Hispanic Heritage Month: The Importance of Inclusivity

by Alannah McDermott

Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords and campaigns. Although we continue to bring visibility to the discussion this year, we must ask ourselves―are we including everyone in this story? 

San José State is regionally known as the powerhouse of the Silicon Valley, an ecosystem built on diversity.  Our university is dedicated to continuing the legacy of Cesar Chavez through a commitment to social justice and activism in everything we do.  We are united by our differences―exposed to different ethnicities, religions, ideologies, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds on-campus. Diversity is not just a concept at SJSU, it’s the foundation of who we are—one of the reasons we’re ranked the 4th most transformative college in America

As communicators and creatives, our storytelling is at the forefront of creating discussions and movements around diversity and inclusion, often bringing attention to areas lacking in equity. 

In an industry that is so focused on people, we must strive to ensure all are included in our society and our teams―both in and out of the office. 

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, PRSSA SJSU board members offered insight into why diversity is uniquely important to them. 

“Different cultures and walks of life produce different takes on any given situation,” Joanna Acevedo, PRSSA’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, said. “Therefore, it’s imperative to have diversity within an organization to grapple with the complex intersections existing in society.”

There are real issues affecting real people. To solve them, we have to tackle problems with our strongest defense: information. We must be problem solvers, examining the issue at hand at every possible angle. With this, we can offer different vantage points across cultures, ages, ethnicities and gender identities.  Our critical thinking is done best when we work together, not when we are looking at only one small section of the story.

“I once attended a workshop that specifically focused on Latinx community and mental health,Acevedo said, The accumulation of different experiences being Latinx struggling with mental illness allowed there to be a carefully thought out approach on how to best serve that group!” This is a practical example of a time where diversity of voice and thought helped solve the issue at hand, creatively identifying the problem.

Other ways we can stand in solidarity with diverse populations is by hiring and promoting more people of color, creating documents with accessibility features for the visually impaired and recognizing multiple gender identities and sexual orientations in surveys. 

While we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we need to bring attention to the beauty of this culture throughout the year. We can make the Latinx community feel valued and heard by actively partnering with them in their struggles and not dismissing real―and often unseen―issues. 

Chapter Treasurer Gabi Avella does this by leveraging public relations skills gained through our organization to advocate for Latinx issues. As part of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley’s Ella Class of 2019, she’s facilitated classes and launched projects to encourage and increase Latina representation in government. 

“Sometimes we don’t realize the barriers of getting into a group,” Avella said. “Finding the barriers and breaking them down is a good way to increase diversity in a group.”

Yasmin Abdi, Vice President of Professional Development, recalls an experience where diversity was paramount in her growth at SJSU. 

“In university housing my freshman year, I was paired with roommates who differed from me completely,” she said. “But, it made us appreciate one another more.” 

In 2015, McKinsey&Company’s Why Diversity Matters study illustrated that companies with gender and ethnic diversity were more likely to financially outperform those with a lack of diversity. This study shows that diverse executive boards are a smart investment, generating better returns and more money for organizations.

We can reap the social, cultural and economic benefits of diversity and inclusion when we consistently invest in communities that are often overlooked.

It’s more than meeting quotas―it’s about starting at the most basic level and beginning with the people we interact with daily. This includes the people in our classes, at our workplaces, at home―anywhere! 

At SJSU, PRSSA is dedicated to investing in our diverse community, offering professional opportunities, including agency tours, networking sessions, conferences, panels, socials and workshops. The panels we host throughout the semester include young, diverse professionals in a variety of industries who are ready to connect with members. Our organization works closely with our parent chapter PRSA Silicon Valley to bring multicultural communications executives from companies like Alaska Airlines, Juniper Networks, Zeno Group and IBM to the table with students directly. 

We are excited to continue growing our diverse community of students this semester. Whether you’re a future member ready to dive into professional development activities we have planned, or a fellow Spartan wanting to foster connections, we can’t wait to meet and get to know you!

