Public relations student elected to national position

Lauren Gray, a WCU public relations student, helps John Miele, co-owner of the Golden Carp in Dillsboro, begin using social media tools to market his business.

Lauren Gray was one of the WCU public relations students who helped teach a class to help Dillsboro business owners become more familiar with using social media tools to enhance their businesses.

Western Carolina University student Lauren Gray was elected vice president of the Public Relations Student Society of America’s national committee at the organization’s recent meeting in Seattle.

As vice president for 2011-12, the senior public relations major from New London will assist with publishing the organization’s annual report, managing chapter news, assisting with PRSSA’s social media activity, and issuing press releases and updates.

Although not allowed to campaign for the position, Gray and three other candidates had the opportunity to give speeches and participate in a question-and-answer session at the meeting at which Gray was elected.

“People really understood through my speech and the question-and-answer answer that I am passionate and enthusiastic about PRSSA,” said Gray.

Gray helped grow WCU’s PRSSA chapter from about a dozen members in fall 2009 to more than 30 today.

“At first, we were struggling to have relevant content during meetings,” said Gray. However, Gray returned from the 2009 PRSSA National Conference in San Diego with fresh ideas for WCU’s chapter inspired by hearing what other chapters were doing across the country.

In January 2010, she became president of WCU’s PRSSA chapter and helped recruit members through classroom visits, events, fundraisers and social media.

“We try to post jobs and internship opportunities for our members to help them discover new opportunities,” said Gray.

Betty Farmer, professor of communication and WCU PRSSA adviser, said Gray also helped provide chapter members with increased access to public relations professionals with national reputations via Skype. Farmer said she encouraged Gray to apply for the national position because she knew she had what it takes for a national leadership position.

“I was thrilled when she texted me that she had won, but not shocked,” said Farmer. “I knew the competition would be tough, but I also knew she could hold her own with the best in the country.”

Gray is not the first WCU PRSSA member to be part of the national committee. Mike Crisp, a 1999 graduate of WCU who is now with Crisp Public Relations in Marion, served on the PRSSA national committee in 1998.

“It opened some very real doors for me and helped me gain a better understanding of our industry on a national, even international, scale,” said Crisp. “As a graduate of WCU, I am excited to see Lauren taking a national student leadership role in our industry. Her selection is a testament both to her hard work and to the quality of the public relations program at WCU. She is obviously one of the industry’s rising stars.”

Gray lives in New London with her mother, Kimlen Dennis, and brother, Caleb Gray.