Chief of External Relations
“I’ve been doing PR for about 20 years, and it has many different iterations. At its heart, PR is about promoting your brand, institution and product. At the same time, you have to protect the reputation of your brand, institution and product. The ‘P’ is about promotion. The ‘R’ is about reputation. It’s always a balancing act of being assertive and aggressive in your promotions, but there are times when you need to protect and defend as well.”
What personality characteristics are most important to be successful in PR?
“You have to be curious. You have to demonstrate initiative. Of course, there’s the usual; be a good writer, and you have to be able to communicate. If you’re not curious and can’t demonstrate initiative and can’t operate on your own, you’re probably not going to be that successful. I like the flexibility and diversity of PR. I have a poster in my home office that says, ‘Public relations: storyteller. Firefighter.’ You also have to be a baby-sitter and a facilitator and a note taker. It’s tremendously varied and diverse. A good public relations person has a good play life. They’ve got hobbies, they’ve got interests, and they bring it to work. Some people bring movies to work. Others bring their interest in culinary and food to work. I think someone who has interests and hobbies in popular culture will be successful in PR.“
What’s the best thing someone can have on their resume that makes them valuable in the PR field?
“If you’re talking to students and recent graduates, internships are incredibly helpful. To someone who’s looking for their second or third job, it’s results. That goes for someone that’s more advanced in their careers too. I’m hiring for a director of marketing right now. The resumes that get pushed aside are ones that just give me their job descriptions. I want to know what you did and what the results were. Tell me how you moved the bar from increased your attendance at conference from 10 percent to 20 percent or how you grew your social media channel from 20 percent through these activities. A resume needs to talk about accomplishment, or it ends up in the wastebin.”
How has teaching graduate students at GW changed your perspective on the future of the industry?
“It’s reinforced the importance that lifelong learning is important. One of the reasons I teach is that it puts me in the role of a learner as well. No one job covers the whole breadth and depth of public relations or media relations and social media. Teaching allows me to stay abreast of current trends. I learn from the students because at a graduate level most of them have five to seven years of experience, and they’re doing things that I’m not doing. Or they’re doing things differently than how I would do them. They’re in the private sector or working for the government rather than a professional society. It’s really that collaborative learning that I enjoy most about teaching. What gives me faith about the future of the industry is that there’s a zest for improvement.”
What makes you love going to work every day?
“Challenge and opportunity. The thing I love about public relations is that it’s very dynamic. When you work for an organization it doesn’t really matter what you do. The public relations component can vary from day to day. Here at The Optical Society, we’re planning for our Centennial in 2016. We do a very comprehensive yearlong celebration since we are a global society. There will be events and programming in the United States as well as around the world. There are the PR efforts and social media contests and campaigns as well as the government relations components. Can you get proclamation and resolutions? Of course, there’s the marketing and trade shows. As I said, very comprehensive. I get to help build this interactive, creative exhibit which is something I’ve never been involved in before. It’s very fun and a great collaborative effort. I get to work with all sorts of new, creative partners. Here I am 20 years into the profession and still learning something new, fun and challenging.”