Mary Klemenok, a 2017 alumna of the Manship School, is living proof that what you learn the Manship School can help you build your future career.
Klemenok is a Texas native who always dreamed of attending Louisiana State University. Her dream came true when she transferred to LSU after her freshman year from the University of Missouri.
“I was an athlete my whole life, so I knew how important it was to maintain a good image in the public eye and that is why I picked public relations as my major,” Klemenok said.
Reflecting on her time at Manship, Klemenok feels that a lot of the classes that she took helped her prepare for success after graduation. She was fortunate enough to be part of one of the biggest campaign projects produced by Manship School students. Her capstone class, also known as a campaign class, was taught by Professional-in-Residence Sadie Wilks and allowed her group to partner with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency. Klemenok’s press release was soon picked up by top tier outlets and she played a critical role in the campaign being seen by over 100 million people across the world. In addition to the press release, her team created other collateral to help LOPA carry out its objectives in raising awareness on eye, organ and tissue donation. The campaign was also a finalist in the 2018 PRWeek Choice Awards for Best Facebook Live Campaign.
“A lot of the work done at the Manship School was hands-on, so rather than sitting in lectures I was able to write, to create things and to grow as a communicator,” Klemenok said.
Klemenok now works for the leading healthcare public relations agency. Her work revolves around Type 2 diabetes. Her firm recently released a documentary that tells the story of four patients with Type 2 diabetes. The documentary even allowed her to work with actress Viola Davis.
The relationships that Klemenok built with her professors like Sadie Wilks, who she still keeps in contact with, continue to help her to this day.
“Take advantage of internships and step out of your comfort zone. College is a place that you should explore areas that might interest you. You learn from doing,” Klemenok said.
Seth Medvin always knew he wanted to work in sports communications and today he is living his dream working as senior strategic communications manager for the Denver Broncos Football Club.
“My job is pretty cool. I met Mick Jagger last week. John Elway took our staff out to dinner recently, I spend a good portion of my day coordinating interviews with our players and not too long ago I met Garth Brooks,” Medvin said somewhat nonchalantly.
He is a 2013 Manship School of Mass Communication graduate who studied public relations and now struggles to name just one high point of his young career.
“I was a part of the Super Bowl-winning team my first year in Denver. I got to attend the White House visit, and I received a Super Bowl ring – that was amazing!” Medvin said. “I recently returned from Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Ceremonies, too.”
Those are just a few of the more recent highlights of Medvin’s career, which includes interacting with athletes like Von Miller and Peyton Manning and working five Super Bowls.
On a day-to-day basis, Medvin oversees all the Broncos’ corporate public relations in addition to coordinating media requests for the team’s players. On any given day you might find him developing extensive talking points, prepping players and executives for interviews, working on a speech or writing press releases. He also works on business PR, including the development of sponsorship news, marketing events, community outings, stadium concerts and more.
Though he describes countless once-in-a-lifetime experiences during his past five seasons in the NFL, the highlight of Medvin’s career was the Broncos PR staff winning the Pete Rozelle Award from the Professional Football Writers of America for consistently striving for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media—the most prestigious award any NFL pro football team communications office can win.
The Super Bowl champion Broncos earned the award for the third time in 2016 and the second time in three seasons, and they have been nominated for the award every year they have been eligible. The Rozelle Award is named for the NFL commissioner from 1960-89, who started his distinguished career in sports as a publicist.
Even rubbing shoulders with celebrities and professional athletes on a regular basis, the Houston native hasn’t forgotten his roots as a youngster with dreams of working in sports communication. He spent his junior and senior years in high school tagging alongside a reporter who covered the Houston Texans, never missing a single home game from the press box for two years. Toward the end of his freshman year at LSU, Medvin got the big break he was longing for.
“I clicked on a link in an e-mail from the Manship School my freshman year about working in the sports information office, and it totally changed my life. I spent three years working with LSU associate athletics director Michael Bonnette and his team, assisting in nearly every facet of athletic communications,” Medvin said.
Nearly every day Medvin was in the LSU Athletics office working on game recaps for the web, press releases, social media posts, media guides and more. He worked primarily with football, baseball, basketball, swimming and diving, volunteering at every single home football and baseball game for three years.
“The Manship School made that connection for me and opened the doors. It taught me how to write and manage projects. I was able, really, through the Manship School to make my dream job a reality,” said Medvin. “I would not be where I am today without those connections.”
Caroline Isemann, a 2006 alumna of the Manship School, is the perfect example of what it means to be a leader in the communications industry. In fact, she was just named president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the Public Relations Association of Louisiana (PRAL) – the largest, most dynamic PR organization in the state.
Isemann is a natural when it comes to storytelling. She always loved to write and remembers making up stories as a child with her spelling words in elementary school. When it was time for college, Isemann chose to pursue her love of writing at the Manship School and quickly discovered that public relations was the perfect fit for her.
“When you get into the mass communication world, there are more opportunities available than just journalism,” said Isemann. “In a profession like public relations that’s always changing, we get to be more creative and find unique ways to get our story out there.”
