By: Kayla Brown (@kaylakays17)
On Our Way:
It started with rain. And then it rained some more…that was the beginning of our trip. We all met up in lot K by the Connection, and at around 8 A.M., we set off for our destination: Chicago. I was so excited, I couldn’t stop talking about it to the others in the car. I have always loved the city, and I was ecstatic at the thought of seeing a real Ad/PR agency. As we started on our route, we spent most of the three-hour car ride laughing and getting to know each other before we finally arrived at the parking garage in the middle of downtown Chicago.
First Stop, Havas:
As soon as we stepped into the first agency, I knew it was going to be unlike anything else. The agency itself was set in the heart of downtown Chicago and had a very modern feel. The walls were painted dark tones of gray and a bright red sign that read “Havas” appeared as we stepped through the doors. We were escorted up a few floors in an elevator, before being greeted by the very enthusiastic secretary. The workspaces were modern with an open flair, perfect for collaboration and discussion between colleagues. Our group was taken to the middle of the agency, where we sat and listened to a presentation given by the creative directors at Havas. They gave us an in-depth look at a national advertising campaign that they directed for Cracker Barrel. This included a series of billboards, Facebook ads, and a Twitter campaign that included messaging users and telling them all about Cracker Barrel’s new homestyle chicken.
It was motivating to see real advertising work and hear the outcomes of the campaign from professionals who have worked in the industry for years. A question & answer session followed the presentation, as well as a tour of Havas, where we learned that the agency has a full kitchen, snack bar, barbershop, and is dog-friendly. It all went by in a flash before we were whisked out of the revolving doors and onto our next destination.
Lunch at Eataly:
After Havas, right down the block was an Italian marketplace and restaurant by the name of Eataly. The many different facets of Eataly features gelato, pizza, fried street food, wine, and so much more. Daltyn Terpstra, Assistant Marketing Manager at Eataly, spoke at a PRSSA meeting a few weeks ago and it was incredible seeing the place that she spoke so highly of. The food was amazing and though we only had a little under 30 minutes to eat, it was an experience like no other.
Last Stop, Walker Sands:
Shortly after lunch, we decided to walk to the next agency we planned on visiting. It was breathtaking to see the city on foot; we walked over the Chicago River, and past many name-brand stores. The busyness of the city was exhilarating. We finally arrived at a huge building that featured 39 floors. We hopped in another elevator, this time to the very top of the building, and arrived at Walker Sands. Again, we were taken to a room with an absolutely stunning view, where we were given a presentation about the companies that Walker Sands works with. They described to us that they are a B2B technology PR company that works directly with companies like GrubHub and Sprout Social. After the presentation, we received a tour of their cozy office and then were separated into smaller groups with one or two PR professionals from the company. While in these groups, we were able to ask questions directly to the employees of Walker Sands (who happened to both be Grand Valley State University alumni) and understand what their daily jobs were like, what it was like to live in downtown Chicago, and how media relations works in a fast-paced career. It was inspiring to hear from individuals who were in my exact spot just a few years ago and are now making a difference in the business world at an Inc. 5000 PR agency.
It was an incredible day filled with learning and meeting so many fantastic people, and it ended the same way it began: with lots of rain. Chicago is a “city of dreams” in its own right and made a believer out of me that with hard work and consistency, you can do anything.
Kayla Brown is a junior at Grand Valley State University studying Advertising & Public Relations, with an Emphasis in PR. She also is heavily involved in PRSSA, GrandPR, and works at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors on campus.