Beginning a Career in Public Relations

Friday, May 09, 2008

Learning to Enjoy Speaking in Public

On April 26, 2008, volunteers from the Houston Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the Shell Toastmasters Club hosted the first-ever Public Speaking Workshop to help Girl Scouts earn the Girl Scouts of Northern California's Public Speaking Interest Patch.

Held at the fabulous Program Place, the workshop was designed to help Girls learn about the different types of speeches, as well as practice listening and non-verbal communication skills. Girls were asked to complete research about a topic of their choice prior to the workshop and developed speeches that they then presented to the entire group.

Most importantly, Girls learned that practicing and being prepared to speak in public helps build confidence and eliminate a little of the nervousness. After the workshop, one girl commented, "My favorite part was working with others in making speeches and preparing speeches with professionals."

A special thank you to the following PRSA Houston volunteers: Vannessa Wade, Bill Zander, Nancy Mills, APR, Nancy Elmohamad, Emilee Fontenot, and David Casey. Also a thank you to Yolanda Bynum of the Shell Toastmasters Club for taking the time to be there and work with the girls.

Yolanda (speaking in the photo above) placed first in the Toastmasters Division Q International Speech contest on April 26. She will now compete in the Toastmasters District 56 International Speech competition. The name of her speech is ""One Day You'll Thank Me." Congratulations, Yolanda!

Extra: One of the Girl Scouts who attended the workshop will give a short speech at the July 2 PRSA Houston Luncheon. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Girl Scouts Recognized for Achievements

It's no secret that I am a strong supporter of the Girl Scouts organization. This year's Annual Senior Recognition Event for the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council took place on May 4, 2008 at the lodge of Camp Agnes Arnold. In attendance were more than 120 Senior Girl Scouts, their family members and friends. This was my second year to chair the event, and I was pleased to have Sophia Carmon as a co-chair.

We worked with a Girl Planning Board comprised of 12 young ladies (11 are pictured here) who gained valuable event planning experience, as well as leadership hours. The theme the girls delivered on was “Honoring Our Precious Jewels," and what a fun event!

During the ceremony, Girls were honored for receiving their Gold Award, being a graduating senior, and/or celebrating 10 years of Girl Scouting by receiving their 10-year pin.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. This award is achieved by less than 5% of all girls who join Girl Scouting.

There are seven requirements that must be completed to earn the coveted Gold Award.

1. Build a Framework: The girl must take into consideration what she is currently involved in, amount of school work during the year and any other commitments that might impede time that she would have to work on the Gold Award. She will then create a timeline to discuss where she can fit her pre-req modules into her daily life. This gives her a guide to follow.

2. She will decide on three Interest Project Patches and one Studio 2B focus book that she is interested in and will take those to completion. When she has completed her patches and focus book, she will need to find a leadership project and complete 30 hours of leadership either in the community, her school or within the scouting framework.

3. Complete the Girl Scout Career Award. For the Career Award, the Girl Scout has two options; the first would be to really focus on her future, her career options and what University she could attend that would allow her to complete her chosen degree. She would do this by visiting numerous Universities, speaking with professors, working with college counselors, attending college fairs, trade fairs, researching degree options, housing options, job shadowing or securing an internship with someone that has a career that she is interested in pursuing. The goal in this option is for a girl to select the right career and the right University that will have everything she needs to be successful.

The Second Option is called “FAST TRACK.” A girl may elect to either secure a paying job or create her own business. If she “Fast Tracks” she must secure employment in a career/start a business that she is interested in as an adult or at a minimum be able to learn valuable skills such as communication and leadership skills that she will be able to use in her Career. She must log a minimum of 40 hours in either option before she goes to the next step.

4. Complete the STUDIO 4B Challenge. This Award does not have any hours associated with it but has four steps that must be completed. The Challenge Award Focuses on the Assets as well as the needs in the girl’s community. She challenges herself to find out things that could be improved in her community and then network to find community minded people who she can enlist to help her.

5-7. These final steps focus on a Girl Scout’s decision about what community Leadership project she will create and develop that will become her Gold Award Project. She will go through the council approval process and for the next few months she will be working very hard to accomplish the outline she has developed for her Leadership project while using all the skills she has learned in scouting. The project will take determination, communication, patience, sacrifices, ingenuity and sweat to complete the minimum requirement of 65 hours.

I am very proud of all of the girls that were honored on May 4 and was extra happy to learn that a few of them are considering careers in public relations and communications!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

University of Houston PRSSA Chapter Spring Banquet

I visited the campus of the University of Houston yesterday evening to attend the UH PRSSA Chapter's Spring Banquet. I have a special place in my heart for this chapter, as I served as President in 2001-02. I am proud of this year's officers and the amount of effort they have put into making the chapter a success. The challenges of running a chapter on a largely commuter-based campus are still there, but from what I saw last night, the officers and members have embraced this and are making it work for their membership. (That's me in the middle with Katie Moyer on the left and Katie Winslow on the right -- both are amazing PR students!)

The enthusiasm in the room was very encouraging, and the excitement of graduating and looking for a job reminded me of what I felt like six years ago when I was in those very same shoes - both nervous and excited at the same time.

