By: Delaney MacKenzie (@Delaney_MacKenz)

As spring is quickly approaching, students are starting to finalize their plans for summer and lock-in those summer jobs and internships. A great way to get an inside look at potential jobs and hear about opportunities is by attending agency tours. That is exactly what PRSSA students did on Friday, February 16 when they toured two Grand Rapids companies—Experience Grand Rapids and Art Prize.

Our first stop was at Experience GR, a business which promotes local tourism. Inside the office, we were greeted by Grand Valley APR alumna and Public Relations Manager Stephanie Kotschevar. We also met Content Manager Kelly Messerly and Marketing Manager Laura Edgington. This powerful female trio works together, focusing their efforts on getting people to the Experience GR website, and eventually into the city for a visit.

As the public relations manager, Kotschevar manages public relations firms and organizes press trips. Her job duties, to name a few, include inviting media and bloggers to Grand Rapids, creating and executing itineraries, traveling to different media conferences, and attending media previews. Kotschevar told us that in our field, everything intermixed; marketing and public relations are interchangeable. One piece of advice she left us with was, “Have as many internships as possible. Getting a degree doesn’t really matter if you don’t have experience.”

The marketing manager’s job often includes posting to social media. Edgington shared the importance of evolving your post for all forms of social media. That includes tailored captions for each channel while still using the same keywords. Edgington also showed us a very interesting type of post called a “split depth gif” which is sure to catch attention on a busy social media feed. Her favorite part of her job is working with her team and promoting such a great brand.

Kelly Messerly tackles social media and website content, which means she also handles crisis management. She taught us that we always need to think about what we do or say. “Stay in your lane, don’t get involved if you don’t have to.” As far as negative comments go, Messerly advises to prepare yourself for the worst and monitor every post. It is also important to never delete posts, only hide them. Most of the time she does not have to reply to the negative comments because the community takes care of that for her.

“Stay in your lane, don’t get involved if you don’t have to”

After a quick walk across town, we finished our tour at Art Prize. While at the hub, we met with Director of Communications Todd Herring and Communications Manager Jaenell Woods. They gave us the inside scoop on the international art competition and festival. Art Prize stretches across 3 square miles of Grand Rapids and 170 venues. The 19-day-long event brings in roughly 30,000 visitors each day, making Art Prize the most attended art competition in the world.

One of the coolest aspects of the art competition is that you do not need an art degree to be a judge or artist. Anyone who owns a space downtown can sign up to be a curator, which Herring said is “similar to, where curators find artists and meet.” The top two winners appointed by the public vote, and by the jury of art experts are both awarded $200,000.

Art Prize is featured in some national news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, but works more closely with regional media such as the Grand Rapids Press and FOX 17.  Art Prize also uses social media to cover artwork during the event. They’ve had a dramatic increase of Instagram action, at a growth rate of 25% from the previous year. Herring said they make a head video every year which is one of their most important posts. You can check out the highlights of Art Prize 9 here. He also left us with an important piece of advice regarding content, “It’s not so much about going viral, but about having people who regularly engage with the content.”

“It’s not so much about going viral, but about having people who regularly engage with the content”

These amazing companies were so gracious for taking the time out of their busy work days to show a group of college students a little bit of what their jobs are like. It was very encouraging to see the amount of passion everyone displayed. In a time when I am beginning to experience this field, seeing passionate practitioners reaffirms my love for this field. If you loved these two tours just as much as I did, make sure you check out Experience Grand Rapid’s internship opportunities or sign up to be a volunteer for Art Prize 10!



Delaney MacKenzie is a sophomore at GVSU majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. Delaney is also an active member of PRSSA, Advertising Club, and Account Associate for GrandPR, and a member of the APR Alumni Relations committee. One of the reasons she is so passionate about her program is because she is excited to gain as much experience as possible while making great connections along the way. In her free time, Delaney enjoys drawing, photography, and listening to her classic rock vinyl records. One of her favorite classic rock bands is the Talking Heads.