Member Profile: Beverly Butler
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.
Beverly Butler, APR, ABC
VP, Client Delivery Communications at Wells Fargo Treasury Management
How did you get started in public relations/communications and what has your journey looked like?
My first job out of college was a writer in a TV newsroom. It was the NBC Time-Life owned station in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That job, where I moved from writer to producer to on-camera reporter—was a GREAT introduction to writing, dealing with the public, creativity, production, how to get facts fast, and relate a story quickly and correctly. From there I went to a broadcast production company, then to an advertising agency, and then to corporate America at Wolverine Worldwide, the maker of Hush Puppies. I always was doing communications work but really only did PR once I got to corporate positions. I was able to learn on the job at Brooks Running Shoes, Pacific Telesis, American Red Cross, The GAP, Inc., and American Cancer Society. Through the SF Chapter of PRSA in 1994, I took the accreditation workshop and exam; the preparation was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it especially for people like me who didn’t study PR in school.
What do you like the most about your career in public relations/communications?
What I most like about public relations is that you have the opportunity to do a little bit of everything; get to know and counsel top executives, develop communication strategies, engage employees in being part of brand building, and have a real and tangible impact on the company and the way people—internally and externally—perceive it.
Tell us about a memorable moment in your career.
In 1991, I was working for the American Red Cross and I was Public Information Officer on the East Bay Hills Fire. As soon as I saw the thick, black smoke erupting into the sky across the Bay, I knew it was going to be a bad day. A few months earlier, I had recruited, trained and outfitted two dozen PR pros to be communication volunteers for the Red Cross in the Bay Area in case we ever had a big disaster. I was thinking it would be an earthquake, but instead it was a fire that destroyed 3500 residences. By the time I got to the Command Center in Oakland, three of my new volunteers were already there working on a news release and taking press calls. Other PR volunteers came to spell each other throughout the next few weeks. We worked with local reporters and news media from around the nation and the world since this incident, at that point, was the largest urban wildfire in history. Through the PR efforts, we convinced government officials to declare a state of emergency (we talked KGO into using their traffic helicopter for two days of aerial tours), found housing for displaced families, raised money to help under-insured people get back on their feet, and created a new standard in disaster communications including a daily newspaper for volunteers, emergency workers, displaced people, and the media. I still think back with gratitude and admiration on the PR volunteers from Chevron, AT&T, PG&E, and dozens of small public relations agencies that gave up hundreds of hours of their time to help out. It was humbling.
Why did you join PRSA and how does your membership benefit you?
I joined PRSA to learn from my peers and to network. It’s a great way to stay up to speed with the constant evolutions in our industry. The programs are excellent and I like being part of a group that is always forward thinking and creative. When I was interviewing with Wells Fargo five years ago, the hiring manager was aware of PRSA and mentioned that one of the reasons my resume rose to the top was my APR accreditation. So, that’s another great benefit!