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 Rick Alcantara, Principal of Rick Alcantara Consulting, Director-at-Large and past president of PRSA, Philadelphia chapter.
“PRSA has enhanced my skills, increased my network, and given me leadership opportunities. It’s also introduced me to PR pros across the country.”
Q: Why did you choose public relations as a career?
A:While working as a radio announcer, I realized that my true passion was the marketing and promotions side of the business. When the opportunity arose to take graduate courses in public relations, I took it.
Q: Who were some of your early influences in the business?
A:I was very fortunate during the early days of my PR career to have four amazing professionals advise and inspire me. All of them were past presidents of PRSA Philadelphia.
Tony Fulginiti was my first professor in the graduate PR program at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). His breadth of knowledge and dedication to the profession inspired me to matriculate and pursue my master’s degree. To this day, I still hear his voice when I take on planning and research projects.
Rosemary Rys, now a professor at Drexel University, was my graduate internship supervisor. She recruited me to join the boards of the Public Relations Professionals of Southern New Jersey and PRSA Philadelphia. Her advice and encouragement inspired me to continuously learn and take on new challenges. Our friendship has spanned nearly threedecades.
Frank Long was an inspiration to me and many others during his long, illustrious career. Frank thought big, really big, about PR opportunities. He once turned a new car into a time capsule and buried it in the grounds of the Tulsa city courthouse.
Luis Morales was the first Latino Philly chapter president and the first Latino PRSA national president. He showed me that one’s heritage should never be a barrier to success. His advice helped me navigate some big challenges during my time as chapter president.
Q: What do/did you enjoy most about working in PR?
A:I love helping clients communicate with employees, customers, and the media. I particularly love helping student practitioners prepare for a career in PR.
Q: What are some of your most memorable moments working in PR?
A:My most memorable PR moments include planning PRSA Philly’s 50thanniversary celebration, becoming president of PRSA Philly and president-elect of IABC Philly, and working with PRSSA students from around the country.
Q: Why did you join PRSA and how did it help your career?
A:I joined PRSSA while I was in grad school. Upon graduation, a transition to PRSA membership seemed natural.
PRSA has enhanced my skills, increased my network, and given me leadership opportunities. It’s also introduced me to PR pros across the country.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a board member, chapter leader or national leader?
A: When I became chapter president, we were competing with other trade associations for membership and event attendance. Several of our seasoned members were not engaged in the association. And our student chapters wanted more participation from their parent chapter.
First, I recruited several former chapter presidents to serve as my advisory council. Second, I invited the heads of seven Philly-area communication associations to form the Delaware Valley Communications Leadership Council. Third, I lobbied our board of directors to switch from a nine-month event calendar to a year-round one. Finally, I invited all our PRSSA chapter presidents and advisors to tell us what they specifically needed from us.
Q: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing PR practitioners today?
A:Two of the biggest challenges PR professionals face today are addressing misinformation and communicating effectively around DEI and social justice. PR professionals are often caught in the middle between company practices and community expectations.
Q: What is your philosophy regarding the role PR plays in shaping a company’s brand and culture?
A:My philosophy is one that I learned in grad school – communicators should act as information conduits for their organization and as the conscience of the company. They should communicate company information in a timely, open, concise, honest, and relevant fashion. They should also listen to the voices of employees, customers, media, and others and advise senior leadership on what they are hearing.
Q: Who do you admire in the PR field?
A:I admire PR professionals like Ken Jacobs, Rob Beisenbach, J.W. Arnold, and others who struck out on their own and created very successful niche businesses.
Q: What message do you have for young people considering a career in PR?
A:When I chat with student practitioners, I advise them to take business courses, enroll in PRSA/PRSSA, expand their network, and take more than one internship.
Q: If you could have changed one thing in your career, what would it be?
A:Get paid for all my volunteer work. I’d be a very rich man today.