Safeway's PR & Diversity Leader: Teena Massingill
To celebrate and shine a light on Black History Month, we wanted to profile a dynamo Bay Area PR leader who specializes in diversity. Naturally, that led us to the impressive Teena Massingill, Director of Corporate Public Affairs & Diversity at Albertsons Companies and Safeway, Inc. This natural-born storyteller started as a journalist before moving into PR at Safeway.
What was your journey to the field of public relations?
I landed in PR because I’m a storyteller at heart, and I’m always looking for the next
story to share with the world. I fervently believe that, when I was born, I looked at the
delivery room doctor and said, “Wow, you have an interesting job. How did you end
up in this line of work?”
For the first part of my career, I was a reporter. I’d majored in broadcast journalism
but became a newspaper reporter because I didn’t get opportunities in broadcast to
really dig deep into a topic and unearth the golden nuggets that transform random
facts into compelling stories. Not that those opportunities didn’t exist. They were
there, but just hard to come by for general assignment reporters at small radio and TV
stations that needed reporters to churn out multiple stories a day to fill a newscast.
I worked in print journalism for about a decade until 2001, when print publications
suffered costly repercussions from the industry-wide practice of posting their content
online for free. My newspaper then offered buyouts, so I decided to try my hand at
another career in storytelling.
As an aside, I recently read an article about a study that concluded that most former
reporters still identify as journalists years after they’d left the profession. Once a
reporter, always a reporter, even if your current job involves fielding media questions
rather than asking them.
I left journalism and became the PR manager for Safeway’s Northern California
division. Safeway is now part of Albertsons Companies. Each day I’m amazed and
thankful that I still get to live my dream of being a storyteller. When I first
transitioned into PR, I thought I’d have to relegate my joy of research and writing to a
pastime, but I do it every single day. My focus on Albertsons Companies’
PR/communications team is philanthropy, sustainability, and diversity. There’s no end
to the messaging and news coming from these areas.
Please give us one of the highlight moments or events of your career?
I’ve been fortunate to have many amazing moments in my nearly 19 years in PR.
Working for a large company in the Fortune 100 lends itself to many opportunities for exciting experiences and pinch-myself moments. However, the highlights of my
career don’t involve spending time with famous people (though meeting Clint
Eastwood was cool) or attending formal galas. (I prefer date night with my hubby.)
The times that I’ll always remember, the most fulfilling and meaningful moments of
my career are the times I’ve helped create something that promised to have a
tremendous positive impact on someone’s life. This isn’t about PR, but rather the
work that becomes the basis of a story. It’s the fundraiser. It’s the community
outreach program. It’s the commitment to make a change because the industry, the
environment, and the communities we serve need leaders, not just businesses.
Then, after I helped launch the program or played a role in its success, I tell the story.
What is a misconception people may have about the public relations industry?
My mother once said she envied me because, at the time, my job involved a fair
amount of travel, event planning, and social gatherings. Little did she know that, by
the time the event started, I was so tired that all I wanted was for everything to go off
without a hitch, make it through to the end, and enjoy a glass of wine…or two.
If you were to teach a class in public relations, what would it be and why did you choose this particular topic?
It’s a toss-up between Communication Ethics and Crisis Communications.
I am always amazed at the number of students who graduate without having taken an
ethics course in their field of study. There are ethical considerations for every
profession, but in communications, ethics are key to the credibility of your
client/company and your own professional reputation.
Crisis Communications is a critical skill that every PR pro must master. In today’s “all-
media, all-the-time” culture, any business, elected official, nonprofit, or random
person on the street can become the next viral video or story. You can help them get
through it, preserve their brand (or rebuild it), and avoid making the same mistake in
What gems of thought would you like to share with everyone reading this article?
Everybody is a star. It’s your job to help them shine brighter.