A PR Overview for Chicago High School Students

October 2, 2017

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With the PRep PRogram in Chicago, the PRSA Foundation, DePaul University and Midtown Educational Foundation (MEF) are proving their commitment to a more diverse and inclusive future for public relations.

The special, one-day event this past July provided a comprehensive overview of the PR profession for 125 minority students — mostly African-American and Hispanic — from 35 different area high schools.

The program — which represents the fourth consecutive year that MEF has partnered with the PRSA Foundation and DePaul in offering an educational program for high school students — began with an overview of the career and its many manifestations.

PR experts and leaders from Chicago-area agencies, industries and nonprofits gave their unvarnished views of the profession — outlining its challenges and rewards, and presenting case studies. They also discussed how important diverse cultural thinking is for business.

One of the first ways students were asked to think about reputation was to consider themselves as their own brand — specifically, the way they dress, the way they talk and the way they react to situations.

“It’s no different for organizations,” said Don Ingle, a PR lecturer at DePaul. “Their brands, their reputations, are more important than ever. This has been driven, to a large extent, through the explosive growth of social media. That makes a multicultural approach to public relations more important than ever.”

Jay Baglia, Ph.D., associate professor in communications at DePaul, took the class back to Aristotle by discussing how the concept of ethos is important in establishing credibility.

“Meanings are in people, not words,” said Baglia, underscoring the need for multicultural thinking when addressing any audience. The students also received writing and communication tips from DePaul’s Jill Stewart, another veteran PR practitioner.

Five breakout sessions followed, including discussions on marketing and branding that touched on some of the finer points within the worlds of sports and consumer marketing. Those sessions featured presenters such as Luis Sanchez of Flowers Communications Group, Kristena Lucky of Edelman and Mark Leonard of Pro Tips 4U.

The day also included a series of breakouts that addressed the evolving role of social and digital media. For the final session, Raschanda Hall, president of the Chicago Chapter of the National Black Public Relations Society, and PRep PRogram Coordinators Camden Robertson and Valencia Seuell, reminded the students of the importance of their personal brands.
  
“Almost all of these students will be going to college,” said Bob Kornecki, who spent his 35-year career with Burson-Marsteller and Edelman. “Introducing them to public relations before they get there will give them a chance to think about public relations as they make their career choices.”
 

Jim Dudas

Jim Dudas has 35 years of experience in journalism, not-for-profit, agency and corporate communications. He led North American communications for Ducks Unlimited, managed public relations for Allstate while with Hill & Knowlton and then, for 20 years, was director of corporate relations and media relations at Allstate.

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