Chase Ferren Reflects on 2015 PR Apprentice Program

I went into the PR Apprentice competition with zero experience in public relations; my college career has been mainly focused on rhetoric and media studies. I’ve never taken a PR class and my college is void of any PR clubs or organizations. I wasn’t sure what I could offer Ibero-American Action League in terms of a PR campaign.

The PR Apprentice competition was beyond anything I expected. My teammates and I were not simply quarantined to a room until we came up with a professional-grade PR campaign for Ibero’s new lending library. Instead, we had the opportunity to be coached by multiple PR, media and writing professionals from the Rochester area. They were the real deal, too—PR professionals from Bausch + Lomb, Dixon Schwabl, Text 100, Kodak…the list goes on. My team, Fred, Fields & Ferren, had the opportunity to have at least seven professionals coach us in the short eleven hours the competition lasted. They guided us, kept us on track and urged us to focus on our personal strengths to bring our own unique perspectives and contributions to the table. This was an entirely unique opportunity for all the participating students to pick the brains of people who have years of experience in public relations.

Fred, Fields and Ferren with coach Bobbi Lonnobile.

Coach Bobbi Lonobile with members of PR Apprentice Program winning team including Laquanda Fields, Sarah Fredendall and Chase Ferren.

We students also had the opportunity to collaborate as peers and bring our own talents together to create a cohesive PR campaign. Our small teams were made up of students that were previously virtual strangers, but we all developed a rapport in a very short amount of time.

We quickly learned how we could best work as a unit, rather than as individuals. Everyone had diverse experiences, perspectives and talents to offer each team. We even learned from the competing teams. During the presentations, I found myself thinking that this team or that team did a great job developing a certain aspect of their campaign, or that we should have given more time to this or that part of our campaign. We were all immediately reflective of the experience, glancing at each other when we were compelled and taking mental notes for future projects.

Fred, Fields & Ferren won the PR Apprentice and we left with a junior PRism-winning campaign for our portfolios. While our victory was exhilarating and our success celebrated, the most valuable aspect of this competition for me was the actual experience; the eleven hours spent with fellow students and our coaches working our very hardest to create a quality project we could be proud of.  I learned that just because I didn’t have official PR experience, didn’t mean there was nothing for me to bring to the table. In fact, this is part of what made my contributions valuable and unique.

I also made professional connections to which I would have otherwise never had access. I now have a stack of business cards of people I could call at any time to ask for advice on a project or for professional mentoring (though it would be difficult to choose among the many great connections I made).

My experience and success as a competitor at PR Apprentice will forever be one of the proudest moments from my college career.

Chase Ferren is a senior at Nazareth College, editor-in-chief of school newspaper The Golden Gazette and an intern with both Next Step Academy and Simeon Banister, head of the Henrietta Democratic Committee. She was a member of the winning team from the 2015 PRSA Rochester PR Apprentice Program, Fred, Fields & Ferren. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follower her on Twitter.

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