Spotlight: Kenya Woodard

Kenya Woodard, a former journalist with the Daytona Beach News-Journal, is currently the owner of Sigma 7 Communications which helps individuals and organizations craft stories to promote their businesses, projects, and missions. Ms. Woodard’s background also includes nonprofit public relations for a statewide school voucher program as well as corporate p.r. for the national scientific research arm of the property insurance business.

Read below to find out more about Kenya.

First news publication you read in the morning?

Tampa Bay Times. I like to know what’s going on in my own backyard

First public relations job?

Public relations coordinator with Step Up for Students. I was so nervous when I first started because in undergrad, professors warned about crossing over to “the dark side”, i.e. public relations. Turns out, much of what’s revered in journalism – accuracy, strong writing and storytelling skills, and good news sense – carries the same weight in PR. After two weeks on the job, my nervousness disappeared and I really got into the job and grew to love it. 

Most important career mentor, and why?

My most important career mentor is someone who’s not in PR and who will tell you she’s never had a career, just jobs – and that’s my mom, Patricia Harris. She’s always given me great career advice. My favorite gem: “You’re always looking (for a job/work).” She’s partly responsible for my being where I am in my career. In college, I wrote for the school newspaper but never had intentions to go into journalism; I had plans to be a teacher. But I had trouble passing the math section of the teacher’s exam, and after the third and final fail, I felt doomed. I remember whining that I’d wasted so much time and money only to leave school without a career, to which she responded: “What are you talking about? Haven’t you been writing for the school paper all these years? Why don’t you do something with that?” That was the kick I needed to take journalism seriously as a viable career option

Favorite thing about your job?

I love the freedom to choose my projects. And helping clients tell their stories never gets old. 

Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?

It’s a tie between split infinitives and the lack of use of the Oxford comma when it’s necessary. 

Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?

My first client was 2 Wheels 1 Cause, a nonprofit organization that’s focused on diabetes awareness. I’ve had to pleasure to watch as the founder has groomed a quirky idea into a movement that’s grown leaps and bounds. 

Advice to new public relations professionals?

You can plan and prep all you want but it’s execution that matters most. So always be DOING. 

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

Attorney/and or political pundit. I can talk for hours on end about the law and politics. 

If you could have any three dinner guests, who would they be?

My maternal grandfather, Oscar Williams. He was a Tuskegee Institute-trained carpenter who built a successful contractor business with his three brothers. This was during segregation and they endured quite a few hardships but somehow thrived. Their imprint stretches from Florida to Indiana, where they built entire neighborhoods that still stand today.

Ida B. Wells. Journalist, women’s suffragist, civil rights activist, businesswoman, working mom – the list goes on.  I mean, she was a total badass. She wrote articles and editorials against lynching, putting her life in great danger. She advocated that black people arm and protect themselves against white terrorists in 1892 when Jim Crow was taking root in the south – can you imagine such a thing? She sued a railroad company after being dragged off a passenger car for refusing to give up her seat. And she won, although her case was overturned on appeal. I often wonder how she managed to pack so much living into the 68 years she was here. 

Lady Bird Johnson. She’s mostly thought of as meek and demure, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find she also was a stone-cold businesswoman who amassed millions in her own right with the acquisition of radio and TV stations. She took a meager inheritance and made a president and built a mini-media and banking empire. She’s a great example of a #GirlBoss. 

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Résumé Review w/ USF PRSSA Helps Next Gen of PR PRos

By: Joseph Priest, Elizabeth Watts and Davina Gould

It lasted two hours, involved 13 PRSA members and included 22 résumés, but the contribution it made to the future of our local public relations community is incalculable.

 On Feb. 2, our chapter’s Public Service Committee and Students Committee held a résumé review session and mixer with USF’s PRSSA chapter at the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications. PRSA members divided into groups to judge student résumés on areas such as organization, strategy, and effectiveness; discussed their impressions with the students in their groups; and concluded by addressing the students and offering some final tips about starting a public relations career. Then, to reward the students and judges for their hard work, PRSA hosted a mixer where both chapters got to know each other better while enjoying a catered dinner from Carrabba’s. 

