Grand Valley PRSSA members got to experience life in the “windy city”, on January 31st, while in Chicago visiting some of the city’s top public relations agencies. The three agencies our members had the opportunity to explore included, Zeno Group, Taylor Strategy, and MWW. It was a day filled with useful, real-world information, where members learned everything from crafting a client’s branded ‘story’ to learning tips for pitching to the media. Our first stop, Zeno Group, taught PRSSA the ins and outs of full scale client campaigns, explaining how to communicate a client’s message and keep it consistent throughout all media platforms.


Visiting with Zeno Group, Chicago. Clients include Allstate, Bacardi, Sears, and Seattle’s Best Coffee

While at Zeno, members met with a variety of employees, from digital communications, to corporate, consumer relations and human resources. Although their jobs varied in many ways, the one consistent take-away was this: Know your client and their story!

“It is important to have an overall master narrative for your client,” stated Lyndsey Slawkowski, Corporate Affairs Coordinator at Zeno Group. “You need to have an overall constant message throughout a campaign that tell’s your client’s story.”

Timothy Prince, Zeno’s Digital Engagement Community Moderator agreed, saying “It’s crucial to craft a single voice for your client, whether that voice is used via social media or in print, it needs to feel and read the same.” Each member of the Zeno team then proceeded to share examples of the campaigns they had worked on, showing PRSSA members how they created a story for their client and integrated that story in all aspects of the campaign.

Zeno Group taught us how imperative it is to find your client’s voice in order to tell their story, but how exactly do you get that story out to the masses? That’s where MWW came in to share with members some tips for pitching to the media. Passion Hemphill, Senior Account Executive at MWW, is “one of the best when it comes to pitching” and members were able to soak up some of her knowledge, including her own tips for pitching to the media.


Learning the pitching rope from John Digles of MWW

Pitching Tips:

  • Know your client. You need to be able to know your client well enough to pitch your story to the media and answer any questions that journalists may have. It is important for you to become hands on with your client, enough that you have studied and experienced it.
  • Know the journalist. You need to know who they are, what beat they cover, and most importantly, how your client matters to them. Do your research on journalists by reading their past articles in order to determine if they would be the right match for your client’s story. Then speak about something they wrote in the past and use it to incorporate your client’s message. Remember, you are helping them find stories, so make sure you are aware of who you are pitching to.
  • Read the news. You need to be aware of what is going on in the world. Timing is everything in this business so you need to know the right time to pitch a story to the media. If you tried to pitch a story to the media about your client’s new cell phone line on April 15, 2013, the date of the Boston Marathon Bombing, no one would have listened. Be mindful of the news because it could be the key to getting your client’s story in the media.
  • Be short and sweet. Get to the punch line in 30 seconds. No one likes to hear someone ramble on about their client and if you do, there is a good chance journalists might put the phone down and stop listening altogether.
  • Be strong on the phone. Find your voice and use it! 

All in all, Chicago taught our PRSSA members a lot of the necessary tools needed in order to have successful careers in the PR industry. Along with getting connected and networking with three big time agencies, PRSSA members also got to experience some of the fun things to do around the city.

Visiting “the bean” was a must, and we were able to get some great group photos posing with the giant Chicago landmark in Millennium Park. And who doesn’t love to shop? State Street was filled with some of our favorite stores, making our wallets shrink a little and our suitcases grow with all the amazing clothing and shoes that we purchased. After a day full of running around the city, visiting three agencies and shopping afterward, PRSSA members got pretty hungry, so to fill our empty tummy’s we dined at The Cheesecake Factory inside the John Hancock Observatory. 


Sightseeing in the Windy City

Our trip to Chicago was a great chance to meet many young professionals, who not too long ago were standing in our shoes, learning everything we could about life at a PR agency. It was also a fantastic opportunity for members to walk the streets of the glorious city, taking in all the sights! During this agency tour, PRSSA members were able to learn, experience, and ultimately bond, making the trip to Chicago a lot more memorable!

-Jessica Yakima
Vice President of Member Services