University of Iowa PR Practitioners Advise the Next Generation of Professionals

By: Jasmine Kitterman

Hawkeyes are keeping out of the cold of February by staying inside networking with professionals from our very own campus. On the 10th our chapter welcomed Jeneane Beck, Senior Director for News Media Relations, and Richard Lewis, Senior Research Writer who both work for The University of Iowa’s Office of Strategic Communications.

As a writer, Lewis tells stories for the University’s various audiences. The University has had many things to celebrate, as well as its fair share of crises to avert in the past four years. Due to the increase of drunk arrests and reports of sexual assault, the University was in the public eye.

“We had a perception issue, and we needed to change the narrative,” Lewis said. In order to combat unfavorable publicity, the office released a new campaign titled The Student Experience. This video series features 1-2 minute clips showcasing exemplary students excelling in and outside of the class.

The goal of these videos was to re-frame people’s ideas about the University, Lewis said. By showing real student doing real things the series was authentic to their audience. In order to move the audience, the team had to first choose their audience.

It is important to understand who the target audience is in a public relations campaign. “One message that resonates positively with on audience resonates negatively with another,” Lewis said. In other words, a campaign must to be tailored to specific audiences in order for the message to be well received.

The Student Experience series was targeted at Iowans, political leaders, Iowa’s Board of Regents, and prospective students and their families. Utilizing the media to distribute their message, Lewis and his team were able to reach out to each of these audiences, ensuring the message was received.


According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 82% of employers value the ability to effectively communicate through writing above other skills. “Strong writing is going to pay off for you in PR,” Jeneane Beck said.

People in the communications field are usually gifted with the skill of writing. It is important not to let that skill go to waste because not everyone can write well. “Just keep working at it,” Beck said.

She also advises young professionals to learn about the inner workings of the journalists’ world. Understanding of how the media operates is essential to being a successful public relations practitioner, Beck said, so try to become familiar with deadlines, sources, and the journalistic writing style.