Meet our members!  We will periodically feature veteran and new PRSA San Francisco members, and tell the story of their public relations career.  If you would like to suggest a PRSA San Francisco member for a profile, please send an email to info@prsasf.org.

 

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Bilen Mesfin Packwood
Change Consulting, LLC

 

You have been in PR for many years.  Please tell us about your company and how long you’ve been in the PR field?

I have about 16 years of experience in media and communications. My first job out of college was in the communications department of a public television station in Nashville. I spent the first part of my career in journalism, working as a writer, editor and reporter. I crossed over into PR to work for then District Attorney Kamala D. Harris at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. My company, Change Consulting, LLC, was founded about seven years ago, and we provide communications strategy, media relations, social media and content development services.

Please share a few ways the industry has changed over the years and where you see it going.

One big change is, of course, that we are all media publishers now. When I first started, media companies and journalists used to generate the content that people could consume. They were the gatekeepers. Now, with blogging, social media and so much more, everyone can have an audience, a voice and a platform. How we consume news has also changed. We’re no longer just sitting in front of the television or waiting to read the morning paper. We’re consuming it all day and all night long, from multiple sources, and it’s a shared, collaborative experience with others. To me, the best PR efforts are the ones that have figured out how to take advantage of both shifts, are creating truly meaningful content, and are engaging target audiences not just as consumers, but also as partners and collaborators.

Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences with a client.

My favorite experiences usually are when clients “get” the value that communications brings to the table. I hosted monthly calls with one particular client team to discuss communications for their organization, answer any questions they may have, and give them feedback on the strategies they were putting in place. And I got very excited when I saw the progress they were making, from an organization that didn’t prioritize communication to one that saw the practice as a core one. My second favorite moments are usually when strategies that we spend months devising and executing pay off with great results.

Which industry does the majority of your clients come from and why?

My company serves primarily nonprofits and foundations. My goal when I first started my business was to use strategic communications for social change. I think media and communications are some of the most powerful tools in the world, and my vision is to use to them to advance good and create systemic change in partnership with Changemakers. It’s very important to me not just to build a career, but to also live a life or purpose and meaning. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

What’s your best advice to the new generation of PR professionals?

The first is that this industry is always changing, so it’s important to stay current and not be afraid to invest in our own professional and personal development. Keep learning. The second is that the more things change, the more some things stay the same. The tools and tactics may change but at the core, PR is about people, and being respectful of others, having integrity, being generous, and treating people well, as much as one can, are the things that really count.