Dr. Felicia Blow, APR, on PRSA’s 75th Anniversary

January 2022
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Name: Dr. Felicia Blow, APR

Current job title: Associate Vice President for Development; 2022 PRSA Chair 

Current location: Hampton University, Hampton, Va.

Career highlights: While serving as director of public affairs at Cox Communications, she initiated the Cox Charities Virginia program, which, in its first year, generated proceeds to fund numerous nonprofits in Virginia. As chair of the D&I Strategic Planning Committee, she played a lead role in creating the 2020-2022 plan. 

Favorite downtime activity: Reading — nothing better! Eating is a close second.

Dinner guests — past or present: Michelle Obama, Kamala Harris (my Soror!), Booker T. Washington, Jeff Bezos, Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey

Favorite books: “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

What were your early career aspirations?

I wanted to be the Black Barbara Walters or the current Oprah Winfrey — still do!

What initially prompted you to join PRSA?

I did not know much about PRSA when I was in college and, when I started my first gig right out of college, my leaders introduced me to PRSA and IABC. I looked into the organizations and felt that PRSA was the right fit for me — and I haven’t looked back since!

You have said that you love PRSA, and want to give back to the profession. What has PRSA meant to your career?

I’m a better professional and leader due to my work and volunteerism with PRSA. I learned a few things, including being compassionate, but also staying true to your vision and yourself.

I have been to places and been exposed to things that I do not believe I would otherwise have had the opportunity, had it not been for PRSA and the relationships I have made and things I’ve learned. It has been a pleasure of my life.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Collaborative, but I also strongly believe in accountability. But I also believe a leader has to be a leader. You can’t lead by committee. It means taking the “good with the bad” and making informed, timely and courageous — when needed — decisions. 

What are some of your favorite words of wisdom?

Be honest. Be kind. Have integrity in all that you do. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

You are serving as chair of PRSA during the 75th anniversary. Can you provide any details on how PRSA will be celebrating this milestone?

The anniversary observance will acknowledge PRSA’s history and will focus on how the past has informed the present and how it will shape the future. Through it, we will honor and recognize the contributions of the organization, the profession, and past, current and future generations of practitioners. 

We will highlight the importance of ensuring the profession is diverse, equitable and inclusive, and its celebration will demonstrate the need for active embrace of industry-changing innovations.

We are introducing a new section of PRSA.org in early 2022 to showcase PRSA’s history and leadership and the importance of public relations and strategic communications. 

We will feature top moments in PR history, PRSA milestones, honor the notable and sometimes “hidden” figures in public relations.

What do you consider the biggest challenges ahead for the profession — and PRSA?

I concern myself if we, as leaders, are doing a good enough job of looking to where the future of our profession lies. How are people going to consume information 10, 25 and 50 years from now? And how will advances in technology continue to impact how we do our jobs in the future? 

Some other questions that are on my mind: Are we prepared to adapt to innovation and transformation in the industry? How can we lead those transitions? And how will we tailor our content with use of data — more than just measuring what the effect of it was after the fact? 

We are the credible voices within our organization. Our charge is great. I have said this often: We lift democracies and support a civil society. We must “own” this space and embrace it actively and intentionally. 

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that workforce is a commodity. We cannot continue to ignore, write off and not engage with entire swaths of our profession — so full embrace of DE&I is not a “nice to do,” it is a business imperative that I’m not sure we have taken as seriously as we should.  

How would you rate the progress that PRSA and the profession have made in diversifying their ranks?

Good, but not great. We have to continue to keep our foot on the proverbial gas. We now need to pivot to providing specific, actionable tactics, which can be undertaken and measured to enhance greater diverse talent engagement and retention.

We tend to get caught up in the things that make us different, but let’s work on focusing on the ties that bind to build greater bridges of opportunity.

What will success look like to you at the end of 2022?

Here are four barometers of success:

  1. Enhanced member satisfaction, and alignment with the value proposition of what PRSA means to them.
  2. Greater member involvement in our programs and services — and greater volunteer engagement. When you volunteer, you grow, you learn and your experience is much better.
  3. Growth in membership from all corners of our society — reflective of diversity of the organizational diversity (corporate, agency, education, etc.), but also from the perspective of the many dimensions of diversity and inclusion that our PRSA definition ascribes — and more members who want to be part of this wonderful organization.
  4. A focus on alliances and partnerships. PRSA alone cannot make the industrywide changes that are so critically important. But we can work together to ensure that, as a profession, we are making advances in the areas of greatest important to our stakeholders.
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