Public Relations Senior Takes Lessons from PRSSA Conference Back to Newhouse

This past October, Newhouse public relations seniors Aidan Shephard, Jared Dowling and I attended the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National ICON conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The conference, which ran from Oct. 13-17, offered opportunities for student leaders in PRSSA organizations globally to learn from industry leaders, network and engage in discussions concerning the state of public relations industry in today’s society. As the firm director of student-run public relations firm Hill Communications, this was a valuable opportunity for me.

three people stand together at a conference
Dillon Williams, Aidan Shephard and Jared Dowling were all smiles at the PRSSA National ICON conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

While Aiden is Syracuse University’s PRSSA chapter president and Jared is the chapter executive vice president, we were not the only Newhouse representation present at the conference. Sunday morning featured a keynote address from Gina Laughlin ‘00, vice president of global employee communications at Delta, which hosted its inaugural Delta Days in April at Newhouse. During this executive education program, communications professionals from Delta learned from Newhouse’s public relations faculty how to fine-tune their skills in writing and communications. This partnership with Delta also allowed for public relations student leaders of both Hill Communications and PRSSA to meet with their team and learn more about post-graduate communications roles in the travel sector.

Haley Norton G ‘18, associate director of social and public relations at Nebo Agency, spoke in a breakout session about Generation Z and their rise to representing 25% of the global workforce by 2025. Her speech also touched on new media and the use of the PESO model, both of which are key components of the education students receive in the PR department at the Newhouse School.

Three people stand together on an outdoor patio
L-R: Aidan Shephard, Dillon Williams and Jared Dowling

If I were to choose a favorite part of my experience at the ICON festival, it would be attending the session titled “Insights from Special Olympics: A Roadmap to Inclusion.” As someone who is passionate about inclusion in my overarching life goal to leave the world a better place than I found it, attending a session by Special Olympics was especially impactful. My first job in high school was working with a special recreation association in inclusionary programs, and this session was the perfect way of bringing my journey full circle.

Overall, attending the 2023 PRSSA ICON National Conference taught me lessons and gave me experiences to bring back for my own career and for my work with Hill Communications. I learned how to better manage relationships between both an agency and clients as well as an agency and its employees. A message is only as strong as the way you communicate it, and I’ve taken back different strategies to help Hill Communications communicate effectively in both internal and external environments.

Dillon Williams is a senior in the public relations program at the Newhouse School.