Sunday, May 19, 2024

PRSSA club hosts health communication event

Women in skirts and flats, and guys in suits. Professional attire was a common sight at the Angel College Center March 25. The occasion? The fourth annual PR day, a day for Plattsburgh State’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America to highlight the profession. This year’s theme was medical PR and was held in honor of Mike Hildebran, a local, well-respected public relations practitioner who was in medical communications for more than 20 years.

Sponsored by the Rotary Club and the student-run travel magazine Do North, PR day was, despite the name, an inclusive event because of the variety of topics discussed. Topics ranged from the ebola crisis to event planning, and the speakers and panel members were from fields such as sociology, journalism, law enforcement and healthcare.

Though PR Day was officially from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, students got a preview of what to expect a day before at the pre-event. Moderated by public relations major Flora Veitch, the pre-event was where students learned from alumna Jenna Hoch’s career path. Now working as a marketing and development coordinator at Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions, Hoch gave the curious students tips on how to deal with ethical dilemmas at work or internships, how students can be successful at work by watching webinars and taking free online courses, and how to search for jobs.

Since PRSSA gained chapter approval in April 2012, Hoch, who graduated in 2009, didn’t have the opportunity to join PRSSA or plan PR Day during her time here. And though she has always worked with health communication, if PR Day was a possibility, Hoch would have planned a day for public relations in the digital world.

“Digital is taking over and that is something that is important for students to learn and have a grasp on before they enter the work force,” Hoch said.

As someone who is currently in the field, Hoch sees the event as being beneficial for not only PR students.

“A lot of things overlap and a lot of the lessons can be applied to any field,” Hoch said.

Assistant Professor and PRSSA Adviser Rachael Jurek agreed that many people would benefit from attending PR Days.

“We’re in a town where there aren’t a lot of public relations businesses. So it’s (the event) bringing what public relations is,” Jurek said, “ We’re not just spinning the story we’re actually doing a lot. As we learn today, in non-profit, it’s (public relations) needed to promote those businesses with no money. They don’t have advertising budget, so PR is the way to get the information out there.”

Previous PR Day themes have been PR, fashion and sports which are decided by students. This year’s theme was Kristen Suarez’s idea, but because she is abroad, Brandi Walsh took over as project manager and planned it with Carissa Root and Veitch. Walsh hasn’t been involved with PR day before but decided to do it after her experience in medical PR, which she enjoyed and wants more students to be more knowledgeable about.

“I think a lot of students are afraid to get into it because they feel that they have to know a lot about medicine, but like the speaker today said, that’s not necessarily the case,” Walsh said.

One of the speakers at the event was marketing and communications consultant Tara Powers, who came to PSUC because she has a passion of speaking about social media. Powers, who has more than 15 years of experience in the health sector, hoped that if the attendees learned one thing, it would be to think strategically when it comes to communications in general.

“A lot of people jump into the medium without really stepping back and thinking about what the goals are and how to measure the outcome as a result,” Powers said.

Public relations major Evan Bowker is one of the students who attended the event with high expectations. Bowker, who would love to someday be part of an international health organization, thought the event to be a success since it provided him and other majors with tools for their professional lives.

“You learn from the social media (speaker), you learn from the news anchor, what he would be doing during a crisis situation. So, I think anyone who went in there learned something,” Bowker said.

Email Winta Mebrahti at

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