UNO Regional Conference: The Power of PR Connections

By Kelly O’Neill

This past weekend, our PRSSA chapter brought 15 students to the University of Nebraska Omaha for a regional activity put on by their chapter: Maverick PR.  Over the course of three days, we all had a chance to do plenty of group bonding, whether it was at the Friday night welcome social, in the panels during Saturday’s session, at the resume workshop on Sunday morning or checking out downtown Omaha during our free time.

Friday night had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Joe Trahan of Trahan & Associates.  He gave a great presentation about crisis communication.  Some of the tips he mentioned included having at least 10 different plans to handle potential crises, always being honest with the press about what information you know and what information you can give them and keeping your cool under high-pressure situations.

Saturday started bright and early with a speed networking breakfast.  The rest of the day was filled with four professional panels.  The morning panels included a Sports PR Panel and an Event Planning Panel.  The four professionals at the Sports Panel were Martie Cordaro of the Omaha Storm Chasers, Mike West from Creighton University, Joe Menaugh from the College World Series in Omaha and Dave Ahlers of UNO Athletics.  The four men spoke about sports marketing, promotion and management, as well as how to communicate information from teams to the media.

There were three presenters in the Event Planning Panel: Kristine Gerber of Eventive Marketing, Lesley Brandt of Planitomaha and Kathleen Al-Marhoon of the Nebraska Children’s Home Society Foundation.  These three women represented a mix of private event planning companies and non-profit work.  The session featured information about implementing successful meetings and events as well as communication and organizational aspects of event planning.

After lunch, we had two more panels to go.  First off was the Social/Traditional Media Strategies Panel.  During this particular part, there was lots of interaction between the students and the two professionals sitting in: Dr. Joe Trahan from the previous night and Tressa Robbins of BurrellesLuce.  We discussed the importance of staying ahead of the game by learning the different ways that social media is being used in public relations and also why traditional media is still an important component of PR.

The fourth panel focused on Corporate vs. Agency.  The two agency representatives were Joan Lukas of Leslie Kline Lukas and Doug Parrott from Bailey Lauerman.  Their counterpart, the corporate side, was made up of Teresa Paulen from ConAgra Foods and Tom Lange from Union Pacific.  This session gave us the opportunity to explore aspects of both areas and learn what may be the better fit for our futures.

On the last morning, there was a resume and portfolio review, which allowed us to sit down with one of the professionals and receive advice on our resumes and ways to make them stand out as much as possible to future employers.  We wrapped up the session with a riveting speech from the keynote speaker Tim McMahon of McMahon Marketing, LLC.  McMahon spoke on several topics including leadership, branding and communication.

Overall, the weekend was a great opportunity for students from our chapter to meet with students from surrounding PRSSA chapters and to network with a number of really successful professionals in the field of public relations.  Also, we learned a ton about the multi-faceted world of PR.  We picked up on some great ideas to use for next year’s PR Day, and hopefully we’ll see some of the same faces attending our conference in Iowa City next year!

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