PRSSA in Philly

I've always known I loved my major, public relations.  I chose it as a high school senior and have stuck with it ever since.  However, after attending the PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia, I'm even more in love with it, and I'm very eager to begin my career.  I am the president of my school's chapter of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America), and that is how I got involved with attending this conference, which is one of the smartest decisions I've made.  At the conference, I had the opportunity to attend sessions about various topics related to industries within the PR field I'm interested in.  

At times, it can be scary to think about how I'm graduating and entering the job market in six months, because I often hear how hard it is to get a job and how college is the best time of my life, so I better enjoy it now. I know jobs aren't handed out, but I also know I'm doing everything I can to make myself a competitive candidate in the job market.  I've always known that if I continue to persevere, the right opportunity will open up at the right time, and this conference reassured that.  As for what people say about college being the best time of my life, they're right that college is pretty great.  There are a lot of perks, and I've made so many incredible friends and memories, but life can still be wonderful after I graduate.  There's so much to look forward to, and I can't wait to see where life takes me.  It's time to open a new chapter that will be filled with both ups and downs and a whole lot of learning moments.  The PRSSA National Conference again reassured me that the new chapter in my life can be just as wonderful as my current one.  

Not only did I become fired up about my career, but I love to travel, so I was grateful I got the opportunity to soak up a new city.  As I have done with all my blog posts about my travels, I've decided to create a day-by-day synopsis of my time in Philadelphia.

Day 1: Thursday, October 24
This day wasn't very exciting, because I didn't fly to Philadelphia until that night, but it was my first time to fly by myself.  I wasn't nervous, because I love flying and have flown to two other large cities this year, so I'm kinda used to it by now.  However, I was still proud to have accomplished flying solo and finding a shuttle much cheaper than a cab to get me to my hotel by myself.  I stayed at the hotel where the conference was held, the Loews Hotel, which was super nice.  After being greeted and taken care of by the nicest front desk staff and bellhop, I settled into my fabulous room in time to catch Scandal and rest up for a busy few days ahead!

Day 2: Friday, October 25
I woke up early to do some sightseeing, because this was some of the only free time during the day I had.  My adorable mom bought me a book that was essentially a tourist's guide to Philadelphia, so I planned some stuff out based on that.  I walked about ten blocks to the Independence Visitor Center in time for its opening at 8:30 a.m. to get my free tickets to Independence Hall, because I read in the book that tickets were given out on a first-come first-serve basis and went quickly.  Needless to say, I got tickets for the 9 a.m. tour with only three other people on my tour.  However, it was nice to have a small tour, because we were able to ask lots of questions and take our time.  If you're not familiar, Independence Hall is the building where both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed, so it was pretty neat to stand in the exact spot where men like George Washington and Ben Franklin once stood and made history.

 Liberty Hall


Room where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed

One of the ladies on the tour, Marina, was by herself as well, and she happened to be there for the PRSA International Conference, which took place at the hotel right across from mine.  We stuck together the rest of that morning as we toured, and she even treated me to some Starbucks!  I love life moments like that - doing something totally out of the norm, exploring a new city with new people.  It makes life exciting.  If only I had more money and time to do more of it.  Anyways...back to my tourist adventures.

Marina and I then went to see the Liberty Bell, which was right across the street from Independence Hall.  The Libery Bell Center had lots of information and pictures leading up to actually being able to see the bell itself.  It's crazy how many people would wait forever in long lines just to see, touch and even sit on the bell.  The bell was smaller, and the crack was wider than I had imagined them to be.

Marina and I met a man touring by himself, Sean, at the Liberty Bell Center, and the three of us decided to go to Philadelphia City Hall, because you can go to the very top and see a 360 degree view of the city.

City Hall

Top of City Hall that I rode where I rode up to

One of my childhood best friends, Lindsey, and some other officers from her PRSSA chapter at Loyola University in New Orleans, arrived around lunchtime, so I met up with them.  Lindsey had decided to stay in my room with me, and it was so nice to catch up with her, and I even got to tagalong with her friends the whole time.  For lunch, we went to a Mexican restaurant called El Vez.  The food was delicious, and the restaurant was so kitschy and original.

That afternoon, I went to a session hosted by the University of Florida's chapter titled "Develop Your Chapter by Building a Brand", followed by DePaul University's "After the Final Card: A Discussion of Effective Networking."  I then attended the chapter presidents' leadership workshop where Cassandra Bailey, principal at Slice Communications, presented.

That night, there was a Gatsby-themed Ivy Lee Club Opening Night Celebration (Ivy Lee is known as the founder of modern public relations).  They had food and a swing band and even handed out boas and fedoras.  It was really cute and a great way to kick off the conference.

Day 3: Saturday, October 26

Saturday morning was the chapter roll call and keynote address given by Mary Henige of General Motors.  During the roll call, my vice president and I sang Rocky Top to a room of thousands of people all by ourselves, which was a tad awkward, but some chapters only had one person representing them, so I guess it could have been worse.

