When you were announced the PR Woman of the Year, what was your first thought?
My first thought was, I honestly can’t believe I was selected, because the other two nominees are really so accomplished so it was really humbling and just a shock! I had honestly gone into that day just thinking it’s a real honor to be nominated, but I’m just going to enjoy it because there’s no way I’ll win. I actually blanked out when they said my name!
During your acceptance speech last year, you told this amazing story about the way your stepdaughter portrayed you in an art project she did for school, showing all the different roles she sees you playing in her life. A year later, how has the title of PR Woman of the Year impacted the role you play as a communications counselor?
I think it just amplifies the challenge that I feel when I get up in the morning. And that is: How is what I’m doing today, tomorrow, this week, doing more than just giving my client numbers to talk about? So I try to get to the real meaning behind the numeric measures of success for a client.
What motivates me the most is when what makes them successful, that end goal, is also something that contributes from a social standpoint with something that I personally find really meaningful. That’s the whole basis for me deciding to do my own thing, and [the meaning behind] my tagline—Change for our Wellbeing. That’s what it’s about.
In our own small way—in communications and PR—our work in itself is not what’s going to change the world. But it’s what we do that really helps causes. Organizations that are trying to impact change, if they don’t have someone who understands marketing and communications, will miss out on a lot of opportunities. So we have the ability to tell their story in a more powerful way to try to help them advance their goals. DC is a great town to do that in. DC is the kind of town that’s filled with ideas and ideals. People come here because they want to help impact change.
You’ve mentioned before that you think it’s extremely important for everyone to “feed the fire in their bellies” and find something they’re passionate about and find a way to feed it through the work they do. How are you feeding the fire in your own belly these days?
I just actually completed doing PR with my team for the first fundraising race for Children’s National Health System [Children’s Hospital]. And I know everyone thinks, “oh great, there’s another race”, but what powered that race is the incredible work that the hospital does. For this event, we worked really hard to find personal stories of families that had been cared for by the hospital who were willing to share their stories. Spending time with those families and hearing their experiences and what they went through and how the hospital was so unique and caring in the services that it provides—that makes all the difference in the energy that goes into the work that we do to support it. Sometimes talking to real people and hearing their experiences reminds me why I love what I do.
And the race was quite successful! We had almost 4,000 participants who raised about $200,000 more than Children’s thought might be raised by race day. And the fundraiser isn’t even over; it kicked off with the race and will continue through the rest of the year. (For more information visit: www.raceforeverychild.org)
What words of wisdom do you have for this year’s PR Woman of the Year and aspiring PR female professionals?
I would say two things:
First, think back to the most recent time you felt really great about what you do and remember what made you feel so good about that because that’s really the nugget that helps remind you [why you’re in this field] when you’re not feelings so great about it.
Second, do as much as possible to help your colleagues, especially your female colleagues. It takes a lot of energy to keep the infighting and drama that happen in any organization going and using that energy instead to help each other is going to go a lot further ultimately. Literally: if we can’t help each other, who’s going to help us? This is still a female-dominated profession and if you think about how much more we could get done by supporting each other and promoting each other we could go a long way. Which is why WWPR is so important!
I would actually make a third point also, and that’s to have a life. Work is important, but if you don’t have something outside of that that gives you purpose you’re going to feel frustrated and unhappy at a certain point. This is a business that’s a magnet for pleasers because we’re not doing work for ourselves; we’re doing work for other people to make them better. So by virtue of what we do, we’re successful when we please other people and other people are not going to be pleased all the time. So when something goes wrong, it’s so easy to feel like the world has collapsed on you. And when you have those moments—and you’re a pleaser—what’s going to help you get out of that? When you have a healthy robust life outside of work you can separate it and come back to it in the morning with some freshness of perspective in mind and just plain new energy. And remind yourself of who you are because who you are is way more than what you do.
Don’t miss a chance to hear more words of wisdom from Stephenie Fu at WWPR’s 2013 Washington PR Woman of the Year Award Luncheon. Our annual signature event will be on Wednesday, November 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the W Hotel, 515 15th Street NW, Washington, D. C. This year’s PR Woman of the Year will be chosen from three finalists who have excelled in their profession and are raising the bar in public relations. Register today! Discounted rates for WWPR and PRSA members.
Danielle Veira is a Communications Associate at Nahigian Strategies and a 2013 Washington PR Woman of the Year Committee Member. Follow Dani on Twitter @DaniV7101.