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.

Kelly Kimberly, APR

Why did you join PRSA and what is one of your favorite benefits that the organization provides?

I joined PRSA more than 25 years ago because I think it is important to stay current on trends and issues in our industry and PRSA is the best organization at facilitating this. I enjoy both the speakers and the opportunities to connect with other members at chapter events. Additionally, as a PR consultant, demonstrating expertise in your field is obviously important and I knew early on in my career that I wanted to earn my accreditation. I did so as soon as I was eligible and found it a great experience. I would encourage anyone considering going through the accreditation process to do it.

Living here part time and having recently established a presence for my firm, Kimberly Public Affairs, in the Bay Area, I have just joined the San Francisco chapter as well. I really like the type of networking opportunities the chapter offers; there is more time for idea sharing and getting to know people than the traditional lunches, which is the main activity my Houston chapter offers. Since we are based in Oakland, I like that the chapter spreads the meetings around geographically; I also think the meeting planners find really interesting venues and that makes it fun.

Tell us a little about your background in the industry, including how long you’ve been in the profession, and share a few ways it has changed over the years and where you see it going.

I have been in the industry for more than 30 years. I fell into the profession after I had obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with the intent of pursuing a PhD in the field. I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. My boss at my first job in a non-profit felt I had budding public relations skills and put me in that role. I found that I loved public relations, went on to earn a Master’s in Communication and haven’t looked back.

Everyone knows that a major game changer in the industry is social media and digital communication. Two observations I have here are on social media’s impact on crisis communication and the importance of thought and authenticity when striving to participate in this arena.

From a crisis perspective, there is no such thing as a location that is too isolated or an incident too small to garner attention. This means communicators need to be hyper vigilant in monitoring and preparing for potential impact of a crisis while balancing a timely response with not overreacting. And, thanks to the Internet, crises live on, so online reputation management has become a necessary component of public relations for many companies.

The second issue related to social media is a quality issue. People feel a tremendous pressure to produce and disseminate “content” to be relevant and visible. They sometimes forget about the importance of quality and consistency to their brand. Producing good content takes a lot of work. It needs consistent messaging across platforms and still needs to be well written and engaging.

Measurement has always been a key element of a strategic PR program, but I think it will become increasingly important as our clients and we recognize that we need to be able to measure the value of our multi-channel communication initiatives.  I am pleased to see the PR profession becoming more integrated with our sister disciplines and I believe this will continue.

Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences during your career.

I particularly like working on CSR and sustainability projects. A memorable experience was launching a social enterprise that developed a business model to successfully deploy an affordable technology for purifying water in poor rural economies. My firm handled the communication across the full spectrum of audiences. We had direct interface with villages where the projects were being developed in Africa and India and we worked with the international community that was helping put the company on the map as well as international media. Seeing the end result of a project changing the lives and health of people was extremely rewarding and I am proud that our efforts helped play a part.

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

Some of it is pretty basic. Work on your writing; it does matter. Good writing will always be a tool of the trade.  Be informed; know about current events and strive to understand the industry of your employer or your clients.

If you are asked if there’s something you’d like to work on or learn, speak up. You are squandering the opportunity if you are hesitant to assert yourself. If you are asked to try something new or pitch in on a project that isn’t a neat fit for your job description, say yes. What’s the worst that could happen?