Following that, I went to the chapter presidents' lunch, which was held on the 33rd floor of the hotel.  I got a great view of the Philadelphia skyline from there.

Not to mention this delicious chocolate mousse.

That afternoon, I attended the F.A.M.E. (Fashion, Arts, Music and Entertainment) PR session presented by Nicole Garner, CEO of The Garner Circle.  Next was Choosing the Agency Path with James Robinson and Morghen Johnson of APCO Worldwide, followed by Food PR with Ariana Stefanoni of Pepperidge Farm.

Lindsey and I went to dinner at Down Home Diner and got ice cream at Franklin Fountain, which resembled an old ice cream shop.  It was so cute.  And they had a seasonal pumpkin sundae?!  Count me in!

Day 4: Sunday, October 27

We started the day with a keynote address titled "Meet the living Legends of Public Relations" featuring Keith Burton of Brunswick Group and Knoxville's very own Mary Beth West of Mary Beth West Communications.  It was so great to finally meet her and see a Knoxvillian doing big things.  Their experience allowed them to give us a lot of valuable advice as we embark on our careers and made me very hopeful.

 Next was a session about Striving for Work-Life Fit with Dr. David Ballard of the American Psychological Association and Dr. Bey-ling Sha, professor and interim director in the school of journalism and media studies at San Diego State University.

We went to Reading Terminal Market for lunch, which reminded me of the inside of the Nashville Farmers Market.  There were several little food places to choose from and it was super busy.  I got a quick burrito before going to the PRSA General Session titled, "What's the Future of Business?"  Brian Solis of Altimeter Group spoke, and boy, was he a dynamic speaker.  He was funny, innovating and intriguing.  I'm so glad PRSA opened the session up to PRSSA.

That afternoon, I went to an entertainment PR session with Tammy Golihew and Jeff Tobler of Warner Bros. and Damian Holbrook of TV Guide Magazine.  Damian is a journalist, but Tammy and Jeff thought it would be beneficial for us to hear him speak, since PR professionals work so closely with journalists.  I'm so glad I got the chance to hear them speak, since I'm interested in entertainment PR.  I loved hearing how Tammy and Jeff followed their dreams of moving to LA in order to pursue their careers.  They even had cupcakes since they work on 2 Broke Girls and made a Facebook group for all of us in the session, because they said they want to keep up with us and hear what we're up to.

That night, I went with Lindsey and her friend James to meet up with one of their friends from school who just graduated and now lives right outside of Philadelphia.  We went to a sports bar called Field House, and Lindsey and I split an amazing pizza covered in yummy pesto!  It was close competition with my old stomping grounds, Brixx.

Day 5: Monday, October 28

The Loyola kids and I decided this would be the day we finally tried a Philly cheesesteak, but we couldn't decide between the two "legends" - Pat's or Geno's.  After consulting some Philadelphians and some of my UT friends who are from Pennsylvania, we decided to go for Pat's.  Sidenote: We downloaded an app called Uber that sent us a black car to take us from the hotel to Pat's, and it covered $20 of our ride since it was our first time to use it.  I recommend you check it out if you travel somewhere and need a cab!

It was a little intimidating to order at Pat's.  They have a sign that tells you exactly how to order it and instructs you to go to the back of the line if you mess up.  I forgot to mention "wid onions," and the older Italian man employee had to ask me, but thankfully I didn't get sent to the back of the line!  And the verdict?  Don't hate me!  It was good, but I honestly prefer the Philly cheesesteaks I've had at restaurants in Tennessee better.  I know, I know.  Just my humble opinion.

That afternoon, I went to a session called Juggling Life at an Agency with Jess Noonans of Burson-Marsteller, Joe Clarkson of Taylor Strategy and Nick Lucido of Edelman.  I really enjoyed this session, because they were all young professionals who were active in PRSSA when they were in college, and they gave great advice about the transition between being a college student and professional, which is just right around the corner.

That night was the awards ceremony and dinner.  Individual members and chapters were awarded and we ate yet another delicious meal.

I then went out with the crew from Loyola and one of their alums who was there for the PRSA International Conference and now works for IBM in New York.  Pretty cool.  I loved hearing about her experience and life in the city.

Day 6: Tuesday, October 22

This day was more of a half day, as my flight back to Nashville was in the afternoon.  I went to the farewell breakfast and a PRSA General Session, "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World" with John Wood of Room to Read.  It was quite humbling to hear how he left his successful job to help those in need.

Afterward, I ventured to one final sight I had yet to see.  I went to JFK Plaza and Love Park and got a picture with that famous sign.

 The most famous Philadelphian

Giant game pieces on JFK Plaza

It's hard to put this trip into words.  I learned so much about myself and the PR field and am so eager to begin my career.  I loved meeting other students who were as ambitious as me and professionals who showed us career goals can come true with hard work.  I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to attend the PRSSA National Conference, and I really hope to attend the PRSA International Conference in Washington, D.C. next year!


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