Priscilla Tinsley, president of PRSA Houston, was the guest speaker and did an awesome job providing tips for students who will soon be entering the "real" world - primarily to remember that finding the perfect job does not always happen right away, but by being true to yourself, you will find the perfect fit (even if it takes a few jobs to find out where you belong).

Julie Fix, APR, was recognized for the support she provides to the chapter on an ongoing basis. Julie is also on the board of PRSA Houston, in addition to owning her own public relations company and serving as a professor in the School of Communication at UH. Also there was Catherine Burch Graham, APR, of Houston-Based LifeGift and also a member of the Board of Directors of PRSA Houston.

I wish all the graduates great success in their job searches and am sure that the new PRSSA officers will continue to do an incredible job!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

When Words Are Not Enough: American Cancer Society Launches

The American Cancer Society has joined the Web 2.0 era by opening a place for people who are passionate about the fight against cancer to share their video online.

The project, called, is a high-quality platform for anyone to upload, view, or share their experience with cancer. For example, former smokers can share cessation tips, the recently diagnosed can share their cancer journey and survivors can share their victory with others.

Check it out at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Girl Scouts Learn About Public Relations

Close to 60 Girl Scouts between the ages of 11 and 17 took part in a four-hour workshop on Saturday, February 9, 2008, to learn about the profession.

Sponsored by PRSA Houston, the workshop teaches Girl Scouts the basic terminology of the profession and helps them recognize aspects of public relations that they see and hear in their every day life.

I am especially thankful to Natalie Young, Vinnika Johnson and Vannessa Wade for their leadership in making this workshop possible.

An exciting part of the workshop, which was launched in 2006, is an image discussion, where Girl Scouts list both well-known and no-so-well known aspects of Girl Scouting. The girls then work in teams to put together a small campaign around increasing awareness for one concept or program.

For example, one group focused entirely on promoting the Mariners Program that exists through the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council (see image at left).

Other groups chose to focus on the travel opportunities that Girl Scouting brings, as well as the opportunities for camping, backpacking and rock climbing. The theme of the day: Girl Scouting is More Than Cookies!

I would like to thank Melinda Gaskill, program manager for the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, for recognizing me with the Council's Outstanding Volunteer Award at the start of the workshop and to all the girls who signed my special photo frame and took part in the presentation. I believe in the mission of Girl Scouting and enjoy every second of every workshop that I have helped develop.

We are already planning another PR Interest Project Award Workshop for the summer that will focus on the newly-opened Goodykoontz Museum of Girl Scout History. Please let me know if you would like to volunteer!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Almost December...

Staying in this saddle is harder than I seems like only yesterday that I unlocked my blogger account and here I am with only two posts since then. As the holidays near, I think of things that I am thankful to have in my life, and my degree in public relations is definitely among the top three (after family and my health). In my current position, our department receives calls and emails from employees, network groups and others asking for the direction of the communications team on all kinds of projects. From the United Way campaign to employee promotions of all types, there is a demand for the expertise of communications professionals. I have watched a true team of professionals at work -- from research to planning to implementation to evaluation -- it's all there! To me, it seems that PR professionals are finally being viewed as true strategists. Yes, there are some tactics thrown in there that we all have to do, but I truly have seen a shift in the way the profession is viewed since I graduated five short years ago.

Writing remains at the heart of the profession. If you can't spell out your plans in a clear language and receive buy-in and approval, you won't get very far. I am building on this concept for a presentation I am sharing with students at Texas Southern University on December 6 as part of the Tavis Smiley School of Communications Open House. While I've only been out of school a short while, I am always eager to share what I have learned with those who are eager to begin a career in communications.

I also hope to see everyone at the PRSA Holiday party on December 11 at Two Hyde Park.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Trying to Stay in the Saddle

Getting back in the blog saddle was quite an ordeal and now I must stay in the saddle.

I am finding each and every day that I am extremely dependent on technology, and I am even becoming impatient when I don't get an immediate response to an email or IM. My Blackberry service was out this morning when I woke up, and I really felt as though I wasn't "complete" until it started functioning properly. I frantically tried to send myself a message only to find that I couldn't connect to the company address book. I asked my fiancé to email me, and his Blackberry unresponsive as well. The world was ending, it seemed.

Why are we so dependent on these little devices? For me, I like to know what messages are waiting for me BEFORE I arrive at the office so I can begin thinking of solutions and responses on the drive in. If I can safely respond while waiting at a red light, admittedly, I will. Anything to get rid of one email in my world of Getting Things Done by David Allen. I am very proud of myself for leaving my Blackberry behind while on vacation over the Labor Day weekend. So, I can live without it, but prefer to stay connected as much as possible. It's hard to imagine what people did before email. I act as though I don't know what I did before email. I am a lagger when it comes to technology, so I didn't sign up for my first email account until 1998, and I rarely checked it. I didn't get my first Blackberry until 2006 if you can imagine that. My family is already arranging to confiscate the Blackberry's the night before the wedding!

I'm applying these same principles to planning our wedding, and it's amazing how much better I feel about an event that is supposed to be stressful and crazy. I like to plan ahead and this is definitely one of those instances when it pays off. We are a year away from the wedding and already have the ceremony and reception sites booked, selected and secured our photographer and videographer; arranged for the musical selections at the ceremony and reception; and my bridesmaids have their dresses.

I am happy to know that my background in public relations and communications can apply to my personal life as well. Here's to Getting Things Done!