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Fleishman-Hillard Workshop Reflection by Gabbie Alvidrez*
Workshop: (noun) a seminar, discussion group, or the like, that emphasizes the exchange of ideas and the demonstration and application of techniques, skills, etc.
 
Prior to attending the The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF) Career Development Workshop hosted by Fleishman-Hillard, my definition of a workshop mirrored the one stated above. They sounded stiff and quiet, a company presentation filled with students weighed down my intimidation. My preconceived notions prevented me from feeling the excitement of visiting a top tier public relations agency; I could imagine myself being caught yawing or seeming inattentive while I squirmed in an uncomfortable chair. Boy was I wrong. Oh so wrong.

The brightly painted walls and modern style of the office decor immediately caught me off guard. A word had not even been said and there still existed an upbeat vibe and free-spirited environment. We were welcomed into a decent sized room with a long curved table (with comfortable chairs I may add), and introduced to a few members of the staff. John Soriano, senior account manager and internship coordinator and introduced to a few members of the staff. John Soriano, senior account manager and internship coordinator, was a bundle of smiles and energy. He described the company and shared a few client projects with the help of Ann Leverdier, assistant account executive. Their enthusiasm and expertise made a perfect match, creating a professional yet relaxed mood. Ann described the office setting as relaxed and comfortable, sharing that their office had an “open door policy.” In more than one sense of the phrase, there were literally no doors in the office. According to Ann and John, this created an environment that promoted creative exchange and enhanced office relationships with executives and entry level associates. This policy illustrated to me how devoted Fleishman-Hillard is to the creation of new ideas and the fostering of employee morale.

As the introductions ceased, John welcomed Senior Vice President, Emily Frager, and Managing Supervisor, Lauren Karasek. Lauren settled my suspicions on public relations being more than “big ideas and big titles you don’t know.” I had made a sweeping conclusion about the large company and was quickly put into place when Lauren and Emily genuinely described their contentment within their roles. Lauren detailed significant aspects of her background in crisis management, giving the green light for questions or comments on her experiences. She continued with advice on how to package ideas relative to client needs, stating that innovation and quality control play huge roles in a campaign or pitch. She elaborated on how professional development is more than elevating skills you already have, it is about challenging those around you to reach higher and think harder as well. Currently focused on a new client project, Lauren is a member of the innovation team working with digital and social media.

Lauren’s charisma set the tone for Emily to take the floor. Taking time to encourage us to keep our minds open to unique opportunities to grow, Emily shared more than just career experiences, she challenged us to never settle.

"Put yourself in as many positions as you can,” Emily said. “What clients are paying for is the number of situations you have been in; the more scenarios the better.”

She spent time describing how public relations is personality-driven in nature and is made up of  “thoughtful, real-time decisions.” Emily’s advice was priceless, and after every profound statement or insightful suggestion, I was drawn further and further into the allure of public relations and it’s versatility. Describing public relation professionals as the “Jack of all trades,” Emily illustrated the different hats that everyone rotates. From planning, writing, accounting, and counseling, to flexibility, diversity, and organization, public relations is really a chance to do it all. From outlining RFPs (Request For Proposal) to building the perfect “War Room,” Emily unwrapped a whole new side of public relations that I had never been exposed to. It was the “inside lingo” and the “behind-the-scenes” essence that made the entire afternoon an educational and encouraging experience.

Determined to make sure we understood what set Fleishman-Hillard apart from other agencies, Emily ended with a metaphor that spoke to me on a professional and student level.

“We are the student council presidents when most of our competitors are ‘the cool kids.’” While some will stick to textbook tactics and goals, Fleishman-Hillard takes charge as the responsible leader with unique concepts, refusing to sink into the generic sea of agencies that won’t break the mold.

Using innovation as a process geared toward brainstorming, and moving outside the constraints of traditional public relations approaches, Fleishman-Hillard sets the bar for the new wave of creative and evolving public relations mindset. I would have never known the extent of creativity in public relations if I had stayed glued to my misconception that workshops were monotonous and not engaging. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised and am so fortunate to have been invited to go.


Gabbie Alvidrez received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations at California State University, Long Beach and previously interned for TLF.
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