PR master's student Kala Krishnan: What I learned at Social Commerce Days

By Kala Krishnan

October 14, 2015

Kala Krishnan, a master’s student from India, wrote about her recent experience during Social Commerce Days at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, which provide an opportunity for students, professors and practitioners to hear more about the topics of social commerce, analytics, bit data, digital marketing, public relations and more.


Being an international student at the Newhouse School, adjusting to new surroundings and a different teaching method can be challenging. With those challenges, however, come great experiences. As a public relation’s master’s student at Newhouse, when I am not writing press releases, news stories or media kits, I am expected to network and the Social Commerce Days proved to be a great chance to do just that.

As a chartered accountant from India, I have studied finance and business for most of my life. I love communication, which is why I decided to pursue a degree in public relations and pursue what I am most passionate about. I was looking forward to the Social Commerce Days at Newhouse because of the event’s reputation as a great networking opportunity. I was hoping to make contacts and learn a few strategies that I could use as a beginner in the field.

Kala Krishnan

After three days of seminars and workshops, here are a few key points that stood out for me:

  • Good public relations are the byproduct of companies doing the right thing.
  • As communicators, we are master articulators of a company’s strategies.
  • You want to tell one story five different ways.
  • Tactics can be replicated; it is your point of view that sets you apart.
  • Have the courage to deviate at any point in life and follow your passion.

“Relevance over reputation,” says Gary Grates, leader of the corporate and strategy practices at the W2O Group, during a panel discussion he moderated during Social Commerce Days. The W2O Group, the driving force behind Social Commerce Days, established the Center for Social Commerce in collaboration with the Newhouse School in 2012. The Center’s purpose is to educate students about social commerce, social media, technology and analytics, and the influence they have on society and industry.

A primary theme of this year’s Social Commerce Days was social media. Many speakers and experts talked about the power of social media and how it has affected the industry.

More than 50 students from Newhouse, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management attended an analytics workshop as part of the event. Attendees learned how companies use social media to track users and customers and how those companies devise strategies from that information. As students we understand and use social media but we don’t always realize how it’s used in business. The analytics workshop got us to study consumers and market trends from a corporation’s perspective and it introduced tools that help us make decisions when a company is going through a crisis.

Another event I participated in and enjoyed was a networking opportunity with W2O Group. I met with a representative who reviewed and critiqued my resume, listened to my goals and suggested prospective future employers. This was a great opportunity because I got a chance to engage with professionals. It is rare for students to get enough time to engage with professionals. Their advice was insightful and it gave us a chance to add a few names to our contact list.

I thought the panel discussion event of Social Commerce Days was the best event since it gave us a chance to ask direct questions of industry leaders. Panelists included vice presidents of communication from companies including Johnson & Johnson and Delphi Automotive and W2O Group executives. They explained the relationship between a communication director and a CEO, which was extremely helpful. They also cited examples from their own careers, which made their advice more relatable.

Social Commerce Days were a valuable experience for me as I was able to learn a lot and celebrate a field that I really enjoy. And I’m more convinced now that I made the right choice to leave a well-paying finance job to pursue a job in the field I love – communications.