Katie Hutchings lived in a studio apartment with two other girls when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams after graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno. Less than 10 years later, she is a director at Heavenspot, a public relations agency whose clients are major players in the entertainment industry.
Hutchings described her journey to success at PReimagined, the regional conference hosted by members of the Public Relations Student Society of America at UNR. Members of other PRSSA chapters at other universities attended the conference, including students from California State University, Sacramento.
They focused on four things: relationships, enterprising, news and opportunity.
“Public Relations as an industry is rapidly changing, so as pre-professionals we have to constantly reimagine our capabilities and skills,” said conference committee chair Melissa Ung in a press release. “PReimagined will help illuminate new strategies, tools, challenges and opportunities for a new generation of communicators in a new era of strategic communication. It’s also a great opportunity to connect local, professional communities to a millennial market.”
The conference was entirely student run. According to Alison Gaulden, the Faculty Advisor of PRSSA Nevada, there were about 30 students who participated in running the conference.
“PRSSA Nevada had to bid for the opportunity and there was one in Salt Lake and one is San Diego and they won the Regional Conference,” Gaulden said. “It’s an experience that’s fantastic that they can carry with them, and not everyone can say ‘I’ve run a conference.’”
Around 80 people attended the conference despite concerns that weather would impact turnout. The conference started Friday with different public relations agencies, with a mixer that followed that evening.
“This is the first time I’ve come to a conference, so I had no idea what to expect and it’s been very good,” said California State University, Sacramento student Maria Porras. “I’ve had a good time.”
Saturday morning started with a speech from Hutchings, who was the conference’s keynote speaker. Hutchings has worked her way up to running public relations accounts for major entertainment companies such as Netflix, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks Animations.
Hutchings moved back to her hometown of Las Vegas after graduating from UNR and joined a corporate public relations firm. She found that it wasn’t what she wanted to do and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of working in entertainment. She has since worked on campaigns for Harry Potter, Orange is the New Black and many more films and shows. She offered the students advice about breaking into the industry and talked about things that she had to teach herself in the field.
“I feel one thing about this journey, I feel like as you grow and you graduate you have a set goal for yourself. You have this plan, or at least I did. What school didn’t teach me was to throw out your expectations,” said Hutchings during her speech. “While it is hard, and while it is exhausting, it is equally rewarding. In the end, it was really worth it in everything that I do.”
Hutchings then hosted events during the conference to offer additional advice from her ten years of experience in the entertainment and public relations fields. Programs and discussions during the conference were held by other top industry professionals in order to prepare students for the field they plan to enter.
Gaulden believes the experience of this conference will help the attendees going forward into their career.
“The beauty of getting other colleges and networking opportunities is that students today will be networking for the rest of their lives and to make contacts now and make friendships because of this conference experience will last a lifetime, and you’ll never know when those friends that you met at that conference way back in Reno is going to turn into job opportunities or friendships or whatever it turns into,” Gaulden said.
Madeline Purdue can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.