By Jessica Miles
The Northeast Regional District Conference, “Feed Your Passion,” for PRSA and PRSSA members was held November 7 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Syracuse. The SUNY Plattsburgh chapter had the largest amount of representatives out of all other attending student chapters. Eleven students, as well as Rachael Jurek, Colleen Lemza and Jonathan Slater represented Plattsburgh with distinction.
Nine of Plattsburgh’s PRSSA members drove five hours down to Syracuse together the day before the conference. Imagine all the singing. When we arrived at our destination, we met up with students from the Syracuse PRSSA chapter. We sat with Carley Weinstein, Syracuse PRSSA president, and other public relations and communications students in the lobby of the newly renovated communications building. Plattsburgh students listened and took mental notes of some friendly and collegiate advice from a significantly larger chapter. Syracuse was very impressed with the public relations opportunities offered here and how well we execute everything. After snapping a quick picture with both our chapters we were ready to head to the hotel and prepare for the conference the next day.
I wasn’t sure what to expect because “Feed Your Passion” was the first conference I have attended. I knew there were going to be speakers with a lot of experience and great networking opportunities so I made sure to do my research. Before walking in to the first presentation, I was excited to receive a nametag and some swag courtesy of the presenters. The most memorable speakers included Melissa Stagnaro, Director of Corporate Communications for Chobani; Evelyn Carter, Director of Community Relations for Wegmans and Mike McDougall, President of McDougall Communications.
Melissa Stagnaro spoke about the history of Chobani yogurt and how it got to where it is today, owning more than half of the Greek-yogurt market share. I thought it was interesting that the Greek-yogurt giant only started in 2005 with five employees, for them to be as well-known as they are today is incredible. Now they own the largest yogurt factory in the world. There were also many different Chobani flavors to choose from the free breakfast buffet (yum.)
Evelyn Carter did a wonderful job speaking about community relations with Wegmans. I’ve never seen anyone so passionate about anything and she really made it seem like shopping at Wegmans is a way of life. It is now one of my life goals to shop at Wegmans, just to see what all the talk is about. People were tweeting about how Plattsburgh needs a Wegmans, I would not be opposed.
Mike McDougall spoke about the importance of engagement during a crisis situation. Being in public relations it is essential to learn how to act and make decisions on your toes and Mike had prime examples of when to apply these skills in the real world.
Attending this conference motivated me to become more involved. I could use some improvement on my networking skills, but I think this event was the perfect real-life experience to help me progress into a stronger public relations student. I would recommend it if anyone has any opportunity to attend a conference, go and make the most out of it. It could be any one of us up there one day. I’m interested in going to another conference in March that Syracuse University students are planning. It was a great experience and I took away advice from successful PR practitioners that will benefit me in the future.