Kelly Jackson Davis, APR, is the public relations director at Riggs Partners in Columbia, South Carolina, where she manages the integrated marketing firm’s public relations department and focuses on strategic communications planning, brand development, issues management and community relations.
Kelly has been recognized both for her work and her contributions to the public relations profession. She has received more than 50 awards for excellence in public relations campaigns and tactics, and the PRSA South Carolina Chapter has recognized her with two of its highest individual honors — Rookie of the Year in 1997 and W. Thomas Duke Distinguished Public Relations Practitioner of the Year in 2007.
Most recently, Kelly was elected to serve a two-year term as PRSSA National Professional Adviser starting June 1, 2016. The below Q&A is a chance to get to know Kelly and see what she will bring to the position and the Society.
Why did you want to apply for the PRSSA National Professional Adviser position?
My primary reason for seeking this position was to give back. At the 20+ year mark in my own career, I find great motivation and personal satisfaction in the opportunity to mentor the next generation of public relations practitioners and to ensure that they are well prepared not only to enter the profession but also to lead it into the future. PRSSA members are the future of PRSA. I believe that by providing counsel, guidance and perspective to students, and by helping them see the value not only of PRSSA but also of a lifelong commitment to PRSA, they will have extraordinary opportunities for leadership, career advancement and personal fulfillment.
What is your history with PRSSA and PRSA?
I joined PRSA in 1997 as a young practitioner and immediately got involved in PRSA South Carolina, which I have served as a Chapter president, ethics officer, Leadership Assembly delegate and the chair of many committees. In fact, I just started a new term on the board of my Chapter and will serve a second time as Chapter president in 2017. I went on to serve as an officer of the PRSA Southeast District and a director at large on the PRSA National Board of Directors. I have also chaired the PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance and I’m currently a member of the PRSA Counselors Academy.
As an English and French major at a college that did not have a PRSSA Chapter, I didn’t have the opportunity to experience this organization as a student. However, as a professional I have worked with PRSSA as a Champion for PRSSA, a professional adviser to the University of South Carolina Bateman Team and nationally as the PRSA Board Liaison in 2014. As a PRSA National Board Member, I chaired a task force that, among other things, created opportunities for PRSSA members to serve on PRSA committees and task forces.
How do you feel your 20-year career thus far has prepared you for this position?
My career has spanned the agency, corporate, nonprofit and government sectors, including nine years as an independent public relations consultant. I have had the opportunity to view the profession from a variety of perspectives, and I believe those experiences enable me to offer quality advice and counsel to students who are exploring the myriad of career opportunities available to them within the profession. In addition, I believe that the leadership positions I have held in PRSA and other community organizations will benefit students, as I hope to share those lessons in developing Chapter and national leaders for PRSSA.
What do you think is the most important job of a Chapter Professional Adviser? Although required, why is having a Professional Adviser in addition to a Faculty Adviser important to a Chapter’s success?
As an adjunct instructor of public relations, I firmly believe in the value of a great public relations education. I also believe that education extends beyond the classroom. Our profession is a blend of theory and application, which is why both Faculty and Professional Advisers bring great value to students. I believe that students who take what they learn in their courses and combine that knowledge with hands-on experience are more likely to be successful when they enter the profession. Chapter Professional Advisers play a critical role in making that connection between the classroom and the workplace. They bring real world perspective and foster networking opportunities within the public relations community for students in the Chapters they advise.
How will you help Professional Advisers connect their PRSSA Chapter with their PRSA Chapter?
I am particularly excited about this part of my role as National Professional Adviser. I plan to reach out to every PRSA Chapter within the first few months of my term to find out how they are supporting local PRSSA Chapters and to identify how I can help. I want to learn about best practices and build upon successful PRSA-PRSSA relationships, while identifying challenges and gaps for those Chapters that have not been as involved with PRSSA. From there, I will develop a plan to ensure not only that PRSA Chapters recommend an active and involved Professional Adviser to each PRSSA Chapter, but also that the advisers have the information and resources they need to be successful in the position.
What advice and guidance will you be able to offer the National Committee?
I have worked with two previous National Committees, and one of the things I observed with both is that the student leaders are exceptionally talented, focused and committed to the tasks at hand. It is their job to make decisions for PRSSA, and I think it’s important for me to support them in making wise decisions by offering perspective, personal experience and information gained by talking to others. I have found that I can provide better guidance and counsel when I listen first and talk second. The best mentors I have had have always guided me to making decisions for myself rather than telling me what to do. I think it’s important for PRSSA advisers to do the same.
What are you most looking forward to about serving in this position?
Spending time with PRSSA members always gives me energy and renewed enthusiasm for the profession. Through working with PRSSA, I have made some wonderful friends who bring great value and joy to my life, and I know I learn as much from them as they learn from me – if not more! I am most looking forward to meeting PRSSA members from all around the country, and to supporting their goals to grow and prosper their Chapters while mentoring them as they lay the foundation for their future careers.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received from a mentor or boss?
From my mom, the best mentor ever: “When God closes a door, He opens a window. Everything happens for a reason.” (This has been true at every stage of my life.)
What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?
Once Upon a Time. It’s like the adult version of all of the Disney movies I watch with my six year old!
What’s your “walk-out song?”
“Beautiful Day” by U2
Don K Egle, MBA, APR, ABC, served two consecutive terms as PRSSA National Professional Adviser and will complete his time as adviser on May 31, 2016. He was recognized for his four years of service at the National Assembly in Austin, Texas on March 6.
This Q&A was compiled by Emma Finkbeiner, the PRSSA 2015–2016 publications editor in chief. She is a senior at Northern Michigan University. Connect with her on Twitter @efink101 or LinkedIn.