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Meet Chapter Member Tom Williams, APR

Tom Williams is Managing Director of Communications for Maryland Public Television where he plans and executes both institutional communication and production-related publicity and promotion for the statewide public TV network. He also supports MPT communications with local, state, and federal elected officials; contributes strategy and content for social media engagement; and handles a range of internal communications and external relations assignments.

Did you always want to be in public relations?

As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, (laughs) but all kidding aside I wasn’t a star student in math and science in high school. In college I entered St. Bonaventure University as a Communications major since I enjoyed writing, and felt my way through those four years in an effort to determine what I wanted to do with my degree. It wasn’t until my senior year that a possible career in public relations came into focus.

What is it that appeals to you?

What I love is contributing to an organization’s success by whatever the key measures or objectives are. The communications team here at MPT works hard to both protect the reputation of our statewide public TV network and enhance that reputation with key stakeholders. We have great stories to tell about the value of public television and we attempt to capitalize on those opportunities to grow relationships and engagement with Maryland citizens and increase viewership.There are times, too, when we contribute to issues management and help overcome organizational challenges. It can be very satisfying to troubleshoot an issue, deal with it, and come out on the other side without harm being done to the organization or minimizing the issue’s impact. Knowing I’ve made a mark in all these areas, I find that very rewarding.

Describe your start in public relations.

I found a job out of college as an assistant account executive for the N.W. Ayer advertising agency in New York City, working on the U.S. Army account. This is the agency that created the iconic “Be All You Can Be” campaign for the Army. I worked there two years, a portion of which included helping to coordinate PR campaigns for the U.S. Army Reserve. At that point I moved back to my hometown of Buffalo to join an agency there, and continued for another year as an advertising account exec before moving laterally within the agency to the PR department. I remained at that firm for seven years before moving to Baltimore.

Was there one thing, person or event that you reflect back on, as something that propelled you forward in PR as you began your career?

I had a tremendous mentor early in my career, a real strategic public relations pro. His name is Bill Collins and I worked for him at Collins & Company, a PR firm in Buffalo. Like me, he graduated from St. Bonaventure University and he took a sincere an interest in my professional growth and development.  His impact on my career speaks to the value of having a mentor willing to share their knowledge and experience with you and provide feedback to steer you in the right direction. Bill was certainly supportive of me, and when I needed redirection or a critique he would be quick to tell me how I needed to change or how I should adjust my approach.

Can you identify anything specific that you learned from him?

One particular area I remember, Bill taught me how to be a counselor to clients – not to be bashful about putting forward my ideas and recommendations, and expressing a point of view. That’s hard to do as a young professional. But he would tell me, ‘move forward with that recommendation’ or would say, ‘that’s what they’re paying you for.’

How else has mentorship impacted how you work?

When I moved to Baltimore I was also blessed to secure a position working for Sandy Hillman at Trahan Burden & Charles (TBC), another great mentor. Sandy is a remarkable PR counselor and project manager. Here again, I was able to observe and learn from a wonderful boss. Sandy is fully dedicated to providing clients with the highest level of service possible and helping them meet their campaign or project objectives. She possesses a unique combination of strength and kindness. I try to approach what I do professionally using the example she showed in the years I worked for her.

Do you advocate for mentorship as a PR leader?

Yes, I do. In many of the places I’ve worked, including here at MPT, I’ve taken a lead in standing up or managing an internship program. I’m cognizant of the value of a good internship for students and what that can do to propel them forward in their careers. I put a premium on providing students with a rewarding and beneficial internship experience, offering advice and counsel, and helping them any way I can after they graduate and enter the job market. In a few cases that has evolved into a longer-term mentorship relationship with particular students.

What advice to you have for students considering a career in public relations?

I tell students that if you want to work in public relations, develop two important capabilities – critical thinking and writing skills. It’s very important to be able to assess an issue or opportunity and provide good counsel and it’s essential to develop strong writing skills. Both are foundational for a successful career.

Are you still challenged in the work?

Working in a media organization has been both fun and challenging. I’ve spent four years here at MPT and I’m still learning quite a bit about public media. Part of that learning is understanding the ways our industry is changing and the potential impacts of these changes. It’s not just about broadcasting anymore – it’s streaming, direct to consumer video, creating relationships with our viewers, and taking advantage of social media channels. For instance, MPT will soon be a streaming company. By the beginning of 2020 MPT will be available on YouTube TV in our DMA, livestreaming our main channel (MPT-HD) for the first time. It also give us an opportunity to offer viewers a live stream of the channel on our website and MPT app. We already provide a livestream of the PBS KIDS channel, which parents with kids absolutely love. It’s very exciting to be a part of these kinds of changes. We’re taking advantage of technology so that more and more people have access to our content and can benefit from what Maryland Public Television has to offer.

Describe your PRSA membership. Has it been helpful along the journey?

I’ve been a PRSA member since 1989, first with the Buffalo-Niagara Chapter, where I served on several committees and eventually served as Chapter president in 1994. While in Buffalo I also passed the Accreditation exam.

When I moved to Baltimore I joined the PRSA Maryland Chapter, where I got involved on committees, and eventually served for seven years as chair of the accreditation committee. During those years I enjoyed working with our chapter’s accreditation candidates and seeing many of them earn their APR designation. We added some 40 new accredited members to our chapter during those years. I also served for several years on the chapter’s board of directors and the national Accreditation Marketing Committee.

I’ve benefited greatly by being a member of PRSA both in this market and where I came from previously. The organization has provided wonderful learning and professional development opportunities and a setting to build and grow relationships with others in our field.

Connect with Tom on LinkedIn.

Presenting the 2020 Board of Directors Slate

Each year, PRSA Maryland Chapter installs a new board of directors and member volunteers who work together to ensure the Chapter achieves its mission, plans professional programs, and grows membership. Today, the Chapter is pleased to present you with the slate for the 2020 board of directors for your review. Click here for full bios.

 

President

  • Lisa Brusio Coster, M.A., President, Coster Communications

Treasurer

  • Ken Smith, APR

Directors              

  • Christine P. Barnhart, M.S., APR
  • Jeffrey A. Davis, APR, Managing Partner, Van Eperen
  • Dianna Fornaro, APR, Senior Communications Specialist, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company
  • Dr. David Marshall​, Professor and Chair, Department of Strategic Communication, Morgan State University
  • Emily McDermott, Account Supervisor/Project Manager, Van Eperen
  • Debra Schindler, Regional Director of Media and Public Relations, MedStar Health
  • Lauren Walbert, Vice President, Sandy Hillman Communications
  • Phillip Yerby, Group Manager, Weber Shandwick

Assembly Delegates serve as 1) the Chapter’s representatives at PRSA Leadership Assembly, and 2) liaison between the Society and Chapter.

  • Cathy E. Nyce, Director, Marketing and Communications, Maryland Auto Insurance
  • Kenneth Smith, APR

PRSA Maryland Chapter members: Voting for the 2020 board of directors will commence on November 25 via Survey Monkey. Please watch your inbox for your chance to vote.

We continue to accept nominations for the board of directors, specifically a vice president and president-elect. This is a great opportunity to steer the Chapter into the future.  If you are interested in holding a leadership position within PRSA Maryland, please contact Lisa Brusio Coster at lbcoster@costercommunications.com.

We are also seeking volunteers to chair or be part of a committee. Not sure why you should volunteer?  Finding your place in PRSA Maryland will answer a few of your questions. You can also click here to take a simple poll.

 

Brush up on Leadership Skills with Quick Start Training – Free Registration for the First to Respond

Aspiring chapter leaders are cordially invited to this year’s PRSA Mid-Atlantic District (MAD) “Quick Start” leadership program, taking place on Saturday, November 2, in Towson. The program – registration link here – is designed to help strengthen emerging and upcoming Chapter leaders through meaningful, practical content.  And, Quick Start enables unique networking experiences with fellow leaders from around the region.  Meet your peers, offer advice and take home some fresh, winning ideas to your Chapter.

Agenda & Featured Speaker

The day of “Quick Start” is full of only useful content, including roundtable discussions about how to turn some of the challenges we all face into opportunities.  Attendees will have the chance to share and receive thoughtful feedback on just about any PRSA-related topic, from successful programming approaches, to recruiting committee members, to leading a volunteer board. 

The event’s featured speaker is Ken Jacobs, a long-time PRSA ICON and PRSA Counselors Academy speaker who focuses on leadership and empowering team members – including those in a volunteer setting. His column on leadership appears regularly in PRSA’s Strategy & Tactics, and he has written on leadership development, executive coaching and agency management for PR News. Ken has coached and helped leaders, from C-suite executives to managers, achieve and surpass their goals.  We’re lucky to have him at the 2019 Quick Start.

Event Location & Details

The event will be held, November 2, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Sheraton Baltimore North, 903 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, 21204

Free Registration

Each chapter receives one complimentary registration to the event (including lunch).  Registration for additional attendees is $20.  For more information, contact Mike Gross at 856-866-0411, ext. 117,  Mike@AKCGfirm.com or visit the Quick Start website.

 

Congratulations to our Chapter’s newest APRs!

Congratulations to the Maryland Chapter’s newest APRs – Christine Frey, APR, Senior Corporate Communications & Patient Education Manager at American Urological Association, and Janice Smith, Ph.D., APR, Assistant Professor in Morgan University’s Dept. of Strategic Communications.

Christine received her accreditation in June, and Janice received accreditation in August. Their accomplishments represent a year’s worth of hard work and commitment to the public relations profession!

Janice Smith, Ph.D., APR

Connect with Janice on LinkedIn

If you’d like information on obtaining your APR, contact Dianna Fornaro at dfornaro@ceiwc.com or on LinkedIn.

Finding your place in PRSA Maryland

We’re pulling together our 2020 leadership who will in turn be tapping a cadre of members in one-time, short-term and half-year roles. We’d love to help you find your place in PRSA Maryland, whether it’s a being a member of the writers pool, a quick role as an event greeter or blog writer, or role on one of our committees.

There are many reasons to opt into a volunteer role with PRSA Maryland, including

  • Acquiring new skills.
  • Honing current skills – skills-based volunteering (Experteering is the word MovingWorlds uses) offers an opportunity to build leadership skills as you apply your skills to new environment. Strong leaders can think quickly and adapt to new situations.
  • Building your network – contacts and references.

Check out Volunteering for your association has benefits for more.

And we’ll make it easy to help you learn more:

1 – Complete our simple poll

Create your own user feedback survey

2 – Ask for a call from our membership/volunteer chair, Erika Murray at info@prsamd.org.

3 – Give us a call at 443-283-8060

Meet Chapter Member Dr. David Marshall, Morgan State University

For August, we talked with the Chapter member Dr. David Marshall, Professor and Chair of Strategic Communication at Morgan State University. Dr. Marshall speaks about his love for Public Relations and his students at Morgan State.

Where did you grow up?

I’m Baltimore raised and bred. I went to public schools here. Then I went to a private high school and then to Morgan. I’m also a Morgan grad, so that makes my job much more fantastic because I feel that I am coming back to the institution that gave me so many opportunities.

In fact, almost every success I can trace in my professional career, I can tie to some professor, some influence at Morgan who has helped me along the way. So, it’s really quite refreshing to be there.

How long have you been a member of PRSA and what made you decide to join?

I have been a member since March of 2018 when I took my job as professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communication at Morgan State. The dean wanted us to have a very close and strong relationship with our professional organizations. So, I reached out to the good people there and I got hooked up right away. Claudia Ciolfi, who was PRSA Maryland chapter president last year, was just awesome and got me connected and introduced us around. And the other part of the dean’s initiative at Morgan at our School of Global Journalism and Communication is a need to not only have academic credentials for people who are teaching students aspiring to be in public relations and strategic communications, but also substantial experience. He has indicated that he also wants them to have a very strong relationship with PRSA and particularly finds great value in the APR.

Can you talk a little bit about how journalism has impacted your PR career and what it’s done for you?

It’s amazing because I think we see this trend of people being in media and then moving to PR. I think these are the people who do really well in PR because they understand the role of the media. They can put together media releases in such a way that captures the attention of the assignment desk. Having been in the media, we all know that sometimes what gets talked about in the morning story meeting at the reporters’ table is based on the relationship the reporter has within the community. A news station has values. It has a mission statement. It has metrics. And, so I think people who’ve been on the other side of journalism who are now in PR understand they have to know the values of the media organizations. So, I’m very grateful for my experience in media because I think it helps me understand these two bodies are not at odds with each other, that they’re doing separate things.

What do you love most about the PR field in general? What drives you the most?

I think it’s the opportunity to inform and to provide information in such a way to help audiences really understand the vision, mission, values of an organization. I think the educational arm is really key in helping organizations and businesses build very strong relationships with their publics and then given the outcomes that an individual company or organization wants. Building on those relationships, they can help move people to act in a way that’s beneficial to everyone. I think that’s very fascinating.

What is one thing industry-related or not that you have learned in the last month?

I just went to a workshop sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund at Western Kentucky University. We got our hands on a lot of technical tools to use for storytelling and how you can use that to also influence people. I learned how to fly a drone and I’m thinking about getting a license. It’s a tool that’s been used a lot in journalism, but I don’t know that we’ve used it in such a powerful way to sort of help tell organizational individual stories. And that power of using different types of visual elements to tell a story…it’s beyond what I ever thought was possible.

Credit: Western Kentucky University

What inspires you the most?

I think what really inspires me is that I am teaching students at Morgan, many of whom are coming from circumstances that are very challenging. And every day, they get out of bed and they come to school and they’re ready to engage and they see this as an investment and what’s going to happen to them that they know they have an opportunity. That is the thing that really does inspire me, especially in a media sort of frenzy that paints students and particularly students of color as being crime-engaged or not really participating fully in society. That’s the thing that really inspires me because I am seeing every day that this is not the typical young person in the city of Baltimore. They really do have hopes and dreams and aspirations that go far beyond where they are and that they’re willing to give it a try.

How would you define success?

For me, success is defined as a student who has come through our program at Morgan. And as the president is shaking their hand on one end of the stage and an employer in public relations is on the other hand saying, welcome to our firm or to our company. That is really the biggest measure of success for us at the university level because it lets us know that whatever it is that we’re doing in the classroom does have some salience or relevance to people in the industry.

Where would you like to retire?

I don’t know where I’m going to be, but I know one thing is for sure, wherever I am there’s got to be a direct route for wherever I am to BWI..

Connect with Dr. Marshall on LinkedIn.

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors