As Dan Quayle once said, “It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago.” I wholeheartedly agree….with part of his statement anyways. Although Chicago technically does not qualify as one of America’s 50 states, it may as well be. Chicagoland offers a different culture, historical relevance, cuisine, architectural layout-- basically its own unique twist on everything. However, one of its best features is the Burson-Marsteller Chicago office. Being afforded the opportunity to work alongside the most talented, seasoned, and friendliest people in communications is proving to be a truly memorable experience.
I was fortunate to have experienced several firsts during my second week in the Second City; first Cross-Agency Briefing, first Content Factory, first Messaging Session Planning, and first time trekking to work through 4 inches of heavy snow. I have been included in two different internal groups within the organization which has allowed me to witness how teams collaborate across practices, companies, and even states. These collaborative groups require impressive strategy in order to effectively operate projects and manage accounts. Participating on these teams has provided motivation to quickly advance my skillset and increase my knowledge base so that I can be a helpful team member.
Burson-Marsteller is a global firm with a wide range of clients so it engages in differentiated communications activities to service the diverse needs. My managers have ensured that I will observe as much as possible of the entire Burson operation during my time here. This has allowed every day to be a new learning experience and virtually guaranteed that I will continue to enjoy new “firsts” throughout my fellowship here in the Second City.
*Givon Forbes is a Harold Burson Fellow and is currently a graduate student at Bowie State University
I received quite the welcome during the first week of my Harold Burson Fellowship. Upon arriving in Chicago, I was greeted with below zero temperatures, falling snow, and authentic wind gusts from the Windy City. It was almost as if the city wanted me to receive the full Chicago experience as soon as possible.
The first day of my fellowship at the Chicago office of Burson-Marsteller began with equal energy. I felt pretty special after being shown my work area, which had been prepared in advance with my own phone extension, name plate, and welcome package. Next, I was immediately included in a few brainstorming sessions then introduced to several associates, managers, and directors. It was both exciting and intimidating.
The Burson team was experienced, talented, and worked with the most recognizable companies around the world. Yet everyone that I had the opportunity to meet was extremely friendly and uncharacteristically concerned with my comfort level. My on-site internship coordinator, as well as my director, wanted to ensure that this month long experience would be both meaningful and memorable. Before the week was over I had already worked on four different major client accounts and attended several team strategy and status meetings.
I already have several more assignments, projects, and meetings scheduled for next week. So the second week of my March adventure with Burston-Marsteller promises to be equally fun and exciting.
*Givon Forbes is one of the 2014 Harold Burson Fellows and is working in the Chicago Burson-Marsteller office. Givon is a graduate student at Bowie State University.
The application process helped me realize how passionate I am about communications and public relations, but also my personal contribution to increase minority representation and enthusiasm amongst others in the field. I was initially very excited upon finding out that I was chosen as a recipient for the scholarship, but the elation increased when I met with fellow recipients in New York a couple months later. I had the chance to network with people in important leadership roles from communications positions at Verizon Wireless, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Ketchum and many more in between. It was truly an honor. Having the opportunity to listen to their individual stories of success as well as advice helped me step back and really look closer at my personal goals. No matter the company or organization, something that echoed from nearly every speaker throughout each event and workshop was “stay true to who you are.” It helped me realize that the best way of reaching my goals as a public relations professional is to never compromise myself and keep that belief and passion for what I do.
My connection with The LAGRANT Foundation will truly be a lifelong one. The communication did not end with the weekend in New York. Through social media and email, I am able to keep up with events and opportunities that come my way through TLF sponsors. I have maintained contact with fellow scholarship recipients, and I plan to continue correspondence with TLF so that I may one day be a mentor to future recipients.
*Stacia Doss is a graduate student pursuing her Master of Art degree in Advertising and Public Relations at DePaul University. Stacia is a 2013 TLF scholarship recipient and was selected as one of the Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellows.
Before the TLF program I had not thought about going into the PR industry, but after hearing and speaking with the people at Ketchum, the PR industry is definitely a viable option for me. I learned that PR is not all about the media and news agency. All the new technology in the world has influenced and changed the PR industry for the better. Ketchum also gave the undergraduate students valuable information on how to market ourselves. A person has to be able to market themselves in any industry that they want to get into- so this is an important skill that I will have to use in other scholarship applications, job interviews, and networking opportunities.
The last part of the TLF scholarship experience was the awards ceremony, which I found out was actually a huge networking opportunity. The money was great, but the influential people I talked with will stay with me far longer than the money I received. I spoke with associates of Cohn and Wolfe who encouraged me to apply for an internship with them and spoke to the Senior Partner & CEO of Ketchum, Rob Flaherty. I would have never met any of these people or had any of these experiences if it was not for TLF and all the companies and individuals who support them. It was truly an amazing experience and I look forward to applying again next year.
*Hunter Durham is an undergraduate marketing student attending Palm Beach Atlantic University and a first-time recipient of TLF's scholarship.
