Creativity, brainstorming and the big idea

By Ali Myers
Account supervisor

I am lucky enough to be spending my summer in New York City interning for Quinn & Co Public Relations, a firm specializing in the real estate, travel, food, and wine + spirits industries. This is the first time I’ve done major PR work in a place other than Athens, Ohio and I would say that the audience I’m working with in New York City is just a bit different. (OK, a lot different.) The thing is, New Yorkers have seen it all. They are not easily impressed, and to grab their attention is a difficult task. Journalists are seeking out new and exciting pitches. Clients are relying on you, the public relations professional, to land them spots in publications and get their name out to the public. In order to do so, you have to change your way of thinking. Sometimes those “in the box” ideas aren’t going to cut it when you’re pitching to major publications. This brings me to the first major lesson I’ve learned at my internship:

Creativity is important.

Now before you say, “But, I’m not creative,” you should know that everyone is capable of thinking creatively, and in a field like public relations, it’s extremely important to do so. You just have to go about doing it the right way. Which brings me to lesson number two:

Brainstorming sessions are a necessity.

While interning at Quinn & Co this summer, I have had the opportunity to attend several team brainstorming sessions. The ideas that come out of these are fascinating. Some of the most brilliant pitches come from sitting in a room with your team members and throwing out everything that comes to mind. Even if the first idea is something very small and simple, your team members may add to it and eventually build it up to a bigger idea, which is a nice little transition to my final lesson:

Don’t be afraid of the BIG IDEA.

So, what is the big idea? It can be many different things. It can be trying a risky new campaign strategy or taking a new approach to the way you typically do things. With so many companies competing for that limited number of consumer dollars, sometimes getting your client or company’s message out will take a BIG IDEA. The most successful public relations campaigns probably seemed risky in the beginning, but sometimes you have to (cautiously) move forward anyway.

I would like to challenge our accounts this year to hold regular brainstorming sessions. Think of new ways to promote your client on a college campus. We’ve all been handed papers at College Gate or seen chalking on the sidewalks. I encourage you to think creatively, brainstorm and maybe generate a big idea that will stir up some noise on campus.

It’s not always about the money

By Molly Essell
Account executive, State of Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Campaign

As hard-working college students, it sometimes becomes difficult to think of a job or internship as something other than a form of income. However, if you can find a niche in the PR world that you feel passionately about outside of the job, I guarantee you will feel rewards greater than any paycheck by using your PR skills to promote their cause.

I say this confidently, because this year, I have had the amazing opportunity to work for a foundation that means a great deal to me in and out of the office. I am currently the Race for the Cure intern at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater Cincinnati Affiliate. For those of you who are not familiar, Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures for breast cancer. Before even thinking of a career in nonprofit or Komen specifically, I have been known to wear pink ribbon attire, support their annual Race for the Cure 5k, and purchase products (such as ice cream scoops, socks and potato chip clips) just because they have the pink Komen ribbon decorated on them. Having the opportunity to internally support Komen now is more rewarding than any amount of money I have previously spent for the foundation.

For the first time in any of my jobs or internships, I find myself working hard not because I’m trying to learn a million things at once or be a super intern in the office, but because I believe the work I am doing this summer will make an impact in the lives of many deserving people.

An important lesson I have learned is that working in nonprofit PR does not just involve asking people for money and writing grants, but you get to meet lots of interesting and respected professionals! I’ve met local breast cancer survivors in the committee meetings I’ve lead, I’ve met with executives in many organizations across Cincinnati, such as the Cincinnati Reds and local news stations, and I’ve gotten tons of experience writing all kinds of PR materials. The best part is, it’s all been in support of Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure! Nonprofit PR is really a mix of all sectors of the PR world and can be a wonderful place for gaining experience!

For anyone looking to pursue a career in nonprofit PR, here are a few things I’ve learned firsthand this summer:

The Dos and Don’ts of working in a nonprofit office:

1. DO your research! Make sure you know the ins and outs of what the company does in its community, in the nation, worldwide–everywhere. It is one thing to know the company raises money for breast cancer. It’s another to know that over 100,000 survivors and activists make up the organization and over $1.3 billion have been raised to date.

2. DON’T get your feelings hurt if there are some people who will never be as passionate as you are about the organization. It’s only natural that not everyone will find the need to save lives and raise money for a cause they are unfamiliar with. Use this as a way to spread knowledge and education of what your organization accomplishes!