Join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and let us know some practical ways you’re advancing diversity and inclusion in your communities. We want to partner with you. 🙂 

What PRSSA Means to Me

By Alannah McDermott

One of the greatest decisions I’ve made for my academic and professional journey is joining PRSSA.  The field of public relations is constantly adapting, changing and growing. To go about a career in PR without a group of students and professionals to support you would be like a wearing a blindfold during a race.  My mind has opened up to so many experiences and perspectives in the field of PR that wouldn’t have been available to me without joining PRSSA.

So, I want to share a bit about what PRSSA means to me by highlighting three pillars of success that PRSSA has empowered me with:

1. Knowledge

It’s one thing to learn about something in the classroom, or through a textbook.  It’s another thing entirely to take a step further through hands on workshops, leadership opportunities and volunteerism.  Excellence isn’t just built in the work we do in our PR classes. PRSSA has allowed me to practice what I learn in case studies so that I’m better prepared when I graduate.  For example, I’ve read tons on the do’s and don’ts of media relations in public relations classes. But, it wasn’t until we had a pitching workshop earlier this semester that I was able to see my weaknesses and strengths. Being a member has made me a better skilled PR student—hands down!

2. Connection

Connecting with others is at the core of this organization. Within the first few months of joining PRSSA, I had already made over 50 connections with professionals in the fields of business, PR, events, finance, marketing and much more.  And this is still growing! Through agency tours, a regional conference and panels, I was able to gain perspectives from communicators fresh in the industry and those who have been pros for years. In PRSSA, we build relationships.  Every member is not only passionate about the ins and outs of PR, but we also take the time to support and empower each other.

3. Diversity

PRSSA SJSU is made up of people from different cultures, ethnicities, genders, personalities and ideologies.  For me, this is absolutely necessary in any organization I find myself to be a part of and my chapter set the bar pretty high!  PRSSA shows its dedication for diversity by welcoming anyone and everyone with open arms and taking the time to support and connect with them.  Naturally, I’m not a super outgoing person. The members have helped me break out of my shell and it’s been a passion of mine since to do the same for new members.  PRSSA continued to uplift its value on diversity by creating an opening role of Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the club, which also creates more opportunities for members.  

Opportunity Awaits

Knowledge, connection and diversity are three of the foundational characteristics of PRSSA and its members.  That’s why our crowdfunding campaign for the International Conference is paramount to the success of all our members. Support received from this fundraising initiative will support our talented and budding professionals with financial assistance. We want them to take advantage of this opportunity to make meaningful connections on and off-campus. Our mission is to have PRSSA thrive in our community.I truly believe everyone is only one connection away from changing the trajectory of their lives!

Please consider donating to the PRSSA International Conference fund and share the link http://power.sjsu.edu/PRSSA with your network to help our campaign reach a higher visibility.

Spring 2019 PR & Marcom Fair

Building connections is the one of the keys to success in the Public Relations and communications industry.

On Feburary 28, San José State students attended the PR & MarCom Fair hosted by PRSSA. PR and communications agencies showcased their internships and post-grad jobs available throughout the Bay Area.

“The fair was a great opportunity for relationship building and getting to know what is out there,” said SJSU PR student, Gabi Avella. “It was amazing to hear about the work I could be doing some day.”

The companies in attendance were Edelman, Highwire PR, The Hoffman Agency, Lumina, Sterling Communications, Inkhouse, Finn Partners, Praytell and Connext.

SJSU students were able to speak one on one with PR professionals that specialize in technology and consumer communications in various parts of the Bay Area.

“We search for those with big ideas, strong opinions and the energy to bring them to life. Critical thinking, creative ideation and tenacious execution are critical skills needed for teamwork and content,” said Andrew Robinson, Highwire PR.  

Agencies are looking for PR and MarCom students that are ready to gain real life experience in the competitive field.

One of the attendees, Connext, is a consulting company that matches students with a career coach to help guide them into any sector of PR.

René Siegel, CEO and Founder of Connext, is a SJSU alum who also became a PR professor ready to mentor students into the job field.

