In celebration of the 70thAnniversary of PRSA Philadelphia, over the next few months the
newsletter will feature several leaders and members of the organization to share their insights about the PR field, moments from their careers, challenges they’ve faced, and advice they have for the next generation of PR professionals.
This month, we provide a Q&A with Rosemary Rys, APR, M.A., APC - Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Communication, Drexel University.
“I love what I do, and I’d like to think it loves me back.Working in PR has been a very rewarding and special opportunityfor me to truly enjoy my professional life in my chosen career. I was proud to serve as Chapter President in 1994; it was an amazing experience.
Happy 70thAnniversary and many more!”
Q: Why did you choose public relations as a career?
A:I started out working with FMC when I moved back to the area years ago, and I was doing event planning and marketing in their international department. Before that I had worked for a small company that sold computer support materials. Its founder, Isaac Auerbach, was involved in the development of the very first computer system, now known as ENIAC. After I earned my undergraduate degree in marketing and management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, my neighbor suggested we should get our masters’ degrees in PR. It was really the hot topic back in the day, and Rowan University (then still Glassboro State College) was offering it in their new evening-school graduate program. So, sure enough, we went ahead and did just that. It was the best thing I could have done because after that, I was able to teach—first part-time for 20 years, then full-time for 11 years to date. When I found out how great, useful, and necessary PR was, I was hooked!
Q: Who were some of your early influences in the business?
A:One of my inspirations was the father of PR, Edward L. Bernays. I got to meet him when I started teaching part-time at Drexel University in 1991. I had earned my APR in 1987 through being a PRSA member and became the Professional Advisor for Drexel’s PRSSA Chapter, then later was their Faculty Advisor when I started teaching there. That year, 1991, Drexel was celebrating its 100thAnniversary and Mr. Bernays had just turned 100. At the PRSA National Conference in Phoenix that year, some of Drexel’s student PRSSA representatives and I had the chance to meet him and share some Drexel anniversary gear for an amazing photo opportunity.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in PR?
A:I really enjoy the type of work that it is and the many ways to use my skills and creativity. I've worked for different PR agencies, as well as in corporate, nonprofit, consulting and much more. For 11 years, I was the PR Director of the largest architectural/engineering/interior design firm in Philadelphia, Kling Lindquist.That was a great experience because I got to promote our exciting work, meet with national editors, develop big events, and “open” buildings like GlaxoSmithKline’s headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina, and other pharmaceuticals, as well as Bell Atlantic Tower in Center City Philadelphia, which is now called Three Logan Square.We would host a fancy party at the end of the project to celebrate with the client, construction firm, and our team, all of whom had worked closely together to make it a reality.It was a remarkable thing. So, I got to do a lot of fun things. I also love teaching it. I've taught PR and other communication topics for 31 years now at Drexel, and also taught at Temple University as an adjunct for 12 years.
Q: What are some of your most memorable moments working in PR?
A:I was asked to co-chair a committee to have an event like the 70thAnniversary PRSA is having now, but this one was for Kling Lindquist’s 50thAnniversary. That became a year-long planning session that included meaningful monthly programs and student competitions dedicated to giving back to the community. I also chaired a committee for one of PRSA Philadelphia’s special anniversaries for which we decided to celebrate at the then-new Philadelphia Convention Center. There were about 350 members and guests there, but we didn't know that Aretha Franklin was helping to open the Center just down the hall from us. It was exciting to be able to walk down the hall to the former Reading Terminal and hear her belting out a song.
Another memorable moment involved Frank X. Long, APR, Fellow PRSA. He took me under his wing as a “newbie” in the PR field and gave me the benefit of his vast experience and the golden opportunity to meet his elite circle of colleagues. Known as one of the best in the business, Frank taught me how to launch our first restaurant client, Au Bon Pain, and together, we won a Pepperpot for another client, had a wonderful time brainstorming ways to promote new companies, and in general, shared our love for this field. Frank was fearless and so talented. I was very fortunate to have him as my teacher, mentor, and friend. PRSA Philadelphia offers an award in his memory each year.
Frank introduced me to some of the big names in PR then, like Anne Klein, Charlie Volpe, John Moscatelli, Larry Litwin, and many more experts, so I also got a chance to work closely with them—such a privilege!
Q: Why did you join PRSA and how did it help your career?
A:What started me off was being a member of PRSSA in college. When I was at Rowan learning what PR was all about, I wanted more than anything to earn my APR credentials. I was fighting for the accreditation to be more recognized, especially when I became President. To this day, I don’t think enough people understand and/or appreciate what it takes to earn that designation and/or how it can further both your knowledge and career.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a past president of PRSA?
A:I was President of the Philadelphia Chapter in 1994 and on the board and various committees before that. At the time I was elected, it had become challenging for our chapter to keep our members involved and present engaging programs monthly. So, my board and I decided to ask the big firms of the day, Anne Klein & Associates, Earl Palmer Brown & Spiro, Ketchum, and others to design and sponsor special events of their choosing each month. Even our PRSSA chapters joined together to present a terrific program—at that time, their focus was on technology. It was a big hit—all of their well-conceived ideas and concepts were great.
Q: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing PR practitioners today?
A:I just read that the top challenge is measuring and improving value and demonstrating ROI. Number two is educating the executive team. I was always taught the same things when I went to Rowan, and I was lucky enough to have some of the most prestigious teachers who started the well-renowned program there.They were the great ones like Don Bagin, Tony Fulginiti, Don Gallagher, and Jim Gillespie, who created the excellent, much-loved newsletter called “Communication Briefings.” What fabulous role models they were!