3. DO show your support outside the office! One thing I’ve learned from my bosses at Komen is they become known in the community for the job they do. Sometimes it’s as simple as wearing their pink ribbon t-shirts to the grocery store or posting pictures of events on their own Facebook walls. My bosses have become women that people all over Cincinnati respect and look up to because of their dedication.

4. DON’T give up if there isn’t an available job right away. The one negative I have found from the nonprofit world is that there are fewer jobs. Because of the nature of the nonprofit organizations, many places hold few positions in their offices, meaning it can be difficult to find an organization in need of a PR pro. However, there are still plenty of opportunities! Be a volunteer. Get up close and personal experience with the organization you’re interested in by volunteering at one of their events, or even contact someone from the organization and ask if they would need any help with PR work. They will very much appreciate your desire to help and it will give you great experience.

All in all, I truly believe nonprofit PR can be the most gratifying experience possible in your career path. If you’re unsure of what your PR calling is at this moment, I urge you to take a step back and think of a cause you are passionate about, and see if that can’t be an opportunity in itself.

Do what you love, love what you do

By Sam Browning
Account supervisor

While most PR students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University are utilizing this summer to expand their knowledge with various internships across the country, I decided to take a different route.

I am claiming this summer as an opportunity to regain my sanity for next year. I have no internship that takes up each day and no job to frustrate me. At times during last spring quarter, my summer plans were embarrassing to admit.

I am a typical JSchool kid. I am too involved, too committed and spread too thin with the hopes of gaining one more ounce of experience. Last year, I was involved in several organizations: an account executive with ImPRessions, the public relations chair in a service sorority, the public relations intern for a local non-profit organization and a very time-consuming position as the administrative resident assistant in Lincoln Hall. Topping that off with 16-20 credit hours of classes, I found myself scrambling and without much free time. I burned out pretty quickly and found that a summer mental break was necessary if I want to have a clear mind to tackle what my senior year has in store: finding a job.

This inevitable entry into “the real world” terrifies me. I constantly find myself thinking, “PR is entirely too broad of a field,” and have no idea which direction to take when looking for a position. This idea that frightens me; however, it is actually a blessing in disguise.

With this realization of the field being so broad accompanied by my lack of specific direction, I have become eager to start working because I know I will not be disappointed. I have no preconceived ideas about what my job should be or needs to be. I will just be in the field that I love, gaining experience, establishing connections and growing up.

I would like to share this eager attitude for the future with you, the reader. If you are involved with ImPRessions, get excited about this year! There are so many interesting clients with whom to work and so many opportunities to build connections with fellow PR students across the firm and with PR professionals in the field. If you are already a PR professional, do not find yourself in a slump with your current position. It is perfectly fine to say no, to change your mind and to work elsewhere. Life is too short to feel trapped.

Most importantly, if you are going into your senior year like I am, do not feel saddened that your college years are almost over. Your real life is about to begin. Savor the experiences and look forward to your bright future in a dynamic field.

Organizing is key

Sam Bartlett
Account executive, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

What’s that we’re all hearing? It’s the sound of carefree summers screaming goodbye and the hello of ‘the real world.’ Although I do know some students who are still enjoying their free lunch and not having to work or intern…their reality will soon hit, and hit hard.

I have personally been going nonstop–better start calling me the Energizer Bunny. Between working Monday through Friday at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, helping out around the house, hanging out with my boyfriend, family and friends, along with my exciting project of planning a book release party, I’m pretty busy.

My secret to keeping up with it all? Organization.

The first thing I suggest is to buy a planner. When I was in middle school, I thought they were pointless, but now I would be lost without one.
Now that you’ve got your cute Lisa Frank daily planner, you should write down everything you have going on–when you’re working/interning, meetings and appointments, class assignments, exams, study groups, important deadlines…everything. I highly suggest writing the exact time things are due/going on too. Things will go smoother and it will be a helpful reminder.

I also suggest being extremely on top of communication, whether it’s with your team and your clients or any other party that might be involved. This involves frequent e-mails and actual face-to-face communication. Only use text messaging if it’s a last resort. Sometimes texting is OK with your team to double check on things, but should never be used as the main source of communication.

