Member Profile: Stephen M. Shivinsky
Meet Stephen M. Shivinsky,
Vice President, Corporate Communications, Blue Shield of California
We 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why did you join PRSA and what is one of your favorite benefits that the organization provides?
I joined PRSA a long, long time ago (I believe it was in 1984) for the professional development and networking opportunities. Since then, I have been president of the Columbus, Ohio Chapter, served on the Detroit and San Francisco Chapter Boards, had numerous roles at the national level including serving on the national board and foundation board. In that time, the best thing by far is the network I developed – and the friends I’ve made – across the country, quite literally from Alaska to New Hampshire.
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.
Presently, I’m responsible for implementing a reputation management strategy for Blue Shield, including issues and crisis management, media relations, marketing communications and corporate citizenship/corporate social responsibility. I joined Blue Shield in May, 2011 following 15 years at Trinity Health, a hospital system with operations in ten states and corporate offices in suburban Detroit. I have more than 30 years of health care public relations experience. Previously, I directed the public relations and marketing communications at two leading medical centers in Columbus, Ohio (Riverside Methodist Hospitals and Grant Medical Center). I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and began my career there in 1983 directing public relations for a medical research laboratory. Two years later, I joined a public relations firm as account supervisor and department director for a local hospital system (Millard Fillmore Hospitals). I moved to Columbus in 1987 and to Detroit in 1996. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Media Communication from Medaille College, Buffalo, NY. He is past president of the Central Ohio PRSA Chapter. In 2003, Trinity Health won public relations’ highest honor, the PRSA Silver Anvil, for “Trinity Health Retirement Redesign: Communicating Benefit Changes” (with Watson Wyatt Worldwide). Personally, I’m married and live in Walnut Creek. I have three sons, ages 26, 22 and 20. I enjoy cooking, baking pies, long-distance cycling and listening to jazz. Of course the most fundamental change since I started my career was and is the internet. When I started work, we used fax machines, US Mail (gasp!) and pink “while you were out” telephone message slips. Say no more. But what has not changed is the need for sharp, accurate, talented writing, the ability to build high performing teams and work effectively with executive management.
Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences during your career.
Well, there have been so many…. But one in particular that I’ll never forget happened while I was public relations director at a trauma hospital in Columbus, Ohio in the early ‘90s. The CEO and I secretly planned a crisis simulation that included the fictitious crash of one of the hospital’s medical helicopters. The simulation was so real that we received media calls asking to confirm the incident from Dayton and Cincinnati. The head of the trauma division demanded that the CEO and I resign for causing genuine shock and grief among the trauma team. While we kept our jobs, the CEO and I had to personally apologize to the entire trauma team of surgeons and nurses.
What’s your best advice to the new generation of PR professionals?
In our profession, there are no shortcuts when it comes to working hard, writing well, building your network and always doing so with a positive attitude.