October 3, 2012
Lauren K. Gray has entered her senior year at Western Carolina University (WCU) in Cullowhee, N.C. She is the 2012-2013 PRSSA National president and a consumer intern at Trevelino/Keller Communications Group in Atlanta. She is majoring in communication with a concentration in public relations, and minoring in marketing and leadership.
Though she says that she wanted to be a veterinarian when she was younger “to save and help all the animals I could,” Gray now hopes to land a job at a PR firm or agency after graduation to help companies and clients manage public relations, branding development, social media and integrated marketing.
In addition to her active Twitter presence and leadership experience, she maintains a website and blog called “Social PR Lifestyle,” which includes weekly posts about social media, public relations and current events. Gray was president of the WCU PRSSA Chapter from 2009-2011 and has been involved with PRSSA since Aug. 2009.
What advice do you have for others for success in PRSSA — how can PR students make the most of their college experience?
To make the most of your college experience, you have to get involved, be active and experience different things. Whether that’s joining another organization, volunteering, participating in campus discussions or going outside of your comfort zone to organizations or groups you are not familiar with, all of this will help you in the long run.
Playing it safe doesn’t advance your knowledge of the industry, our culture or our differences as American people.
Why is there such an interest in public relations these days? Is it a more popular major and profession choice among your peers?
I think it’s a more popular choice because of the people in PR who make it out to be a “fun” position of celebrity status — like what we see in [the TV show] “Sex and the City.”
I also think it’s because people genuinely like working for clients and making clients and companies better. Public relations is more popular among my friends, but marketing, advertising and creative are as well.
What tools and technology are most important for you to succeed right now as a student and to carry over into the real world as a professional?
Knowledge of social media is a start — but it’s about knowing how to use social for analytics and how to use social ethically and professionally.
Understanding how to write an effective press release, how to use Microsoft Suite and Adobe Creative Suite, how to use a Mac and a PC, and when to use your smartphone and when to put it away are useful things to know as well.
Time management, organizational skills, and knowing how to communicate with different genders and generations are also needed skills.
How are your professors integrating social media into the classroom experience?
We had one class on social media and blogging and my other professors talked about the rise and influence of social media. In most classes, we haven’t dived into the real meaning of social and how to effectively use it.
What are some of your social media habits and your daily news sources?
I tweet interesting and relevant news most of the day, I post on Facebook, I browse funny Tumblr accounts and I occasionally pin on Pinterest. Twitter is my main social site. My favorite news sources are Mashable, CNN, Social Media Today, Business2Community, Social Fresh, AdWeek, Fast Company, Huffington Post and Forbes.
You are a prolific Twitter user. What are some tips and best practices?
Twitter is about engagement — don’t just promote and tweet links. Social media is supposed to be social, and interacting with people is the best start for Twitter. [Use] some hashtags and join the conversation [that’s] going on.
What classes or experiences at Western Carolina have prepared you best for the real world?
My favorite classes were PR case studies, senior professional development, eMarketing and my career marketing strategies classes. In each of those, we learned about real-world experiences and real-world advice that I know I will use in the future.
My favorite experience at Western Carolina was definitely working in our WCU PR eMarketing department, managing our official university social media [outlets] for three years. We made a lot of changes, progressed, strategized and were a team. It was a valuable experience.
What have you learned from your own internship experiences and what advice do you have for others on how to make the most of internships?
I’ve had five internships and each one has been valuable. I’ve learned that you have to appreciate that you will do something different every single day. It’s not about what you know or getting yourself to the top; it’s about working for your company or your client to [help them] progress better.
To make the most out of your internship, you have to be involved and you have to make yourself known. Stand out, join the conversations, volunteer and do your best work.
Looking ahead, what do you want to accomplish — what are some of your career goals?
I would like to work for an agency or a firm for the next 10-15 years, and then, I would like [to gain] corporate experience [working] for a company. I like agency life because you get to work with so many different clients, but I would like to know what it’s like to mainly focus on one with more time and energy spent on one thing.
What are you and your classmates and peers talking about right now? Are you/they worried about the job hunt and life after graduation?
I think everyone is scared about life after graduation! Everyone is talking about how nothing seems certain and how they just want a job. I want a job that I will be happy in and I will succeed in.
What makes a good leader? Why did you pursue a role in PRSSA leadership?
A good leader knows how to take charge, when to step back and when to look at the overall/bigger picture to advance the organization — not personal agendas. I pursued a higher role in PRSSA leadership because PRSSA made a difference in my life and in my career. And I wanted to make sure our members understood what PRSSA does, how it helps and how they can take advantage of our strong Society during and after college.
How do you strengthen the bond between PRSA and PRSSA and make sure that people want to continue their membership?
It starts with success stories in PRSSA and getting members to fully understand their PRSSA membership. Once members recognize the value of their PRSSA membership and get involved, they will want to carry that to an even larger network in PRSA after college.
Managing editor Amy Jacques interviewed Lauren K. Gray for this month’s profile.
If you could have three dinner guests, past or present, who would they be?
President Obama, Steve Jobs and Beyoncé
What’s your favorite place to travel?
What’s your favorite book or movie?
What do you like to do in your leisure time for fun?
Watch movies, play with my dogs, and spend time with my boyfriend, friends and family
Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.
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