For example, last year I was co-account executive with Nicole Bersani for the College Book Store account and we were constantly checking one another through mass e-mails we sent to one another and to our team. We met at least once a week outside of our regularly scheduled meetings. We also always triple checked with our team to make sure they understood everything that was going on—probably to the point of annoyance, but at least they knew what their roles and assignments were within the account.

My next suggestion of all-star organization is to make lists. To-do lists, grocery lists, pro’s and con’s, and every type of list imaginable. I’d even say getting a separate notebook for this purpose would be a fantastic idea.

Organization makes everything go smoothly and if you’re lacking, people will notice. For example, this summer the Lorain County Fairgrounds decided to put on their first car show during the Fourth of July weekend and there were a few things that weren’t 100% perfect. Since it was he first year doing the event, many people tend to point out the bad points rather than the good. My advice is to write down everyone’s’ comments and organize them in a manner that the directors will understand so that they can work with it at a later date. Getting criticism doesn’t mean you’ve failed by any means. Take suggestions from people into consideration and smile, nod, tell them you’ll take care of it for next time, and then actually follow through with what you say you’ll do.

Between ImPRessions and being a ‘JSchool kid,’ I have a lot of enthusiasm and tend to get overly excited and busy. My simple solution [KISS – keep it simple, stupid] is to stay organized and on top of things. And, of course, some ‘me’ time sprinkled on top.

Even though I am still learning to do this, another step to being really organized is having the power to say ‘no.’ I have always had a hard time telling people no and continuously find myself helping set up for almost every event of various clubs  with which I’m involved. It would make life easier if to be able to say ‘no,’ once in a while.

Once you’ve got your style down of how to keep track of everything you have to do in a logical way, even if it’s not my method of keeping it in a daily planner, your life will become much less of a headache.

ImPRessions’ newest client strikes a new chord

By Ashley Showen
VP, Operations

ImPRessions is pleased to announce the addition of a new client for the 2010-2011 school year, hip-hop/rap artist Kellee Maize.

Maize, whose passion is to help people share the power of music, has recorded two albums to date and is the number one downloaded artist on Some of her most popular songs include: “Age of Feminine” and “Yesterday” from her debut album, and “Godette” from her newest album, “Aligned Archetype.”

She has made a huge splash in the blogosphere and continues to gain notoriety across the Web. When she is not performing, she’s managing her own company, Nakturnal, a female-owned and operated consulting/publicity company that focuses on creating synergy between the arts and their surrounding communities. Maize’s music is all about empowerment and sending positive messages to her fans.

Maize will be joining the ImPRessions client roster as the second client in the entertainment sector, along with the OHIO Performing Arts Series, another new addition for next year. Maize will also be the firm’s first personal brand client, offering members the chance to view the difference between representing a company versus an individual brand. The account will work on promoting Maize’s music, specifically online and on college campuses. Junior Alyssa Albertone will serve as the account executive.

Rachel Miller, junior public relations major, has been working with Maize for more than five months, and pitched the idea of creating an ImPRessions account to assist Maize.

Once the idea of adding was proposed, Maize, Miller and the ImPRessions administrative team acted quickly to make it a reality. The process of adding the account began and ended in about a week, said CEO Devin Hughes, adding that he was “thrilled” to have the opportunity to delve deeper into entertainment PR and looks forward to all the experience the account will bring to the firm.

“We have a commitment to offering a wide variety of opportunities to the members of ImPRessions,” said Hughes, noting that last year many members voiced an interest in adding entertainment-related accounts. “By adding Kellee Maize as a client, we will be able to provide our members the opportunity to gain unique experience in the fast-paced and fascinating industry that is entertainment public relations.”

ImPRessions will hit the ground running in September, signing up account associates to fill in account teams to serve the firm’s 13 clients.

Maize offers her music online for free. To find out more about her or to download her albums, visit

How to create a media pitch that works

By Nicole Bersani
VP, Administration

So you made your press release, now what?
You may write the press release of the century, but just sending it to random media outlets without knowing whose hands it will land is not always going to get it covered. Look back at Ashley Showen’s post, You can’t do it all. Do you find yourself too busy to take the time to know your media outlets? Instead, step out of the routine of sending it to the local and student publications because they are probably going to do their usual routine as well of deleting or throwing it out. It may be difficult at first because it does take time, but it will make your job a lot easier in the long run and have a bigger chance of getting your client covered.

