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Meet Chapter/Board Member Courtney Benhoff

This month, we talked to Maryland Chapter member Courtney Benhoff, regional communications manager at Erickson Living, while she took some time to walk around the Erickson Living campus getting her steps in on a picture-perfect day.

How long have you been a member of PRSA and why did you join?

I joined PRSA back in 2013 when I was new to the Public Relations (PR) industry having recently transitioned from publishing world into PR. My background in publishing translated well but I wanted to educate myself on best practices and get up-to-speed in regards to the latest trends in the industry.

 

What do you enjoy most about being a board member and volunteering?

The professional and personal connections that you make are what I enjoy most about serving on the board. The relationships that you build can also become invaluable. When it comes to volunteering, I enjoy that it lets me explore different paths than what I do in my day-to-day, which provides a great education and overall learning experience.

What is your current position at Erickson Living?

I am the Regional Communications Manager, which means I handle external communications, public relations, social media, and crisis communications for a portfolio of continuing care retirement communities throughout the United States. I share positive stories about our residents and staff to strengthen the position of our communities and enterprise in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

What do you love most about the PR field?

I love the opportunity to tell stories. I also love that as the industry continues to evolve, PR consistently challenges us to be creative and try new things.

Who inspires you?

On a personal note, my family inspires me. I always want to do and be the best for them. Professionally, my team at the office is a wonderful source of inspiration. I’m fortunate to be part of a team that is incredibly supportive and collaborative. I am always learning something new from them as they provide constant education. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our residents, whose lessons and life experience inspire me every day.

What’s one thing you learned in the last month? Professional or personal.

A recent PRSA course in Digital Communications reinforced to me the increasing value of data-driven PR. It’s so important that you understand the role measurement plays in the industry and the crucial impact it can have on strategy.

What’s something about you not many people know? A fun fact.

Both my daughter and I were born on Super Bowl Sundays.

What’s the last book you read?

A recent favorite was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Where did you grow up?

I grew up right here in Baltimore, in the Towson and Lutherville areas.

What’s one career tip or piece of advice you’d share with others based on your experience?

Be proactive! Remember that you’re the only one in control of your career. 

Connect with Courtney via Email, LinkedIn or Twitter

 

Meet Chapter Volunteer David Harrison

This month, we caught up with volunteer David Harrison. David is the 2019 Best in Maryland Chair (a position he’s held twice before) and a past board member and chapter president. 

In his day job, David is principal of Harrison Communications, specializing in overall communications strategy, earned, social and owned media primarily for professional associations. 

When and why did you first join PRSA?
I joined when I was new to the field in 2000, primarily for networking.

What do you enjoy most about being a board member or volunteers?
When I first chaired BIM in 2015, we saw an opportunity to rejuvenate the program and encourage new people to become active in the chapter. I have since served on the board and as president. This year, I’m excited to chair BIM again and we have a new twist on the event that’s going to make it fresh and fun. BIM is the one opportunity we all have every year to celebrate the holidays, reflect on the great work of our PR community and connect with each other.

How did you become your own boss? 
Going out on my own was a professional passion I wanted to pursue. I wanted to be entrepreneurial, and I just jumped into the cold water. That was 12 years ago, and I’m very happy.

What do you love most about the PR field?
Every once in a while, you really can cause positive change. An example is a project I recently worked on with Abel Communications for the Wayland Baptist University women’s basketball team, the Flying Queens. Our goal was make the program more visible as they pursued enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Our work has been credited with helping to achieve that goal; I’m excited that the team will be enshrined later this summer.

How do you define success?
I separate personal and professional success. Professional success is everything that it indicates: career growth and financial goals. Personally, it’s about feeling good about who you are, being a strong spouse, parent, family member and friend.

Who inspires you?
David Letterman. He’s naturally funny, incredibly gifted, but also – admittedly — flawed. He is constantly evolving and improving himself. Clearly, his life’s ambition was to host the “Tonight Show,” but when it didn’t happen, he found a new path.

What’s one thing – either industry-related or not – you learned in the last month?
How to throw an axe! (see photo)

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?
I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t like. I served as the “voice of god” at an association conference, and I love the stage production aspect of conferences.

What’s the last book you read?
The biography, Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman. I found it fascinating.

Where did you grow up and where would you like to retire?
I grew up in Pikesville (MD) and I would like to retire at a beach. TBD – I can’t even think about it!

