Samaiyah Islam on Serving Communities
By Amy Jacques
Name: Samaiyah Islam
Location: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Favorite downtime activity: Trying new local restaurants, listening to music and finding new documentaries to watch on Netflix
3 dinner guests: James Baldwin, Miles Davis and Janelle Monae
Favorite books: “Guidebook to Relative Strangers” by Camille T. Dungy
Best leadership advice: It’s OK to not know everything as a leader. That is why you should surround yourself with people smarter than you to bring in fresh ideas.
Favorite quote: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” — James Baldwin
What was your dream job growing up?
I had a couple of dream jobs growing up. One was an Olympic figure skater, which obviously did not work out for me at an early age. I also wanted to be a journalist who writes meaningful stories around topics that affect our communities. I love how the ethics of both the journalism and PR profession can overlap and complement each other.
How did you get your start in PR, and come to work for Feed the Children?
After graduating from college with a degree in journalism and public relations, I worked with a few digital marketing agencies around Oklahoma City as a social media specialist and content marketer. After a few years of soaking up a ton of knowledge in those areas, I was ready to get back to my roots as a PR practitioner. I also wanted to spend time generating awareness around important issues that affect our society today. I needed a breath of fresh air, and the nonprofit world was something I wanted to explore.
When I saw Feed the Children was looking for a media relations professional, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I was able to bring my digital marketing experience to the position I have today within Feed the Children and look at public relations through a different lens.
Talk about your role engaging and educating diverse populations, creating opportunities around the world, and handling media relations and communications.
My small but mighty PR team handles both the U.S. and international side of our organization, and I handle media relations as well as internal communications. Externally, I work with Feed the Children’s corporate and community partners to generate awareness around our distribution events and the issue of childhood hunger.
In my five years with Feed the Children, I have had the pleasure of working with many of the families we serve to tell their story. Through interviewing families affected by food insecurity and disasters, I have been able to engage with diverse populations and craft a story to help educate our audiences on the hardships they face. Internally, I handle communications around our disaster response, staff newsletters and employee town halls. It can be a lot depending on the time of year, but I have a great team that supports our communication efforts.
What challenges have you faced in your job during the past two-plus years of the pandemic? How have you seen people adapt during this time?
The pandemic has been hard on all of us — especially the families we serve. Feed the Children’s supply chain has been strained due to production shifts of our partners. But the need was greater more than ever. Our community events are usually conducted with hundreds of people personally handing products to families.
When traditional delivery methods were not available, our partners worked to develop new and innovative ways of getting food and essentials into the hands of families that need it most. The organizations we’re working with have delivered food and daily household essentials in a variety of ways, including door-to-door, by holding drive-through events and some even had call-in numbers for individuals to request these items.
Though the work of Feed the Children is important every day, with the holidays coming up, it seems even more timely to bring attention to the goal of eradicating world hunger. What are some ways people can get involved and help?
This holiday season, we are encouraging everyone to volunteer to pack boxes at one of our five distribution centers as well as financially contributing to the cause any way you can. We are also actively recruiting corporate partners to help us in our journey to defeat hunger.
Another huge way people can support our mission is to share our messages on social media. Be an advocate for those who cannot tell their stories! We want to keep the important conversation of childhood hunger and food insecurity top of mind for everyone. As we strive to meet this big goal during the holiday season, the support of generous people like you is crucial for reaching children in the communities where they live.
You’re the president of PRSA’s Oklahoma City Chapter. What made you decide to take on a volunteer position with PRSA and what have you learned from the experience?
I was introduced to the PRSA Oklahoma City Chapter through my time at the University of Oklahoma when I was heavily involved with the student association, OU-PRSSA.
However, when I started my PR-focused job with Feed the Children, I became more involved. A great past president told me that being involved was going to be worth my while. I have learned that you cannot do everything alone. It takes a great team of professionals who are willing to put in the work to improve their communities.
What advice do you have to share with the next generation of PR pros?
As a PR professional, it’s important to be agile and a strategic thinker. I always tell college students to never be afraid to jump around and try something new. Mass communication is a broad field, and just because you start on one track doesn’t mean you have to stay on that track. I jumped from public relations to digital marketing and back. It never hurts to try your hand at many different professions. Many of the great professionals I know started in the newsroom as a journalist and switched over to public relations.