When marketing junior Shannon McGreal-Miller heard she was one of 10 finalists in a contest to meet billionaire industrialist Warren Buffett, she was ecstatic.
“My initial response was pure excitement,” she said. “I’d entered the contest with high hopes. But I also knew that it was a national contest with a great prize, so I knew it was going to be hard.”
The contest was held in honor of press release distributor Business Wire’s 50th anniversary, asked college students from across the nation to consider the future of public relations in the form of a three-minute video. The owner of the winning video will join Buffett and Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz at an opening bell lunch at the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 30.
Business Wire marketing associate Jessica Lueck came up with the idea for the contest and said the firm hoping to blend old with the new when it came to meeting Buffett.
“The overall goal (of the contest) is combining these two distinctive generations together,” she said. “We have Warren, who’s already proven himself as a prominent businessman. We’re looking for that next superstar who really has a grasp in PR, and we want to get them together.”
Monika Maeckle, vice president New Media at Business Wire, said she also hopes to see a connection to bridge the generation gap.
“We really feel like merging the exuberance of those in the younger generation with that of more experienced people in the field,” she said. “These generations can all learn from each other.”
McGreal-Miller, for instance, took her inspiration from an event that occurred several generations before her own. Her video depicted a photo shoot of president Abraham Lincoln conducted by photographer Mathew Brady. The photograph that resulted from the shoot portrayed Lincoln as a respectable young gentleman poised to make a run for the presidential office, vastly improving Lincoln’s reputation.
“It really kind of changed the opinions of a lot of people and, eventually, the outcome of history,” McGreal-Miller said. “I feel like public relations and communication has really developed over the years, but the basic principles have remained the same.”
Lueck said she hopes whoever wins the opportunity to meet Buffett will learn a lot from the experience.
“You’ll be sitting with one of the more resourceful, smart and charitable men, and we hope that whoever goes will learn from him,” she said.
McGreal-Miller said she is prepared to learn from Buffett should she win the contest, relating the hypothetical experience to a popular Disney film.
“I feel like meeting Warren would be like Mufasa showing Simba Pride Rock and the kingdom (in ‘The Lion King’),” she said. “He could give me a lot of insight to learn from.”