Years as a Member of PRSA-NCC: 30 (!)
Why did you join PRSA-NCC?
I’ve always been a joiner. As a student at the University of Maryland, I was very active in PRSSA, so joining PRSA immediately upon graduation was the next logical step. I’ve been an active member ever since and have formed many lasting and meaningful friendships in the process.
How long have you been in the PR field?
It’s hard to believe, but this year marks my 30th year in public relations.
What was your first job in the profession?
I began my career working for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and its consumer division, the National Association for Speech and Hearing Action, as a public relations coordinator, doing a little bit of everything from serving as newsletter editor to writing ad copy and planning special events.
Tell us about your range of experience and/or your greatest skills.
I like to tell people I’ve done my career in reverse, starting out working in-house for a variety of trade and professional associations, including spending nearly six years as a magazine writer, editor and columnist. Midway through my career, I transitioned to agency life, when many others were leaving agencies to go work in-house. With the exception of a stint at an international nonprofit organization, I have worked for several PR agencies ever since and absolutely love it! But at my core, I am – and always have been – a writer. I’d like to think that’s still one of my greatest skills along with growing and mentoring staff.
What’s your greatest career achievement?
I think I’d have to say it is my current job where I’ve taken all I have learned at past jobs and stepped into a true #2 spot at a boutique PR agency with a stellar reputation. It was actually through my volunteer work with PRSA-NCC that I was introduced to Laura Van Eperen, the firm’s founder and CEO. The introduction came at a point in my career where I was looking for a change and the opportunity to assume greater responsibility and growth. Laura was looking for someone to help take her firm, with strong regional roots, to the next level. In the nearly three years since I’ve teamed with Laura, we’ve grown our national and international accounts significantly and have built a phenomenal staff. It has been – and is – a great partnership; Laura and I complement each other nicely.
What are your current career/professional goals?
To grow Van Eperen into one of the premier PR/communications agencies in the DMV!
How would you describe your professional philosophy?
Always strive for excellence, treat people fairly, communicate authentically – and trust your gut. Make sure to surround yourself with people who have equally high standards of excellence and strong morals and ethics.
What’s your dream job?
My current job, of course!
Who would you consider to be your mentor, and why?
I always wanted a mentor in my younger days, but no one person ever emerged. However, as I have advanced in my career, I realized there have been many people along the way who have molded and shaped me. Interestingly, the strongest influence has come from those whom I have respected the least! They have shown me in a very black-and-white way what it means to be a poor manager and an ineffective leader. I have taken those lessons and have tried to set a good example for my staff about what it means to be a good boss and a strong leader. And, along the way, I have turned around and extended a hand and mentored a lot of people
Advice you have for maintaining work/life balance.
Technology has made it nearly impossible to truly achieve work/life balance, but I guess the one piece of advice I’d offer is that when you are on vacation, disconnect, otherwise it’s not really a vacation, but rather working from another venue. I think I’m one of the rare people who actually does disconnect while on vacation. My work ethic is such that I willingly give 110% of myself Monday through Friday and often beyond, but at some point, I need to re-charge. If you have great staff, you’ve trained them well, and you’ve empowered them, life will go on at the office without you — and that’s a good thing!
Advice you have for today’s PR practitioner.
Never stop learning and growing. When you stagnate, you quickly become irrelevant.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to travel. Truthfully, if I won the lottery, I would travel non-stop! Traveling, particularly to other countries, broadens your mind and exposes you to amazing people and amazing experiences. When I’m not traveling, I’m researching and reading about places I want to visit (my bucket list is long!).
Share anything else you would like fellow chapter members to know.
I am passionate about our profession and believe deeply in what I do, but our industry is changing dramatically; everyone is fighting for the same piece of the pie. Our industry needs to get in the fight to win and take control, or I fear PR will become viewed as insignificant in a few years and truly be relegated to a support role.