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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.

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

–Industry News