It’s been a few months since the TLF scholarship reception and career development workshop, but the connection to the organization remains as strong as ever. TLF has continued to show it wants to offer lifelong support as it has sought our opinions on how it can best serve us and actively promotes relevant career opportunities to us. I also had the opportunity to meet some talented people in New York, and can’t wait to catch up with the fellow Chicagoans after I return to the city and read more about the other recipients in the TLF newsletter.
It is a great network and one I am thankful to have as I return to school this fall as a second year MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I worked for four years as a marketing consultant prior to school, and had a wonderful experience this past summer interning at The Walt Disney Company. I am now focused on building a career in marketing or corporate strategy in the Travel/Hospitality industry that I am passionate about. At school, I am preparing myself by concentrating on Marketing Management and General Management, and also serve as a co-chair of the Travel, Transportation, & Hospitality group; Food, Environment, Agribusiness, & Development group, and OUTreach. It will be a busy and fun year ahead, and I look forward to it!
*Cindy Chow is an MBA candidate at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
With this I came to Brandeis, with a “Posse” of nine other friends from Atlanta. Together we helped each other academically and socially adapt to the difference of the Northeastern culture from Atlanta. It was my Posse that stimulated my passion for communications and encouraged me to create my major in communications, because Brandeis doesn’t offer the study. With this I was steadfast in finding mentors in the communications field who lead me to finding out about TLF.
My career goals and aspirations have changed over the years; from me wanting to be in broadcast journalism, to me now wanting to venture into public relations. I worked in public relations this summer at Regan Communications Group and the experience was rewarding because I truly enjoyed contributing to the growth of RCG’s clients and I got to see first hand how PR works. TLF also opened me to future career goals. Thanks to TLF, Ketchum and Pam Edstrom, President of the Microsoft Account Worldwide and Agency Founder of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, I see myself doing corporate public relations work for a company as established as Ketchum. TLF taught me that being a person of color shouldn’t hold me back from my goals.
*D'Andre Young is a 2013 TLF scholarship recipient pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and American Studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
During my time at the foundation I attended brainstorming meetings, in which I received invitations to express my ideas, regardless of their presumed importance. I was provided with personal mentorship from the Foundation’s Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, Aaron Sherinian. Mr. Sherinian extended his experiences, advice, guidance, and made sure I was paired with areas of the Public Affairs team I was interested in. In addition, I was given the opportunity to write press releases, press pitches, compile media list, draft internal communications documents and help assist with events. The most influential event was their annual Social Good Summit, a three-day conference held in New York City during UN Week. This particular experience allowed me to network work with leadership of other organizations and companies, work in a fast paced environment, test my ability to deal with issues in a timely manner, and see the results from months of hard work. The Social Good Summit was the perfect way to wrap up my internship.
Due to the invaluable experiences provided by the UNF, I was able to receive a public relations internship with Adult Swim (Turner Broadcasting) for the Fall of 2013.
Thank you Kim and TLF for continuing to help bridge the gap between minorities and the communications field.
Aunya Lewis is a student attending Kennesaw State University in Georgia. TLF secured Aunya the internship opportunity with the UNF and wishes her the best in her future endeavors.
Currently, I work as a communications practitioner for a large information technology (IT) consulting company. I love how my career allows me to capture a story and bring it to life to advance a business objective, whether it be a white paper discussing an approach to financing an IT project or a social media blast detailing my company’s community service work.
Upon graduation, I plan to work towards a senior level position in which I can direct company-wide communications and corporate responsibility efforts. I also hope to teach business communications and marketing at the community college level part-time, and work with underrepresented youth to help them gain the skills needed to succeed in the communications industry.
My experiences as a LaGrant scholar will be critical in helping position me for continued success as a businesswoman and a communications practitioner. The LaGrant Foundation has provided me with exposure to leaders across the marketing, communications and public relations spectrum. Through my interactions with these leaders, I have received important advice relevant to my career goals. Most importantly, LaGrant’s support means having an entire network of talented professionals looking out for me, an honor for which I am immensely grateful.
*Sara is a 2013 TLF scholarship recipient obtaining her MBA with an emphasis in Socially Responsible Business at Mills College in Oakland, California.
During this past summer, I interned with a marketing firm the Intermark Group in Birmingham, Ala. In the spring of 2013, I was the Creative Director of The University of Alabama’s Bateman Competition Team, which we received honorable mention by PRSSA for our efforts to fight bullying.
I have bold career goals. Although it seems as if my goals are dream-like, I know I can achieve them. After all, goals are nothing more than dreams. I want to work at a major public relations firm and work my way up. From this gained experience, I intend to open up my own marketing firm or become a Director of Public Relations or marketing for a Fortune 500 company or a rising business. From there, I want to begin reaching out to students in need of scholarships. I would like to start my own scholarship program, very similar to TLF's.
Because of my experience with TLF, these goals formulated. The more I learn from the mentors I gained through the Foundation, the more I know that these dreams are possible.
Thank you Kim Hunter and The LAGRANT Foundation for all that you have done for me.
Benjamin Ladrillono is a 2012 and 2013 scholarship recipient pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations at the University of Alabama.
As an avid sports fan and enthusiast, I hope to secure a PR position in the sports and entertainment field. I am interested in most aspects of sports, but I am most passionate about football and baseball. My dream job would be to do PR for a professional MLB or NFL team.
Being chosen as one of TLF scholarship recipients was truly a blessing. I was very grateful and honored to be chosen out of a pool of very deserving applicants. My experience in Seattle was one I will never forget. I was exposed to a variety of very accomplished and inspiring individuals who offered very insightful career advice. I also had the pleasure of meeting fellow TLF scholarship recipients, many who are great individuals who I plan to stay in touch with. Overall, the TLF experience was very rich and rewarding, and will be something I will always look back on with fond memories.
Rachelle Ramirez is a 2013 scholarship recipient attending USC's Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism pursuing her Master degree in Public Relations.
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.
I was all set to go until I received news from my doctor. I was in a car accident and one of the vertebrates in my neck was now out of place. I had to begin physical therapy and consider the possibility of surgery. Immediately, I began feeling depressed. How would I be able to attend the workshop now or apply for jobs out of state?
A friend of mine reminded me that I must never give up. I began to think about all those who had gone before me and faced adversity but refused to give up. I was not going to let my injury hinder my career before it even started. After explaining my situation to my uncle he advised me to go and not let anything stop me from pursuing my dreams.
After eight and a half hours of driving, I finally made it to Atlanta. Once I arrived at the workshop, I met people who were just like me, dealing with the same situation. Though I knew I was not the only person struggling to find employment, it felt good to be reminded that I was not alone.
Attending the career development workshop was one of the best decisions I ever made. I learned a great deal about my profession from some very knowledgeable and successful professionals in my field. Without attending this workshop, I would not have the upper hand in knowledge that I feel I have now. We were able to ask questions, receive advice, and network. There were also scholarships applications for undergraduate and graduate students. For anyone considering attending a TLF Career Development Workshop, the choice is easy: GO! It will surely be worth your while. If I drove over eight and a half hours with a vertebrate out of place to attend, there is no excuse not to go. Be sure to take advantage of all the opportunities afforded to you because you never know what could happen. Whether it’s a job opportunity or the chance to gain knowledge from someone who is in the position you want to be, it is definitely worth it.
Breana Harris is an alumna of Louisiana State University.
I have been interning ever since I began as a freshman at California State University, Long Beach – I have been a city newspaper reporter, an entertainment news website contributor and a social media marketer for a film distributor. Today, I can honestly say that my current internship with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF) has by far been the best experience of them all.
When I first began interning, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to be my ultimate career goal, to work in the entertainment industry as a public relations professional or a feature writer for a national entertainment-driven publication. However, after I had the honor of being a 2012 LAGRANT Foundation scholarship recipient, the direction of where I wanted to take my career changed drastically, as I began to look closer at the world of nonprofit public relations. Working directly for the foundation that invested so generously into my education has not only given me the opportunity to work with amazing people, but it has given me the chance to work on incredibly rewarding tasks.
Prior to being an intern at TLF, there were several things within public relations I had never conquered before, nor had I learned before in a classroom. Working on a communications plan for the 2013 scholarship applications was one of the first assignments I was given, something I had never done or learned to do before. It was such a pleasure to be given the freedom to try something new and to receive genuine, constructive feedback that will better my skills as a public relations student. Conducting outreach on behalf of TLF to promote career development workshops and the scholarship program has also been amazing, as I am actively implementing the TLF mission on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to speak with students, professors and faculty members from schools across the country about our programs and to hear people who are genuinely excited about what TLF does has been one of the coolest experiences about this internship.
One of the great things about interning with TLF is the guidance and advice that is given going beyond your position as an intern. If there is a particular agency or corporation of interest that you would like to pursue for an internship, TLF can help you achieve that goal and do what they can to help you progress within the industry. Having my resume completely edited and looked over was also such a great opportunity, as it is something I rely on to represent myself on paper as a public relations student. Knowing that the information I want portrayed on my resume is being showcased properly gives me the piece of mind I need when I submit it for various internships and jobs, and for that I thank TLF.
There are countless amazing things to say about interning with TLF and I feel so privileged to be in my second internship term with such an amazing foundation. As someone who is ethnically diverse myself, I feel like I am making a difference in the public relations industry every time I step through the doors of the office. This has been such an incredible experience and I look forward to my continued growth in the public relations industry with the help of TLF.
*Joseph Apodaca is a 2012 LAGRANT Foundation undergraduate scholarship recipient pursuing his degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations at California State University, Long Beach.
