Public Relations through a Virtual Lens

by | Dec 5, 2020

With this unique semester spent online, maintaining virtual relationships has become more important than ever. The University of Delaware’s registered student organizations are finding creative ways to keep students connected. One of those organizations is the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which continues to provide its members with opportunities for friendship and development. Despite the burnout many students are feeling during this virtual phase at the University of Delaware, Neha Shanker, Vice President for PRSSA, points out that their students have especially been involved and demonstrated enthusiasm for learning. 

“One member who especially stands out is Jessica Gardner, a freshman,” Shanker mentioned. “She’s also been very active this past semester and taken great initiative in all opportunities we’ve presented.”

Jessica herself had much to say about her time at the University of Delaware. From her first day of college, she was immediately thrown into a virtual landscape. Gardner points to PRSSA as the reason she chose to stay at UD.

Members of PRSSA
PRSSA Meeting
“I still remember how upset I was my first day of virtual college,” Gardner recalls. “After attending multiple zoom meetings from the sunroom in my house, I seriously considered dropping out and working full-time for another year because I was so overwhelmed. Looking back on that day now, at the end of my first semester, I think about how much I’ve grown and all the unique experiences I’ve had.” 

Jessica characterized herself as a naturally shy person, who had difficulty putting herself out there to meet new people. The virtual environment didn’t make it any easier for her. 

Joining PRSSA was Jessica’s last ditch effort, in an attempt to meet new people. She regards that very first meeting as one that has allowed her to think about her future after college, provided her with a community, and an opportunity to connect with others. 

“During that meeting, I got the chance to meet with a CEO and I was very impressed with the organization,” Gardner said. “Since that first meeting, I’ve attended every meeting that I’m able to because I really enjoy being a part of an organization that cares about it’s members and meeting people who love what they do. It’s very inspiring. I’ve also learned a lot about public relations like how to create a press release for a product, why public relations is relevant to the medical field through our virtual field trip, and how I can make a personalized website so I can stand apart from other job applicants.” 

PRSSA is an accredited chapter of a national organization, recognized by employers.  The group is a pre-professional organization for students interested in pursuing fields of public relations and communication, but any major can and is encouraged to join! PRSSA is led by executive board members: Rachel Ornstein, Stella Galli, Neha Shanker, Danielle Raskin, Lia Hyman, Mackenzie Meyers, Becky Kazenoff, and Evelyn Zanowski. Their main mission is to provide real-world experience and gain hands-on practical skills, by bridging the gap between the classroom and the industry.

During meetings, they have industry professionals speak to students, teach industry-sought qualities through Skills Slams, and host field trips to PR firms. Within their organization, they have a Communication and an Outreach Committees. The Communication Committee helps write articles for the PRSSA-UD blog, while the Outreach Committee helps local small businesses with their social media/brand campaigns. All of these opportunities eventually help members build their portfolio. This semester, they’ve continued a successful run of meetings and expanded their opportunities.

What have they been up to this semester? 

Although the pandemic has been a difficult transition, PRSSA has continued programming. They’ve hosted a number of virtual events through speakers and Skills Slams, while also adding events such as a screening of The Social Dilemma, a discussion with last years’ executive board, and completing a virtual field trip to W2O Group. Danielle Raskin, Program Director for PRSSA, planned and executed the virtual field trip that members still rave about. W2O is the leading independent provider of analytics-driven, digital-first marketing services and communications to the healthcare sector. Danielle recalls her path to getting this event planned. 

“I knew someone who knew the founder of this company called W2O,” Raskin said. “I began by reaching out to the founder who then connected me to others who would actually be assisting in putting this ‘event’ together. Usually we are limited to agencies within this area, but because it was virtually an opportunity we had to connect with others, in this case W2O, which is based in California.” 

The event itself was a two hour long program for PRSSA dues-paying members only. The four women speaking were all University of Delaware alumnae. The two hours were broken up into 20-minute segments, each that discussed information about the overall company and healthcare communications, earned media, integrated intelligence, and case studies to see how W2O goes about dealing with different clients and projects. Jessica Gardner wrote an amazing blog post detailing her experience at the virtual field trip.

PRSSA has found a way to make the most of the virtual shift and continues to have engaged members who will come out of the organization with more industry-based skills. Follow them on Instagram @prssa_ud and connect with them on LinkedIn for more information and updates! 

Social Dilemma
W2O Field Trip