PRSA Tampa Bay President Bobby Eagle opens the review session with USF PRSSA President Vanessa Dreher.

Our résumé review team included 13 volunteers who gave up a Thursday evening to help prepare 22 students begin the first chapter in their public relations careers. The members included both seasoned professionals who were able to share lessons from the breadth of their careers, as well as younger professionals and new graduates who were able to offer insight from their recent experience on both the academic side and professional side of public relations.

 Our team included these members:

  • Lauren Bopp
  • Betty Carlin, APR
  • Bobby Eagle, APR
  • Christie Ebanks
  • Davina Gould, APR
  • Mary Haban, APR
  • Mary Margaret Hull, APR
  • Paula MacDonald, APR
  • Joseph Priest
  • Alana Siceloff
  • Jessica Summers, APR
  • Elizabeth Watts, APR
  • Jessica Wyland.

And they’re off. PRSA members (first two rows) plunge into judging résumés while PRSSA members (back rows) prepare to meet with the judges. 

The groups discuss their remarks before meeting with the students.

Our members had a busy night. Assembling in a large classroom inside the USF Communication and Information Sciences Building, they broke into three groups, and each group was assigned approximately seven résumés that it was given about 20 minutes to review. The groups then had all the PRSSA members whose résumés they reviewed come over, and the groups took another 20 minutes to discuss their impressions on each résumé with each PRSSA member. To wrap up the review session, all the PRSA members came to the front of the classroom to share some of their top-line observations and recommendations on how the students could refine their résumés and start their job search. 

Students find out how their résumés fared from the judges.

Bobby Eagle (left) and Christie Ebanks (second from left) go over their impressions.

Jessica Summers (center left) and Paula MacDonald (center right) share their thoughts. 

Although we only had a couple of hours to contribute, our team had an amazingly rewarding experience. We were able to provide 22 aspiring public relations professionals with real-world advice, tap in to a pipeline of the latest public relations talent to consider for our organizations’ hiring needs, and strengthen our relationship with the largest local PRSSA chapter.

The Public Service Committee and Students Committee are working on other ideas to keep our chapter involved in the community and engaged with college students this year, so stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for more events and ways in which you can participate. 

PRSA members end the session with some final recommendations to students before beginning the mixer. 

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PRSA Tampa Bay Donates 46 Gifts to Charity

By Jessica Butzier and Joseph Priest

A lot of Tampa Bay kids and teens will be having a little bit brighter holiday this year thanks to our members. On Dec. 15, our chapter hosted its end-of-year holiday mixer at Bonefish Grill in South Tampa, and, for the second year in a row, the Public Service Committee held a toy drive to raise donations for the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent.

Members enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Bonefish Grill.

Metropolitan Ministries expects to serve nearly 20,000 families in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and our chapter has been eager to help. To spur even more donations, for the past two years, we’ve added a prize drawing to randomly award a few contributors with special prizes.

To participate, members had to bring a new, unwrapped gift, which would be collected with the other gifts and dropped off at Metropolitan Ministries the next day. At the end of the mixer, we ended up collecting 46 gifts, including toys, dolls, books, and games, and gift cards totaling over $150.

Each gift donated earned the contributor one ticket that was entered in a drawing for three prizes, which included two special prizes of $25 gift cards to Publix and one grand prize of a $50 gift card to Roy’s Restaurant. Congratulations to Mary Haban, APR, for winning the grand prize this year!

Our gift donations. Thank you, contributors!

The mixer was our last event for the year and was preceded by a farewell message earlier in the week by our 2016 president, Jennifer Dunn, APR. 

The Public Service Committee thanks everyone who donated to the toy drive and helped our chapter give back to the community through our activities this year. Stay tuned to the PRSA Tampa Bay website for more ways you can help us serve in 2017. 

The mixer is the chapter’s last event for the year. Stay posted for an announcement on our January event soon. 


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Farewell Message from Jenn Dunn

As this year draws to a close and my time as president comes to an end, I’m humbled as I reflect on what we’ve accomplished this year as a chapter. I’m also forever indebted to this organization for what it has done for me, both professionally and personally.

As one of the largest PRSA chapters in our state, the Tampa Bay chapter has been fortunate to meet so many new members this year as well as reconnect and engage with members who have been a part of our organization for years. Through top-notch programming, this year we took a glimpse into the world of NFL PR with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, provided valuable facetime with local media at our annual Media Roundtable, and even had the honor of hosting author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector Peter Shankman.

Through our chapter’s nationally-recognized Accreditation program, we welcomed four new APRs into our ranks, bringing our total number of accredited members to 73. Now in its second year, we increased our total number of submissions to our chapter’s annual PRestige Awards by ten percent over last year. We even successfully filled nearly 100 percent of our chapter’s volunteer positions through the efforts of our tireless chapter volunteer coordinators.

We’ve also taken great strides to invest in our membership, the next generation of PR professionals, and our community. This year, our chapter hosted two successful membership mixers on both sides of the Bay, chock full of networking and connections (and don’t forget – our final membership mixer of the year will be held on Dec. 15!). We worked closely with our local PRSSA chapter at the University of South Florida to host specialized events and provide them access to our professionals and development opportunities, as well as provided scholarships to benefit students majoring in public relations. I’m proud to say we also made it a priority to give back to our local community through a public service event benefitting the Hillsborough Education Foundation and a holiday toy drive in support of Metropolitan Ministries.

As we look forward to 2017, I can attest that the future is bright for our chapter. Our 2017 board of directors is comprised of a stellar group of new leaders, including current president-elect and my friend, Bobby Eagle, APR. Under his leadership, I have no doubt that our chapter will rise to even greater heights.

It’s been my distinct honor and privilege to have served as your chapter president this year. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity – one I’ve aspired to for several years as both a member and volunteer leader of our chapter. It’s because of you, our members, that I’ll look back fondly on this experience. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your dedication and commitment to PRSA Tampa Bay and industry, as a whole.

Best wishes always,

Jennifer Dunn, APR

President, PRSA Tampa Bay

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You’d Better Watch Out... for Holiday Clichés!

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

The holiday season is upon us, and along with those old holiday decorations we pull out and dust off are those shopworn clichés that we uncover and inundate our language with each December.

While it's true that PR pros, journalists and marketers fall back on familiar phrases at this time of year, it's also true that these phrases have become dull and lifeless after many years of use. Clichés are only effective if they can be used with a fresh twist or in an ironic tone. What’s more, one of the worst things about clichés is that by falling back on them we don’t stretch our writing muscles. We don’t try to find that perfect turn of phrase that could capture a reader's attention and indelibly bring a situation to life.

So resist trying to set the mood with clichés such as “you’d better watch out,” “have yourself a merry little,” or “it’s beginning to look a lot like,” or most other phrases that come from a popular song, poem, story or movie. This is not to say you shouldn't try to cleverly inject some holiday allusions when called on to do so for a client or campaign, but dedicate the time necessary to craft something original or provocative. That's what will break through the clutter of clichés competing for everyone’s attention.

With that in mind, here are some clichés to try to avoid in your prose, along with a couple of notes to remember on some other wintertime terms that are often miswritten and misunderstood.

Good luck with your writing this holiday season.

Holiday Clichés to Stamp Out

  • Christmas came early - Please, do not use.
  • Dickens - Give the famous author of A Christmas Carol a rest and stay away from ghosts of anything past, present or future. Also keep “bah” and “humbug” out of your copy.
  • Jolly old elf - Don’t use it. And if you must use “Kriss Kringle,” remember the double “s” in the first name.
  • Old Man Winter, Jack Frost - Leave these and other moldy personifications in storage.
  • Ring out, ring in - Please do not “ring out” or “ring in” an old year, a new year or anything else.
  • ‘Tis the season - This one cannot be made fresh. Do not try it.
  • ‘Twas the night before - “'Twasing” is no more defensible than “’tising.” (And if you refer to the Clement Moore poem, the proper title is A Visit from St. Nicholas.)
  • White stuff - If this phrase ever had any originality, it’s long since lost it.

