Honors Senior Excels in Public Relations

While a trip from LaPlace, La., to Baton Rouge is less than an hour's drive, for Harkeet "Kittu" Pannu that short journey has taken him across Europe, to Hollywood and in the near future, to New York City.

Harkeet Pannu
Harkeet "Kittu" Pannu was recently named as the recipient of the 2012 Daniel J. Edelman/PRSSA Award, and he will complete a three-month internship in health public relations in Edelman's New York City offices this summer.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

Edelman, the world's largest public relations firm, recently named Pannu, Honors College and Manship School of Mass Communication senior, as the recipient of the 2012 Daniel J. Edelman/Public Relations Student Society of America, or PRSSA, Award.

"The Daniel J. Edelman PRSSA Award recognizes an outstanding student who best demonstrates the leadership, commitment and strong work ethic exemplified by my father to be successful in a career in public relations," said John Edelman, managing director of Edelman's global engagement and corporate responsibility.

"Needless to say, I was on cloud nine when I got the call," said Pannu, a native of LaPlace, La. "I was so happy about the amount of prestige and opportunity I had been able to bestow upon both Manship and the Honors College … I really could not have done any of this without the support of my colleges and family."

Pannu, a public relations major, is serving as the president of PRSSA at LSU, works as a production intern at LSU's Office of Communications & University Relations and has written in the entertainment section for The Daily Reveille. As an undergraduate, Pannu has maintained 3.5 GPA, served as a legislative aide at the Capitol, started a blog, interned at Warner Brothers in Los Angeles and studied abroad in Europe. He is also involved in campus activities as resident assistant to Residential Life, member-at-large of Belle Terre Civic Association and group leader for the Honors College Service Initiative.

Despite all of these activities, he insists that he's not an overachiever.

During his time at LSU, Pannu has certainly achieved a lot. When he was still only a freshman majoring in biology, he got a job working alongside representatives and senators as an aide at the Jefferson Delegation Office at the Capitol.

"I started as a biology major [because] I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I came to college, and I truly haven't ruled it out of my life, but political communications was the first major I pursued that I thought would be a legitimate career for me," he said. "I was drawn in by the idea of creating a message that will affect so many different people."

At the Capitol, Pannu wrote memos, sat in on meetings and got a firsthand look inside the legislative process. Although Pannu enjoyed the work, his time as a legislative aide ultimately made him realize that he didn't want to pursue a career in politics.

Harkeet Pannu
LSU Public Relations Senior Harkeet "Kittu" Pannu.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

Immediately following his internship at the Capitol, Pannu embarked on a summer study abroad trip to Europe, where he traveled to Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Dresden, Budapest and Vienna.

In Europe, he took courses on German Culture and Introduction to Mass Media – and the latter led him to a new path and a new major: public relations.

"In public relations, you can kind of pick and choose which fields you want to go into," he said. "I feel like people do not give PR practitioners the benefit of the doubt – we're not all there to 'spin,' … and I've noticed a lot of PR practitioners who actually do go out of their way to be advocates for various causes."

Since finding a field that allows him to do what he does best, Pannu has been more determined than ever, and his hard work has paid off. While attending the PRSSA National Conference in Washington, D.C., last year, he met the publicist for the CW network, who asked for his business card.

A few months later, he was driving to Los Angeles to start his internship with Warner Brothers Consumer Products, Worldwide Marketing and Public Relations Department.

"Before my time at Warner Brothers, I had never gained so much hands-on PR experience – they entrusted me with a lot of responsibilities, and I was really proud of that," he said. "I worked on press releases for Green Lantern, I got to plan the Harry Potter premieres … I got to craft tweets for the ThunderCats Twitter, and I helped plan the Supergirl Pro Junior Surf Contest … It was such an amazing opportunity, and I learned a lot."

As winner of the prestigious Edleman Award, Pannu will receive a $500 cash award, along with a paid, three-month internship in health public relations in Edelman's New York City offices. After starting his internship, he will receive an additional $1,000 cash bonus.

"I literally jumped for joy when I found out that I would be able to represent LSU in such a prestigious and professional capacity," Pannu said. "I am thrilled to begin working this summer in New York City; I have so much to learn, and what better place to do it than the mecca of business and communication? I have the Manship School and Honors College to thank for their helpful resources and insight over the years; they've prepared me for an opportunity of this magnitude."

He's not sure yet whether or not he's going to medical school, graduate school or business school, but no matter what decision he makes, he knows his family and friends will be supportive.

"My parents want me to experience life to its fullest, and they always want me to finish things that I start," he said. "I think that's been the biggest influence on me in my life… I believe that if you haven't tried something, you need to try it before you discount it – do what you want to do, and never regret taking choices that you have."