Member Profile: Heather Sliwinski
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.
Account Supervisor, Grayling
How did you get started in public relations/communications and what has your journey looked like?
Writing has always been my passion. I had my heart set on being a writer since middle school and a journalist since high school, but when I took my first communications course in college and learned about the influencing world of PR, I was sold. I loved that PR blended writing with problem solving and business – and you get to shape public opinion as a bonus. After quite a few internships and positions in marketing and event planning during and after college, I landed at a boutique PR agency in Chicago, where I began my career in B2B media relations and social media. Since then, I’ve moved to San Francisco, where I have managed communications programs for the technology industry’s most innovative companies, including salesforce.com and VMware.
I love the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the industry and how every day brings new and exciting challenges. One of the things that I have had to tackle from the start is learning how to establish and maintain a work-life balance. Many people talk about this concept, but for me finding balance has been imperative because I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease several years ago. I have made it my mission to raise awareness about the illness, how to succeed in this industry with a chronic illness while coping with the crazy PR lifestyle. During my career, I have met and spoken with so many people suffering from similar health challenges, struggling to set the right balance. It inspired me to run a half marathon to help raise awareness and funding for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. While I am still a work in progress, I have learned a lot along the way and hope my story can be helpful to others.
What do you like the most about your career in public relations/communications?
I feel privileged that content I develop makes an impact on an organization’s success. When I am able to secure coverage in a top-tier business publication for my client or earn them recognition from an industry award, I have tangible proof of why I get out of bed in the morning – to help organizations achieve their business goals through communications.
In the technology industry specifically, I love being able to find the human angle to high-tech topics, showing how companies’ innovations are improving everyday life and making the world a better place. Being a part (however small) of those stories gives me great satisfaction.
Tell us about a memorable moment in your career.
At Dreamforce 2013, the largest software conference in the world, I had the opportunity to facilitate interviews between the media and the Prime Minister of Haiti Laurent Lamothe and actor Sean Penn, discussing how cloud computing has helped the country rebuild after the devastating earthquake in 2010. I never thought B2B tech PR would put me in the same room as the leader of a nation…and Spicoli.
Why did you join PRSA and how does your membership benefit you?
I joined PRSA as a new professional when I knew very few people in the industry – my goal was to not only build my network of PR professionals from whom I could learn, but also meet my peers who were just starting out after graduation. After about a year, I joined the New Professionals Section Executive Committee as blog co-chair, to work more closely with new professionals like me and gain visibility in the industry. The leadership experience I gained on the Committee has been invaluable – every PR job I’ve had was found through my PRSA network. I’ve met so many members through the blog – those who have guest blogged for us or other Committee members with whom I worked closely – my network has grown exponentially. Everyone in PRSA is willing to lend a hand or make an introduction if you just ask. Now that I am the New Pros Section chair, I am so excited to pay it forward and lead a group of new pros who are sitting where I was five years ago – still learning the ways of the industry, but eager to make an impact. While this year is my last in New Pros, no doubt I will still be highly involved in PRSA for years to come, as it is a crucial resource in my career.