Q: Where were you born?
Lake Village, Arkansas. Lake Chicot, for which the town is named, is the water-burial place of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Betcha didn’t know that!
Q: What did you study in college?
History, then English at the College of William & Mary; transferred into the BFA program at the University of Georgia. I have a bachelor of fine arts from the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. I’m also certified as a paralegal.
Q: How long have you lived in Tucson?
It was 24 years last Labor Day. We relocated from Westchester County, New York – and we have loved every minute of our time in Tucson.
Q: How do you spend your free time?
At present, I’m working hard to compile our families’ histories and conserve some family documents and artifacts from “way back when.” It’s fascinating (and also highly addictive)!
Q: This month, you’re marking your 35th year as a member of the Public Relations Society of America. What has membership meant to you personally and professionally?
I came into the profession with a solid management background and a fair amount of boots-on-the-ground experience, but I had no formal training in the craft. By attending PRSA chapter meetings and conferences and by preparing for accreditation, I was able to move toward a better understanding of the behavioral science and ethical framework that informs our work. I continue to look to PRSA to help me grow as a professional practitioner.
Q: What did you plan to be when you grew up, and what was your first PR job?
It seems as though I’ve been in public relations for most of my life! My first job was as a teen ambassador and fashion model for the Burdines department store chain in south Florida. My goals for that job were not so very different from the goals I set for my client relationships today – be innovative, be forthright, keep up with the latest tools and trends, provide options that lead to solutions, lead by example.
Q: What do you wish someone had told you when you started working in PR?
I had fabulous mentors – Steve Emerine from our chapter among them. What they didn’t say was that it was going to be such an enjoyable, wild ride!
Q: You have an Accreditation in Public Relations, which signifies mastery of strategic communications practice and a commitment to lifelong learning and ethical standards. Why did you pursue your APR, and what impact has it had on your career and professional development?
Let’s talk about the APR, and then about the application for the College of Fellows because they are, truly, two sides of the same coin. The APR exam is aimed at determining whether the candidate qualifies as a knowledgeable and professional public relations practitioner. On the other hand, the College of Fellows is more interested in finding out what you’ve done with what you know. Have you, in fact, “left a significant footprint on the public relations profession” during your career to date – and can you prove it? The application year is like nothing I’ve ever experienced and I am so very, very proud of earning that medallion!
Q: In 2002, you started your own business (IDEAS @ Work Inc.), a public relations and marketing strategy company. Flying solo is a scary idea for a lot of PR practitioners. Why did you decide to strike out on your own?
I really had no intention of starting a business. I was coming to the end of a wonderful job, managing a huge federal grant that helped students in Pima and Santa Cruz counties learn more about what it takes to enter into interesting and well-paid careers, and people kept coming to me and asking if I would manage this or that project while I decided what I would do next. Quite suddenly, I had a group of very interesting clients across a variety of industries offering an exciting opportunity to help them achieve their goals. I remain incredibly grateful for the trust they placed in me – and for the clients who continue to do so.
Q: You recently praised PRSA national for issuing a statement on “alternative facts.” In this new era of post-truth politics, what role should PR practitioners play?
I feel ever so strongly that, as PR professionals, a good part of what we have to sell is our reputation. We must abide by the PRSA Code of Ethics to the letter. We must not corrupt the channels of communication. Above all, we must be truthful in each and every instance. Jane Dvorak, PRSA’s national president and the author of that statement, and I were inducted into the College of Fellows in Washington, D.C., on the same night in 2010. My hat is off to her for taking a courageous stand on our behalf.