Wrapping up this Women’s History Month, we’re featuring some inspirational—and insightful—answers by women in the PR business to the question: Knowing what you now know about work and success, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
There is no crystal ball. You don’t know where you will end up, so enjoy the journey and enjoy wherever it takes you. Work as hard as you can and learn as much as you can. Be curious, be inquisitive, and ask a lot of questions. Be indispensable. Always do your best and impress with your enthusiasm. Build lasting relationships.—Tami Hausman, Hausman LLC
If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. Go out there and get it.—Liz Torres, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Play the long game and don’t look for shortcuts.—Amy Lyons, SHIFT Communications
Be the person everyone want to work with and ultimately you’ll be the person everyone wants to work for.—Catherine Hernandez-Blades, Aflac
In recognition of Women’s History Month, we’re asking leading practitioners to talk about what drew them to the AEC industries. Lisa Anders, Vice President of Business Development at McKissack & McKissack, has more than two decades of construction project management experience in both public and private sectors. Holding a BS in Civil Engineering from Howard University and a MBA from the University of Maryland, she was senior program director for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and senior project manager for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
“As a child I gravitated towards activities and toys that required creativity and assembly, like Lego, woodworking, and building model trains and rockets. I was into science and math, and loved art. I strongly considered going pre-med, but chose to pursue civil engineering instead because it seemed to capture all of my interests. Although I like the living sciences, I followed my passion of building things over rebuilding people! I have been thoroughly satisfied with my choice. It has been very rewarding, and I feel blessed to enjoy a career that contributes to the enhancement of the world in which we live.”
As a Minority/Women Owned Business, we’re pleased to see the many ways Women’s History Month is being observed. One celebration has particular relevance for us: The role of women in the PR business is the focus of a new exhibition at the Museum of Public Relations and Library. The opening of the show was marked by a panel discussion of the contributions women have made to the industry over the years; participants included Karen Russell, University of Georgia; Meg Lamme, University of Alabama; Karla Gower, University of Alabama and director of the Plank Center; Muriel Fox, co-founder and PR director for the National Organization for Women; and Anne Bernays, novelist, teacher, and daughter of PR pioneer Doris Fleischman Bernays.
Open by appointment, the museum is home to the world’s largest collection of historic public relations materials and artifacts. Books, journals, letters, posters, audio tapes, and films chronicle the evolution of the field and the innovative women—and men—who help shape the way we see the world.
This month, we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to feature a few of the women in communications that we most admire. We kicked off our March series in honor of Women’s History Month with a spotlight on Tracey A. Reeves, Director of Media Relations for Johns Hopkins University.
In this post, we’re shifting our gaze to the world of journalism. Editor Linda O’Flanagan (pictured at center, above) and reporters Sarah Trefethen and Holly Dutton (pictured above, at left and right, respectively) make up 75% of the editorial staff at Real Estate Weekly, which covers news affecting the commercial, residential and industrial New York real estate markets. To read more about how these women found their way to the paper, click here.
What did you think you would be when you “grew up” — and are you doing that now?
Linda: I initially wanted to be a veterinarian, but when I discovered what that entailed, I changed my mind. I am a wimp at heart, and although I still love animals, I can’t even cut my cat’s nails — never mind perform surgery!
What has always driven me in my work is my love of the human spirit, as dramatic as that sounds. People never cease to amaze me, and telling their stories allows me to be a part of that. Whether they have designed a magnificent building, figured out the engineering, carved the stonework or even sold the apartments, the passion that people have for their work can be infectious. I aspire to transfer that passion through the written word and, hopefully, inspire and amaze other people.
Sarah: There’s a scene in Superman II where Lois Lane is climbing up an elevator shaft spelling out the words “Pulitzer Prize” to keep up her spirits. I loved that scene as a kid. I spent my teens and most of my twenties traveling and collecting experiences rather than building a career, but when I finally decided to pick something to be when I grew up, that came back to me. I am, however, yet to find myself trapped in an elevator shaft.
