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Meet Board Member and Volunteer Laurie Farrell

For the November issue of WebNotes, we met Laurie Farrell, PRSA Maryland board member and volunteer. Laurie is the owner and president of her own freelance firm, Mission Street Communications, and was the chair of the PRSA Maryland Conference this year.

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

I have been involved with PRSA Maryland since 2004. I’ve always been excited to learn new skills, meet new people and make connections, and PRSA has helped me do that.

What did you enjoy most about being the conference chair for the 2020 PRSA Maryland Conference?

I also chaired last year’s conference and at first, I thought that this year’s conference might not be as much work because it was virtual. But it became a challenge as we had to figure out what was going to resonate with people and what would keep viewers engaged when so many have “Zoom fatigue.” This led us to get to work with some awesome speakers from all over the country, who we would not ordinarily be available for an in-person event. We brought in a producer, Laurie Reuben, who was great to collaborate with. Overall, I love creating content and experiences as a team, rising to the occasion when there’s a challenge and collaborating with others.

What is your current position?

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been an easy time for anyone. I was part of a layoff due to budget cuts as a newer employee. This provided me with a bit of a break to focus on the conference and my family, and allowed me to gain clarity on what I want to do next. I also have my own freelance business called Mission Street Communications, which I’m starting to do more for. My goal is to land with a mission-based organization where I can be part of a team and help them reach their goals and make some meaningful contributions while also continuing to learn and grow.

What do you love most about the PR field?

The essence of PR is cultivating and growing mutually beneficial relationships, which I’m all about. I also love the strategy that goes into it, collaborating with organizations to solve problems and provide solutions that make an impact. So much has changed and developed over time, but the fundamentals are always going to be the same. You always have to think about reputation management and crisis communications, hone your writing skills, and strategize about how to engage different audiences. It’s fast-paced and always changing, which makes this profession so interesting and fun.

How do you define success?

First, just giving back, participating in my community and being a good human being. Our measures for success tend to change over time as we travel along in life. For me, success is making the time to do the things I truly enjoy, either on my own or with the people I enjoy most. And then, making sure to be very present for it. You can accomplish all kinds of things, but you need to ask yourself “how am I making the most of the time I have?” There’s so much joy in everyday, ordinary moments – like seeing a cool leaf or savoring the first sip of a hot cup of tea or skipping with my granddaughter. Really recognizing the value of those simple moments makes for a great life.

Who inspires you?

Anyone who is doing good things in the world, taking risks, and stretching themselves. All three of my daughters inspire me when I see the people they have become. Now that my kids are older, I get to continue to share in their lives, and they inspire me a lot.

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

Going back to the conference, the different ways and tools to provide engaging content for people virtually. There’s so much more you can do now. I think when we’re back in person, these lessons I learned are important to remember as well. Keep it interesting and keep it relevant.

What is something about you (a fun fact) that many people may not know?

I make amazing playlists. I like to create playlists based on how I want to feel the next day, or what I want my mood to be. I have magic powers to transform my day with playlists, and it absolutely works!

What is a podcast you would recommend?

“How I Built This.” It’s an NPR podcast where Guy Raz interviews innovators, entrepreneurs, and those who have started successful businesses. Guy is such an excellent interviewer and the stories are interesting and inspiring. Guests include the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Canva and Bobbi Brown.

Where did you grow up and where would you like to retire?

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in Pasadena, Maryland. I like to think about retiring in New England, like Massachusetts, or Beaufort, North Carolina.

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

Gluten-free pancakes with maple syrup (and maybe some bacon). For obvious reasons, that’s not a good idea. So, I’ll replace that with one of my super healthy (and delicious) soup recipes.

Meet Chapter Member Kelsey Harman

For the September Issue of Web Notes, we talked to Maryland Chapter member and volunteer Kelsey Harman. Kelsey is an Account Manager at Cision, and has been an active volunteer on the PRSA Maryland Communications Committee since 2019.

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

While in college at the University of Tampa, I was a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). After graduating in 2018, I became a New Professionals Committee Member and last year I joined the Communications Committee as a social media volunteer. I knew I wanted to be a part of a community specifically in my industry that allowed me to grow and network.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I like having the ability to develop social media content. It allows me to be creative.

What is your current position at Cision?

I have been working at Cision, a leading global provider of earned media software and services since 2018. I am currently an Account Manager.

What do you love most about the PR field?

I love how diverse the PR field is. People assume that if you work in the public relations field you must work at an agency. That is not the case. There are many different roles. There is a lot of flexibility in this industry.

How do you define success?

For me, success is knowing the work I am doing is making a positive impact. Eventually, I want to take the non-profit route. I want to wake up knowing my work is improving someone’s life for the better.

Who inspires you?

My mom and all the women in my family in general. I have some strong and hardworking female influences in my family, which I am grateful for. Quite a few of them work in the communications industry, including my cousin, who is the Vice President of Public Relations for an agency in Baltimore.

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

I was recently promoted. At first, I was doing my old job, while also trying to learn my new job. It was overwhelming. I had to learn to reflect on my accomplishments instead of focusing on all the things I didn’t get done. I had to give myself some lead way and learn how to relax and unwind.

What is something about you (a fun fact) that many people may not know?

I love to travel. I have been on an airplane every month since 2018. I love exploring new places and visiting friends. Although I can’t travel right now, I still have a lot of places I want to visit after the pandemic.

What is the last book you read?

1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz.

Where did you grow up and where would you like to retire?

I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland but I currently live in Austin, Texas. I am not sure of the exact location but I want to retire somewhere warm in a laid-back environment. It could be within the United States, Italy or maybe an island.