Isemann says the classes she took at the Manship School gave her a unique insight into how public relations really works. “You take a lot of classes that make you be hands on, like our campaigns class when we worked with real clients. Those classes give you great experience. You don’t just read a book; you actually do it. You use those skills to help with everything you’re doing.”
After Isemann graduated from the Manship School, she went on to pursue a master’s in sport management from the University of Georgia in Athens. She first found an interest in sports communications when she was a student worker for LSU Athletics, and she later worked for UGA Athletics handling media relations for the NCAA Champion Gym Dogs.
“One of the great things about a communications degree is that there’s so many things you can do with it,” said Isemann.
Isemann eventually shifted gears and found herself interested in healthcare communications. Currently serving as the public relations coordinator for Woman’s Hospital, one of the largest women’s specialty hospitals in the country, she helps to promote the hospital’s programs and its impact on the Baton Rouge community. She also previously worked at Our Lady of the Lake, where she led media relations efforts for the children’s hospital among other communications projects.
“I could never be a nurse or doctor, but I love that I can still use my talents to help other people,” said Isemann. “I love that in healthcare, my skills as a communications professional can really make a difference.”
As she looked to solidify her career in public relations, Isemann knew it was important to get involved in networking in the Baton Rouge community. She heard about PRAL Baton Rouge and was immediately drawn to the professional community and leadership development opportunities in the organization.
Once a member, Isemann quickly took on numerous roles on PRAL’s Board of Directors, where she did what she was already great at doing – writing stories, building relationships, creating social media content and planning meetings and socials. Her leadership and expertise made her the perfect candidate for president. She was sworn in as president of PRAL Baton Rouge this past July.
“I’m excited and loving it,” said Isemann. “I love PRAL, and I want it to be great. Our Board is filled with talented and motivated professionals, and together we made a commitment to lean in and make some positive changes to build on the great things our predecessors have done so we can grow and develop our organization and its members even further.”
Isemann strongly encourages Manship School alumni to join organizations like PRAL wherever they live. “It’s a great way to be involved with other communication professionals. The relationships I’ve made through PRAL also have made a big difference when looking for jobs. You can’t underestimate the power of a positive reference.”
PRAL offers many opportunities for its members, including benefits like award programs and educational seminars. The next meeting on August 20 features Adam Knapp, CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, who’ll share about how his organization launched a national campaign to elevate the region’s image.
Manship School alumna Elizabeth Lagarde has had a whirlwind career since graduating with a degree in public relations in 2010: she has worked on producing events for ESPN, Turner Sports, Essence Festival, Sports Illustrated, the New Orleans Saints and even College Football Playoffs.
As a freshman at LSU, Lagarde didn’t quite envision herself as a rock star event planner. She just knew that a career involving communications might be up her alley after a successful high school theater career. What sealed the deal on her journey to event planning was an opportunity at KLSU, the student-run radio station at LSU.
“While I was at KLSU, we would host on-air giveaways of promotional items or event tickets for things around New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I was able to attend a few music festivals like Jazz Fest and Voodoo Experience, and other similar events,” Lagarde said. “I became excited about the behind-the-scenes stuff and what it takes to make these events happen. It kind of started as a fascination with event management.”
Today, Lagarde works as an Account Manager at See-Hear Productions in Covington, Louisiana on numerous aspects of event planning and management, from the initial conversation between clients who are sharing their vision for a future event, to sponsorship activations, consumer engagement, branding opportunities and more. The company lists McDonald’s, Cox Communications, Raising Cane’s and L’Auberge Casinos and Resorts among its clients.
In her previous position at Solomon Group, Lagarde worked as an Event Manager, helping progress the conversation between existing and potential clients, helping them conceptualize an event and then execute it.
“Who are you talking to? What is your strategy? What is your brand? How do we engage your audience with this event?,” Lagarde described as some of the questions she works on with her clients.
Her most proud moment yet was working on with the College Football Playoffs National Championship game in Atlanta, Georgia in 2018.
“ESPN debuted an inaugural halftime performance during the game’s telecast with Kendrick Lamar, and our company produced the concert, all while also doing a large watch party for thousands of college football fans in Centennial Olympic Park. We pulled off this huge event along with a separate three-day concert series and other supplemental events for sports fans, all in freezing temperatures! I was getting texts from my parents saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m watching this on television and it’s amazing.’ To see moments like that become a successful reality – that’s essentially what I’m doing,” Lagarde said.
“It’s way more than just putting out a press release,” Lagarde said. “There’s so much blood, sweat and tears – so much work and planning is involved. It’s been fascinating to see how event management has become such a sought-after career. There’s plenty of skilled communications required to be successful.”
Lagarde credits experiential opportunities like working at KLSU among the reasons she is successful today, along with mentors at the Manship School like Dr. Jinx Broussard (who teaches public relations and was recently named National Teacher of the Year) and John Friscia, who directs student media at LSU. Said Lagarde: “Seeing events come to life is what I do. I love my job.”
