By: Stephanie Seneker (@stephseneker)
Grand Valley’s PRSSA Chapter had the amazing opportunity to tour two firms in Downtown Grand Rapids last week. These tours are a wonderful opportunity to grow and network with professionals in the local area. Whether you are planning on staying in Grand Rapids post-graduation or moving to a different city, meeting professionals within your career area is essential to building your network.
One of the agencies we toured was a local firm called Sabo PR, founded by Mary Ann Sabo. At Sabo PR, PRSSA had the opportunity to learn about how they deal with clients and what sets them apart from other competitors. Being able to have open communication with clients is essential to creating the best results. On their website, they have a social contract posted where clients can learn more about the firm’s company culture. Along with the social contract, I learned about the three things that the firm truly focuses on: client relationships, company culture, and effective communication.
Other than the meaningful conversations about their company environment, we were also lucky enough to be provided with coffee and scones (& a complimentary mug!). Sabo PR recently moved office buildings to a space with multiple offices and exposed brick, making it look and feel like a true urban, New York City-chic environment.
While it is such a great experience learning about the firm, it is also helpful to gain advice from professionals in the field. There was a great conversation about what graduates can do to stand out from other applicants when job hunting. A few key tips for soon to be graduates include:
- Get internships to expand your experience.
- Personalize your cover letter and resume to each position that you are applying for to set yourself apart from other applicants.
- Grammar is important when submitting any portfolio pieces; make sure to proofread any work.
In addition to Sabo PR, PRSSA was welcomed at Happy PR, formerly known as Richett Media, in downtown Grand Rapids. This firm was founded by Emily Richett and just recently had a companywide makeover. During the tour, the firm was kind enough to give PRSSA a product from one of their clients, HyVIDA, a hydrogen sparkling water. They also collaborate with other clients that are targeted toward consumers with an active lifestyle, such as Shefit. The firm works with fast-growing businesses in the health/fitness, food/beverage, travel/tourism, and consumer lifestyle industries. While they are a PR firm, they handle public relations, digital marketing and brand launches for clients. The main takeaway that I took from this tour were the five tips/things that they don’t teach in school. They really opened up my mind and made me think about what I need to work on for my future professional self.
Five things that they don’t teach in school:
- You’re going to have a lot to learn (agency life isn’t always glamorous).
- Hustle and keep it together (organize, time management, multi-task skills).
- Think bigger picture. Have an agency mindset.
- Have a personality, but know how to “read” the room.
- Be a Unicorn.
Three things that Happy looks for on a resume:
- Email Etiquette
- Skill Set
The location of the firm was trendy and very open so that everyone at the firm can be collaborative with each other. They have a long white table for company-wide meetings to make every aspect of the meeting efficient and effective. Right as you walk in, there is a large and colorful mural that says, “Do more of what makes you Happy,” which I think is a great quote to put in an office space. And, obviously, very on brand.
This was my third agency tour within the past couple years with PRSSA. I have been to firms in Detroit and Chicago, and it is interesting to see the difference between the various companies. The firms in the other cities were a lot larger than the firms in Grand Rapids, which can be expected. When working for a smaller firm, each team member needs to have a very wide skill set and needs to be able to complete many projects at one time.
Lastly, I think it is important to talk about why these agency tours are beneficial to any college student, whether you are a freshman or a soon to be graduate. From both firms, I took away a lot of great advice that I will truly absorb. The greatest piece of advice that I learned was to try and get as much as experience as possible during your college years. Firms want to hire someone in the end that has a decent amount of experience so that they can jump right in and be productive for the company. Agency tours offer a truly unique experience and allow you to talk with professionals who were once in the same shoes as you and are now killing it in the real world.
Stephanie Seneker is a senior at Grand Valley State University where she is majoring in Marketing and minoring in Advertising & Public Relations. She is an active member of PRSSA, GrandPR, the American Marketing Association, and Gamma Phi Beta. In her freetime, she likes to watch Netflix, listen to music and scroll through social media.