social media though? Yes, everyone follows favorite people and looks at favorite pages, but how will companies get audiences to comment or respond, to get involved and feel attached to a company or organization.

The future of social media is unknown. Will there be regulation of social media or will social media continue to grow to be a bigger part of society?