This year I served as the programming director for Wayne State University’s PRSSA Chapter in Detroit, Michigan. This position entailed planning events, panels and agency tours for our members. Creating worthwhile programs provides students with opportunities they would not have otherwise. Some of our events included resume workshops, the power women panel, the entrepreneurship panel, tours at United Way, Finn Partners, Hour Magazine, WDET FM radio and much more.
Start Early– Getting a head start on planning is critical to coordinate schedules with guests, lock down dates and produce a calendar of events. If your school year starts in August, begin the planning process in June by having brainstorm meetings, reaching out to professionals and creating a mock calendar for the year.
Use Your Resources– Flexing your connections is key to organizing memorable events. If you established a good relationship with your previous internship, request to coordinate a tour. After exhausting your personal network, reach out to people and organizations you want to collaborate with. LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool; I was able to connect with panelists and agencies by sending friendly, professional messages.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work– Collaborating with your e-board members eases the stress of planning and promoting events. Specifically, the president, social media coordinator and internal communication director will be helpful. Build a routine for outreach including promoting events on social, dispersing information to members, publicizing the event on campus and beyond.
Work Your Connections– A strong network of professionals greatly helps in this role. These are the people who can fill in if a panelist cancels or volunteers for the mentorship program. Expand your network by attending professional networking events. Take your business card and follow up with a kind email reminding them who you are and extending an invitation to partner. Connecting with your region’s PRSA Chapter opens a floodgate of professionals.
Talk It Out– Exercising your communication skills is vital to creating and sustaining programming. Drafting basic templates for professional outreach, follow up messages and day-of reminders improves organization and saves time. The repour you establish with professionals can go a long way for both your personal network and the future of your Chapter.
Be Courteous– Reputation is everything in this business, you can be the best writer but having a bad attitude and/or being unprofessional can cripple your chances of success. After an event, panel, tour etc. send hand written thank you note. People want to feel appreciated and kind gestures assist in establishing and maintaining long-term relationships.
Capture the Moment– As you build a strong programming schedule and bring in phenomenal speakers, host game-changing events and tour the best agencies it is important to keep a record of your activities. This includes taking photos, encouraging attendees to write about their experiences for your Chapter’s blog and posting on social media. In addition, build a Rolodex of your contacts so the next person in the role has a template.
Unlock Your Creativity– Programming is as an opportunity to introduce something your organization has never seen before. This could be starting a mentorship program, hosting an industry specific panel, welcoming professionals to a scholarship breakfast or more. Implement creative strategies to increase student attendance such as a raffle, extra credit from a professor, a social media challenge etc. Give students surveys to receive their feedback about the program and things they would like to see.
Be Prepared– Organization is imperative to hosting successful programming. In addition to early planning, create a logistics plan including when you will do follow-ups, reminders, mail-parking passes, coordinate with the location etc. Then, leave a timeline of your process for the next e-board.
Switch it Up– Communications and public relations is a broad field with a lot of different sectors students are interested in. It’s important to not visit the same firms every year and host the same speakers. Create programs that appeal to a variety of students and consider partnering with other organizations such as the journalism department, marketing org, speech club and others.
Overall, this role is an opportunity to grow your skills as a young professional and meet new people in the process. Have fun and breathe, all your hard work is going to pay off!
Chanel Taylor is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in print journalism and political science at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She interns at Truscott Rossman’s Detroit location. Her interests include writing, social justice advocacy, women’s ministry and programming. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @candidchanel.