Going on agency tours is a fantastic way to expose yourself to local, regional or national businesses in order to get a feel for what life is like post-grad. Fellow Chapter leaders share best practices so you, too, can plan a memorable agency tour for your Chapter:
We began planning our agency visit three months ahead of time. There are a lot more details that go into a visit besides the location and time. We scheduled our tour when our university was closed for fall break so more members would have the chance to attend. Give yourself and the agency time to plan out the day so it’s as beneficial as possible. In addition, interact with the agency on your tour. The best part about the day was getting to attend a creative brainstorm mock session with the public relations team. Also, make sure to leave time for members to ask questions at the end. Lastly, stay in touch. Our Chapter wrote thank-you notes to every individual we met throughout our visit. Make the relationships you just created count and keep in contact with everyone through LinkedIn and email.
-Gina Masciantonio, Chapter President of Millersville University of Pennsylvania PRSSA
Our Michigan State University Chapter of PRSSA hosts three firm tours throughout the year in Detroit, Lansing and Chicago. Due to the fact that Lansing isn’t home to any global agencies, we make trips to Detroit and Chicago as well. I would advise Chapters to visit firms locally, even if there are smaller, as this gives members exposure to companies close by who are likely to be looking for interns. I recommend utilizing your PRSSA alumni for securing tours in larger cities. As Spartans, we have a huge alumni presence in Chicago, which is one of the reasons we continue to visit the area. If you do visit companies in a city other than your own, try getting together with the alumni for dinner. This is a fun way to let them know they are appreciated as well as provide members with an extra networking opportunity.
-Jesseca Frost, Vice President of Programming of Michigan State University PRSSA
One of the disadvantages of being a small Chapter is that we don’t have much recognition or connection with practitioners in prime public relations cities like Atlanta. Even so, we decided to contact an alumnus at the Atlanta Ogilvy office in the summer and planned our agency tour trip for the beginning of November, and this connection turned out to be a huge blessing. For a gift, our Chapter wanted to provide something to the managing director and our contact that would be something local. So, we brought them each a bag of coffee from our favorite Cleveland coffee shop and a mug from Lee University. We wrote a note that said “you brought us to Atlanta, so we brought a little Cleveland to you.” We’re hoping that will help remind the managing director of our school in the future when he’s looking at potential job candidates.
-Tim Moore, Vice President of Lee University PRSSA
For the fall semester, a few of our members and I visited Tipton Communications, a small agency in Newark, Del. To begin the process for this tour, I researched agencies in the tri-state area and pinpointed the one I thought would be the most beneficial based on its location, client work, areas of expertise, and promptness when communicating via email. Knowing I wanted the agency tour to take place a week before another PRSSA-UD event in November, I started researching in August and began contacting agencies in mid-September. After discussing with the PRSSA-UD executive board, I chose Tipton Communications instead of a big-name agency because visiting Tipton would not only cut all tour expenses, but it would also give our members the one-on-one feedback and networking opportunities that are crucial in public relations. After the tour ended, I wrote a handwritten thank-you note, mailed it to Tipton Communications immediately, and urged our members to do the same. Visiting Tipton Communications emphasized to our members that even in a small agency, agency life is busy, demanding, and full of opportunities. I encourage all groups to plan an agency tour, because whether it’s to a local or a big-name agency, the visit will be an eye-opening and rewarding experience.
-Keri Betters, Program Director of University of Delaware PRSSA
Illinois State University PRSSA members regularly rank agency tours as one of their favorite membership benefits. The agencies we visit are determined by our beginning of the year surveys. From our experience, the best way to plan an agency tour is to first, find out if any alums are employed there. If none are, then call the agency, explain your position in your PRSSA Chapter and find out whom you can speak with about planning an agency tour. Our national liaison plans the tours at least a month in advance and announces the tour to members two weeks prior. It is important that our members come to the tours prepared, so we encourage them to research the agencies and think of questions ahead of time. Some bring their business cards to develop professional relationships while others might add the presenters on LinkedIn. Maintaining these relationships are important aspects of networking, as well as sending thank you cards to whoever helped us coordinate the tour. Our vice president utilized these tactics after we toured FleishmanHillard’s headquarters in St. Louis, and as a result, Vice President of Internal Communications Jennifer Pruett will be presenting to our Chapter as a guest speaker this semester.
-Shelby Ray, National Liaison of Illinois State University PRSSA
An agency tour is most successful when the wants and needs of members and planning align perfectly. When researching agencies, first poll your members to see what areas they are most interested in learning more about. If there seems to be a lot of questions or engagement focused on certain industries or companies focus your research efforts there. When planning our agency tour, our executive board gauged the interests of members, and compiled a list of 3-4 agencies from their interests. Having a smaller number of agencies on our tour allowed us to maximize our time with each company, and gave ample time for questions and networking. Lastly, it is crucial to research office sizes prior to requesting time for a tour. Boutique agencies with small office spaces may not be able to accommodate a larger group, so be sure to plan ahead.
-Amber Burns, Vice President of Temple PRSSA
What other best practices do you have for planning a Chapter agency tour?