Member Profile: Stephen McKinney
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Director of Communications & Marketing
Why did you join PRSA and what is one of the membership benefits you enjoy the most?
I joined PRSA to connect with the PR community and tap into its wealth of expertise and thought leadership. One of the biggest and best benefits is the constant stream of professional development opportunity, from monthly sessions to workshops to webinars. You have to stay current to stay relevant.
You have been in PR for many years. Please tell us about your work at Alliant International University and how long you’ve been in the PR field?
I’ve worked in the communications field for about 10 years now, spanning corporate and internal communications to marketing. I’ve spent several years in higher education, first with Indiana University and now Alliant. I work to develop and execute our marketing communications strategies, manage our content and media, and lead internal communications across our distributed system of locations across California and internationally.
Please share a few ways the industry has changed over the years and where you see it going.
The most significant evolution that I’ve seen in my own career is the increasing integration of public relations and marketing as a truly collaborative, if not seamless, operation. I think the rise of social media, content and interactive marketing, brand journalism and other technology-enabled developments have really spurred that boundary sharing on - not to mention our need to show return on our efforts. I think it’s great for PR professionals, as it places even greater value on our storytelling, engagement and relationship-building talents, and nabs us seats at more tables. It’s also an exciting time for internal communications. I’m seeing more enterprises really invest in employer branding, employee evangelism and the overall prioritization of internal stakeholders that is creating some dynamic opportunities.
Tell us about one of your most memorable professional experiences.
I really enjoy any opportunity to dig in with creative and multimedia and to align those with core values and messaging in ways that are really engaging. I led a rebranding effort in my former position that encompassed a new visual identity and messaging to redefine who we were and our value in really accessible ways. We were a technology and media arts school, and it was super important to our strategy to reflect the latest and greatest in those domains in our campaigns, both internally and externally. From producing videos and animations to live technology events and other content creation, it’s some of those tactical implementations that can really provide those roll-up-your-sleeves moments that I find fun. Being able to shepherd that project from research, strategy and creative direction to the tactical elements of the outreach was a tremendous opportunity.
One slightly amusing other memorable moment was early in my career when a family member called my mother after hearing me as spokesperson on a local evening news report I had pitched. It was their first connect-the-dot moment on understanding a facet of what I did for work, all thanks to 15 seconds on local TV.
What’s your best advice to the new generation of PR professionals?
Keep on top of professional development in whatever ways you can, via PRSA, other organizations or additional education. Earning my master’s in PR was one of my most rewarding experiences that connected me with some great mentors. Diversify your skills and experience. And remember that you’re not really communicating unless you’re also listening.