February 28, 2014
By Anthony Filomena
What goes into hosting a regional conference? Why is it important and what does it mean for Columbia College students? Talk to the members of Columbia College’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and they will tell you it is a chance for students to showcase their talents outside the classroom with opportunities and lessons that prepare them for future careers in their industry.
Columbia College’s PRSSA is one of 10 chapters to win the opportunity to host a conference, beating out other Midwest universities for the only official PRSSA National-sponsored conference in the Midwest, March 7-8.
“The reason Columbia College’s PRSSA chapter wanted to host a regional conference was because it is a great chance to expose our organization to the national stage, and gives our members an exciting opportunity to gain experience hosting large-scale events,” said Luke Crawford, double major in marketing communication/PR and arts management. “The extensive planning process provides us with first-hand experience and portfolio work to better ourselves as upcoming professionals.”
To host a conference, a chapter had to complete an all-inclusive Regional Conference bid form detailing the logistics, registration and participant process, promotional materials, national initiatives, and define their regional conference committee team. Then they had to pass a 20–minute interview with PRSSA National.
Crawford serves as the PRSSA director of special events and regional conference coordinator. Not only did he help lead the brainstorming sessions and campaign, along with marketing communication/PR student and PRSSA Chapter President David Lee Watta, but the pressure was on him alone to pass the interview process with the PRSSA National committee.
“It was a great professional experience. I knew they had already had quite a few interviews by the time they got to me, but I prepared by truly thinking through as many of the details about the conference and logistics as possible. I had poured my heart and passion into the thought process around the bid, and sometimes, all you can do is hope and believe that you truly gave it your all,” said Crawford.
The inspiration behind the winning bid comes from the chapter’s creative brainstorming sessions that ultimately ended with the fusing of Chicago’s downtown epicenter The Loop with a PR twist, thus giving birth to
The Loop, a 360-Degree Approach to Public Relations, the site they created for the conference.
“These students have all put endless hours into the planning and preparation of this conference. These are smart kids that apply not only what they learn in the classroom but from each other. I have seen so many members go on to have successful career paths and could not be happier,” said PRSSA faculty adviser and Marketing Communication Assistant Professor Anne Marie Mitchell.
PRSSA National agrees that the hard work showed.
“I definitely saw the passion and drive for his PRSSA to be able to host the regional conference. After the conference call interview with PRSSA National President, Brian Price, we were both amazed with the bid and how well prepared [Crawford] was. We knew leaving the interview that Columbia College PRSSA was most likely going to be selected,” said Erica Brown, the vice president of Regional Conferences for PRSSA National.
The Columbia College PRSSA winning conference committee team includes Crawford and Watta as well as, Executive Outreach Liaison Michelle Graven, Community and Chapter Outreach Liaison Rhiannon Austgen, both marketing communication/PR students, and Volunteer Relations Chair Lacey Hopkins, a fashion studies major.
The two-day regional conference will highlight four media components of the PR industry: traditional, digital, lifestyle and new/interactive media. The first day of the conference will feature agency tours and a case study competition sponsored by Ogilvy. The second day will be filled with sessions hosted by industry professionals in the public relations field and conclude with closing remarks by PRSSA National President Brian Price.
Industry speakers set to attend include The Onions’ Derek Cuculich, Purely Fashion’s Ryan Beshel, Obama Twitter Handler Caleb Gardener, BurelleLuce’s Tressa Robbins and Chicago Cubs’ Kevin Saghy.
Photos courtesy of Columbia College’s PRSSA facebook