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The Golden State of PR: International Conference Recap

Every year, PRSSA hosts an international conference in a differing location, bringing together PRSSA chapters from across the globe and creating an environment of new ideas, energy and connections everywhere you turn. This year’s conference took place in San Diego, California from October 18-22. Temple’s PRSSA chapter sent eight representatives, and throughout the weekend we had the opportunity to attend a diverse array of sessions, meet countless professionals, bond with fellow PRSSA members from around the world and bask in the San Diego sun.

On Friday, the conference kicked-off with a California Bonfire, welcoming all of the attendees and providing a fun, energetic environment for everyone to start meeting each other. A DJ blasted some upbeat hits as a dancefloor formed and we all had a great time. It was the perfect way to break the ice and was the first glance at just how many people were in attendance!

After the bonfire, two of the other Temple PRSSA representatives and I attended a get-together for chapters hosting district conferences and the national board. This was a great way for us to network with other chapters, learn about their conference plans and continue to get to know the national board. It was so refreshing to talk with like-minded people and made me even more excited for our upcoming District Conference, PRogress Through Tech.

Saturday’s session started with Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA and a Professor at San Diego State University as the Keynote Speaker. Dr. Sweetser is one of the most prolific scholars in online public relations, as her research agenda focuses on how practitioners use digital media. Her speech focused on how to make yourself stand out in the field with creative and interpersonal skills.

The second session I attended on Saturday was A Galaxy Far Far Away – The Opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge with Suzi Brown, Vice President, Communications Disneyland Resort. As an avid Disney World attendee and a big Star Wars nerd, I was thrilled to hear from Suzi about her experience as such an important employee of the resort and how they used public relations to create excitement and spread the word about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

The third session I attended on Saturday was For the People: Navigating Nonprofit PR with Mark Pilon, Executive Director, Susan G. Komen® Los Angeles County. Nonprofit PR is a facet of the industry I am fascinated with and is definitely a space I see myself entering in my career. I absolutely loved Mark’s talk about his passion for non-profit and how public relations can help uplift and advocate for a non-profit. My main take-away from his talk was the importance of having a passion for the non-profit’s cause. You are promoting a concept, the way you feel and how it can have an impact on the community. Nonprofits rely on public relations to define and recognize their vision to reach the highest number of people possible.

Sunday morning began with the Breakfast with Champions, an opportunity for students to network with PRSA professionals and members. The other PRSSA ladies and I sat with Amy T. Coward, Fellow PRSA, and students from schools in Texas, Rhode Island and Virginia. It was an amazing chance to meet professionals and other students. We collaborated and shared ideas on how to better our chapters, and I cannot wait to bring these ideas to Temple.

After breakfast, we attended the first general session of the day: a conversation with Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Bob Woodward. He was met with a standing ovation and rounds of applause. His talk focused on the ever-changing worlds of business and media, his experiences reporting on power and politics and all of his tips and tricks on how to succeed as a media professional. He commented on how we are the future of the industry, and we need to discover new ways to think about business, media, politics and public relations to stay fresh and stay relevant.

The next session I attended was, without a doubt, my absolute favorite of the conference: Emotional Intelligence: Five Leadership Skills Comms Pros Must Know with Heathere Evans, President, Pivot, Inc. This session focused on the importance of emotional intelligence as a communications professional. Heathere Evans stressed how leadership is not a role, it is a way of being. She shared how to learn to listen to both your inner critic and your inner coach, to be aware of your feelings and the feelings of the people around you. 

The day ended with Officer Discussions, and I attended the Presidents and Vice Presidents discussion. We split up into groups based on chapter size and shared our triumphs, struggles and advice. It was a great way to learn from other chapters and brainstorm ideas to fix relevant problems and move forward.

Monday began with two general sessions: Perspectives on Public Service with Vincente Fox, Former President of Mexico, and a Global Agency Panel with Jennifer Gottlieb, Jim Joseph, Heather Kernahan and Barby Siegel. Both were fascinating and opened up my eyes to the global world of public relations and public service. I loved hearing the Global Agency Panel, as all speakers came with vast knowledge and provided great advice and tidbits about the future of the PR field. Some advice that stood out to me was to be an employee co-workers can rely on and to focus on the plus-ones: when I’m working on something, always work a little bit harder and a little bit better. 

The day continued with a Career Development Exhibition, which allowed attending students to meet with graduate programs, agencies and other attending organizations to see what a future in public relations could look like. The highlight of the day was The Credits Award Ceremony and Dinner. This dinner was a fantastic way to celebrate the amazing conference. It also served as a way to celebrate all the Chapter’s accomplishments. We were awarded the Star Chapter Award and we received a commemoration for celebrating 50 years of Temple PRSSA. Our own Will Careri, PRowl Assistant Firm Director, won the Axia Public Relations Scholarship! It was a wonderful way to continue meeting and getting to know the members and leaders of other chapters and to celebrate our amazing organization. It truly put into perspective just how large of an organization PRSSA is, and it is an organization I am so proud to be a part of!

We ended the conference with a Diversity and Inclusion Celebration. This celebration was a conclusion to the amazing conference. We had an absolute blast and took way too many photos as a commemoration of our final night in San Diego!

PRSSA International Conference is a great event hosted each year by the National Conference Committee. PRSSA National does a phenomenal job in organizing and putting this conference together each year. Next year’s conference will be held in Nashville, TN, so if you're interested in attending start saving now! In the meantime, get ready for our own District Conference coming up in March 2020!

This blog post was written by Caitlin Gemmi, Vice President.

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