Do you really know who is getting your press release?
If not, then why should they care? If you gear your press release to people you know, their beats, their publication types, and their target audiences, they will most likely pick up your story because they’ll find it interesting. To know your outlets best, you’ll need a media list.

Media lists are contact databases, usually on an Excel spreadsheet, where you constantly revise, add or remove contacts. The better organized and detailed this list is, the easier it will be for you to find the right outlets and know how to better pitch to your reporters.

Honestly, I have never created a media list until this summer but wish I had used an organized one for my ImPRessions account last year. I feel this may be a recurring theme on other accounts, so I’ve created a “how to” on media lists. Some of the notes are from an intern training session I took at FD and other tips are just from personal experience that I’ve done pro bono for a theater company.

Reporter intelligence–the 3 B’s
Know reporter’s beat, bio and bases

  • Are the reporters covering the company, the industry, your audience, etc. that you want to reach or represent?
  • Are they new to the beat, to the publication, to journalism? If so, they may be eager to take your story.
  • How have they covered your client and its industry in the past if at all? They may have a personal, negative or overall good opinion and you want to know that before you pitch to them.

Best practices:

  • Media lists must be maintained to be useful. The longer you wait to update it, the harder it might me to find the information.
  • Keep track of interactions with reporters. They will be more interested in what you have to say if they remember you, so writing down when you last you talked to them and what about will help them (and you) remember.
  • Plan to update media list regularly. Reporters change beats or even publications frequently. The more often it is updated, the easier it is when it comes time to send out the press release, especially if you ever get a call last minute to send one out ASAP.
  • A good media list always offers quality over quantity. For ImPRessions, if you have a media list where you know personally a handful of your contacts very well, it could be better than pitching to 20 reporters you don’t know.

Your media list:

  • 9 or so columns (your choice of how detailed you want to be) mine has: publication, first name, last name, title, e-mail, phone, fax, social media accounts and notes/interactions
  • Different media lists can be made for different types of outreaches. If you work on different accounts or you want to separate your social media contacts with you print ones (newspapers, television, radio, blogs, etc.), then different lists should be made to your preference.
  • The notes may be just as important as the name and phone number. Keep track of how many times you talked to them, and when and what about. If they’ve covered a previous story for you, make sure you remember that as well.

ImPRessions helps students gain valuable skills regardless of major

By Bethany Scott
Account supervisor

Learning about public relations doesn’t limit you to one career path; but opens up the door for countless opportunities. The beauty of ImPRessions is that not only are you learning but you are also getting real life experience. I am a former account associate, who last year was an account executive, and next year will be an account supervisor. Although I would not change anything about my experiences with ImPRessions, I am not sure if public relations is a field that I am 100 percent certain that I want to enter. Transitioning into my junior year, I have found that I am not the only person who has feelings similar to my own. Fellow classmate and upcoming ImPRessions member Caroline Allan once told me, “I love PR and my dream job is to work for a PR firm, but I know that I have to keep my options open. PR isn’t a narrow major where you are limited to one niche or field. PR teaches you how to work with others and communicate, which will come in handy no matter what career path you take.”

Regardless of what the future may hold, my experience with ImPRessions cannot be duplicated. As a member of ImPRessions for the past two years, I have been able to take part in many different projects and exercise my creative talents. I have made lasting friendships, worked with other talented individuals and learned about myself. There have been successful projects and not so successful projects, like the time when I almost ruined an event because I dropped a DVD player moments before the event was scheduled to begin. Despite having embarrassing moments and not so successful projects, if it wasn’t for ImPRessions I may not have had real world experience where I was actually working on PR projects instead of just learning about them from a textbook.

One important life lesson that I have learned through my experiences as an ImPRessions member is that I do not need to decide my future right now. ImPRessions is a student-run PR firm that brings students from all majors together to develop skills that are sure to be valuable in whatever career path he or she may choose. Communication is the key to any business. I am very excited to be an account supervisor for the next academic year. I hope that the two accounts, Athens Humane Society and University Libraries, that I am overseeing will have similar experiences that I have had in the past, and that I can help them get the most out of what ImPRessions has to offer. Some projects will be a success, while others may not. Some events will be a success, while others may be a flop. Regardless of the outcome, grow from every experience that you have and accept every challenge with confidence and an eagerness to learn.