Holly: Growing up, I was always interested in the news and I loved to read and write. I would religiously watch evening news broadcasts and shows like 20/20 as a young child. I remember setting up my own “news” broadcast with a video camera in my father’s home office in elementary school and then self-penning a school newsletter in junior high.
When I reached high school, I took a journalism elective my freshman year. One of our first assignments was to write a hard news story about a current event. The writing felt completely natural to me and exciting, and that’s when I knew for sure I wanted to go into journalism. In my senior year of high school, I took a photography class and fell in love with it, so I ended up combining my two passions and studying photojournalism in college. Now, at 28, I’m writing and photographing for a living and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
How have you seen women evolve in your profession since you started?
Linda: There are many women working in the field today. Frankly, I am of the school that your gender shouldn’t matter, although I know that it does, particularly in an industry dominated by men. My inclination is always to simply do my best and conduct myself in a professional manner and I encourage any young woman entering the business to do the same. Fear is what will hold you back in any business, so I say embrace the challenge and nothing will hold you back.
As a communications professional, what do you feel is your most important responsibility?
Holly: I feel that my most important responsibility as a reporter is to communicate all aspects of a story as best as I can. I want someone reading one of my stories to be engaged, find the story easy to understand, and feel that I covered all the bases and didn’t leave them with any unanswered questions.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Linda: Undoubtedly it is meeting people. Whether they are amazing, inspirational, genius or downright dumb, the diversity of the world really floats my boat. I have been lucky enough to meet great business leaders, celebrities, athletes, and regular Joes, and every one of them has impacted my life.
One big secret that few people know: I still enjoy writing obituaries. You can rarely tell from just looking at someone the kind of life they have lived. I love to see beyond that and get a glimpse of what made them who they were.
In honor of Women’s History Month, for our March installment of Design on the Haus, we are shining the spotlight on women in the field of communications who inspire us. We think it’s important to share their stories, and we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!
In our first post, we’re featuring Tracey A. Reeves, the Director of Media Relations for Johns Hopkins University. Tracey was born in Syracuse, New York, and raised on Cape Cod. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, she spent a decade at the Washington Post working as a reporter and editor. She was also a national staff writer for Knight-Ridder Newspapers and a reporter for the Providence Journal.
Tracey has been a Casey Journalism Center Fellow and a Knight Center for Specialized Journalism Fellow. In 1998, she shared in the Pulitzer Prize for public service awarded to the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald. Tracey is an avid reader, writer, sports fan and news junkie. She resides in Columbia, Maryland, with her husband and twin sons.
Here’s her story:
These days it can be difficult to find a job in the field that you trained for and that you love. I was one of those kids who knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer, specifically, a news writer. I decided this following a series of events that started after I read Maya Angelou’s coming-of-age autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
My career path became more clearly defined when I was in college and heard of the death of Jessica Savitch, a television news broadcaster who at the time was one of my favorite journalists. I combined my love of writing and news and embarked on a print journalism career beginning at my hometown paper in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and ending at the Washington Post, where I worked for more than a decade as a reporter and editor.
I was drawn to journalism because I’ve always believed in telling stories about truth and triumph and injustice and hope. Now, as Director of Media Relations at Johns Hopkins University, I am still doing what I love – writing and editing and communicating stories, only now the stories are about the wonders of discovery and innovation and the advancement of human knowledge.
When I first thought about a career in journalism and communications, I was hesitant. Many of the reporters and anchors I had seen on television were men. The same was true for the bylines I studied in the major newspapers. Even fewer were African American women. I pushed on, however, hoping that my writing and communications skills would take me where I wanted to go — and they did. Sure, there were bumps along the road, assignments I believe lost out on because I was a young woman (maybe even a black woman). Even now, I am mindful of the fact that as a minority woman, I am held to a higher standard than my non-female minority counterparts.
To the young women considering or just embarking on a career in communications, I would say develop your own writing voice and style and find a veteran to mentor you. Pack on the skills. Learn how to tell a multi-platform story through words, photos and video. Know your subject matter, pay attention to your own delivery of messages and polish your public speaking skills. You never know when you might be called upon to make a presentation or serve as a spokesperson in a crisis. Lastly, believe in yourself. If you don’t, they won’t.