Thomas Bennett III’s PR Commitment and APR Journey
Name: Thomas Bennett III
Current status: Director of Marketing Operations, Parkland Community Health Plan
Career highlights: 2017-2018: Co-Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, PRSA Dallas. 2019: Assistant Membership Director, Sponsorship Chair and Co-Chair of Diversity & Inclusion Committee. 2020: Vice President. 2021: President-Elect.
Favorite downtime activity? Running and road cycling
Any three dinner guests: President Barack Obama, Bozoma Saint John and Mark Cuban
Favorite books: “Linchpin” (by Seth Godin), “Relentless” (by Tim S. Grover) and “Good to Great” (by James C. Collins)
Best leadership advice: Make decisions with people in mind, inspire greatness in others and lead by example.
Favorite quote: "Be relentless in devoting yourself to the perfection of what you pursue."
What was your dream job as a child?
As a child, I dreamed of being the next Greg Gumbel. I was already a big sports fan at a young age. Most of the games I watched, he was covering on NBC Sports and CBS. He was very professional and eloquent in how he spoke, and it impressed me how he covered games and talked to people.
My dad saw how intrigued I was, so he asked the pastor at my church at that time if I could start reading the church announcements each Sunday — in front of hundreds of people, mind you.
You served for six years in the U.S. Air Force. How did you transition into the communications profession?
My dad was a big reason why I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He served in the military for close to 25 years and retired as a Chief Master Sergeant. I was in the Arkansas Air National Guard from 1999-2005 and my duty station was Little Rock Air Force Base.
During this time, I was in college at Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville, Tenn., and drove home to Little Rock from Nashville on the first weekend of each month (and two weeks a year) to fulfill my commitment. While at Fisk, I majored in English.
The summer before my senior year at Fisk, I had my first internship, and it was in the PR department of the San Francisco 49ers. I was an intern during the 49ers summer training camp in 2001, which, at that time, was held on the campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
You recently announced on LinkedIn that you are taking the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) examination this year. Why do you want to pursue your APR?
Lewis Hamilton, Serena Williams and LeBron James practice their craft by studying film, conditioning their mind and bodies, lifting weights, and practicing multiple times before a big game or race. They are the best at what they do.In the corporate world, “practice” can mean multiple things, such as: getting certifications, continuously learning, reading about your profession, speaking at conferences, training, etc. I’m pursuing my APR to not only demonstrate my commitment to the PR profession and to improve my skills and knowledge, but also because I want to be one of the best at what I do and to lead by example.
You currently work for Parkland Community Health Plan, a division of Parkland Hospital & Health System. Can you tell us about your main roles and responsibilities?
Parkland Community Health Plan (PCHP) is a division of Parkland Hospital & Health System. I’m the Director of Marketing Operations within PCHP. PCHP offers Medicaid and CHIP programs for people in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.
In my role, I’m responsible for monitoring, measuring, and analyzing the effectiveness of our marketing initiatives and programs as well as delivering key insights and recommendations that optimize the performance of the department and all marketing programs, campaigns, and activities.
You are the president-elect of the Dallas Chapter. Why did you decide to volunteer in a leadership role?
I joined PRSA in 2017 and quickly immersed myself in the Dallas Chapter by volunteering and serving on multiple committees. The Dallas Chapter has now been around for a little over 70 years and, little did I know that, fast-forward four years later, I would be the Chapter’s first Black man to be president-elect in 2021 and president in 2022.
Leadership is something that comes natural to me. It was an easy decision to not only serve the Chapter, but to be in a position to lead the Chapter.
You’ve also served as a co-chair of the Chapter’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. What are some of the accomplishments that you are particularly proud of with the committee?For many years now, the PR profession as a whole has struggled with Diversity & Inclusion. The Dallas Chapter has struggled with this, as I’m sure other PRSA Chapters have too.
In 2017, the Chapter sent a survey to members to get a pulse on D&I. We took some of these findings and developed programs to help increase and broaden awareness of D&I across the Chapter.I was extremely proud of our Chapter making a very early response in the Black Lives Matter movement, by writing an open letter that was sent to all of our members in support of BLM, justice and equality.
What's top of mind of members of the Dallas Chapter as we start a new year?As we start 2021, I believe what’s top of mind for Dallas Chapter members are a few things: COVID-19, the changing of the country’s leadership, the racial tensions in our country, and how the chapter is moving forward amidst everything that’s going on.
As of January 11, the CDC reported 371,084 people have died from COVID-19. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others have made a profound impact on people in our country and abroad. The last few weeks of the President’s leadership has been unprecedented.
People are dying, out of jobs, and in need of financial assistance. In my 41 years of existence, I have never seen anything like this. Despite everything going on, my faith keeps me optimistic.