Meet the Board: Alison Hawkes, Director of Professional Development
Tell us about yourself and your current role.
I'm a public affairs officer at NASA's Ames Research Center, coordinating a variety of projects in the science portfolio and one of the leads in media relations. I really enjoy the process of taking complex, technical topics and finding a way to make them accessible to wide public audiences through easily-accessible language and good storytelling. NASA has so many amazing and inspirational stories to share, and in the context of so much negative news, I feel like I have a meaningful role to play in showing that government can dream big and accomplish great things.
How did you get into PR?
I was a journalist for almost two decades, and felt like the employment realities of the media industry were no longer meeting my long term career needs and goals. My passion and skill-set were in writing, editing and story-telling, and I thought long and hard about where I could successfully apply these to my favorite topics in science. Science communications through public relations became a very natural outgrowth of all my previous journalism work, and I have learned so much since I made the transition in 2017. I still get to tell good stories about science, reach broad public audiences, and interact with media -- but I also get to work on the inside with some of the most brilliant and dedicated teams of scientists and engineers in the world.
What do you love about PR?
I really love the problem-solving drive toward communications. The strategic element of applying communications tools to achieving defined results is so fascinating and rewarding, and one in which I see so much area for growth professionally. I also so very much appreciate working with teams. In journalism I often felt like a lone wolf, but in PR teamwork is built into almost everything I do, so I enjoy the collaborative and social aspect of this profession.
Why are you in PRSA-SF? What do you feel the benefits have been for you?
I recently obtained my APR and I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement of PRSA-SF and the wider PRSA community -- the APR was such a rewarding process for me to go through and has greatly expanded my understanding of this profession and what we are called to do. Beyond that, connecting with other local public relations professionals through networking and other events has been wonderful.
What are you hoping to accomplish during your year as director of professional development with PRSA-SF?
I want to bring about opportunities for our members to grow professionally and broaden their horizons in this rapidly-changing communications and media landscape. None of us can stay stagnant and expect to be employed. What is on the horizon for public relations and how do we all prepare to meet new realities of our profession? I want to create a number of forums where members can discuss, learn and grow. If you are a PRSA-SF member and have an idea, please reach out to me!
What's one piece of advice you wish you would have known when you started out in PR?
Oh my gosh, I made so many mistakes when I first started out! It takes time to truly find your voice and personal/professional communications style so that you can be influential and respected among your colleagues and clients while remaining authentic to yourself. Also, spend a ton of time learning the culture of your workplace and listening/observing because that's where you will understand how to be effective.
What are some of your hobbies? What do you do for fun?
I have two school-aged kids, so that accounts for most of my freetime! I have many hobbies that I want to do, but honestly all it takes for me to be on Cloud-9 is a long walk or run to the beach while listening to my podcasts. I'm a news junkie.