Other Misunderstood Wintertime Words 

  • Xmas - This abbreviation should not be used in formal writing, although it isn’t a slang word. The word is  derived from Greek, in which the letter “X” represents the first letter (chi) of the Greek word for Christ (Χριστος). In the early days of printing when typesetting was tedious and costly, abbreviations were common. For this reason, churches began to use “X” for “Christ” and from there it moved into general use in commercial printing. Hence, the pronunciation “ex-mus” is a misinterpretation of this abbreviation.
  • Hanukkah - This is the official AP style spelling of this holiday, but it is also spelled correctly a number of other ways (“Chanukah,” “Channukah,” “Hanuka” or “Hanukka”) because the name is translated in different ways from the Hebrew letters.

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Member Spotlight: Kimberly Polacek, APR

This Member Spotlight profiles Kimberly Polacek, APR, who is account coordinator for Moffitt Cancer Center. Kimberly is the 2016 secretary of PRSA Tampa Bay, has served in several positions in the chapter, including as Digital Communications Committee chair in 2015 and Social Media Committee member in 2014, and has been a member of the chapter for four years.

1. First news publication you read in the morning?
As a former television news producer, I turn to television as my first source for information and watch both local and national broadcasts. When I get to work, I usually peruse Google News for headlines.

2. First public relations job?
Account Executive at The Publicity Agency in Tampa.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?
Since I chose to seek my APR relatively early in my PR career, this made the experience a little more stressful than it typically is, but I was very fortunate to have PRSA Tampa Bay members Suzanne Grant, APR, and Karen Frashier, APR, Fellow PRSA, take me under their wings and shepherd me through the process. Both provided great advice and support, helped me stop doubting myself, and made me realize I thoroughly understand public relations and all that comes with it – a lesson that stuck with me long after I passed the APR test.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
“First annual.” Please use “inaugural” instead.

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
It involved one of my internal clients at Moffitt, the Government Relations Department, and my work with that group in the planning of Moffitt Day, our annual day of advocacy at the Florida Capitol. Our 10th anniversary Moffitt Day event was a special one, and the success far surpassed my institution’s day in Tallahassee, with my public relations campaign for the event winning three local PR awards and two state PR awards.

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and offer suggestions. It is so easy to get stuck in the “we’ve always done it that way” state of mind.

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
I’ve already done it. I was a television news producer for 10 years before making the leap into public relations, but if I had to have a third career, it would probably be as a chef or baker.

8. Favorite movie?
I watch a lot of movies and have had many favorites over the years. My top two are Love Actually and Serendipity.

9. Favorite vacation?
In 2008, I had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands with a group of friends – the first time I had been on a cruise and out of the country – and my friend’s brother happened to be a singer on the cruise who was able to take us to all the best local spots on each island. In the Cayman Islands, we ventured to a swim-up bar at the famous Treasure Island Resort and played on Seven Mile Beach, and, in Jamaica, we were led by locals deep into the rainforest to jump off waterfalls – amazing!

10. Any three dinner guests?
Gilda Radner, Lauren Graham and Diane Keaton.

 Me jumping off the Blue Hole waterfall in Jamaica in 2008.






I helped my best friend, Stephanie, mark an item off her bucket list when we completed the Disney Marathon in 2011.

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Highlights from #PRSAICON

By Bart Graham, Sr.

Hosted by the PRSA Hoosier Chapter in Indianapolis, Indiana and located at the Indiana Convention Center.

At the PRSA 2016 International Conference, I had the opportunity to enhance my personal and professional network while engaging with some of the world’s most influential companies and organizations that call Indiana home. Read on to hear more about my experience at #PRSAICON.

It all began with the opening general session.  What a session! Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles and IndyCar driver Conor Daly welcomed us to Indianapolis and got the attendees pumped up.  Did you know that the track has had three 100 year celebrations?  Keynote speakers were Human Rights Advocate Derreck Kayongo and NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly.  Did you know that Scott Kelly was exposed to the equivalent of 20 chest rays worth of radiation every day he was in space?

Professional Development Session #1, Writing without BS:  Copy Strategy for Today’s Readers by Josh Bernoff, president, WOBS LLC.  Key points taken away were to treat readers’ time as more valuable than your own and use brevity.  Did you know that the average daily hours spent on your smartphone is 3.3 hours?

The “Florida Delegation” got together for a meet and greet and networking at the High Velocity Sports Bar.  It is nice to be at a large conference and know other people that are attending.  Networking is key to our industry and a good time was had by all. 

PRSA Tampa Bay members Diane Jones, Jenny Blevins, and Beth Watts

The day’s events were capped off by the race themed Opening Night Reception: “Start Your Engines”.  An outstanding event that was planned by the PRSA Hoosier Chapter.  I felt like I was back at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg:

Day two kicked off with Keynote speaker, Cybersecurity Expert Theresa Payton.  

She stated that most companies and individuals have had their security breached or will be breached.  She posed these questions to the attendees.  Have you changed your secret answers recently?  Does your company have a backup plan in case of a cyber-attack? 

The next Keynote speaker was NCAA President Mark Emmert and he was interviewed by award-winning broadcaster Jack Ford.  The NCAA is based out of Indianapolis.  Did you know that when you are watching Saturday football and March Madness that you are only seeing 3% of the college sports that the NCAA controls?  They oversee 90 national championships, 19,000 teams, and 1,100 institutions. Wow!

The next PD session was From Apathy to Ambassadors:  Moving Audiences to Act.  The speakers were Deanna Martin, membership and communications director, American Society for Healthcare Engineerin;, Jay Love, CEO of Bloomerang; and Kate Snyder, principal strategist, Piper and Gold Public Relations.  Theories such as the 0/10/90 rule and “SMOT” were discussed but the key takeaway I found is that if your organization finds someone interested in them, you need to focus on them and make them feel special. On the flip side, there are people that may have no interest in you, your program, or your organization so you shouldn’t spend much if any time on them.

Next was the Business to Consumer Expert Express Session featuring Ann Wylie, president, Wylie Communications; Brandi Boatner, digital experience manager, IBM; and Rob Biesenbach, corporate communications consultant, Rob Biesenbach LLC.  Rob had us do an 18 word memory test.  The first word on the list was beach and 60% of us remembered that word.  The last word on the list was seagull and 75% of us remembered that word.  However, a number of people remembered the word sand and it wasn’t even on the list.  Did you know the human attention span is 8 seconds?  

Off to the Cocktail Reception with the Exhibitors.   IndyCar driver, Conor Daly was very accommodating.  

Joanna, Conor and Jenny Blevins

Third-Party Outlets: Mastering Media Relations in the Digital Age session:  Everybody was raving about Michael Smart.  So much so that he actually taught more than one session at the conference.  “Main stream media still matters” according to Michael but you may need to use creative ways to pitch them.  Pitching different producers is allowed.  Adding third party outlets adds credibility to your pitch.  But one of the main things is to know your target.  Spend 80% of your time on 20% of your top media outlets.


One of the final sessions I attended was PR Tactics to Boost Your Next BIG Event taught by Christy Glesing, APR, director of public relations, Well Done Marketing; Jennifer Hanson, senior communications director, Downtown Indy, Inc.; and Sabrina List, vice president of marketing and communication, 500 Festival.  Did you know that the Indy 500 parade ranks up there with the Rose Bowl Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? They mentioned how the use of celebrities will enhance your event.  But, you must always have an emergency management offsite PR center.

And, that is the end of my Indy adventure thanks to PRSA Tampa Bay! I encourage everybody to attend a PR conference.  You won’t be sorry. Speaking of, are you ready for lobster?  The next PRSA International Conference is set for Boston on October 8-10, 2017.


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2017 Board of Directors

A note from 2017 President, Bobby Eagle, APR

The elections for 2017 leadership of PRSA Tampa Bay have now concluded and produced an exceptionally strong list of new leaders for the year ahead, including the following individuals:

  • President: Bobby Eagle, APR
  • President-elect (2018 President): Mary Margaret Hull, APR
  • Treasurer: Jamie Williams
  • Secretary: Jenna Stock
  • Assembly Delegate: Diane Jones, APR
  • Board Members: Kim Polacek, APR; Elizabeth Watts, APR; Mike Flanagan

Although the officer elections are compete, there remain many opportunities for members to get involved in the year ahead, including to chair or serve on committees, or to support programs as well. If this is something you’re interested in doing – or even to learn more about the possibilities – please reach out to me or our Volunteer Coordinator Chair Bart Graham.

