MNPR Blog

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Look at an Up-and-Comer: Hannah Kuelbs

Hannah Kuelbs is the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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

I was introduced to public relations when I joined Augustana PRSSA my sophomore year, the same year I took my first PR course. I became interested in the field through trips that Augustana PRSSA takes to the Twin Cities each spring. As the Augustana PRSSA president, I now have the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for PR with others, while trying to learn as much as I can. In October, I was lucky enough to attend the PRSSA National Conference in San Francisco where I was able to interact with PR students and professionals from across the country.

2. You won a PRSA Student Classics Award in 2012. Tell us more about the publication you created for Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues.

As a Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues (SFJB) intern, I helped promote and execute the locally acclaimed event, JazzFest. JazzFest of Sioux Falls is a three-day outdoor music festival. As the second most-attended event in South Dakota, it brings a large crowd to Sioux Falls every summer. Because of the influx of people, the local neighborhoods are affected.

Hannah Kuelbs
The special purpose publication I created was in response to the growing concern about the safety and comfort of the citizens of the surrounding neighborhood. In the past, there had been complaints about parking issues, alcohol offenses, litter, and general rowdiness caused by the crowds that seem from the event into the neighborhoods. I used the information I received talking with local citizens, the Sioux Falls Police Department, and a local eco-organization to create a mailer that would instill ease in the neighborhood during JazzFest.

The first idea I wanted to convey was that SFJB recognizes the inconveniences the community might face during JazzFest and that we are taking steps to ensure their lives can go on as normal. Secondly, I wanted the community to perceive JazzFest as not just a party, but a party with a purpose. This event is free to the public, while the proceeds from beverages go towards local jazz education. By informing the public of the reason for JazzFest and its contribution to the community, I worked to change the community’s perception of JazzFest.

3. In addition to communications, you're also majoring in music. What similarities and differences do you see in the two disciplines?

Communications and music both require a special attention to detail in order for the end product to be effective. Almost anyone can go up to a piano and learn to play a tune, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a convincing performance. The refined musician puts hours upon hours into the details: phrasing, technique, voicing, tempo, etc. By perfecting the details, the musician is able to better convey the mood and emotion of the message, the music. The same is true in the communications field. It is obvious that we all communicate, but those who do so effectively have refined ideas and methods of sharing a well-tailored message.

Music pushes the imaginative side of my brain to new levels every day. I think PR has a basis in creativity as well. There are so many messages, brands, and ways to share information in our world, so the PR pro has to think and communicate differently. Being a music major has provided me with a diversity of thought that I probably wouldn’t have obtained without my background in music and my passion for the arts.

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

I think that listening is extremely important for leaders of PRSSA chapters. Each year, PRSSA members have different interests, and it is important to tailor the group’s activities in order for committed students to benefit from being in PRSSA. This means getting to know the members on a more personal level and encouraging input and participation. For our chapter, that means connecting with professionals and frequently venturing outside of Sioux Falls, because that’s where more PR opportunities lie.

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

I believe that social media is redefining the function of PR. Public relations now has heightened responsibility not just to get media coverage, but to shape and share the content that is created by others because of the conversational nature of social media. While social media has proven its potential to increase personal connection and fan building by piggybacking on the success of other traditional tactics, I think that social media can be falsely regarded as a strategy that can fix all problems. A brand needs to be built and maintained outside of social media in order to be most effectively strengthened in online communities.

6. What is your desired career path?

I hope to combine my two passions and work for a music organization doing PR or strategic communications. However, I love the agency pace and environment and I am keeping my options open for my first job after graduation.

Connect with Hannah on LinkedIn. Follow Hannah on Twitter or read her blog.

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