By: Kady Volmering (@kadyvolmering)
Despite an address mix up and an unreal heatwave, the Ann Arbor agency tour was a major success. On Friday, September 20, a handful of GV PRSSA members trekked across the state to learn more about the different aspects of PR in the business world.
Fortunately for us, we were able to meet with two incredible women who are absolutely dominating the PR and marketing world. We first met with Nikki Sunstrum, the director of the University of Michigan’s social media, and two members of her team. Nikki’s office is in a cute, old building tucked away in a neighborhood of Ann Arbor, a swift 15-minute walk from U of M’s main campus.
The whole atmosphere made me giddy thinking about my future as a PR professional. The meeting began with quick introductions, and then went straight to the good stuff: A day in the life of a social media director. Nikki laid out a typical (ish) day for her, going through her responsibilities, the types of projects her team works on, and the media types the team uses on a daily basis. Nikki and her team showed us a few videos full of content they had created over the last year, as well as a video they create for graduation that is displayed in the Big House. She talked about what kind of content they like to develop, and how the content should stay relevant to the students on campus, but also to the general public. U of M has over 1,200 media outlets that they run, which is an incredible amount. I’m not sure how they manage, even with all the staff that helps keep the accounts updated, because I can barely keep track of the three accounts I have.
Nevertheless, Nikki and her team go above and beyond almost all other universities in the country. They stay in the top five slots for most followed and interacted on several social media sites, including Twitter and Instagram. Nikki even gets calls from other colleges weekly, poking for tips on how to create and manage such interactive accounts online.
Leaving the meeting, I felt the most motivated I had felt in a really long time. Nikki and her team do amazing work every day–the type of work that reminds me of why I chose to do PR work for the rest of my life.
As excited as we were excited about the next meeting, our stomachs had other concerns. Sure, another PR meeting, but first, lunch. Split between two Ubers, we made our way to the infamous Zingerman’s sandwich deli. One foot in the door left me wide-eyed and speechless. This was my first go at Zingerman’s, and the place is stocked full of food, kind people, and hungry patrons. Not to mention their crazy long menu, including vegetarian and vegan options.
We ordered our food, found a shady spot in the outdoor patio seating, and devoured our food in less than ten minutes. Just as the last of us were finishing our meal, Nicole Pelto arrived at our table. We quickly went over introductions and delved into the behind-the-scenes of this highly successful business.
Nicole first started out her PR career in the automotive industry in the Detroit area but saw the Zingerman’s opportunity arise and took it without hesitation. As a foodie herself, Nicole couldn’t have been happier to find a spot of her own at Zingerman’s.
Our meeting lasted about an hour, consisting of us throwing question after question to Nicole, and she answered each with ease and honesty. She discussed her day-to-day roles, which, of course, change depending on what’s on the agenda for the company. She’s recently been working on a piece about the women in Zingerman’s, and how their careers have sprouted and grown at the company. Part of her job also includes working on getting content out to food publications, making sure that Zingerman’s name stays in the mix with the other restaurants.
One of the challenges she says she faces is that the media is always looking for up and coming spots, and Zingerman’s doesn’t necessarily fit under that label. But, she still finds a way to keep bringing up relevant topics to present to the media, whether that be through new menu items or another branch of business opening up in the company.
We wrapped up with a few questions about career choices, and how to know where to go after graduation. Nicole talked about following your passion, but also to not accept jobs that aren’t your dream job. You can have a job without it being completely based on your favorite thing, like food. You can find little passions in the jobs you find. In the end, no one can really give you the answers to life, you just kind of have to figure them out.
Kady is studying Advertising & Public Relations, with a minor in writing. This is her first year being a member of Grand Valley’s chapter of PRSSA and is already thoroughly enjoying the experience. Previously, she has written for The Lanthorn and been a part of journalism since high school. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her friends, taking photos, and watching movies. She plans to pursue a career in fashion or music PR.