Without question the members of PRSA Tampa Bay are what make our chapter so strong. In 2016 we have made amazing strides as a chapter thanks to our outstanding leadership team and array of phenomenal volunteers. As upcoming president, I very much look forward to working closely with all of our officers, board members, committee chairs and other members to build on the progress that has been made and raise the bar even higher.

Congratulations to all our new leaders, and here’s to success in 2017!

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Speaker Spotlight: Sally Falkow, APR

Our November program will feature Sally Falkow, APR, CEO of Meritus Media, who will discuss how the new media landscape is changing the way we communicate with stakeholders.

Sally is an Accredited PR practitioner with an intense interest in the changing media landscape and the need for digital transformation in business. Her blog has been a resource on the intersection of PR and Technology since 2003.

Read below to find out more about Sally and make sure to register for our program on November 30 to discover the 10 most important digital skills you need in PR and marketing today and how to use these skills in your strategy and tactics.

1. Favorite thing about your job? It’s never boring.It’s always challenging and I have to learn new things all the time.

2. Dogs or Cats? None at the moment – but I will be getting both soon.I want a white Turkish Van like this

3. Favorite social media channel? Twitter – so I hope all the predictions about it dying are not correct.  I am a Twitter-holic and have been on since early 2008.

4. Proudest moment of your career? Winning the PR Trainer of the Year award in 2009

5What is the most important digital skill PR pros should make sure to master? That’s a tough one.  Right now I’d say graphics and video, but measurement is a close second.

6. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Almond butter

7. What was the best piece of advice you got when starting your blog?Write for your audience.  Always post content of value that helps your readers.

8.  Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve? There/their/they;re  your/you’re.  I had a British education so I get very picky about grammar and spelling.  And how a sentence flows.

9.  Any three diner guests? Rebecca Lieb – author and speaker; Lee Childs – author of Jack Reacher books; Nelson Mandela


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Member Spotlight: Justine Giancola

This Member Spotlight profiles Justine Giancola, event marketing specialist at ABILITY Network and first-year member of PRSA Tampa Bay.

1. First news publication you read in the morning?Bay News 9 on TV and Fox News on Twitter.

2. First public relations job?My first job out of school was at Nicopure Labs, as a PR and event marketing specialist involved in media outreach, which has been my favorite facet of the PR world so far. I handled all of the company’s trade shows and was responsible for organizing media coverage at the events.

3. Most important career mentor, and why?
My first boss, Rich, who was my biggest cheerleader from the minute he interviewed me and who gave me guidance that helped me gain invaluable marketing experience. More than that, he brought out a confidence in me that I didn’t know I had, and having someone other than your parents see potential in you and push you to let that potential shine is truly a blessing.

4. Top grammar, style or writing pet peeve?
The misuse of the past tense and past participle, such as writing “he should have went” instead of “he should have gone.”

5. Most rewarding accomplishment in public relations?
In a publicist position I held in college, I was recognized as the most valuable intern and assigned to the agency’s largest client. The position involved a lot of last-minute assignments requiring extensive research with quick turnaround times, but being able to not only handle the work but succeed under that pressure was highly rewarding. 

6. Advice to new public relations professionals?
As a fairly new public relations professional, I would tell my peers to remain eager and take all opportunities available in order to learn and grow.

7. Job you would pursue if you weren’t in public relations?
Anything related to the fashion industry. Fashion designing, fashion writing, fashion photography – you name it, I’m sold.

8. Favorite movie?
Pretty Woman

9. Favorite vacation?
My first visit to New York City. I’ll never forget how the city made me feel – like there was so much possibility and opportunity to do anything you want to do – and I still feel it every time I go back.

10. Any three dinner guests?
Ronald Reagan, Anna Wintour and Pepper, my childhood dog.

Enjoying Central Park on a recent trip to New York.

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