Click above for a special podcast, featuring this column's authors Steve Quigley and Carly Gibson, where we drill deeper into the 2017 PRSSA National Conference and discuss vital industry topics including video storytelling, ethics, and much more.
Boston University’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (BUPRSSA) has long been guided by Norman Vincent Peale’s quote. When we won the competition to sponsor the 2017 PRSSA National Conference, we set the moon squarely in our sights. Our theme: The Revolution Continues.
With over 1,000 students journeying to Boston for five days, we knew we needed to inform them, entertain them, and inspire them to take what they learned and do great things.
Recruiting world-class speakers
The conference was to be planned by four Boston University students and Steve Quigley, the BUPRSSA faculty advisor. They spent a year working with the PRSSA national organization to organize the conference, all while managing their demanding class schedules and various internships. With the help of Boston University College of Communication faculty, we were able to reach for the stars for speakers.
For our keynote address, we needed a brilliant corporate executive to capture the excitement and complexities of 21st century multinational corporate communications. We were able to secure Jon Iwata, chief brand officer, SVP, marketing, communications and citizenship at IBM.
As crises are born daily, we knew our students would want to hear from the best. Judy Smith, founder and president of Smith & Company and co-executive producer of the smash TV series Scandal, traveled to Boston to share her top tips for students to use in the future.
As the public relations world continues to revolutionize, we knew we needed a leader at the epicenter of the transformation of public relations from the agency side. We convinced Mike Fernandez, U.S. CEO at Burson-Marsteller, to guide us through the new world of agency PR and the changes he’s witnessed throughout his corporate career.
As Bostonians, we knew we wanted to pay homage to the success of the communications efforts and #BostonStrong after the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Our insights and inspiration were provided by Heather Abbott, marathon bombing survivor and founder of the Heather Abbott Foundation; T.K. Skenderian, director of communications for the Boston Athletic Association; and Timothy Sullivan, communications and media relations director at Spaulding Medical Center.
Taking on complex topics
We recognized that it was imperative to give students the tools and knowledge to stay abreast with the conversations taking place in the industry. In all, we recruited 43 top-tier conference speakers, each committed to informing and inspiring tomorrow’s public relations leaders on the most complex and exciting challenges facing our profession.
We insisted on topics that pushed the PR envelope including navigating fake news, shifting from outbound to inbound marketing, confronting today’s ethical dilemmas, video storytelling, creativity that goes beyond stunts, taking the corporate out of corporate communications, building purpose-driven organizations, knowing when to break the rules, and more.
Boston University continues to be dedicated to the progression of the public relations profession by understanding the importance of tradition while also valuing new technologies. Both students and faculty are committed to having relevant conversations, pursuing the highest ethical standards, and training future leaders in the industry.
BUPRSSA will host a 2018 regional conference. Next year’s event, PRAdvanced: It Starts Now, will be our tenth regional conference. Each year, we have drawn approximately 200 students from dozens of universities to our campus. Those students gladly "sacrifice" a Friday night and all day Saturday to advance their future as professional communicators. The 2018 conference will focus on how under-30 professionals are helping to redefine the practice of public relations.
Carly Gibson studies public relations at Boston University and will graduate in May 2018 with a BS in Communication. Carly was the conference coordinator for the PRSSA 2017 National Conference held in Boston, Massachusetts. She has completed internships at Ogilvy, Rafanelli Events, and PRLab, Boston University’s student-run agency.
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