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Member Spotlight: Justin Herndon

This Member Spotlight profiles Justin Herndon, manager on the National Media Relations and Issues Management team for Allstate and a licensed insurance agent in the state of Florida, and 2018 treasurer of PRSA Tampa Bay. Justin joined the chapter in 2013, has served as a member of the Sponsorship Committee and the Digital Communications Committee, and is currently serving as 2018 co-chair of the Sponsorship Committee.  

1. First news publication you read in the morning?

I open the Google News app on my phone before I even get out of bed. I like the variety of sources and content I get access to each morning, from international to national to even local news outlets.

2. First public relations job?

I was the first employee hired by Selig Multimedia – a boutique PR firm started by former longtime Fox 13 reporter Glenn Selig – and helped build the business from the ground up in the areas of sales development, news release writing, and search engine optimization, as well as local and national publicity, all the way up to co-directing the national media blitz of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. I also helped hire and onboard three new employees – one of whom is now an ESPN SportsCenter anchor, Randy Scott; another who is living in China and freelancing for NPR, Patrick Flanary; and another who is still in PR and a Tampa Bay chapter board member, Kim Polacek.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?

Before PR, I was a TV news reporter, and my news director in Fort Myers, John Emmert, was a constant source of knowledge and calm who taught through his leadership and not just about news. He mentored countless journalists who now work across the country and who still talk about his impact on their lives; and I’m fortunate enough to still be in contact with him and see him once a year in Las Vegas, where he retired several years ago.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

“More than” versus “over.” I know AP Style finally gave in and says either one is fine, but “more than” my dead body, I say. :)

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

Last year, Allstate received an email from a customer who said her dad, who had died more than 20 years ago, had been in a TV commercial for Allstate in the ‘70s, and she was trying to find the video to surprise her brother at his wedding. I pushed and prodded my way through a lot of channels and not only got the video but found some behind-the-scenes footage with their dad, and I was able to surprise the family in person in an event that become an award-winning story picked up by multiple national news outlets.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?

Build and maintain as many relationships as you can, and nurture them by checking in even when you don’t need a thing. I got started late in my PR career, but I carried over strong contacts from my time in news, and it’s amazing how many opportunities I have to call on old contacts that still take my call because I took the time to cultivate the relationship.

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?

Aside from continuing my news career, I would pursue politics (against the wishes of my wife). I love building relationships and trying to make a difference for the greater good, and I’m also not good enough at golf to make that a career.

8. Favorite movie?

The Shawshank Redemption.

9. Favorite vacation?

My wife and I went to Norway before we had kids, where we went dogsledding in the Arctic Circle and saw the northern lights. Yes, it was brutally cold, but absolutely worth it.

10. Any three dinner guests?

Morgan Freeman, my favorite actor; Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer of all time; and my great-grandmother on my dad’s side, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian who could teach me more about the Native American culture of my family.

My family.

Making new friends in Norway.

My wife and I get ready to hit the trail on our Norway trip.

The northern lights were an unforgettable sight and one-of-a-kind memento to take away from the Arctic Circle.

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