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

Pizza or Tacos.

Meet long-time PRSA Maryland member (and avid Orioles fan) Ken Smith, APR

A lifelong Orioles fan, Ken has been a season ticket holder since he was in college. At 13, he and his family began a tradition of celebrating Orioles opening day at the ballpark and has attended nearly all of them since then. Ken is shown with his uncle Don Smith at Opening Day 2019.

Meet Ken Smith, an active member of PRSA MD since 1999 who has some sage words about his experience with the chapter: “Ideally today’s members become tomorrow’s chapter leaders, keeping the chapter meaningful and relevant well into the future.”

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

I started attending PRSA MD events in 1991 when I was working as branch marketing coordinator at Provident Bank of Maryland. My good friend and mentor Fran Minakowski suggested it would be a good way to develop my skills and meet people in the profession. I formally joined in 1999. 

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

Serving on the PRSA MD board has given me the privilege of working with many talented professionals who have become life-long friends. I view the chapter as a perpetual trust for its members. The people who were leaders when I first started participating contributed their time and talents leading programs that were valuable in my career. This is my opportunity to pay that forward for those building their careers now. Ideally today’s members become tomorrow’s chapter leaders, keeping the chapter meaningful and relevant well into the future.

 What is your current position at Boeing?

I’m part of the Communications function at Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security business unit working on the Global Sales and Marketing team. I provide executive communications support to the vice president, Global Sales and Marketing and the GSM leadership team, and to the director of Marketing and Operations. I’m also responsible for developing and executing the GSM employee communications and engagement plan for the function’s 600 employees worldwide. I also work with BDS’ trade show team and perform occasional media relations activities.

 What do you love most about the PR field?

One of public relations’ greatest strengths is its ability to connect people, ideas and action for the mutual benefit of multiple stakeholders. There are few things more rewarding than executing a well-crafted plan, monitoring the results, adjusting for changing variables and seeing the impact of our work through the end of a campaign. It also attracts interesting, creative people working in a field where no two days are alike.

 Who inspires you?

My mom. She was able to build a successful career in media, publishing and marketing at a time when opportunities for women were limited. It wasn’t easy but she worked hard, persevered and delivered results at each stop in her career. She loved travel and lived her life with a spirit of fun. We unfortunately lost her not long ago but she remains an important part of our family’s life.

 What’s one thing – either industry-related or not – you learned in the last month?

Tires for sport utility vehicles cost more and don’t last as long as one would think.

 What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

For five years I led a contract public affairs team supporting the U.S. Army organization responsible for the environmentally safe disposal of recovered chemical warfare materiel.

Where did you grow up and where would you like to retire?

I grew up in Hagerstown, Md. and Bowie, Md., and have good memories of both. Retirement is a long way off and a lot will happen between now and then. When the time comes, I’ll know where I want to be.

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.

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.

Meet Chapter Member and Volunteer Allison Mayer, APR

For July, we talked with Maryland Chapter member Allison S. Mayer, APR, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor. Allison tells us why she joined PRSA, what she loves the most about PR, who inspires her, and more.

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

I joined in 2004, fresh out of college, as a member of the Charleston, SC chapter. I wanted to grow my portfolio, make friends and build leadership potential.  I served that chapter as president in 2010.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for PRSA?

Volunteering allows me to stay engaged in the profession and mentor the next level.  For example, I volunteer on the accreditation committee for this chapter. I also judged the Agriculture Special Interest Group awards this year. While agriculture is not a field I work in, judging provided accreditation points for my APR, keeping it active. Volunteering shows engagement in the chapter and/or leadership.

What is your current position in the State of Maryland Governor’s Office?

As deputy chief of staff, I oversee a portfolio of agencies, including transportation, commerce, the secretary of state office, and a handful of others that focus on business and infrastructure.

Before taking the role this past February, I led communications at the Commerce Department. My background is in the maritime industry. My typical day involves engaging with the agencies, communicating with various secretaries to find out their priorities or challenges, and troubleshooting to advance the governor’s priorities.

What do you love most about the PR field?

It’s more than media relations; it’s problem solving and troubleshooting while trying to earn public trust for the organization. It’s challenging but rewarding. I’ve always had an outgoing personality.

How do you define success?

I try to strive for professional goals and a work/life balance. Some days are easier than others!

Who inspires you?

I’ve had several female mentors. An early one was my boss at the Port of Charleston who oversaw the public affairs of the port and moved up in a male-dominated field. She taught me how to build credibility with controversial issues. I also admire Nikki Haley.  When she was governor (South Carolina), it was inspiring to watch her on the national and international stage.

What’s one thing ­– either industry-related or not – that you learned in the last month?

I learn something new every day given the breadth of issues I’m tackling. I’ve made it a priority to go on tours to learn about different transportation projects and assets, for example, the construction of the Purple Line of the Metro and the reconstruction of Howard Street Tunnel by CSX. 

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I used to be a certified Jazzercise instructor, but my certification has lapsed. It was a fun way to combine dance and activity.

What’s the last book you read?

“The Food Explorer,” by Daniel Stone. It’s the true story of a young botanist who worked for the USDA and traveled to foreign lands to introduce different foods to the U.S. We can thank him for introducing us to avocados!

Where did you grow up and where would you like to retire?

I grew up in Lexington, South Carolina, near the state capital. As for retirement, the South Carolina coast is my favorite place, but my husband talks about a ranch out West.

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

Variety is too important to pick just one, but if I had to choose, it would be pasta.

Connect with Allison on LinkedIn.

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors