Category Archives: Leadership

Fierce in pink: “A Crucial Catch” initiative

by Hope Peterson

Sunday night you are sitting down on the couch about to watch the Falcons and Panthers play some ’ball but instead of focusing on if your team wins the coin toss, your eyes are drawn to the 250-lb. men with black-striped, intimidating faces wearing . . . pink.

Yes, you read me right. A pink tint fills the screen on ESPN channels as some of the country’s fiercest athletes support breast cancer awareness. NFL players are now “pretty in pink.”

An article on the American Cancer Society website explains the beginnings of its partnership with the NFL. In 2009, the NFL supported the American Cancer Society in its campaign to gain funds to improve access to breast cancer screening.

Families of NFL players, including Redskins guard Derrick Dockery and Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, attended the campaign along side the society. Tanya Snyder with Arizona Cardinals player Larry Fitzgerald soon became the face for what is now known as “A Crucial Catch” campaign.

According to a New York Times article, Snyder and Fitzgerald began by passing out pink gloves, wristbands and cleats for NFL players to wear during October games. Goal-post legs are also wrapped in pink.

Snyder said one of her daughters would push “pink ribbons onto reluctant men by telling them, ‘Real men wear pink.’” It was straight from the mouth of a child to an NFL player.

Now, as October begins Breast Cancer Awareness month, the NFL has kicked off its third annual “A Crucial Catch” campaign. The campaign aims to remind women who are 40 and older to schedule regular mammograms to promote the importance of annual screenings to fight breast cancer.

The goal of the American Cancer Society is to “save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early.”

“Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, on-field pink ribbon stencils, special game balls and pink coins – all to help raise awareness for this important campaign,” the NFL said in its description of the “A Crucial Catch” initiative.

Even though the color pink is associated with femininity, what better way to show women their support than for men’s heroes to broadcast a bold color they are proud to wear. These men who love their wives, moms, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, nieces, girlfriends and friends brave up and don the pink, proving to women everywhere that “thinking pink” can be powerful.

While pink has been the universal color for breast cancer awareness since the June 1990 Susan G. Komen walk, pink had yet to publicly cross that gender bridge until recent campaigns like “A Crucial Catch.”

However, professionals aren’t the only ones repping the pink. The NFL is asking coaches and players of all ages across the country to help campaign “A Crucial Catch.”

And, it has “caught” on very quickly. On Friday nights and Saturday mornings, high school and middle school football fields across the nation are filled with teenage boys in pink apparel. Now doesn’t that say something if a teenage boy will wear a “girl’s” color, just to tell his mom he cares?

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The Spirit of Apple

by Sarah Shea, editor

Originally published on PROpenMic

When it comes to PR, Apple has it figured out. The company handles even the most secretive product releases virtually seamlessly. But what is the global technology giant to do when its founder and immediately former CEO passes away?

Change nothing. And that’s not to say the company disregarded Steve Jobs’ October 5 death; rather, it executed everything from the announcement to memoirs in the characteristically perfect way Apple does everything.

Just minutes after Jobs’ death was announced, Apple’s website featured a thoughtful photograph of Jobs himself. Apple’s statement about its founder’s death accompanied the black-and-white image, reading: ”Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

Like all things Apple, the statement is minimalistic, but more than sufficient. Viewers are even invited to offer “thoughts, memories and condolences” to a personalized email address:

As with most major Apple announcements, news of Jobs’ death went viral. Unsurprisingly, much of the information was distributed from devices that are Jobs’ brainchild. Tweets and Facebook updates streamed constantly from a slew of iPods, iPads, iPhones, MacBooks and iMacs.

Also unsurprisingly, Twitter saw a near-record number of tweets per second, nearly 6,049, according to a article. Trending topics included #iSad, #SteveJobs and #ThankYouSteve. The personalized messages seem especially poignant when you consider the sources — fingers wildly tapped iPhone touch screens and Mac’s signature keyboards.

In a CNET article titled “Twitter reacts with emotion to Steve Jobs’ death,” Leslie Katz reported just a few of many powerful tweets about the legacy Jobs left behind. Even Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft and arguably Jobs’ biggest competition, tweeted “For those of us lucky enough to get to work with Steve, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.”

Almost immediately, Jobs fans laced the Internet with a plethora of articles on Jobs, ranging from his impact on Pixar to the reason he always wore black turtlenecks.

Jobs’ impact is both enlightening and heartwarming. I imagine he’d be proud of the way Apple handled his passing — simply and tactfully.

Without Apple’s products, where would we be? And without its shining example of good PR, who would we strive to be?

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The X’s and O’s of Crisis Management

by Megan Reichenbach

As we all know, mistakes happen. And sometimes these mistakes lead to detrimental circumstances. Miriam Fry’s article on Platform Magazine, “You’ve got 60 Minutes,” describes a situation where PR practitioners “take the position of the quarterback” when it comes to cleaning up the mess of a controversial situation. But let’s ask ourselves: are the PR practitioners the only ones doing the clean up?

Peter Federico, senior vice president and chief risk officer of American Capitol Agency Management, seems to think otherwise. “Every person in the vicinity of the controversial situation needs to take a stance in rectifying the problem,“ Federico said. “And every person needs to take this stance early in the game.”

From saying the wrong thing during a press conference to a federal takeover of a business, those in the finance and investment markets need to think outside their comfort zones and more like a PR professional. Federico lends a breakdown of what financial and investment companies need to do in order to get back on their feet.

For those of us who are prone to procrastinating, Crisis Management 101 may have to be added to your to-do list. Crisis planning requires steps to be written down beforehand: “it’s basic, but crisis businesses need to follow a play book; otherwise, things will be missed,” Federico said. This preparation goes hand in hand with the tips suggested on the PR Coach website, which asserts “the time to plan, of course, is when there is no crisis.”

The Pre-Crisis: Prologue to the Crisis Playbook 101

Businesses should develop BCP, or business continuity planning. In public relations “layman” terms, this would be the time that all external factors are identified and potential threats are determined.

Everyone in the business, not just those public relations quarterbacks, must come up with actions to take for every type of crisis. Even though we can’t predict every kind of crisis, we all might as well do as much as we can to ready ourselves for whatever comes our way.

“Who is in charge?”
Before the crisis occurs, a company needs to find out who is going to be accountable for whom, and for what controversial situations.

“Who is going to talk to whom?”
This question centers the main responsibility of a PR person: communication. Throughout the hierarchy of a business, every person needs to create relationships and a communication plan with other members in the business. According to Federico, this simple task of relationship building will save a company from becoming defeated by the crisis.

Businesses can’t forget to create a funding plan. Managing a crisis without a hold on the finances of the company would be nearly impossible, wouldn’t you think?

In a tragic situation where a company’s facility has been affected or ruined, a pre-conceived plan for an alternative location to keep business running is fundamental.

Pre-crisis planning also calls for a written list of constituents, including suppliers, investors, regulators, board members, customers, etc. A simple list of names and phone numbers can be the difference between success and failure.

The Crisis

Identify the crisis
During the crisis, the steps listed in the Prologue of Crisis 101 are put to the test.

Believe it or not, the steps taken during the crisis itself are more easily executed than expected, thanks to pre-crisis planning. Once the specific BCP is chosen for the crisis at hand, follow these tips given by Peter Federico:

• Look back at those relationships that were built and come into contact with whoever is in authority.
• Establish the ultimate decision maker.
• Identify the essential employees in the business and designate appropriate responsibilities.
• Ensure that critical systems are operable. Are the phone lines down? Are the computers still functioning?
• Prioritize all decisions that need to be made, and decide at which point these should be executed during the clean up.
• Ensure that all finances are in check. Does the company have the liquidity to maintain all critical operations?
• Develop the internal and external communication plans—so critical. This is the point in which those individuals in the finance and business industry need show off those PR skills.
• Establish a timeline for damage control.
• Establish meetings to be held in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. Communicating the situation at hand to the public is key to saving the reputation of the company.

It all sounds pretty basic, but most businesses take planning for granted.

Communication is key in a crisis. Acting like a PR professional, and taking on the role of relationship building, can make a world of a difference for those companies involved in a crisis. For companies in the financial or investment industry, there are steps taken by individuals who do not, in fact, have a “PR” position in the business. Whether a controversial situation in a PR firm or financial company, all of those individuals working for the organization need to get a handle on Crisis 101.

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Making a Pointe

By: Katherine Baker

In the recent film “Black Swan,” Natalie Portman stars as the ballerina in a production of “Swan Lake.” Portman won the Oscar for best actress for her performance, in which she did most of the dancing.

Recently though, Sarah Lane, Portman’s dance double, made claims that Portman only danced in 5 percent of the shots on screen and that she danced for 95 percent of the dance scenes.

However, Entertainment Weekly published a statement from the film’s director, Darren Aronofsky, defending Portman, which stated that she danced in about 80 percent of the shots, or 90 percent of the movie if you factor in duration.

“There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math that’s 80 [percent] Natalie Portman,” Aronofsky said.

In public relations, a practitioner represents his company much like a director represents his movie. As PR people, if a problem comes our way, it is crucial to take initiative and be the one that tackles the problem.

Aronofsky assumed the role of a great PR practitioner.

He went directly to the source, Entertainment Weekly, and set the record straight. No if, ands or buts. I don’t think there will be much more questioning about how many scenes Portman danced.

When a reliable source, such as a director or PR professional, cuts to the chase and sets the public straight, it is very powerful and can change the public’s opinion for the better.

Mila Kunis, Portman’s co-star in “Black Swan,” is quoted in another Entertainment Weekly article stating that Portman is honest about how much footwork she was and was not able to do.

“Natalie danced her a–- off,” Kunis said. “I think it’s unfortunate that this is coming out and taking attention away from [the praise] Natalie deserved and got.”

Having other people in your cast, or on your PR team, back you up when a crisis occurs is also a great and effective way to clear up any confusion.

The director and cast members of “Black Swan” know how to take care of business not only in the ballet world, but in the PR world as well.

In his closing remarks, Aronofsky told Entertainment Weekly, “And to be clear Natalie did dance on pointe in pointe shoes. If you look at the final shot of the opening prologue, which lasts 85 seconds, and was danced completely by Natalie, she exits the scene on pointe. That is completely her without any digital magic.

“I am responding to this to put this to rest and to defend my actor. Natalie sweated long and hard to deliver a great physical and emotional performance. And I don’t want anyone to think that’s not her they are watching. It is.”

Way to make a “pointe” of setting the story straight, Aronofsky.


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Eat What You Preach: Looking the Part

By Katherine Baker

Consider this scenario: You walk into a hair salon with high hopes of looking like a supermodel the minute you walk out the door. The first woman you see glances at you and says, “Oh hi, I’m Marcy, and I’ll be doing your hair today.” Sounds lovely, right?

But, there is a problem. Marcy looks like she has the entire amount of grease from a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder smeared over her head. Her hair salon immediately falls to the bottom of your rankings.

Now, consider this scenario: The gym near your neighborhood just had its grand opening. Now you’re ready to give it a try and get those killer abs you’ve always wanted. You decide to take a kickboxing class. Again, sounds great, right?

Wrong. Your instructor looks like he could be a contestant on the “Biggest Loser” and is more out of breath than you are throughout the class.

No one wants to use a hair salon where the workers don’t appear to keep their own hair clean. Just as no one wants to go to an exercise class where the teacher is more out of shape than he is.

These examples may seem a bit extreme, but would you really want to go to either of these places after having a similar experience? I don’t think so.

Looking the part is crucial for successful day-to-day public relations.

In Cynthia’s Health & Weight Loss blog, the author shares her feelings about gyms that have employees who don’t appear healthy. “As an expert in the field of health, [if] you’re going to inspire me and others to get healthy, then the least you can do is play your part and get healthy yourself.”

When you look the part in your field, it is automatically good PR for yourself and your company.

Cynthia’s blog re-emphasizes this point. “For me, it is hugely important and [I] couldn’t imagine how anyone can expect to be taken seriously when they don’t embody what they’re promoting.”

Anyone, whether in the PR field or not, should always try to look the part for public relations’ sake. Everyone should be wary of bad PR— it happens easily if you’re not careful.

Looking the part is one of the easiest things you can do to promote yourself and a great image for your company.

Just remember when you take your next job as a dietitian, be sure to eat what you preach.

Have you ever been in a scenario like the ones described? Could that person have promoted his company better by looking the part?

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Favre’s Lips Are Sealed After “Out-of-Bounds” Texts

We thought the “sexting” epidemic only afflicted hormonally-charged, pubescent teens. Then the Brett Favre scandal hit newsstands across the nation.

Allegedly, the 41-year-old Minnesota Vikings quarterback has been making passes both on the field and off; Jenn Sterger, a former New York Jets sideline reporter and Playboy Bunny, claims Favre sent her unsolicited nude self-portraits via text message.

Whether or not Sterger’s claims are true, they’ve created yet another sports celebrity scandal. Some PR professionals, like Glenn Selig, founder of The Publicity Agency, doubt the scandal will be devastatingly detrimental to Favre’s fan base. Selig said the football legend’s long and successful career will cushion him from losing too many fans; however, Favre’s lack of response to Sterger’s accusations will only raise eyebrows and fuel suspicions.

While the judicial system operates on the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, our society tends to assume the guilt of celebrities in scandals like this. As Selig said, Favre “will need to respond or people will believe it is him.”

Favre should learn from past PR mistakes of other sports celebrities, like Tiger Woods. Almost a year ago, Woods made no comment after news broke of his reputation-damaging domestic disturbance, and his silence caused an even greater uproar among fans and media.

However, Favre remains mum, even as the NFL begins investigations into claims that a Jets employee acted as an intermediary between Favre and Sterger — allegations that could lead to sexual harassment charges and more serious legal action.

By saying nothing, Favre allows the media to take control of the story and the fans to think what they will — however untrue it may be.

The quarterback’s best PR play at this point is to come out and tell the truth. It doesn’t matter what the truth is or how Favre releases it; the only way to begin combating the negative press around this scandal is to deal with it directly before it inflicts permanent damage on his reputation — and his football legacy.

What’s your advice for Mr. Favre?

By Caroline Beard


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Tiger Silenced, Nike Tees Off

Nike released an advertisement with Tiger Woods that continues to receive a lot of hype. In the ad, Tiger’s late father speaks to him on current issues that erupted in the past couple of months.

Because many sponsors no longer want to be associated with Tiger, they dropped him from their advertisements; however, Nike is letting the public know it is staying with the golf pro. If this video is an apology from Tiger, is it too late?

As a PR student, we learn to address problems as soon as they arise, and this particular ad is coming out a little late and from the wrong people. There is no response from Tiger, and it can leave the viewer more confused than sympathetic. However, I don’t think this ad has much to do with Tiger. So, you might think to yourself: Why would Nike spend so much money not selling anything?

Well, I think I know where Nike was going with this one.

Nike’s message seems to be reprimanding Tiger through his father. No, Nike is not dropping Tiger from advertisements, but it is letting the public know it doesn’t agree with his previous actions.

This was wise PR in my opinion because, yes, Tiger is not very popular right now, but this scandal is sure to blow over sooner or later. The name Tiger Woods sold products in the past, and it is sure to sell products in the future as well.

By telling the public it will continue the sponsorship with Tiger, Nike can use him in upcoming ads and help rebuild his image as an athlete instead of a celebrity scandal. Nike is tackling the issue head-on, and instead of dropping him, it can use his persona for years to come when his personal life is no longer an issue. People forget Tiger Woods is a respected athlete, and fans will want what Tiger is wearing or using on the golf course.

Other brands don’t seem to realize that when things get tough you can’t just bail out. As a PR professional, one of the many jobs you will have is damage control. If a product were recalled, a company would be on top of it, making sure to send out press releases and commercials about how it plans to improve and to make things better. The same goes for the Nike ad; Nike told the public Tiger learned something, and he is back and ready for a new start.

By not bailing out on Tiger like other brands, Nike looks heroic for standing by someone they have sponsored for years. Why end a long relationship over something that is only tabloid-worthy?

Bravo to the PR pros at Nike. They know how to take a situation and deal with it.

By John Paul Bruno


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Not Quite JLo

After several months of planning and preparation, with a sigh of relief, I’m happy to announce that I have successfully survived my first event planning experience. The University of Alabama’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter held its first regional activity on Saturday, Feb. 6, and as the vice president of UA’s chapter, I was very excited to take on the role of event coordinator.

I know many PR students get into the major because they view event planning as somewhat of a glamorous job. The title of “event coordinator” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I certainly thought so. I could see myself now: a younger version of Jennifer Lopez’s character in the movie “The Wedding Planner.” Yes, I envisioned myself in her shoes, earpiece and all, running the show. Besides the fact this wasn’t a wedding we were planning (oh yeah, and this was real life), JLo’s character and I have a lot of similar traits. We both like to be organized, take charge of a situation and do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Stepping back to reality, I found myself quickly learning that event planning is a lot of hard work with hardly any glamour. It requires you to be a great communicator, very attentive to detail and good at managing your stress. One of my main jobs was to schedule the speakers for the entire event. I wasn’t too worried about getting this done since I already had experience with scheduling speakers for our monthly PRSSA meetings. Coming back from Christmas break, you can imagine my distress when I realized the event was a little over a month away, and I only had about four out of 15 speakers confirmed. As I took a few deep breaths in and out, I knew I had to keep myself from falling into panic mode. I had to get my priorities in order, and getting speakers was at the top of my list. With the help of our entire event planning committee, over the next two weeks, we were able to get all of our speakers confirmed. Ahhh, another sigh of relief.

Next, we had to get people registered to attend. What good were 15 speakers without an audience? Our committee started to hit our marketing efforts hard. We were tweeting, Facebooking, e-mailing, calling and anything else you can think of to get the word out. The whole objective of our event was to connect PR students with professionals who could teach us more about the field.

As our registration deadline approached, the number of attendees wasn’t as high as we wanted it to be. Oh no, another sense of panic was approaching. In order to avoid any panic, the committee made a unanimous decision to extend the deadline. With the extension, the number of attendees steadily climbed all the way up to the day of the event. The light at the end of the tunnel was certainly near.

All the preparations were made, speakers were confirmed, attendees were registered, food was ordered and the event materials were made. Now all that was left to do was actually have the event. Nervous thoughts ran through my mind the night before the event. I was trying to think of anything that I might have overlooked. I was hoping everything would run smoothly, but I knew I had to be ready in case something went wrong.

It was early Saturday morning as I and the rest of the committee arrived at the Bryant Conference Center to make sure everything was set up and ready to go. As the attendees began to arrive, another slight sense of nervousness ran through me. “This is it,” I thought. I was excited for what the day would hold and really hoped the students were going to enjoy the event we worked so hard to put together. The day went on and, to my pleasant surprise, everything was going according to plan. The speakers were great and the students really seemed to be getting a lot out of their time at the event. Ahhh, I gave one last huge sigh of relief as I saw our months of hard work being carried out.

Although I’m no JLo, I felt my first experience planning an event was very successful. It came with several bumps in the road, but I learned you have to be flexible with your plan and ready for anything. What I value most from this experience was seeing the event run smoothly and creating new relationships with the many speakers I was in contact with. Our PRSSA chapter has already received great feedback from the attendees and speakers.

As I get closer to starting my professional career, I look forward to encountering the next PR challenge that comes my way. I know with every new endeavor comes an opportunity to learn and improve your knowledge and skills, and I plan to take advantage of each opportunity as it comes.

by Megan Parks


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Before the Journey: Hopes, Wishes and Expectations for the 2009 PRSSA National Convention

As I anxiously await my impending early November trip to San Diego, Ca., I think about how lucky I am to have the chance to experience everything that I will in less than a month. PRSSA will host its annual National Convention this year in sunny San Diego, and I have the chance to take part in a week that will not only prepare me for the real world with resources and networking, but has the potential to open many doors for my future.

My hopes for the convention are widespread, and my doubts that they will be surpassed are nonexistent. I anticipate meeting many other students from PRSSA chapters around the country who are as nervous, excited and eager to spread their wings and fly into the PR world as I am, and I hope to make new friends and connections through these students.

I also foresee learning priceless information and gaining abundant amounts of resources from the sessions I will attend, most of which will be led by top professionals in the field. The registration packet that I received boasts page after page of seminars and sessions such as “Go Global, Get an Edge”, a session on International PR, and “Cruisin’ with PR,” a discussion on corporate versus agency work. I hope to enjoy as many sessions as possible, but have already found clear favorites that I hope to attend.

This convention is special for me in another way: I have the unique chance to go as two people at once. I will not only be representing The University of Alabama’s PRSSA chapter along with three other members, but I will also be the sole representative of the Platform Magazine Fall 2009 Editorial Team. This gives me the challenging but rewarding opportunity to promote the magazine to PR professionals, educators and students during the convention on behalf of the entire Editorial Team.

What I will gain from the convention, I can only speculate for now. Business attire: Check. Resumes: printed. Business cards: jumping out of my wallet at the chance to network. Check back with Platform’s blog on Nov. 13, when I recap my trip and discuss the experience in the second half of my two-part PRSSA National Convention blog post. Bon Voyage!

by Amanda Aviles

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How to Find a Public Relations Mentor

While reading the PRSSA blog, I was reminded of great advice: find a mentor. The importance of a mentor in the PR field is extremely valuable, especially in today’s economy.

As we come to the end of PRSSA/PRSA Relationship Month, the PRSSA blog emphasized the value of maintaining relationships with mentors in the field. Resources such as the PRSA Job Center, social media and peers can all help provide mentor contacts.

I have two people I currently look to as mentors in the PR field. Holly Lollar, president of The Lollar Group, has been so kind to mentor me over the past couple of months. As I worked with her during the summer, I was so encouraged because of the way she included me on projects. She was always so optimistic and thoughtful. She also gave incredible advice about the PR field and encouraged me to always update my portfolio.

John H. Merrill, director of community relations and community education at Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, is currently my mentor. He taught me how to improve my writing skills. He edits press releases, memorandums and letters before I send them to the media. He gives constructive criticism, and I know it is preparing me for any future career.

The PRSSA blog also noted that Ryan McShane, a 2007-2008 National Committee member, gave tips on his blog about what to look for in a mentor. He listed the following seven qualities.

1) “Well-Established – As the newbie of the office, you’ll want to find someone who pulls some weight. If your mentor sticks his neck out for you at the end of the day, you’ll want it to mean something to the person deciding your fate.”
2) “Interested in Helping — As a follow-up to the first key quality, my suggestion is to not necessarily find the person at the top of the food chain. The higher-ups of an agency may not be available at your disposal. Try to find the right balance in selecting someone who holds clout and is interested in your development.”
3) “Not Far-Removed – Another reason to find balance in the food chain, you want your mentor to be able to relate to your situation. The industry has changed quite a bit over the years with the paradigm shift in media relations.”
4) “Common Personality — You’ll click with some members of the office better than others. Find a mentor you enjoy talking with — someone you share hobbies / interests with. This will help you establish a good mentor / mentee relationship.”
5) “The Door Opener — Look for someone well-connected in the industry. If your agency can’t keep you full-time at the end of the summer, the door opener just has to make a few phone calls before you wind up with an interview.”
6) “Knows Their Stuff – Maybe your office has a social media guru — maybe it’s media relations you’re looking to perfect. Find a mentor who will be able to put tools in your toolbox.”
7) “Takes It Off-the-Record – In addition to finding someone you can look up to and emulate, you might look for someone who you can trust to keep things confidential. If you’re having a rough week and need to vent, it helps to have a go-to who will respectfully keep it between the two of you.”

I cannot imagine how I would feel as I approach graduation in May without the encouragement of both of my mentors. I encourage anyone and everyone — freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors — to look for someone to mentor them in this field.

by Sara Sanderson

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