March 29, 2019

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March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate, the PRSA San Francisco Bay Area chapter this year recognizes a local woman in PR who has more than 20 years of experience in public relations, internal communications, marketing, and journalism, has worked for two of the biggest technology companies in the world - Google and Facebook, has been a PRSA member since 2004, and has previously served as PRSA San Francisco Bay Area Chapter President. We are proud to announce that the 2019 PRSA San Francisco Bay Area Chapter PR Woman of the Year award goes to Netta Conyers-Haynes, Head of Communications for Google Maps. We asked Netta a few questions to learn more about her career and her advice for PR professionals looking to grow their careers.

Tell us the story about how you got into public relations?

It was pure happenstance or maybe destiny. I had planned to be a broadcast journalist, telling important and complicated stories that needed to be told. I wanted to do a mix of investigative journalism and inspiring human interest stories. I stumbled on PR while an undergrad student at San Jose State University studying journalism. At the time I worked at a tech company, Navigation Technologies, in the Finance/HR department and a colleague and I decided to publish a company newsletter. We were asked to run it by PR, which led to a meeting with the PR manager. I didn’t even know what PR meant. I remember pitching our newsletter to the PR manager and asking her about her role. I was intrigued and soon realized there could be some interesting opportunities telling corporate stories. I was gaining a lot of valuable corporate experience, and broadcast journalism began to feel limiting. Also, I wasn’t too keen on moving to a small market to launch my broadcast career. PR was my plan B and eventually, I switched my major to public relations. The rest is history.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career?

In 2000, I quit my job as a PR manager of a tech company to start my own consultancy business.  When I met with my manager to resign, she immediately volunteered to be my first client. It was a bold move for me, I didn’t know what it took to start or run my own business, but I was determined to figure things out and more importantly do the type of work I most enjoyed. What a ride that was.

What experience did you learn the most from? Would you have done anything differently?

Starting my own communications business was the greatest learning experience of my career. As a solopreneur, I did the work and managed all aspects of the business. I learned how to manage marketing for a small business (before social media), negotiate contracts, track invoices, and payments, and offer communication services to multiple clients all at the same time. It was challenging, but I believe we learn the most when we’re really pushing ourselves. There are a few things I would do differently, for starters I’d enlist the help of a mentor early on.

What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in PR over the course of your career?

So much as changed, from the way we tell stories to the channels we use to the speed in which we communicate. The biggest change, however, is one I’ve enjoyed watching evolve over time -- the emergence of internal communications as an essential strategic business function.  I remember a time when companies did not have an internal communications function, no one was really thinking about how internal comms impacts the bottom line, retention or culture, and PR professionals were not interested in employee experience efforts. The field is still evolving, but more companies are dedicating resources to internal communications.

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

Know your stuff. Whether you’re doing PR for a tech company or non-profit, develop a deep understanding of the business, its products, industry trends, competitors and overall strategy. We’re in the business of storytelling and influencing, to do that well you need to be able to explain complex issues effectively. So as you’re thinking about your new role or applying to a new company, make sure you’re really interested in their business because you’ll need to get deep into it.