“Connext is the trampoline right below that, ready to not only catch you but to propel you up onto the next opportunity,” said Jasmine Garcia, Marketing Communications Specialist at Connext.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, SJSU students have a special advantage with the abundance of tech companies looking for interns in the PR and MarCom realm.

“Internships allow you to connect classroom concepts to real-world situations,” said SJSU PR professor, Matt Cabot. “Take as many as you can during college. They’ll make you stand out among the rest of your peers who are searching for work in this competitive field.”

PRSSA is recommended to join for gaining better connections with professionals and attend seasonal fairs like this one.

“I found the event extremely beneficial. It had an amazing and positive vibe making it feel like a professional lounge,” said SJSU PR student, Greg Buckley. “I enjoyed all the agencies, but the Hoffman Agency stood out to me.”

The closest agency to SJSU is The Hoffman Agency, where multiple PRSSA members have experienced their first PR internship.

“The Hoffman Agency provides a level of support and encouragement perfect for, and that frankly can’t be matched by larger companies. This internship program provides professionals with all the tools needed to kick off their career in PR, while also forming lasting professional relationships,” said Pal Hollywood, Account Executive.

PRSSA SJSU has helped bridge the gap between students and professionals to build connections that better prepare students for their PR and MarCom career path.

We look forward to continuing our partnerships with local Bay Area professionals as their knowledge and experience is invaluable to us.

Media Predicts: Damage Control, Monopolies and the Future of Silicon Valley

One of the most important aspects of working in public relations is staying up-to-date with the latest news and information. At PRSA Silicon Valley’s Media Predicts event, PRSSA SJSU took a sneak peak behind the curtain of 2019 technology headlines.

The Media Predicts panel consisted of editors and technology journalists from top publications including:



The panelists offered insight on the competitive nature of Silicon Valley and made predictions for breaking tech-news stories and social issues in 2019 — specifically, the struggle for humanity in the midst of controversy. “This pipe dream we had of making the world a better place is not what the C-Suite want,” said Tech Editor of ELLE, Jenna Blaha.

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The recent controversies with CEOs Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have put Silicon Valley in the crosshairs of Washington D.C.. “There’s going to be a hard look to see if these companies have become the railroads of the 21st century,” said AP Business/ Tech writer, Michael Liedtke. However, Bloomberg’s Nico Grant expressed a lack of confidence in Congress’ ability to reign in these monopolies.

“When Zuckerberg was on Capitol Hillthey had no idea how Facebook worked, or how they turn a profit or how they run their business,” said Grant.  Grant laughed recalling how Zuckerberg answered “Senator, we run ads” when asked about his business. The structure of these companies and their monopoly over different technology leaves the government with the difficult question, is it time to split these companies up? “I think the burden of proof is on the government,so none will be broken up,” said Grant.

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With Jeff Bezos taking over the the top spot for richest man on the planet, many of the panelist believe that Amazon’s actions could have the biggest impact in 2019. “Amazon is taking over homes and they’re not stopping, said D’OnforHe said that Amazon wants it all, acting likehey’re Pac-Man The recent success of artificial assistants like Alexa or Google Home shows that while people value privacy, millions are willing to give it up in exchange for  convenience and accessibility.

“Privacy is dead,” said CNN Technology reporter, Ahiza Garcia. A report from TechCrunch found that 36 million Americans own a smart speaker. “We’ve put so much info out there and it’s going to be hard to pull that back,” Garcia said. A majority of those speakers are Amazon’s Alexa, who takes residence in 11 percent of American homes.

Garcia also reminded the audience that while some companies avoid the spotlight, Nike’s research showed customers want companies to take a stand on social issues — impacting their bottom line. For example, Nike’s, “Just Do It” campaign with ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick has trended on social media and received praise from stockholders.


While Garcia cannot officially advise on financial matters, she suggests to be careful with any investment or stock. “If you’re young, you have more room for risk. If you’re old, be more conservative,” Garcia said.

