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Monday, April 23, 2012

A Look at an Up-and-Comer: Samantha Schommer

Samantha Schommer serves as the vice president of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Meet this up-and-comer!

1. Tell us a bit about your public relations experience so far.

I've always been passionate about writing, so when I got the opportunity to write for my local newspaper, The Herald Journal, I was thrilled. After working there, I realized I was more interested in promoting than reporting, so I decided to major in public relations at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU). In my time at MSU I've enjoyed volunteering with PRSSA and serving as the vice president. I am currently the public relations intern at AgStar Financial Services in Mankato. My internship has allowed me to practice what I learned in classes and gain some incredible experience. I've really enjoyed putting my education into practice by writing for and organizing the quarterly newsletter, conducting a focus group to find out how clients want to receive communication from us and working with the press.

Minnesota Public Relations Skogrand PR Solutions
Samantha Schommer
2. What are some things that you have learned from being an intern at AgStar Financial Services?

I learned that being passionate about your subject matter is a great benefit when promoting a brand through social media. I know I want to appreciate the work of the company (or companies) I'm promoting because it will make my job more enjoyable. I've also learned more about effectively using social media to promote a brand. My internship has been a great experience because I've really been given a lot of responsibility and able to make a real difference for the company.

3. You graduate soon from Minnesota State University, Mankato. How has your job search been going? What advice do you have for fellow job seekers?

It's been going well! I started applying in February, but didn't get an interview until mid-April, so it wasn't easy at times. What helped me finally get a couple interviews was through connections with people at the companies I was applying for. I'm still in the early stages of interviews, but I'm thrilled to finally be starting the process. My advice to my fellow recent graduates is to network and attend events PRSA puts on. People in PR are so friendly and willing to help a new graduate out, but they're not going to help you if you don't take the initiative. Also, even if you feel like you are too busy, make sure you take the time to go the extra step like calling to check up on the status of your application or sending a thank-you card after the interview. It can really make a difference.

4. What suggestions do you have for other PRSSA chapters on having a successful chapter?

It's difficult to keep membership high when students are flooded with schoolwork, internships and other extracurricular activities. To keep them coming to meetings, the exec team has to hold them accountable and give them responsibilities. Anything from having members in charge of a newsletter or leading part of the meetings will give them the accountability they need to keep coming. Another suggestion I have is to think outside the box when it comes to fundraisers. Go the extra mile and do the extra work to put on unique fundraisers that will get your chapter noticed. It will also give you something different to talk about in an interview that shows you weren't just an average member.

5. What is your perspective on social media's role in public relations?

Social media is essential for a brand to communicate with its audience. Using it to engage positive feedback is wonderful, but it's also very necessary to have a plan in place for any negative feedback that may be received. I think that eventually, the traditional media release will not be effective and PR practitioners will have to do more of a digital release with embedded media. Also, I think social media will be the main avenue for connecting with reporters. Nothing will replace a phone call, but idea generation will be found more in social media. Overall, I see social media as vital in public relations.

6. What is your desired career path?

I would love to start my career with an agency as I have already had experience with corporate public relations. I think an agency would be such an exciting environment to be in and I would thrive there, working on multiple accounts. Ideally, I'd work my way up the ladder with the agency. It's been a dream of mine to someday, in the very distant future, possibly start my own public relations firm. It may be just a dream right now, but if I find myself in the position to make it happen, I would love to do it.

Connect with Samantha on LinkedIn.
Follow Samantha on Twitter:  @SamanthaRose90

-- Brant Skogrand, APR, MBC / Skogrand PR Solutions, LLC