Lauren Lawson-Zilai | PRSA-NCC
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Lauren Lawson-Zilai

Director, Public Relations
Goodwill Industries International

Why did you join PRSA-NCC?

I joined PRSA-NCC because I was a transplant from NYC and wanted to get involved in the PR industry in the D.C. area. I also had an interest in transferring to the nonprofit sector. I thought PRSA-NCC would lead me to contacts within my desired career field.

How long have you been in the PR field?

I’ve been in the PR field for more than 13 years and my experience includes crisis communications, media advocacy, message development, and promotional campaigns for book publishers and nonprofit organizations (both local and national). I wanted to obtain a job in book publishing PR because I had a love of reading, enjoyed being around people and liked the power of PR and communication to sell a product.

What was your first job in the profession?

My first job was working for Penguin Putnam in New York. I was a publicity assistant. (Think of Bridget Jones in the Bridget Jones’ Diary). My responsibilities included writing press releases, preparing press kits and mailings of publicity/press materials, coordinating author tours and book signings, and performing general administrative tasks.

Tell us about your range of experience and/or your greatest skills.

My skill sets include event planning, management and promotion; media relations; promotions and publicity; strategic planning; social media strategy; writing and materials development; partnership building; and video production.

What’s your greatest career achievement?

My greatest career achievement was increasing Goodwill’s exposure in the press from 10,000 stories a year to nearly 30,000. While in the publishing world, I secured one of my author’s books on The New York Times best seller list for more than 12 weeks. As a result of my professional successes, I was selected as the convocation speaker for my alma mater’s incoming freshman class this year.

What are your current career/professional goals?

I intend to gain my accreditation in public relations as I’d like to strengthen my  focus on quantifying my work - setting measurable goals, and tracking and monitoring in order to determine the effectiveness of certain techniques and strategies that I employ in my PR efforts.

How would you describe your professional philosophy?

Follow the career path in life that will make you the most happy and provide you with a feeling of self-worth. Work is an important part of human identity. In my current role, I lead the PR and media team for one of the top four leading nonprofits in the country – Goodwill Industries®. As I often say, “They’re not just stores, they’re stories.” I am privileged to serve as a voice for the people who don’t have the opportunity to tell their stories – people with disabilities and disadvantages. This gives great purpose to my career.

What’s your dream job?

I would like to continue to sharpen and advance my skills in the communications field working for a cause that is community focused and impacts human rights. I gain personal value from finding that sweet spot of intersecting my skills with my passion.

Who would you consider to be your mentor, and why?

Many people have had an impact on my career – specifically direct supervisors and my colleagues in professional associations. It’s the people you meet through professional associations that often serve as your mentors – providing advice and counsel, proofreading assistance, leads for vendors or resources, or help in an area which might not be your strong suit.

Offer any advice you have for maintaining work/life balance.

If you are a PR professional who likes your job, this might be a challenge as your work interests you and energizes you. As a PR professional, we get addicted to checking our emails, being responsive, searching the internet for client coverage, etc. It’s important to determine a convenient time to check your emails after hours, on weekends or during vacations so that emails/texts and other requests do not take you away from “you” time. These boundaries must be established and communicated with your boss and colleagues. Most importantly, find the time to explore your own interests.

Offer any advice you have for today’s PR practitioner.

Excel in your commend of new media, be a team player, stay on top of the latest news and trends, and network and develop relationships as you never know what type of impact they will have on you both personally and professionally. Hone your analytical skills for sizing up opportunities and for assessing what you get out of initiatives, measure initiatives to demonstrate the value that it has on your company/organization’s strategic plan, prioritize your workload, and always celebrate successes.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m an avid volunteer. Currently, I serve meals to seniors on weekends through the nonprofit, IONA Senior Services, located in D.C. I’m a board member for Vehicles for Change, which provides transportation to people with low incomes. I also enjoy serving on the boards of local PR professional organizations. I’m the past president of Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) and the founder of its Emerging Leaders Awards program, an accolade for young women advancing in the communications industry. I recently served as the chair for the Thoth Awards sponsored by PRSA-NCC. I am also a past vice president for IABC/DC Metro’s Silver Inkwell Awards program. In addition, I love traveling and spending time in DC – trying out new restaurants or playing tourist.