Member Profile: Beth Foley
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Director, Corporate Communications at Pacific Gas and Electric Company
How did you get started in public relations/communications and what has your journey looked like?
I can thank a hermit crab, believe it or not. I was starting an internship in public relations with the City of Ocean City, New Jersey. When I went to meet with the city’s public relations lead, a salt-of-the-earth man named Mark Soifer, he told me to have a seat and get to know his hermit crab, Martin Z. Mollusk, while he finished up an interview with the New York Times. After Martin and I became acquainted, Mark proceeded to introduce me to the wonders of PR. Mark became and still is a mentor and inspiration. During that internship, I learned the importance of having passion for your customers, a dedicated work ethic, and, most importantly, a sense of humor.
Ocean City Public Relations Director Mark Soifer chats it up with a Martin Z. Mollusk lookalike.
Photo courtesy of DBKphoto.
And the road from there:While working full-time, I earned my Master of Art in professional communications at La Salle University (I have been privileged to be an instructor of graduate-level PR courses there, as well). I followed that with a stint at Villanova University, where I earned my Executive Master of Business Administration. I am an alumnus of Leadership Philadelphia as well as Leadership California.
Throughout my life, I have been reminded that while education is a big asset, the “street-smarts” you pick up from life experiences are equally important. Not being afraid to try new things and learn everything I can along the way has taught me some unforgettable lessons. You have to be willing to take an appropriate level of risk and be ready to fail sometimes – and then learn from those mis-steps. Some of my best lessons have come from my biggest mistakes.
I am also fortunate that this approach opened many exciting doors for me. Before relocating to San Francisco, I served as VP of Corporate Communications and VP of Marketing in different industries. I’ve worked for Fortune 200 companies, a startup, government and an agency. I’ve added marketing, financial communications, digital media, brand, advertising and a whole host of other functions to my professional portfolio because I am willing to say, “I am happy to take that on.”
It’s been an amazing journey so far – and it has happened with the help and encouragement of phenomenal people along the way.
What do you like the most about your career in public relations/communications?
I like the variety, the challenge and the reward.
Every day in PR brings new prospects and new challenges. I like this because it pushes me to think panoramically about the company, its brand and, most importantly, the customers. Mostly what I like is that communications has something very few functions possess – the ability to help shape policy for every part of the business.
I readily admit that all of this comes with a heavy price. PR is a 24/7 job, anywhere you go. It was 24/7 even when Martin and I were working together and it is even more so in the current environment. The professional Zen for me has always been that I start every morning and end every day thinking the same thing – my team and I are making a difference.
Tell us about a memorable moment in your career.
So many moments come to mind. At the top: hiring and leading incredibly talented and capable people. The ideas, energy and dedication of team members motivate and sustain me. There is nothing more memorable to me than seeing a well-deserving team member and/or mentee accomplish what he or she wants to achieve.
Why did you join PRSA and how does your membership benefit you?
I joined PRSA early in my career and I did so to broaden my professional portfolio by learning more about the communications channels with which I was familiar, and get introduced to those that were new to me. Unfortunately, I still haven’t tapped the even bigger benefit PRSA offers its members – networking. Interacting with others in our field is critical – to our growth and, more importantly, our sanity.