PRSSA National Conference: Session Takeaways

Have you ever attended a presentation where after leaving you feel completely empowered? So inspired that you are confident that you can do anything you put your mind to? This is how I felt after attending Hilary McKean’s “Speak Up and Stand Out” session at the PRSSA National Conference.

McKean, who serves as a partner and managing director of global practices at Ketchum, brought her energy and worldwide experience to a roomful of aspiring public relations professionals. This lecture further solidified my decision to study public relations. As I clung to McKean’s every word, I could not help but think how her advice could be applied to my life, my future, my involvement with our Chapter and my legacy.

The session provided real-life, professional and emotional advice on the best ways to expand your career and marketability. Through McKean’s word, I am inspired to find new ways to grow my education, my résumé and my overall professionalism. Here are my key takeaways from Hilary McKean’s “Speak Up and Stand Out.”

Manage yourself

Often classified as “millennials,” my generation is known for their social media and online presence. Social media can be a strength and a weakness – though it provides excellent means for networking, it can also become a determining factor for employers. As aspiring professionals, we need to understand that “private” does not actually mean “private.” According to McKean, it is now common for employers to ask potential employees for their social media passwords. It is okay to be interesting, fun and personal – just do it respectfully and professionally.

Create a professional network

By creating a professional network, you are bettering your chances of landing your dream job. You never know whom your connection knows – or where these connections can lead you. You want to meet and share stories with as many people as you can because every relationship matters. You can learn something from every person you meet – including those whom you don’t like. Value these lessons and let them lead you down all different paths.

Be willing to try new things

Employers like people who volunteer. Even if you are not confident in your ability with the task at hand, be willing to do it anyway – use it as a learning experience. Employers are interested in workers that want to expand their knowledge and skill set, while helping the company along the way.

Be a hand raiser, not a finger pointer

Being aspiring professionals, we know the foundation of what a potential employer is looking for – writing skills, organization, grit, ambition, etc. However, according to McKean, one of the best skills a professional can have is the ability to not place blame. Everyone will run into problems and hiccups throughout their career – we just need to ensure that we are taking responsibility for these actions. By being a hand raiser we are showing excitement, honesty and authenticity to our employers.

Remember the three As of interviewing

Aptitude, appearance and attitude; each plays a significant role in your approachability and marketability. Aptitude is the ways you are tactically prepared to take on the job. Appearance is how your potential employer sees you – in interviews, you need to wear appropriate clothing and present yourself through your mannerisms in a professional way. Attitude is the way we present ourselves to these employers. Attitude is our willingness to participate with the organization we work for. Attitude is the most influential of the three – for it is the most genuine form of who the aspiring professional truly is.

Be innovative and up-to-date

As “entry level CEOs,” we are more evolved in the technological side of the public relations industry. We need to utilize this advantage to its full potential. McKean recommends using this for research before interviews. She stated to even research the company’s current stock price. This can be a real shining point to your interviewers – you can appear well researched, eager and serious about the open job position. Staying up-to-date on the industry will increase your marketability and make you a more productive practitioner.

Hilary McKean’s session, “Speak Out and Stand Up,” genuinely inspired me to begin working to my full potential in all that I do. Her words resonated with me, and I will use my takeaways to expand my life, in every degree, to include the lessons she has provided. In this industry, you need to stand up and speak out to get your name out there. This is a competitive world, and that next “hello” could be just the one you need.


Natalie Gloady is a current junior at Waynesburg University, where she is majoring in public relations and sports information, while minoring in Spanish. She serves as the public relations director for WUPRSSA and as an assistant firm director for Red Brick Communications. Natalie hopes to pursue a job in the sports industry or as a social media coordinator post graduation. Follow her on Twitter or connect with Natalie on LinkedIn.

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