I honestly don’t know where to begin to recap this week. Being a part of this program has surpassed my expectations and goals, and the third week definitely did not disappoint. Among the various projects I was assigned, I still had the chance to sit in on more meetings to learn about specific parts of the Brand Marketing practice. In my opinion, you can never learn enough, and seeing how the agency manages their accounts for writing and pitching, celebrity seeding, media relations and events, was more priceless insight that I could take away with me beyond this program.
As I have mentioned in every post so far, I came here to learn. And I’ve done that by being attentive in meetings, scribbling down notes, highlighting and book marking pages of information, and being open to new practices. But I received a piece of information last week in casual conversation—just a few short words—and they may have been the most valuable lesson yet. The conversation expressed that the best way to adapt to a new environment (my time with B-M is my first real agency experience), and succeed in it, is to watch the environment and actions of my colleagues. Doing this is the easiest way to assimilate with a team. This really stuck out to me and wasn’t something that I discussed aloud before.
To top off this week, I had a phone call on my schedule with Harold Burson himself. Being so new to the office, I was surprised and excited to talk with him; he was inviting and engaging. His story of creating a public relations firm is truly inspiring, and I am happy to represent The LAGRANT Foundation as the second Fellow (following Danielle Chase at Burson-Marsteller New York).
The one thing that has helped me transition from an e-commerce marketing job, to a month with the Brand Marketing team at Burson-Marsteller, is the support system I have been blessed with. Danielle shared her experiences and advice with me even before I flew out here. The LAGRANT Foundation has offered more support than I could hope for, and my family continues to send their blessings from miles away. Furthermore, everyone in the office has offered their time to mentor me. I want to thank everyone for their support and following me along in this journey.
*Rachelle is the second participant of the Harold-Burson Fellowship program.
My first weekend after joining the Burson-Marsteller LA office greeted me with sunny skies and 80 degrees in “fall”. While the weather is something I was certainly happy to get used to, I also needed to mentally prepare for Week #2. Having spent a full week in the office, in and out of department meetings, learning about clients, and getting briefed with tasks, Hour 41 was my chance to put what I have been learning into effect.
I came into this fellowship with three goals in mind, which I think are valuable at any level: to learn everything I can, challenge myself, and work really hard. To me that means being accountable, accepting any and all responsibilities as an opportunity to perform, and do just that—perform. Four weeks is not a lot of time to leave a positive impression, but it is something I aim to do as a representative of both myself and The LAGRANT Foundation.
Having this new acquired knowledge for BM practices, processes, and client campaigns, I was able to accept more account-specific responsibilities my second week. Thus, it has been much busier than the first—I have spent allotted time on various accounts and worked to fit in multiple projects a day. I was overwhelmed, but soon after I realized this as an indicator of me reaching my goal. The beauty of this fellowship program is that I am doing the exact work I would be doing if I worked at Burson-Marsteller beyond the fellowship. I’m not just an “intern.”
I still can’t believe I am here working alongside and connecting with great professionals and of course, I’m happy and saddened that I’m half way there. I find joy that I’ve come much further than Day 1, yet sad because only two weeks remain.
Every new day reiterates that this opportunity is a priceless chance to better myself and grow as a professional, so I will definitely take however many days I can get!
*Rachelle Dejean is the second Harold Burson Fellow. She currently interns at the Los Angeles office of Burson-Marsteller.
Heading to my first day at the BM office, I didn’t know what to expect, but I flew (literally) at the chance to move from my home in Chicago to work with one of the best PR firms and Brand Practice teams in the industry. Being in a new city with only a few nearby friends had me a bit overwhelmed, but in five days, I have taken part in a crash course in the Burson Toolbox as well as brand meetings, met U.S. CEO Dave DenHerder, and participated in brainstorming and lunch-and-learn sessions with the team. I’ve learned about global networking and requests for proposals, updated media lists, and even compiled a social media report that will be used as a resource in the future. There is no time to be overwhelmed with relocation when I’m this busy!
It has been an interesting Week 1 to say the least. In between scheduled meetings, learning sessions and getting acquainted, we also experienced technical difficulties that made it hard to stay connected. Our main server is located in New York, which required us to be flexible and mindful when trying to reach others outside of the office. No email in a PR office is one thing, but even more bizarre, I got to spend some time with senior executives halfway during the week! They showed up at our Halloween office party to help celebrate the holiday.
While I am learning so much in the office, I am picking up a lot when I’m away from my desk, like how crazy the traffic in Los Angeles is—especially when relying on the metro system. Nevertheless, my daily commute brings me to the gorgeous Water Garden, a center of corporate offices where BM is located. Elegant water fountains at every turn were not something I was expecting, but it mirrors the atmosphere of BM and the team. It didn’t take a full day before I realized that the team works so hard for their existing clients and for new business alike.
I am eager to continue learning and get more involved. Bring on Week 2!
