December 27, 2010
PRSA Chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, is graduate coordinator and associate professor of advertising and public relations at Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fiske began her career as a journalist and has held senior communications counsel, marketing and management positions in agency and corporate settings during her 20-year career.
She was formerly a partner and senior counsel at Florida-based Communiqué Group, and prior to that, she was vice president at Ketchum Miami. She has also worked directly with Fortune 500 CEOs, senior management teams and boards of directors in strategic planning, management structuring and return-on-investment initiatives.
Fiske has led programs in crisis and employee communications, multicultural and global initiatives, and strategic and executive communications for a number of industry leaders, including Charles Schwab & Co., MTV Networks, American Airlines, MCI, Anheuser-Busch Companies and Wells Fargo Bank.
Fiske talked with Tactics Editor-in-Chief John Elsasser at PRSA’s headquarters in New York on Dec. 7.
Why did you decide to pursue a leadership role with PRSA?
PRSA is the leading organization in public relations. PRSA has been part of my growth professionally and I saw leadership as a next step. There’s a great opportunity to do something here, especially with the changes that we’ve seen in the last three, four years in PRSA and in the profession.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Flexible and open. I believe that you find people who you can trust and who are talented — and who you can see growing professionally and personally — and you empower them to do their best. Tell people the results you want to achieve, but allow them to achieve them on their own.
Is there someone whose leadership style you respect that you might be interested in emulating?
When I worked at Turner, my senior vice president and territory general manager was Shelby Reeves, who has since retired. Shelby led teams all around the world. He said it didn’t matter [how diverse the team was], or how the team was composed — whether it was multi-functional or multi-ethnic — you had to start from a level of respect and knowledge. You have to know more than just your team’s professional achievements if you want to empower people. That stayed with me. I try to get to know people — not just the professional, but the person behind the profession.
Discuss one of PRSA’s major initiatives for 2011.
One of our key initiatives is a revamp of our advocacy work. It was something started by past president Kathy Lewton, APR, Fellow PRSA, in the early 2000s, and it’s going to be transformed in 2011.
We’re concentrating on three key areas: the Business Case for Public Relations, PR diversity and ethics. We are hoping to more cohesively communicate to a number of different audiences about public relations.
This past summer, you took part in a Chapter tour where you surveyed senior-level members. What did you learn from this?
One of the greatest things about PRSA is the quality of members that we have across the country. Having gone through the strategic planning roundtables this past year, and visiting with more than 80 senior-level professionals representing all walks of life and all disciplines — corporate, agency, nonprofit, academia — what stuck with me is the commitment people have to their profession.
PRSA’s goal is to advance a profession and the professional. We have a lot of work left to do. One of the key components of the strategic overview is the feedback that we heard from these senior leaders — how to go about actually advocating for public relations, how PRSA can be the voice for the profession, how PRSA has the momentum and knowledge and brand awareness to be the leader in advocating for the profession.
How do you see the profession growing in the next few years?
US News & World Report said [in early December] that a PR specialist was one of the top 50 jobs. This is an opportune time for the PR profession, and it has a lot to do with advances in technology and the level of communications. Our foundation is maintaining relationships and having conversations. By building these relationships, we’re going to be better prepared than most when opportunities come our way.
How do you plan to continue increasing diversity in PRSA and in the profession?
Having chaired PRSA’s Diversity Committee for a couple of years, [I know that we] have more than doubled our ethnic diversity as a membership organization. Do we still have work to do? Absolutely. But our work can’t just be internally focused within PRSA. It has to be externally focused in advocating for diversity in the profession.
Diversity comes from a number of components — it’s not just ethnic diversity. We heard the importance of gender diversity from senior-level professionals, who only seem to find women candidates when making new hires. So there’s a concern as to how many men are entering the profession these days.
What are you looking forward to on a professional level in 2011?
I’m looking forward to working with an incredible team of volunteer leaders and staff. I also look forward to working with a talented Board of Directors. It’s a diverse Board in age, profession, function and discipline. The team that we’ve assembled for National Chairs and Task Force Chairs is dynamic. I hope that by the end of 2011, we have moved the needle in education external audiences about public relations.
What are you looking forward to on a personal level?
There will be a lot of travel, so I’m looking forward to building new relationships and re-establishing some older ones. I hope that by fostering more personal relationships I get honest feedback from friends, colleagues and members.
How do you want to be remembered as a PRSA leader?
I want to be remembered as the leader with multi-functional expertise. I’ve worked in corporate, I’ve worked in agency, I am an educator and I’ve been an active participant of this organization for nearly 20 years. Because I have such a varied professional background, I can see a lot of different perspectives.
I hope that I can be the kind of leader in PRSA that, one, increases the positive perception of public relations through our advocacy work; two, brings ethics to the forefront of everything that we do, integrating it across the board — social media, message strategy, you name it; and three, that I can showcase diversity in a new light, and make people think of diversity not as the right thing to do, but as the business strategy for the future.
Favorite book: “Love in the Time of Cholera” (in Spanish) and anything by the Brontë sisters
Favorite film: As a movie buff, I have a top-25 list that I’m always updating. The top five as of this writing are: “The Godfather,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Rear Window,” “The Spanish Prisoner” and “Memento.”
Best career advice ever received: Commit to doing something you’ll be challenged by and then figure out how to do it exceptionally well.
3 dinner guests — past or present: Composer Johann Sebastian Bach, shoe designer Christian Louboutin and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
For further reading at PRSAY: Planning for the Future — PRSA in 2011 and Beyond