Carolyn Lok on Leading PRSSA in 2020
By Amy Jacques
National President of PRSSA
University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. (for now)
Public Relations Intern at The Royal Embassy of Cambodia in 2019
Favorite Activity for Fun:
Making homemade soy wax candles
Favorite TV Show or Movie:
“Criminal Minds” (TV), “Superbad” (Movie)
Best Leadership Advice:
“Trust your judgment. It’s probably right.”
Dream Job Growing Up:
I wanted to be a movie star. I still might if public relations doesn’t work out.
At UF, you’re graduating with a bachelor’s in PR with a minor in leadership and a concentration in business. What are your postgraduate aspirations?
I’ve always aspired to work in a big city (*cough* New York City) and find a career in digital/social media marketing. My experiences have led me to discover my passion for digital storytelling, and I hope to help champion the efforts of diversity and inclusion within the entertainment industry.
I found out about PRSSA at my college’s student involvement fair. After a conversation with the Chapter president, I was sold. As a freshman without a sense of direction, I saw
Why did you first join PRSSA? And why did you decide to pursue a leadership position?
PRSSA as that guiding light for me. I wanted to learn more about what exactly public relations was and where I saw myself after graduation.
One thing I didn’t expect to gain were the relationships. If it hadn’t been for that conversation with the Chapter president, then I may not have joined. If it weren’t for my peer mentor, then I may have never run for my Chapter’s executive. If it weren’t for the friendships I made, then I wouldn’t be national president. It only takes one conversation and, suddenly, you’re running a national organization. I wanted to show that anyone can end up in the position I’m in and give back to the Society that has helped define my college experience.
As an active social media user and storyteller, what do you think makes a good story?
Authenticity. It’s almost become second nature to spot a story that’s ingenuous nowadays. People want to hear stories they can relate to and that tap into familiar emotions. Defining those shared values and interests between you and your target audience can make all the difference between a good and a bad story. A little humor from time to time also doesn’t hurt.
You’re also a champion of diversity and inclusion. Talk about the importance of D&I in the communications industry and how you think we can make real change, turning conversations into action.
Growing up, I never really understood why I felt so out of place at times. I realize now that it was because there was a lack of representation, empathy and respect for many groups of people. As communicators, we have to be willing to open ourselves up to experiences different than our own so that we can accurately tell the stories that depict the interests of specific groups. It’s also important to note that diversity and inclusion is not only important to the communications industry, but also a necessary action that people should try to integrate into their daily lives.
Beyond the conversations, I urge individuals and organizations to reflect on whether they’re actively representing the words they promote. Check your leadership and processes. Reevaluate recruitment procedures. Be aware of unconscious bias. Remember: Diversity and inclusion is a journey, not a destination. Continue to educate and advocate for a future we all deserve.
As someone who is experiencing college life at a unique time in history (pandemic, protests, virtual learning), talk about these challenges and how you’re adapting to a ‘new normal.’
This has definitely not been an ideal way to kick off my senior year of college. It’s been extremely difficult trying to adjust to the current times. I’ve experienced an overwhelming amount of fear, disappointment and uncertainty this past year. It’s a tough time for all of us, and it’s important to acknowledge that it’s OK if you’re not doing well.
My relationships with friends, family and mentors help to remind myself that I’m not alone in this situation. I also try to find and celebrate the little things in life. I’m currently a mom to 11 plant babies and they’ve honestly been the light of my life. Discovering and holding on to the things that bring you joy may be the thing that gets us through it all.
What advice do you have for other students and soon-to-be new pros on how to make the most of college, maintain balance, and navigate all the recent changes?
Never feel guilty for taking time for yourself and choosing what’s best for your mental health. I know many of us are eager to get involved and end up taking on more than we can realistically handle. This past year has taught me that it is OK to say no and be a little selfish. If you want to hang out with your friends instead of studying for an exam one night, then do it. There will always be work to do, but life’s cherished moments can pass you by in an instant. Take advantage of it before you regret it.