Over the two days of the program, I received plenty of insight on the marketing and PR industry and met amazing leaders. I have no doubt that the program positively impacted us all, beginning with the welcome dinner hosted by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE). Pam Edstrom herself gave an awesome speech about her journey in becoming the President of the Microsoft Account Worldwide and Founder of WE, sharing a conveying message to take risks because “if you don’t die, it’s not that bad!”
The second day was filled with a career development workshop led by APCO Worldwide. We were presented with motivational speeches, learned of different projects within the strategic communications firm, and even received a personal tour of the Capitol building.
The LAGRANT Foundation 14th Anniversary Scholarship Recognition Reception and Awards Program included a lineup of very accomplished professionals in the marketing and public relation industries such as Director of Standards and Staffing of USA TODAY and Master of Ceremonies for the evening Brent Jones, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TE Connectivity and Committee Chair, Joan Wainwright, Executive Vice President of Global Communications and Public Affairs of Marriott International, Inc., Kathleen Mathews and our very own Founder/Chairman of The LAGRANT Foundation, Mr. Kim L Hunter. Powerful words were shared to guide and motivate all of the scholarship recipients to continue chasing our dreams. APCO Worldwide was a wonderful host for the reception providing a beautiful space for presentation and networking amongst representatives and students.
Overall, The LAGRANT Foundation 14th Anniversary Scholarship Recognition Reception and Awards Program was monumental. I am very grateful to have been selected as a 2012 LAGRANT Scholarship Recipient and greatly value my experience during the program.
*Senait Chrisostomo is a 2012 TLF undergraduate scholarship recipient
by Joseph Apodaca*
Today, myself along with four of the 2012 LAGRANT Foundation scholarship recipients had the honor and pleasure of participating in a career development workshop with renowned journalist and career coach, Antonio Neves.
Going into this workshop I was excited and eager to receive career advice from someone who has gained a tremendous amount of respect as a business journalist, television producer and a speaker who seeks to teach students and young professionals to "kick butt in their career". Antonio was immediately welcoming and engaging and conducted himself in a comfortable manner, making himself more relatable to myself and the four other attendants whom he had just met. After introducing ourselves to him formally, Antonio told us more about his career experience, detailing his life as a small-town kid from Michigan who left his humble roots to seek greater opportunities, eventually making it to New York City with a mere $600 in his pocket.
Antonio challenged us to really think about where we wanted to take our career aspirations as public relations, communications and marketing students. We were asked to consider what do we do, who do we do it for, how do we do it and why do we do it - an exercise that was eye-opening for us all. While we went into the workshop with ideas about where we wanted our careers to go in the future, Antonio's exercise allowed us to see other career interests in ourselves that we might not have initially considered. Seeing the reactions of the other individuals in the room when Antonio would ask certain questions about the career and their interests and how their faces would light up when he would touch on something that was a minor interest to them was awe-inspiring and gave us all a chance to think about what truly makes us "come alive".
As the founder of THINQACTION and its corresponding website, thinqaction.com, Antonio stressed the importance of building our network with a long-term approach. Social media was something he regarded of extreme importance, especially websites such as LinkedIN. He also stressed practices that, in this day of technology, often go overlooked. Taking the initiative and requesting an informational meeting with someone you want to learn from one-on-one was something he made clear was very important in building your network and gaining a better outlook for career direction. Simple things such as asking questions and writing hand-written thank you notes to those you encounter along the way up the corporate world were also things he regarded as important, even in an age where email communication is the easier option.
Attending this workshop with Antonio Neves hosted by The LAGRANT Foundation was easily one of the most eye-opening and inspiring events I have participated in during my three years as a public relations student. It is one thing to go to a workshop and gain information about the profession you want to go into or a company you wish to work for, but what Antonio did for us, and for other young professionals he coaches, was take that experience to the next level and challenged us to think critically while maintaining a personable level of communication with myself and the other scholarship recipients in attendance. I have walked away from this experience with a whole new perspective on where I plan to take my career and I'm sure my fellow scholarship recipients in attendance feel the same.
THINQACTION is a great way to gain career guidance through one-on-one coaching sessions with Antonio and through various other helpful articles and blog posts on his website. For more information about Antonio Neves and THINQACTION, visit thinqaction.com.
*Joseph is one of The LAGRANT Foundation's 2012 scholarship recipients.
"Communications Conversations" Hosted by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide in Seattle
by Monica Santos-Pinacho*
On Thursday, April 12, 2012, I left my house, in Vancouver, Washington, at 4:45 a.m. and drove to Seattle to attend the Communications Conversation event at the Waggener Edstrom Worldwide headquarters. The LAGRANT Foundation and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide joined forces to create this opportunity for me and eight other undergraduate students majoring in the fields of Marketing or Public Relations.