Can you imagine sharing work space with a team comprised largely of folks who could have been your classmates? At the marketing office responsible for generating and managing marketing, public relations and other content for Franciscan Missionaries of our Lady Health System (FMOLHS), this dynamic is a reality. FMOLHS runs five hospitals in Louisiana, including Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, and about a third of the FMOLHS marketing team are graduates of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. (#ManshipMade)
“All the communications focuses that Manship offers you can do here at FMOLHS. Advertising, public relations, social, digital, strategic communication, even political communication. It all supports what we do here,” said Stephanie Roussell, a 2013 Manship School master’s in mass communication graduate who manages brand for Our Lady of the Lake and its larger health system, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System.
While public relations concentrations dominate the majority of the Manship School grads’ backgrounds, other concentrations like political communication and strategic communication play a role as well. Each major contributes uniquely to the success of the department. This close-knit relationship between the many aspects of communication essential to a robust communications department mirrors the dynamic present in the Manship School, where a holistic and strategic understanding of communication forms the foundation of excellence.
“I graduated in public relations, but my work experience is more in the digital marketing side of things. I like how this organization puts marketing and communications together,” said Hailey Johnson, a 2017 Manship School public relations graduate.
“Our organization locally has 7,000 team members, and across the state it has 14,000,” added Rachel Totaro, a 2011 Manship School political communication grad. “So we’re communicating with a lot of people in a lot of different markets. Being able to think of content from a strategic point of view is key.”
The diversity of concentrations and experience the Manship School alumni bring strengthens the office’s communication efforts.
“This office is a great representation of so many avenues you can go into,” said Grace Weber, a 2012 public relations graduate. “So yes, it’s healthcare, but I do both earned and internal media. We’ve got people who do social media. We’ve got people who do a lot of strategically based jobs.”
All five of the alumni credit their Manship School education with preparing them to effectively perform their communication roles.
“What other degree could you go and play on social media in class?” said Lexi Verret, a 2015 Manship School public relations graduate. “It was a fun learning environment. I think the Manship School did a really good job of making learning fun while I was there because they used a lot of modern tools in the classroom. As a business student for my master’s, we weren’t on social media during class to use it as a learning tool. So to me that’s a fun way to learn.”
Beyond the fun learning environment, this group of successful alumni all agree that the Manship School prepared them well for their careers by keeping abreast of current trends in mass communication and incorporating real-world experience into the classroom.
“The Manship school equipped me with the skills necessary to be a successful communicator,” said Ryan Cross, a 2014 Manship School public relations graduate who serves as communications director for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. “Whether through hands-on experience, professors committed to seeing you be successful or opportunities outside of the classroom to learn, Manship went above and beyond to empower my class to pursue our career dreams.”
“The Manship School does an awesome of keeping the curriculum current,” Johnson added. “It’s a lot of writing, but it’s also learning about digital media and social media and learning how to incorporate that in strategic campaigns.”
In her political communication concentration, Totaro recalls the weekly long form papers that prepared her for success in the professional world of non-negotiable deadlines.
“That cadence of regular deadlines was really helpful,” she said. “It taught me how to prioritize my time, how to outline a long paper, how to organize my thoughts. I still use that today.”
“The focus on a solid writing foundation has continued to serve me exceptionally well and I still refer back to lessons learned from professors’ own experiences,” Cross said.
They also emphasized the power of the Manship School reputation.
“Having been on the other side of hiring, Manship School grads’ resumes are always on a different level; I find that their writing and their communication is always much more professional,” Roussell said.
“And it’s not just in the hiring process,” Weber added. “When I worked for the state and I met people who knew I graduated from the Manship School, it was like the reputation was already there. It was almost like, ‘Okay, that person is stellar. They went to the Manship School.’”
“And we can rely on each other knowing that we have the background to step into something you’ve never done before if we’re short staffed, we know you have that skill,” added Roussell. “There is no worry that you can’t handle that because you have that preparation.”
The alumni suggested current students and alumni make the best of their Manship School education by getting as much experience as possible before graduation, even if they have to make their own opportunities. They also recommended learning to write comfortably in as many different ways as possible.
“Read a lot of different content and learn how to write blog style. Learn how to write press style. Learn how to write casual social media. I think in our job we take a lot of complicated information and we have to make it interesting or short or easy to digest, and so I think that’s a skill that you’re never going to be sorry you practiced,” Verret said.
“We write all over the spectrum,” Weber added. “We do a lot of long form stuff like press releases and shorter content like blogs and stories, but then you have campaigns and you have to come up with fun, quippy things.”
Beyond these practical tips, they also recommend students hone the softer skill attributes no less essential to professional success.
“Have a personal brand,” Roussell said. “Know who you are, know what your core values are, what your personal brand positioning statement is, your vision statement, and don’t be afraid to tell that in interviews or use it.”
“And be willing to jump in, even if you’re not 100% sure how to do something,” Totaro added.
Most importantly, they recommend that current students and recent graduates use the power of the Manship School’s close knit community.
“Find that other Manship grad!” Verret said. “I think that’s the best way to make that connection and find a job.”
*Quotes in this article have been edited for clarity.