For as closely as journalists and PR pros work together, it’s actually rare they’re ever in the same room together. Somewhere between the client meetings, interviews, and deadlines, face-to-face relationship building gets lost in the mix– except for once a year, in the far away land of Pullman, Wash.
I recently had the chance to represent Barokas PR at WSU’s Edward R. Murrow Symposium, an annual event designed for PR and journalism professionals, WSU faculty, and students alike to come together and talk about the future of the communication industry. It’s one big Coug-centric networking extravaganza, and I’ve loved it ever since I was a student myself. This year’s theme was “Cultivating Career Connections,” which lent itself well to the experience ahead.
The day is structured around two different keynotes and a variety of smaller workshops, all designed for students to interact with professionals in different industries. I went in to the day excited to share my own experience, but even more so to hear from favorite returning players including: legendary storyteller and KOMO news anchor Eric Johnson, Nike marketing extraordinaire Marcia Steele Hoover, and PR genius Mark Dyce-Ryan. All three were predictably fantastic speakers – and this year they were also joined by a handful of others that, when combined, offered a breadth of valuable experiential knowledge. Here are the key lessons taken from the event:
What is truly newsworthy?
During one of the keynotes we heard from CNN correspondent and anchor Ana Cabrera, who happens to be a WSU alum. She spoke at length about the duty journalists have to be truthful, but not neutral – hinting at the difficulties they face with the current administration and their constant uphill battle of maintaining credibility in the era of “fake news.” She suggested that it’s the role of all communicators, not just journalists, to determine what is truly newsworthy in the media landscape we live in – a point of view that PR pros should consider next time they send a pitch. How can we come alongside journalists to help produce work that is truly meaningful?
Connect, make connections, and be connected
Anna Centrella-Thayer, the owner of a strategic consulting firm and expert in hiring practices, spoke to what every nervous student in the audience was wondering – How on earth do I go from sitting in class every day to actually landing a job? The answer, according to her, is simply connection. Humans are wired to connect, but we have to be intentional in cultivating relationships until it becomes exciting and easy to do so. For the professionals in the room, she had a similar message: Our connections are not just for us. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or your level of experience, it is our responsibility to continuously be networking and connecting for the good of the industry as a whole.
The power of research
I was blown away by the confidence and competence of the students who approached me in between panels. They were very well prepared, asking questions specific to my career and about Barokas PR – once again proving the power of strategic research. To those of you who did the legwork before we all showed up, thank you. You’re the reason why so many pros take time out of their schedule to come back to Symposium year after year. It’s refreshing to see people so excited, inquisitive, and ready to roll with the punches that a career in communication will inevitably throw.
Oh, and it didn’t hurt that a few of our awesome blog readers helped introduce me to the legendary Jake Sirianni – I may have fan-girled just a little.
The main takeaway here is it’s time to get intentional about networking, regardless if you’re a student or you’re already working your dream job. These kinds of connections shouldn’t be made just once a year at sanctioned events – use the abundance of technology out there to converse with people you admire at all different experience levels and across industries. Sharing ideas and cultivating those connections will make you a better professional, and telling your story has the potential to help others craft theirs. Now that is an all-around winning situation.