At 8:38 a.m. with just seven minutes to spare, I found my way to the 6th floor of the Civica North Tower. This development workshop was a dynamic all-day experience that included breakfast with Pam Edstrom, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide Co-founder and President of the Microsoft Account Worldwide; a Waggener Edstrom Worldwide employee panel that answered questions and provided us with valuable career advice; resume reviews and mock interviews with WE HR personnel; lunch with Melissa Waggener Zorkin, WE Founder and CEO; a brainstorming session with See Your Impact, a WE pro bono client that helps raise funds for other non-profit organizations around the world; a behind the scenes glance at what is like to open Microsoft retail stores across the country; an engaging conversation with the General Manager of Communications for the Server and Tools business group at Microsoft, Amy Barzdikas; and a social hour reception that allowed us more time to interact with the speakers and other WE staff.
The entire event was a phenomenal experience. Having a chance to interact with the agency?s founders, Mellissa Waggener and Pam Edstrom was definitely the highlight of the event. Listening to Pam Edstrom's story of how her drive and determination got her into the technology field was very inspiring. With her story, she showed us that knowing everything is not always the key to success. The key to being successful is having the self-motivation to keep learning something new every day. The highlight of her presentation was when she told us not to be afraid and shared with us a few stories of some of her most memorable mistakes. "Fear is your enemy", she told us. Melissa Waggener shared a very casual lunch with us. I sat there in awe having a hard time believing that the CEO of a worldwide company would take so much time out of her day to simply talk to nine undergraduate students. It was very impressive to see that Waggener knew I attended Washington State University Vancouver. She knew a little bit about all of us.
The day continued and we had an amazing opportunity to interact with professionals in public relations who are all are so passionate about the industry we one day hope to venture into. One of the most encouraging aspects of this workshop was seeing first-hand how helpful the Waggener Edstrom Worldwide staff is. They were genuinely willing to give us their best advice and tips for success in this field. They all love what they do, and they enjoy the environment Waggener Edstrom Worldwide provide them. They see their jobs as careers and as an opportunity to explore their talents and grow as professionals. Their passion for their careers leaked everywhere and all nine of us students were there to catch some of it.
At about 6:25 p.m. with a wallet full of business cards, I said goodbye to all of the amazing people I had met throughout the day. I walked out the door, hoping to return one day. The three and a half hour drive home was the perfect opportunity to think back on all of the great things we were exposed to in the last nine hours and felt incredibly thankful to the LAGRANT Foundation and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide for providing this extraordinary opportunity.
*Monica Santos-Pinacho is one of The LAGRANT Foundation's 2012 scholarship recipients
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide Hosts "Communications Conversations"
By Senait Chrisostomo*
On April 12, 2012, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and The LAGRANT Foundation partnered together to offer undergraduate students from the Seattle area to partake in an exclusive workshop. I was fortunate enough to be among the nine attendees and can honestly say the eventful day was beyond rewarding. The day began with a lovely breakfast with Pam Edstrom, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide Co-founder & President of the Microsoft Account Worldwide. Through her bubbly and energetic personality, she shared her journey into technical communications through Tetronix, as Director of Public Relations for Microsoft and currently as Co-Founder of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and President of the Microsoft Account Worldwide. Pam Edstrom left us with three great pieces of advice to always remember: ask questions, fear is your enemy, and “the world changes dramatically”.
The program proceeded with a panel of young professionals who shared their journey into communications and their positions at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. The panel shared very honest and humble experiences which was very beneficial for me. Many undergraduates share the commonality of not knowing exactly what they want to be when they “grow up” and hearing their stories confirmed that there is not always a direct path and that trial and error may be necessary to find a good fit.
After the panel discussion, we transitioned into the Speed-Dating styled interviews with Waggener Edstrom Worldwide Human Resources. Students spent about 10 to 15 minutes with each Human Resources expert to either participate in a mock interview or receive resume advice. The experience was golden because we were able to spend one on one time with the ticket holders of the communication and public relation industry. I learned how to improve my interviewing skills and tips on how to strengthen my resume qualifications through honest feedback.
What better way to follow up Speed Dating than a lunch discussion with Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO, President and Founder of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. Waggener definitely shattered any intimidation one may have being an undergraduate and speaking with the CEO of a global company. She knew quite a bit about each student which expressed Waggener’s interest in getting to know potential interns and employees. She humbly spoke about her journey into communications and into entrepreneurship as well as her interest in service both locally and globally, including Mercy Corp, a non-profit organization that addresses social development across the globe.
After lunch, we later participated in a brainstorm with See Your Impact, a Waggener Edstrom Worldwide pro bono client. Divided into groups based on different projects within the organization, we developed ideas on how to inspire youth engagement in service projects. Specifically, I participated in the brainstorm for Gen Up, which allows young adults to create a service project to fundraise for a cause he or she supports. It was a great experience to know the organization will be using our ideas to improve their communication and marketing tactics.
*Senait Chrisostomo is one of The LAGRANT Foundation's 2012 scholarship recipients
How To Get The Most From An Agency Internship
By Danielle Chase*
Here at Burson-Marsteller, no two days are the same. Every day I am assigned a completely new project. While having to acquire the skills and content knowledge necessary for these tasks, I’ve also had to manage the demands of graduate school. There have been many bumps along the road. That being said, I’ve learned a lot about best practices for agency interns. Considering that many frequenters of this site are probably communications students, I thought it might be beneficial to share a couple of these best practices.
