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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Shannon Eliot
Communications Manager
Exploratorium

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

I joined PRSA to meet other professionals and stay apprised of updates in the field. One my favorite benefits is the on-demand webinar series, which I feel has saved me more than a few times. Working in the nonprofit sector, I often find myself as the highest-ranking professional in my field within my organization and don't always have a mentor. In such a situation, I take a DIY approach to my professional development, and PRSA has been hugely helpful with that.

You have been in PR for 6 years.  Share a few ways it has changed over the years and where you see it going.

I worked as a journalist both during and right after college, then made the switch to Communications. While the lines are sometimes blurred, I would say I've been doing PR/Communications work for around 6 years. In that short time, I've seen the profession change in that more Communications pros are producing quality original content, much like a journalist would...and I love it! The press release market is saturated, and many releases are not executed particularly well, so it's crucial to get your message out in a variety of new ways, whether that's through blogging, social, video, etc. Of course, you still need to be pitching a quality story (the vehicle of delivery doesn't change that), but I feel with evolving methods and technologies, PR professionals have a unique opportunity to be more creative and inventive than ever before.

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

One of my most memorable experiences was definitely my most challenging, but I guess that's usually how it goes. A few months after starting a new position, I was thrown head-first into leading a major crisis communications initiative -- one that could influence the reputation for my organization for years to come, for better or worse. For a few months, I lived and breathed the process of research, trust-building with senior management, and running through all possible outcomes. I am happy to say that due to preparation and teamwork, the results were as good as we could have hoped. While sleep and leisure time didn't exist for a while, I grew tremendously and now have experience I may not have otherwise had. Sometimes there is something to be said for sink-or-swim situations!

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

For me, I always prioritize the relationship over the pitch. If you approach journalists as people with a respect for what they are trying to achieve -- instead of merely a transaction to complete or deal to close -- you will reap rewards over time. Remember that this industry is relationship-based, and relationships take time. Be kind to yourself. You're not going to get all your placements on the first try. Be patient and strive to be a decent human being. If you work hard, continually educate yourself, and prioritize having a high degree of emotional intelligence, you will have nothing to worry about.