PR society looking up with new leadership

By Daniel Terashima

As the 2005 Fall Semester began, the U’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America was in danger of losing its charter, with only a handful of members and little faculty support.

A year later, things have changed, with a membership of more than 50 and new U communication professor Suzanne Horsley taking over the role of faculty adviser.

PRSSA had been without a full-time faculty adviser for several years, though Dave Allred, a U alumnus working with a private-sector PR firm, filled the gap as interim faculty advisor.

Chapter president Jennifer Mann, a senior in communication, says troubles arose because the membership had been concentrated in the senior class.

When those students graduated, “the whole thing fell off,” she said.

With Allred’s assistance, a group of students gradually got the chapter up and running again.

Mann said the society welcomes students in any major who are interested in learning more about the public relations side of business.

“A lot of people think public relations is the same as marketing?but it’s about effectively communicating on the spot with interest groups, consumers, businesses?” she said.

Horsley, “the glue” that holds the society together, can have an impact similar to that of namesake U chapter founder Parry Sorensen, Mann said.

“He could just pick up the phone and get an internship for one of his students, no questions asked,” Mann said.

Society vice president Andrea Krall said that PRSSA membership gives students a foot in the door. “Companies give us the first go at internships because they know we are already dedicated to learning about the field.”

Krall, a senior in mass communication, recently accepted a media communications position with the Utah Blaze indoor soccer team, a job she said she is sure she would not have landed without the experience and credentials the PRSSA’s internships provided.

Horsley attributes much of PRSSA’s resurgence this year to enthusiasm for the national conference to be held in Salt Lake City Nov. 10 through 14.

“Students are volunteering to staff the booth, where they’ll tell people about hotels and recommend good restaurants, explain what Park City is all about-it’s public relations for Utah.”

Those who wish to see what activities the PRSSA has to offer before the conference will have a chance on Oct. 19 at a “Peer and Professional” session in Provo, co-hosted with Brigham Young University.

“It’s like speed dating-we call it speed networking,” Horsley said. “(Students) have five minutes with each professional.”

In addition to making connections, Horsley said the exercise should help students hone interview skills.

Minerva Gonzalez, a senior in communication, said she recently spoke with Mann about joining because with “contacts and internships, they get first dibs on all that stuff.”