PRSSA National Conference: Takeaway

“I always try to find the leaders out of the group,” said Nikki Barjon, the founder of The Barjon Group. “The 10 of you are the leaders,” said Barjon, looking at myself and nine other students who, though all come from different parts of the country and attend different colleges and universities, share one similarity. The other nine students and I all have a passion and a desire to work in entertainment public relations. Barjon was one of the professionals that presented at the “Y’allywood: Hollywood of the South” session. Her guidance, opinions and tips were so powerful that I wanted to have a personal conversation with her and learn more about her profession and how she successfully made it.

I soon realized I was not the only student in the session that was moved by her presentation. As I went to go find her, I noticed that she was surrounded by other students, all leaning in to hear what she was saying and fighting to ask a question. I scooted my way into the circle, hoping to ask her a few questions myself. Little did I know that I would be standing there for two hours, not only getting my questions answered, but learning an innumerable amount of information, personal stories, skills, strategies and wisdom from the top entertainment publicist in the Atlanta, Ga., area. Because Barjon was so moved by how much the students and I were intrigued by her guidance, she was willing to meet with us again to set up a plan for our futures in the public relations field. To think that a busy professional that works with notable clients is taking work and family time out of her busy schedule to meet with ten college students is truly amazing. I was excited, anxious and quite nervous to be sitting down with such a successful professional.

The nine students and I met with Barjon two days later. It was an experience that I will always remember. Nikki’s plan for the get-together was to give us each six minutes to hear our interests and come up with a blueprint for our future. The six minutes turned into fifteen minutes for each student. Not only did she listen to what each one of us had to say, but she gave us advice as well as numbers and names of people to get in touch with, as well as certain magazines/journals to read.

Nikki also told us personal stories and lessons that she learned throughout her career so far. For example, when Barjon was relocating from New York City to Atlanta, it was hard for her to find a job, even though she had great credentials, experience and an astounding portfolio. The only public relations job she could find was in telecommunications. Though telecommunications was something Barjon was not familiar with, she took the job, because she wanted to learn more about it. The key word here is learn. Throughout the get-together, Barjon stressed the importance of wanting to learn. Public relations is a fast-paced, constantly-changing career, and in order to change, you have to be willing to learn. Barjon mentioned that simple things like reading magazine articles and blog posts, as well as attending conferences and workshops, can put you above your competitors in the public relations field. She also commended the ten of us students for finding her after her session to ask questions. This showed her that we were wanting to expand our knowledge more, and most importantly, that we actually cared.

National Conference was filled with outstanding presentations by professionals from the many different aspects of public relations. Each of the sessions gave me a better knowledge and expanded my horizon of the field. These professionals volunteer their time to speak to college students that all share a similar passion for public relations. The presenters were not just successful professionals, but they were also mentors. Barjon was a great example of this. Mentorship is a powerful way to learn the nitty gritty details about this profession. I couldn’t thank Barjon and the other professionals enough for teaching us this valuable lesson. This lesson is something I will take with me for the remainder of my college career, and carry it with me to my future in this profession.

Taylor White is currently a junior at Waynesburg University studying public relations and minoring in marketing. She serves as the special events coordinator for WUPRSSA and is active in other campus activities. You can typically find Taylor laughing with friends, listening to music, taking photos or attending the university sporting events. After graduation, Taylor hopes to pursue a job in special events planning or fundraising.


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