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A 24-hour Las Vegas buffet

Contact David at 
Harrison Communications
david@harrisoncommunications.net
410-804-1728
@harrisoncomm

PRSA Maryland Member Spotlight: Lauren Walbert

This month, we talked to Maryland Chapter member Lauren Walbert. Lauren is Vice President of Sandy Hillman Communications, and has been an active volunteer serving on the PRSA Maryland Board of Directors since 2017.

How long have you been a member of PRSA and why did you join? I joined in 2015 at the urging of co-worker Dave Curley, who was tasked on asking me by past president Claudie Ciolfi. I had been considering joining a professonal group since I moved to Baltimore eight years ago. I joined because PRSA offers growth opportunities, events, and a community to meet other practitioners.

I was not a PRSSA member because my college, La Salle University (Phila.) didn’t have a chapter.  So, I started a PR club as a student. The club helped other LaSalle clubs or groups promote their events. 

 

What do you enjoy most about being a board member and volunteering? Being involved with a group opens me up to new world of colleagues who are also working in the field, providing a broader sense of the community in Baltimore and Maryland.

What is your current position at Hillman? I am a vice president of the lifestyle division, representing our consuming-facing clients. A sampling of our client list includes Diamond Resorts (a timeshare company with properties all over the world) and United Way of Central Maryland.

What do you love most about the PR field? I enjoy a little bit of everything and that I can place great stories in coveted outlets. I get to play a consultant role on different issues, coordinate events, write, and travel a little.  I do it all because Sandy Hillman Communications is a smaller company.

How do you define success? Overall, success is to be happy. On a professional level, making clients happy means placing the big story or orchestrating the big opening and securing the right media. Happiness is about making sure you can do it all while making time for other things in life, too.

Who inspires you? Our owner Sandy Hillman is my professional inspiration.  She’s done so many incredible things and has taught me about being a professional in Baltimore and about life.

Personally, my twin four-year-old daughters are my inspiration. Children have a different perspective on the world and life. They often make me stop and think about what’s important and re-prioritize.

What’s one thing – either industry-related or not – you learned in the last month? I just listened to an interesting podcast called WorkLife with Adam Grant. The episode was about personality and explored what being an introvert or an extrovert could mean for your work life. As it turns out, there are many levels of being introverted and extroverted, and everyone draws energy from the people around them (even introverts!) And, there are ways to stretch beyond your innate personality traits. If you’re interested, listen here.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know? I’m really into yoga and I practice Ashtanga, a modern arm of classical yoga. It is supposed to be done at dawn, so I try to get to the gym every morning. But, since the class starts at 6:00 a.m., I don’t always make it.

What’s the last book you read? A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne which has a current event link to the author A.J. Finn, a.k.a. Dan Mallory. The book was lyrical, interesting and had great character development.  Currently, I am reading the murder mystery about the “Golden State Killer” entitled, I’ll be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara with an introduction by Gillian Flynn (who wrote Gone Girl).

Where did you grow up and where would you like to retire? I grew up in South Jersey outside Atlantic City. Where to retire?  I have no idea, but I think near the water.

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Tacos!

Connect with Lauren via LinkedIn or by Email

 

Meet New Member Morgan Randall

As a communications coordinator with the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, Morgan Randall contributes to numerous tactics and strategies on behalf of her school. Some of her tasks include providing content for the Arts & Sciences magazine that is put out twice a year, managing a monthly e-bulletin that gets sent out to faculty and staff, making necessary edits to department websites, and completing billing for departments requesting photography services through Homewood Photography. She also supports the Director of Communications and team with various projects.

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Currently resides: Baltimore, MD

Education:

Randall earned an M.A. in Contemporary Communications from Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Why did you choose a career in Communications/PR?

I’ve always enjoyed writing and storytelling, so I decided to explore the Communications field since there are so many areas within it that are relevant to that passion.

How did you get into your current position?

During my last job search, I reconnected with a supervisor (from when I was a college intern) and she informed me of a job opening in her department that was exactly what I was looking for at the time.

How do you stay on top of industry related news/trends?

Websites like Forbes and PR Newswire are useful in regards to staying informed, along with speaking/meeting with people who do similar work at Hopkins.

How has being a PRSA member benefited you?

PRSA has provided me with resources like Webinars and information about conferences (which are discounted) as well as ways to network with others in the field on a local level through the Maryland Chapter.