For students entering the workforce, these topics and social issues need to be brought to the forefront of our conversations as they will directly impact our lives after graduation. In Silicon Valley, tech news is no longer limited to product exclusives or reviews of new gadgets. With technology shaping the world around us, it is our responsibility as public relations and mass communications students to stay informed and advocate for equity, accessibility, and transparency.    

Diversity and Inclusion is Here to Stay

By Elsabete Kebede

When I submitted my application for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation Travel Grant sometime in June, I knew it was a long-shot. The grant allowed 10 multicultural students nationwide an all-expenses paid trip to Austin, Texas for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Conference. I applied anyway. In August, as I waited in line for my lunch at Whole Foods, I got an email that notified me I was a recipient.

As it was my first PRSSA National Conference, I was so excited to attend and a larger part of my excitement was due to the timely themes and sessions taking place. One of the sessions that I attended was “Celebrating Black Public Relations Industry”, where I was able to learn about the untold stories of PR practitioners that paved the way for many leaders now. In any industry, there is power and value in seeing successful people that look like you. When I see people of color, especially women of color in leadership positions, it tells me that it is possible for me to reach that level as well.  

This year the PRSA Foundation published Diverse Voices, a book that shares the unique and inspiring stories of 40 multicultural PR professionals.  The Foundation generously gave me a copy and I was delighted to see that Kim Hunter was one of the featured professionals. As a LAGRANT scholarship recipient, I am one of the many students Kim has helped with academic and professional development. As graduation approaches and I prepare to beginmy career, I plan on working for a progressive, diverse, and socially aware company. The work that the PRSA and LAGRANT Foundation do, along with so many others, is what directs me to the people I would like to work with and for. Please note that I am not the only one. In a 2016 study done by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and Weber Shandwick, 47% of millennials consider diversity and inclusion as “important criteria” in their job search. Yet, the public relations industry has a diversity gap; in 2016, the U.S. Census stated that 81.5% of professionals identified as white.

Though I cannot imagine the number of people of color in high-level positions fares well, they do exist.  I was fortunate enough to meet some of those individuals at the PRSSA conference, some of which who even advocated for the creation of the travel grant. It’s an incredible and inspiring to be around industry leaders who are unafraid to challenge the status quo.

I’m grateful that there are organizations like Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP), The LAGRANT Foundation, PRSA Foundation and others that are active in helping the next generation of diverse communications practitioners build their career.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Kim, that I think all industry leaders should keep in mind: “Our industry will be better off when leaders embrace diversity and inclusion as a fundamental business imperative throughout the enterprise. Be vulnerable be open. Embrace the present. Embrace the future.”

Diversity and inclusion should not be something nice to have, but imperative to each organization. Diverse communicators are the future of the PR industry and my peers and I are eternally grateful for the existing support system. Due to the tireless work of you all, we will reach new heights, break down more barriers, and lead a public relations industry that truly is diverse and inclusive.

Code for Communications

by Brandy Suarez-Aguilar

We all know that the idea of working in beauty, fashion or entertainment industries can be glamorous and exciting. As public relations practitioners, it is easy to get become fixated on celebrities and big brands. However, it is a great time for students to be entering the workforce as more technology companies expand their public relations and communications teams.

At this year’s PRSSA National Conference,  Brandi Boatner, Brand Communications Manager and “Beyonce of the Business World,” stressed that it is time for girls to “Run the World” and code for communications.

For many mass communications students that attended the conference, the idea of taking courses in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) may seem intimidating. With a growing number of women entering the intersection of communications and technology, Boatner advocated for women to add coding to their long list of skills on their resume.

When trying something new, it is important to set yourself up for success. Many universities offer communications classes emphasizing a role with technology. Boatner also suggested students follow along with podcasts, utilize online tutorials and blogs as resources to practice your new skills outside of the classroom.

Technology is constantly evolving only making joining professional societies, finding mentors and expanding your network as crucial as can be to success in the world of tech-PR.

Attending events including the annual Women in Technology Summit offers business opportunities, ideas for innovative solutions and leadership initiatives in an inclusive environment designed to educate and support women.

