Student named PR association president

Western Carolina University senior Lauren Gray, recently elected national president of the Public Relations Student Society of America, reviews the organization’s website.

Western Carolina University senior Lauren Gray, recently elected national president of the Public Relations Student Society of America, reviews the organization’s website.

Lauren Gray, a senior at Western Carolina University, is the new national president of the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Gray, who is majoring in communication with a concentration in public relations, was elected to the position at the recent 2012 PRSSA National Assembly in Charlotte.

With approximately 10,000 members in more than 300 chapters across the country, PRSSA is considered the foremost organization for professional development for public relations students, said Betty Farmer, WCU professor of communication and public relations.

“We salute Lauren Gray for her hard work, for her ‘can do’ attitude, and for achieving this personal and program milestone,” said Farmer, WCU’s PRSSA chapter faculty adviser.

Gray was elected vice president of public relations of the PRSSA’s national committee at the organization’s meeting in Seattle last year. Past president of WCU’s PRSSA chapter and current director of public relations and marketing for the Student Government Association, she begins her one-year term as national president June 1.

During Gray’s time as chapter president, she helped grow WCU’s PRSSA chapter from about a dozen members in fall 2009 to more than 30 today.

Gray has been an active member of the university’s partnership with the neighboring town of Dillsboro. Initiated in 2009 at the request of Dillsboro leaders seeking assistance in difficult economic times, the project involves dozens of faculty and staff and hundreds of students across numerous disciplines, linking WCU expertise and resources with Dillsboro’s needs.

Gray has led a number of public relations and communications projects associated with the partnership, including a social media training session to help business owners learn how to use tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for marketing and promotion.

She also is a member of the student team assisting the WCU Office of Public Relations with managing the university’s official social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and she has become widely regarded as an expert in the use of social media for public relations.

She completed in January a yearlong internship with Social Fresh, a firm that focuses on marketing through social media, managing its social media, blogging for the company website, managing more than 50 blog contributors, and live Tweeting and blogging from Social Fresh conferences.

Gray also did internship stints with A&O PR, which specializes in promotion of the arts, and Bad Rhino, a social media marketing firm based in Philadelphia.

She has been ranked No. 1 on a list titled “The Future of PR” by Traackr, a technology start-up company with a focus on identifying the people who influence and lead online conversations. She also was named among the 15 up-and-coming PR pros to watch in 2012 by a national digital communications consultant and No. 39 on a list of the top 100 PR experts to follow on Twitter.

Mike Crisp, a 1999 graduate of WCU and president of Crisp Public Relations in Marion, said that Gray is deserving of her recent accolades.

“This is further proof that Western Carolina quietly boasts what I believe to be one of the best PR curricula in the country, one in which leadership skills and connections are stressed as much as core skills,” said Crisp, who served on the PRSSA national committee during his time as a student and who is one of two professional advisers to the WCU chapter.

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

For information about studying public relations at Western Carolina University or other programs offered by the Department of Communication, visit the website or call 828-227-7482.