Who is your role model and why?

Besides my mother, who is outgoing and a great problem-solver, Damon Dominique and Jo Franco (it’s hard to name one without the other) are my biggest role models right now. On YouTube, they are simply known as Damon and Jo and they travel around the world, exploring different cultures and learning new languages along the way. Their videos show that you can truly be a world traveler on a budget, meet people abroad, and experience the charming nature of a city like a local. They’ve also taught me not to let material things or just being too comfortable in a situation hold me back from pursing my passions (they move a lot so they have to be minimalist to an extent).

A career in Communications/PR can be stressful at times. What do you do to relax?

Hot yoga is the best way to clear my mind and just focus on my body.

What are your passions/interests/hobbies?

Reading, writing, photography, and researching historical events through primary sources (like archives.gov), documentaries, etc.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

Sometimes I do writing exercises where I write from the perspective of a stranger (while on the metro, at the park, etc.) and just imagine what their internal monologue might be like or how they live their life based on what I see in that moment.

Best piece of advice received:

Not to let fear govern your decisions.

Connect with Morgan:

Email –morgan.g.randall@gmail.com

Meet New Member Nick Cavey

As Director of Communication, Nick Cavey is in charge of the MD Department of General Services (DGSE) social media pages, the DGSE website newsroom, and communications with the governor’s press office. Nick also handles media inquiries and Public Information Act requests and helps coordinate outside events and inter-office communication with other teams in the department.

Nick joined PRSA Maryland in January. Be sure to welcome him to our chapter at that next event or via LinkedIn!

Hometown: Hampstead, Maryland

Currently Reside: Hampstead, Maryland

Education: Nick earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from West Virginia Wesleyan.

Why did you choose a career in Communications/PR? How did you get into your current job?

[At Wesleyan] I was actually highly involved in the radio station and spent my senior year as general manger of the station. And I thought, hey, how cool would it be to work at a radio station? And then I realized it was extremely difficult to actually work in radio.

 

I got a job with the state and was over at the Maryland Insurance Administration as the assistant director of government relations. While I was working there I liked the communication aspect of it, going out and talking to people, the inter-office communication, planning events, and everything like that. After a while I decided to switch lanes and got into the director of communication position here.

How has being a PRSA member benefited you?

It’s been a busy year so far, so I haven’t been able to get to any events. But I have been able to go on the website and watch a couple of webinars, which are really helpful. One of the big things that we’ve been trying to do this year is increase our followers on Facebook and our LinkedIn account. There’s a bunch of different social media webinars out there and a lot of them have been very helpful.

How do you stay on top of industry-related news and trends?

Typically our audience and our major customers are other state agencies. We don’t typically deal with the public a lot. Usually when searching news articles every morning I’ll go through a couple of the major papers around here and I’ll look at a dozen other smaller papers from counties. I just go through the front pages first to see if there are any front page stories that involve DGSE or could potentially involved DGSE, and I keep an eye out for other things for other state agencies. If there’s something there I can always send it over to my counterpart at another agency, but they all do the same thing as well. So you get to know the other communication directors and we all try to help each other out.

A career in communications/PR can be stressful at times. What do you do to relax?

Especially working in a state agency, we’re always working. Just because it’s five o’clock doesn’t mean we set the phone down. If there’s something going on I can be called at 10:00 and have a conversation about whatever is happening. Yeah, that can be stressful at times. But I think the best way to relax, personally, is to go home and enjoy my family and have a nice dinner; cook dinner and sit and watch TV.

What are your passions/interests/hobbies?

I’m a very big movie buff, usually watching movies, TV shows, and everything like that. Currently—and I know I’m behind on the times—but I’m finally getting a chance to watch Game of Thrones. My friends have been telling me for years, “hey, you need to watch this!” And I finally gave in and gave it a shot and it’s been pretty good.

Best piece of advice received:

Try your hardest, because if you don’t try hard you might as well not try at all. I’m not going to get anywhere just going in and doing the bare minimum. Being like that, you’re not going to stand out. If you want to succeed, move up, you’ve got a short one here, so be willing to put the work in.

Connect with Nick on LinkedIn

Member Profile: Edwin “Ed” Bodensiek

Edwin (Ed) Bodensiek will be our keynote speaker at the PRSA Maryland Conference on June 12 where he’ll address the future of marketing and communications and the coming convergence between our fields and customer experience (CX). Click here for a sneak peek of Ed’s keynote.

Ed made an early transition into CX while in healthcare, as the head of branding and communications for a Fortune 500 public company. In 2016, Ed became the first Chief Experience Officer in the Am Law 200, for Maryland powerhouse Miles & Stockbridge.

 

Hometown: West Palm Beach

Education:  Florida Atlantic University

Describe what you do professionally:  I design immersive brand experiences for competitive advantage.

How did you get into your position? Ignoring silos. They exist of course, but I’ve long pretended they don’t. I’ve found that when you engage people across functions – when you tell them you want to co-design something special with them – you can get almost anything done.

Like many PRSA members, I began in marketing communications and public relations. In time I realized that people like us had the creative firepower to solve all kinds of problems for our organizations. I’ve always had a stubborn mindset of wanting to help leadership and my colleagues achieve their desired results, wherever that took me. I never thought – oh, I’m just the creative person in the room and should stick to my lane, whatever that means. I turned it all around, so the creative people were at the center of solving all kinds of operational issues – using the tools we know – but also learning to use some new ones too. I’ve never had all the answers but found that others usually did – if only we asked the right questions.

The mindset helped me navigate radically new environments. For example, when I moved from Johns Hopkins to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, I was in a very new world. Here I was, appointed by the President of the United States, into a role forcing me to combine my communications background with other disciplines – for example, public policy. At first, it was uncomfortable, but it was also how I grew as a professional. Those of us in the communications tribe think very strategically about things like target audiences and messaging – which means we are always thinking about the larger aims, and usually asking questions. It translated well to such a new environment as the federal government. The same thing happened again at my next stop – a co-op agency of the State Department. I was named head of communications and outreach for the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program, and our goal was to find more highly qualified applicants to represent American scholarship overseas, almost like ambassadors from higher education. It forced me to combine yet again with another discipline – recruiting.

However, when I moved back into healthcare I undertook the biggest –and most uncomfortable change of all.  I was named head of communications and brand for Select Medical, a $5B public company. I knew I was going to be busy building an internal, full-service agency. I did not know I would be asked to help solve a new challenge: designing a patient experience. The work soon morphed into employee experience, and then into cultural change and activation. All of these were new areas, but I started to ask questions, think about the big picture, and connect new dots. In a few cases we invented new dots. This was the real game-changer for me: Realizing our audiences formed perceptions from every single interaction with the organization. I suddenly saw how important it was to expand my work beyond the buyer’s journey. Working across a massive scale – across 42,000 associates and across all verticals and functions – we became much more intentional about designing moments that matter. This was the pivotal role that taught me what next-generation branding could look like. After nearly six years, I took those lessons learned into law, becoming the first Chief Experience Officer in the Am Law 200.

Current and past PRSA Maryland member activities: I am a current member of PRSA Maryland, and a former board member-at-large. More than a decade ago, I also co-chaired the Best in Maryland Awards. I’ll also be participating in the upcoming annual conference on June 12 in Towson.

What advice do you have for practitioners looking to do more with the PRSA Maryland Chapter?  Beyond paying attention to the great programming, pitch PRSA Maryland on an idea of how you can contribute. Practitioners have so much to offer their peers. It’s how we can all grow together.

What are your passions/interests/hobbies? Spending time with and learning from deeply thoughtful people who are super passionate about something – anything really. It’s inspiring to see that kind of focus and learning. I also have two baseball-crazy young sons, so I ought to add the Baltimore Orioles.  I’m originally a soccer guy, so that’s been an education for me, but I am hooked for life.   

More recently, my interest has been learning as much as I can from successful entrepreneurs. There are so many great models out there. I’m about to embark on a new journey – opening Cravety, LLC in another month or so. I plan to help others create the brands and cultures people crave. The two areas are powerfully connected, as what you get on the inside you get on the outside.

Best piece of advice received:  The CEO of Select Medical and my friend and mentor, David Chernow, taught me this: “Listen, learn, then lead.” 

How to connect with Ed:

Twitter: @EdwinBodensiek

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/edwinbodensiek/

Effective in June, you can also connect with Ed at ed@cravety.com or on his website at www.cravety.com

Click here for more information on 2018 PRSA Maryland Conference including Ed’s keynote address!

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors