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Alice Starr shares PR advice

Nov. 10, 2010

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Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer
First lady Alice Starr gives a lecture to students and teachers about public relations Tuesday in the Castellaw Communications Center.

By Carmen Galvan
Staff Writer

Messages of bold innovation and creativity were the highlights of Tuesday's Public Relations Student Society of America meeting as students and faculty gathered to hear Alice Starr, first lady of Baylor, speak about her experiences in the public relations field.

Although Starr graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Skidmore College and a master's degree in college administration from the University of Miami, she has more than 30 years of experience specializing in nonprofit public relations. Starr was asked to share with students what she has learned from her experiences, which includes constantly brainstorming for new and innovative marketing strategies and publicity techniques.

"I don't have any schooling in public relations, but I do know that you benefit when you get more and get good publicity in your local newspaper and when businesses know about you and know that they grow because you are doing something," Starr said. "You can't sit back and say, 'Woe is me. We're not popular right now.' You have to create your own publicity. You need to make an announcement with bold strategies that are overtaking. Every year you have to come up with new ideas and you have to keep at it, think of new and innovative ways to get people's attention."

Starr also shared her top public relations tips, such as to always be positive in your message and remain positive in your response, and to always follow up with businesses and let them know they are appreciated. She advised students to be bold and to ask for sponsorship and support because everybody likes being asked and being able to help. One of Starr's strongest messages, though, was to be bold and innovative, but to focus on one simple message. Starr applauded Baylor media relations as they repeat the Baylor message with logos, press releases and constant updates through social media.

Starr also took the opportunity to encourage students to rise up in supporting Baylor events. She asked students to attend cultural events hosted on campus as well as art exhibits and special exhibits at the Mayborn Museum Complex, but she stressed the need for student attendance and participation at Baylor athletic events.

"We have an assignment to rise up," Starr said. "It is up to the students to do it and to spread the word." At this point, Starr asked students for suggestions on how to attract more attendance at games and one student suggested Baylor develop its own version of the Bat-Signal, from the Batman series, with an interlocking BU. Starr seemed pleased with the idea and said she would tell Karla Leeper, chief of staff to the president, because her husband is a lighting designer.

Starr asked students to also get involved with the Waco community.

"We want the people of Waco to know that we really care," Starr said. "We have Steppin' Out days and the things that you are doing in the community, but there will be other projects that we hope you will really consider to help out with. There is so much going on and we invite the community to join us and they do come. It's a give and take, and so that means we need to give back."

Not only did Starr share her wisdom with students, but with the faculty present at the event as well.

"It always helps us to interact with people who have done this in the real world," said Maxey Parrish, senior lecturer of journalism and media arts.

"The good thing about the faculty here is they all have real-world experience, but it doesn't hurt to hear from those with experience; it's very positive."

Both Parrish and the president of Public Relations Student Society of America, Moyock, N.C., senior Ashley Morris, said they were honored to feature Starr as a guest speaker for the meeting.

"It's a great honor for her to share her knowledge with us," Morris said. "She is such a giving woman and she helps so many causes. She is really nice and we were pleased to have her speak."

Parrish agreed and was glad Starr made time to speak with members of the organization.

"We are honored to have her here, really and truly," Parrish said. "She has a busy schedule in her own right and as the wife of the president of Baylor, there are other events they could attend, so we are very grateful that she made time for us tonight."