Non-Profit Expert Panel Offers Public Relations Insights

21 12 2011

By Heather Hanson (@heath_er)

A group of professionals joined Dr. Henderson’s Case Studies in Public Relations class at semester’s end to discuss non-profit communication and case studies. Interactions among professionals and students were shared in and outside of class with live-tweeting at #uwoshpr.

The panel of professionals included Kelli Karpinski, Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce; Dick Knapinski , EAA; Tracy OgdenBoys and Girls Club; and John Giesfeldt , Directions, Inc. The panel covered topics relevant to students such as non-profit case studies, networking and functions of non-profit organizations.

Photo: (left to right) Knapinski, Ogden, Karpinski and Giesfeldt

One of the key points centered on how to combat a crisis in an organization.  The panelists agreed that having an action plan already in place and anticipating potential problems is necessary in any organization. “My job is to think of the worst possible thing to happen,” Knapinski said to the group of students.

Knapinski presented interesting and relevant public relations case studies. In one case, he discussed how a person on Twitter said negative things about EAA. This person communicated information that only someone close to the organization would know. Among other things the Twitter account was reported. According to Knapinski, especially with new media, it’s necessary for public relations professionals to be proactive with all communication channels surrounding the organization.

The panelists also dispensed some important information regarding how to land a job after graduation. Giesfeldt noted how informational interviews are beneficial to gain insight about the employer and potential jobs in the organization. He also said that personal contact is always better when students are trying to reach out to potential employers.  What is the best way to make contact? “Pick up the phone,” Giesfeldt said.

Students also should seek mentors in their first jobs. “I was very fortunate to have bosses who were phenomenal mentors. It’s about networking,” Ogden said. If you’re not as good in certain areas, acknowledge the fact in your cover letter, but also say you are willing to try new things and willing to learn, she said. “When you’re applying for jobs, even if you’re not overqualified, explain that in your cover letter,” Ogden said.

Internships are extremely valuable to students. “Take advantage of free internships,” Ogden said when discussing ways to further professional development. It’s important to gain experience through them. “My best interns that I’ve had have come out of the (UW-Oshkosh Journalism) department,” Karpinski said.

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