- Be proactive. Speak with your managers early on about your interests and your goals. Ask them their advice on which projects or clients you are best suited for. Meet as many people as you can. Practice your three minute pitch (your background, your short term goals, and your long term goals). Have a CV and digital portfolio on hand if and when an opportunity presents itself.
- Take responsibility for your learning. If you don’t know something, figure it out. Be resourceful: Google it first, then ask for help. Research. Take notes. Find a mentor—or two. If you find that all you are doing is faxing and fetching coffee, it’s likely because the team doesn’t think you’re capable of much else. Prove them wrong. Go above and beyond what they expect from you.
- Give thoughtful input. Always listen more than you speak. When you have something worth saying, say it. Even if they think your idea was awful, at least now they know what your voice sounds like. Be sure to find opportunities to showcase what you do well. For example, I have an education background, so I presented about twenty suggestions on strategies we could use for a financial literacy program. They didn’t take any of those ideas, but they did use one sentence from that e-mail in a Reuters Op-Ed. Speaking up can have surprisingly good results.
- Manage expectations. If you have too much on your plate already, say so. When you take on too much you do things poorly, you fail to earn respect from colleagues and you can potentially threaten agency-client relationships. Do what you can, and do it well.
- Grades first. In the same vein as “managing expectations”, be sure to be clear with your team about your academic responsibilities. If you have a midterm that day, tell your supervisor. Not only are you incurring a great debt for that degree, but you likely won’t get the job without it.
- Know your stuff. Every morning scan at least three news sites—I recommend The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. If your company delivers an email digest, read it. If your agency has a public blog, subscribe to this as well. Also, if the CEO of your organization wrote a book, you better at least have a working knowledge of its content. (Special mention to Mark Penn’s Microtrends and Harold Burson’s E Pluribus Unum.)
- PROOFREAD EVERYTHING. Spell check is your enemy. Print everything and go over it with a red pen. Know the rules regarding quotation marks, commas and parentheses (Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and the AP Stylebook are great resources). Check all formatting (common day practice is to use only one space after each period, but this is personal preference). Know your contractions; there is nothing worse than reading a “you’re” in the place of a “your” or an “it’s” in the place of an “its.” Also, figure out which font, size and header your supervisor prefers. Arial 11 seems to be the BM fav.
- Be professional. Regardless of what you hear, don’t use lewd language or attempt to win friends with distasteful jokes. Don’t engage in office gossip. Regardless of the casual nature of your agency, dress for where you want to be.
- Be NICE. This seems obvious, but always remember: your resume will get you in the door, but whether or not they like you will get you the job. Smile, be personable, and don’t forget your thank you cards.
Now you may not sleep much. You may be in a constant state of anxiety and approaching deadlines. You may long for a meal that isn’t a microwaved frozen entree. But if you made it a point to learn as much as you can and make the best impression you possibly could, your experience will far surpass your expectations.
Without question, my experiences at B-M have far surpassed mine.
*Danielle is the first recipient of the Harold Burson Fellowship program through The LAGRANT Foundation.
By Danielle Chase*
As part of the NYU Public Relations curriculum we are required to take a course titled “Ethics and Law of Public Communications.” Required reading for this course includes the book Toxic Sludge is Good for You by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton.
With a strong inclination for social justice, I became engrossed in this book and its discussion on the ethical qualms of public relations practitioners. The more I read, the more disconcerted I became. It seemed that every chapter had the regular mention of Burson-Marsteller, the agency where I am completing my LAGRANT Fellowship tenure.
As part of the fellowship I have the opportunity to meet once a week with Mr. Harold Burson, founder of B-M. This week was our first sit down meeting. I knew I didn’t want the topic of controversial clients to be the content of our first chat, but after about an hour of friendly discourse I mentioned the book to him. I asked him what his guiding forces were on ethics. I believe his answer was important enough to share.
Mr. Burson gave me about a half a dozen criteria that must be aligned in order for him take on or retain a client. Most of these were related to the economics and logistics of agency-client relationships, i.e. negotiating a fair rate, being respectful to his staff, whether or not their requests were reasonable, and if he was certain that he wouldn’t lose any clients by taking on this newcomer. But the most interesting criterion he mentioned I believe was the most important takeaway of that conversation: Mr. Burson said he would refuse a client if more than half of his staff refused to work for them.
Above all, I think this rule of thumb should be standard throughout our burgeoning careers as public relations practitioners. The subject of ethics is not a science. Working for one client may be completely at odds with my moral imperative, while my colleague might kill for the chance to be on that same team. In agencies as big as B-M, it would be impossible to make choices on who we represent based on the values of a few selected individuals. For that reason, Mr. Burson is right to use “majority vote” as a criterion for whom he chooses to represent.
