Public relations (PR) is a field in which strategic communication is used to build relationships between organizations and their audiences. My interest in PR definitely inspired my decision to become an intern and student blogger for UMass Amherst Admissions. Since declaring PR as a concentration for my secondary major, journalism, I’ve been curious about the PR club at UMass Amherst. My academic advisor encouraged me to look more into it, so I sat down with the club’s president Nick Contardo, and vice president Annie Marshall for a club spotlight.
The UMass Amherst PR club began not too long ago with senior lecturer Jennie Donohue, who served as the faculty advisor for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at a previous college where she worked. When she came to teach at UMass Amherst in recent years, she established both the concentration, and the club, for our campus.
This club seemed to find Nick and Annie at exactly the right time — Nick was a transfer student and former member of the PRSSA chapter at Bridgewater State University. He was looking for ways to get involved in the field again at his new school, but there were no ways to do that until the founding of this club. Meanwhile, Annie started as an architecture major but switched to journalism in the middle of her sophomore year. Her interests were leading her more and more towards social media and marketing. With a journalism background to solidify her writing skills, and an individual concentration in advertising, she wanted to see if PR would be a good fit for her. She joined the club at the end of fall semester 2019, shortly after Nick.
I asked the two how their involvement in the PR club has contributed to their academic or professional development, and their answers were very telling of the organization as a whole.
Nick: Honestly, I think it’s contributed a ton to my academic and professional development, because being on the executive board is almost like working in an office essentially. Like we have these meetings, we’re getting real life practical experience, etc.
Annie: Nick makes a really great point! We are a pre-professional program, so as an executive board, we do try and delegate really well. We try and stick to our positions, and for everything we do—our faculty advisor Jennie is awesome about this—she always makes us set a deadline. We have a strict schedule that we follow, and it’s really helped with how much we’ve been able to accomplish. And I think being on the executive board in general has just proven to all of us that you can get more done when you work with a team, than when you try and do something on your own. I think it also is a great testament to the fact that communication does really improve anything you try to do, because as our relationship as an executive board has grown, and as we’ve all gotten to know each other better, we’ve been able to accomplish even more.
Annie went on to talk about a tangible perk that the club offers. They have an educational partnership with Hubspot, a software company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The affiliation grants club members full access to useful certification courses, like content marketing and even customer relationship management services. These are things students can add directly to their resumes to stand out to employers. “Our goal is to bring industry-relevant content for students and provide them with as many connections as possible,” she says.
Monthly member meetings are conducted through a workshop format. I had the opportunity to attend their November meeting on resume building. The presenters were both industry professionals from Hubspot: senior corporate communications manager Ellie Flanagan and public relations specialist Alice Sol.
I learned so many useful tips and insights in that one hour, like:
- Outline your achievements—as opposed to your responsibilities—on your resume.
- Build a portfolio to showcase your work.
- Have creative ideas ready for if you were to get the role and present them to your interviewer.
Nick and Annie led the question and answer session that followed to get the student club members and meeting attendees engaged. I haven’t come across a lot of moderated Q&A sessions after Zoom presentations, so I thought this was a good way to make sure no question got lost in the shuffle. It also speaks to how thoughtfully the leaders organize their events to make sure everything runs smoothly.