If you do decide to enter the field of technology communications, it is unlikely that coding will be listed as a prerequisite during the application process. However, companies are looking for thought leadership and problem solvers.

Experience in STEM, specifically coding, is a great way to set yourself apart and bring solutions to the table.

Moving on from PRSSA to PRSA

By Mahdis Bidokhti

I joined my local PRSSA chapter at San José State University three years ago. Now, as a senior, I had the opportunity to attend my second and final PRSSA National Conference in Austin, TX.

Throughout the conference I was able to network with professionals, enhance my knowledge of public relations, meet students from all around the country interested in the same career and try some really great food options in the city. I even had the chance to catch up with my old friend, Immediate Past PRSSA National President, Andrew Cook.

My experience at the national conference made me reflect upon my gratitude for The PRSSA National Society, PRSSA SJSU and PRSA Silicon Valley, my local chapter. These organizations allowed me to learn about the industry outside of my public relations classes, inspiring me to plan on how I can continue to be involved in the future.

PRSA Silicon Valley does an amazing job of supporting our PRSSA students at SJSU, always reaching out to include us in their events. I’ve been lucky enough to experience the generosity of alumni and Bay Area professionals, a major reason why I was able to attend my second PRSSA National Conference.

Graduating seniors are in a great position to give back to the organization and help students looking for professional development opportunities in the mass communications industry. When PRSSA students graduate from their university, they can join a local PRSA chapter.

PRSA Silicon Valley offers mentorship and guidance, while fostering inclusive and meaningful friendships. Though joining PRSA is the next step for me, my goal is to continue my relationship with PRSSA by sharing my network and resources with students looking to enter the public relations industry. I hope to make a difference and add to their experience at San José State University. I want to provide support, insight and feedback in order to make their transition from PRSSA to PRSA as easy as possible, like current members have done for me.

Buzzword Alert: Influencer Marketing

by Emily Edwards Van Muijen

As we grow more accustomed to advertisements inundating our daily lives, companies have to be more creative about broadcasting their products to their publics.

Sybil Grieb and Andrew Schwalb of Edelman gave students a “behind the scenes” look at influencer relations, strategies and brand awareness during the Public Relations Student Society of America Regional Conference in Fullerton, California (NextGenPR).

An influencer is a person that has a significant following on a platform that reaches a lot of people. Influencer marketing is skyrocketing due to third-party credibility influencers possess which enables them to reach niche audiences more effectively than traditional advertisements.

According to Grieb, influencers are the “gateway to trust” and can help a brand build a relationship with its intended audience.

Award-winning Snapchat artist, Shaun McBride (Shonduras), partnered with Edelman client, Xfinity Mobile, to create a mural comprised of drawings sent to McBride via Snapchat from his following of more than 600,000 people. McBride used his following to create a“Snapsterpiece”  which debuted at a new Xfinity store in Philadelphia, increasing store traffic by over 400 percent and garnering more than one million video views.

“Influencer marketing is no longer an option, it’s a requirement,” stressed Grieb and Schwalb. Campaigns like the one carried out by Edelman and Xfinity Mobile are being adopted by companies across the globe.

Through collected social media data and analytics, it is safe to infer that if media is not easily consumable and cannot bypass complex algorithms, the intended audience will not listen. Society has learned to ignore the ads so creativity in reaching publics is necessary.

Schwalb acknowledged that it can be difficult to convince companies with more traditional views of advertising to use influencers. For instance, explaining the reach of a Youtuber or an Instagram model to a conservative client may be challenging because they aren’t celebrities in the traditional sense of the word.

Schwalb offered a piece of advice in convincing a business to use influencer marketing, “Show them that it works.” Try starting with a small campaign that utilizes a micro-influencer with a smaller, niche audience. After the event put together real metrics detailing the impact of the campaign. Clients love to see results.

Grieb and Schwalb helped students like myself understand the changing landscape of public relations and marketing by explaining the different ways to incorporate influence marketing into a campaign.