Then I asked Mr. Burson if that had ever happened. Had he ever had to turn down a client because more than 50 percent of his staff wouldn’t take them on? He said he never did.
At first I thought he never had to refuse a client because his staff would be too nervous to actually protest. But I realized very shortly that it had nothing to do with a culture of fear, and everything to do with how well the B-M staff is prepared to handle ethical quandaries.
When I was bought on at B-M I had to participate in ethics training, anti-bribery training, and anti-corruption training. I had to sign a Code of Conduct statement, pledging to never commit to any illegal or immoral activity. I had to read and acknowledge understanding of our Right to Speak statement, which offers confidential reporting to encourage employees to speak up if they ever felt they witnessed or were forced to participate in less than ethical behavior.
After all of this incredible focus on deterring less than scrupulous activity, I couldn’t simply believe, as the authors John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton might conclude, that B-M was a place with no moral imperative. In these past two weeks alone I have been told many times that if I ever feel uncomfortable working for a client that I can simply refuse the project. At first I thought this would be ridiculous; as a pseudo-intern (secretly hoping for a job offer), what would I look like turning down a project? But the more I learn here at B-M, the more I realize I will never have the need to protest an “unethical” client. I might find myself working on crisis communications during an oil spill, or issues management for a nuclear power plant, or research and development for a food corporation that is being protested against. With each of these tasks my job is not to protect a client who has done wrong, or “spin” a story to best reflect their interests, but to guide that organization to do what is best.
What is best is always what is in the public interest (yes—regardless of your client’s bottom line). This is why for year’s public relations was defined as the medium which helps an organization and its publics “mutually adapt” to one another. This is why Arthur Page tells us that “every business exists by public consent.”
As public relations practitioners it is our job to “reconcile client goals with the public interest.” By definition then, we must work in accordance with our true north. We must do work that we believe most accurately reflects what is best for the greatest number of people. If we fail to act ethically, not only are we endangering the reputations of our client and our agency, but we are doing our society a great disservice as well.
*Danielle is the first recipient of the Harold Burson Fellowship program through The LAGRANT Foundation.
What Leadership Looks Like
by Danielle Chase*
I’ve had tons of jobs. I’ve been a public school teacher, a campaign manager, a community affairs coordinator, a junior publicist, a legislative assistant, a florist, a community board member, a gas station attendant, and pretty much have held every job you can think of that involves food service, including waitressing, bartending, dishwashing, bar back, and cleaning staffer. But never before did I have a job quite like this one.
This was my first week at the world renowned PR agency, Burson-Marsteller (“B-M”). I have had the fortune of being selected as the very first Harold Burson Fellow. The fellowship includes four weeks with the Corporate Practice team, participating in numerous learning opportunities, and one-on-one mentoring meetings with the legendary, Mr. Harold Burson, in the flesh. Just this week, I’ve participated in a lunch-and–learn session, several conference calls, and a workshop with B-M South Africa’s CEO. I’ve learned about luxury marketing, global expansion, innovation and rankings, thought leadership strategies, and executive visibility. I’ve been on projects for three Fortune 100 companies, an NGO, a luxury car company, an investment bank, and a global beer brand, and it’s only week one!
In the culmination of this week of non-stop activity and learning, I’ve come to an important realization: that this is the best job I’ve ever had, and I think I know why. In critical business class we have been learning about effective business models, and the theories behind how to create one. My favorite theorist thus far is Robert Deming. Deming was a philosopher and statistician. He theorized that there were 14 factors needed if a business were to truly sustain and remain prosperous. He called this the 14 Points of Management.
When I was studying the 14 Points of Management, I increasingly began to associate them with the qualities and culture of B-M. Simultaneously, I began noticing that all of the mismanaged institutions where I previously held employment had qualities that were in opposition to Deming’s theory. Where B-M is forever focused on its mission and vision, other organizations fixate on short-term objectives. Where B-M is constantly giving its staff opportunities to learn and contribute creatively, other organizations impose limitations, stifle progress, and prioritize seniority as the most important factor to an employee’s value. Where B-M is constantly making efforts to break down silos—evident in their SharePoint databases, and their ongoing interactions between departments—other organizations manage rigid levels of inclusion, and managers take advantage of their authority. These are the differences between a functioning, well-managed organization where employees feel they are valued, and organizations that are doomed to fail due to lack of effective leadership. This is the difference between an organization where I would like to be employed by, and an organization where I never want to work again.
Mr. Burson and his extraordinary staff have created a world-class organization, one that truly exemplifies its values, and is on the direct path to achieving its vision. B-M is an industry leader, and I couldn’t have picked a better organization to learn the fundamentals of public relations, and real-world implications of effective leadership.
At the end of the day, it sure beats working at the flower shop!
*Danielle is the first recipient of the Harold Burson Fellowship program through The LAGRANT Foundation.
See Success Stories and News and Updates for current information too.