October 31, 2013
Libby Catalinich, APR, is the director of corporate communications for REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), based in Seattle. She oversees the teams that manage employee communications, issue management, executive communications, public relations and media relations for the outdoor retailer, which operates 130 U.S. stores.
Catalinich joined REI in September 2008 after a 12-year career with Washington Mutual, were she was senior vice president, public relations.
She graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. degree in communications and also completed the Leadership Tomorrow program as well as a three-year term as the chair of the global Issue Management Council.
Catalinich notes the speed of change and sees several trends on the horizon for the communications profession. “The voice and power of the consumer to control and shape brand perceptions has grown tremendously, and it will continue to get louder and more impactful,” she says. “Wise companies will look to co-create and collaborate with their most loyal, influential stakeholders. In the future, communication will be even more hyper-customized and targeted.”
Name: Libby Catalinich, APR
Broadway singer and dancer
Director of corporate communications at REI
After the cold, harsh reality of not being able to nail a triple pirouette set in, I turned my attention to journalism. I was fascinated by photojournalists like Margaret Bourke-White and begged my parents to turn a spare bathroom into a darkroom. That didn’t happen but my love for telling interesting and compelling stories — plus a great Intro to Mass Media class in college — led me to public relations.
First public relations job:
Working as an intern in the PR office of the Seattle Sonics NBA team (aka the Oklahoma City Thunder). My first job out of college was as the assistant director of corporate communication for a financial services company.
What you know now that you wish you’d known then:
Sleep is overrated. More seriously, don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder and ask what you think. Speak up! Offer ideas, suggest improvements and challenge the status quo appropriately.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:
Don’t burn bridges, and treat everyone with respect and integrity.
Greatest professional accomplishment:
It was a wonderful evening when our team accepted a Silver Anvil. I walked around Times Square in NYC after the celebration clutching the beautiful award and was asked by a complete stranger if I had won a Tony!
If you weren’t in public relations, you would be:
Either an attorney or a physical therapist
That I worked in the profession with skill, integrity, honesty, creativity and humility — and without taking myself too seriously
Make a “business case” for public relations:
PR practitioners are skilled at authentically and credibly understanding the needs and expectations of internal and external stakeholders. Through strategic assessment, planning, execution and measurement, PR teams can manage reputation issues, create context for business actions and decisions, drive genuine engagement, and achieve mutual understanding and benefit.
Each month, as part of “The Business Case for Public Relations,” PRSA asks a leader in the profession to reflect on his or her career and make a “business case” for public relations.