Welcome to part 2 of our interview with Pam Fultz. This Northeastern alumni has worked across the field of public relations from journalism to education to community relations management, from the Midwest to the Southeast. She met with us in February of this year to discuss her career, her education, and the lessons she can teach current students of Public Relations. The interview was conducted by Benjamin George, a student in the Master’s program at CPS with a focus on Public Relations. 

 

Can you tell me a little bit about your experience at Northeastern, specifically in CPS?

Benjamin

 I had a wonderful experience. I will tell you I was a bit intimidated to go back to school after being out of college for more than a decade, but Northeastern really made it a smooth experience for me. The asynchronous learning environment was the perfect option while I was working, allowing me to learn on my own schedule, yet giving me deadlines to meet for assignments and discussions with classmates. The platform used for the classes was Blackboard at the time. I believe you’ve moved to Canvas now, but it was easy to navigate and the instructions from the professors easy to understand. So, I really thoroughly enjoyed my time.

Pam Fultz

We are similar in that regard. I came back after 11 years.

Benjamin

 And doing it all online was just so helpful to me, again because I wanted it to be a credible program, and I searched and tried to find something and this really, truly was the best program. Northeastern has really been, I think, ahead of the curve with their online programming, too.

Pam Fultz

“Professor Carl Zangerl… helped me gain the foundation and corporate organizational communications that I was really seeking.”

Benjamin: So, during your time at CPS, was there a specific instructor or a specific class or an experience that still resonates with you today?

Benjamin

 I’m glad you asked that question. I had to go back because it’s been a few years since I graduated from there, but I do have two professors that always stood out to me, I had them for several classes. Professor Nancy Robbie was an instructor I had for two of my leadership classes, and she was amazingly supportive and responsive and really inspired me to try my hand at teaching, and I started working as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida in august of last year teaching PR measurement and evaluation. One of the classes she taught was developing your leadership capability, and I went home and pulled out my book last night, just so you know, but its teachings that really stayed with me because they helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses and then build upon the positives.

Pam Fultz

So, it sounds like the principles of public relations really are pervasive throughout all the work that you do. What’s your favorite thing about your position– what’s the most rewarding thing?

Benjamin

Well, I think my favorite part of my job is that I get to use my journalistic roots to continue telling stories. Public relations is really all about relationship building and storytelling, and in this role I get to build and develop relationships with our senior residents, get to know them and also the external news reporters. And then I get to help tell the stories of our residents in our community and get those placed in the media from the cake lady who delivered pieces of birthday cake to all of her 800 neighbors across campus, to a 93 year old golfer, to former educators who live here at Bentley Village who started a foundation to give out scholarships to our employees and they have an endowment of over $1 million just in about six or seven years that they put together. So, it’s really, I think that’s what I enjoy the most is still getting to tell the stories, because when you effectively tell stories, it definitely changes opinions and helps with selling.

Also I had Professor Carl Zangerl for several communications courses, and he helped me gain the foundation and corporate organizational communications that I was really seeking, but both provided helpful and thoughtful feedback on assignments and I really appreciated that.

Pam Fultz

How would you say that your experience in Northeastern prepared you for the way your career went?

Benjamin

For me it was the transition from broadcasting, news broadcasting, into public relations. And I know there are a lot of people who do that, but there really is a transition with it. Again, that’s why I chose to go back and get my master’s degree. My experience in Northeastern helped me prepare in many ways, including offering me leadership skills, as I mentioned, preparation for crisis communications and also acquiring my A.P.R. when I went back a couple of years ago to get my accreditation in public relations, which is really all about research, planning, implementation and evaluation of communications campaigns. So, I felt as if I was again able to go back and look at a lot of the textbooks I had used, and some of the assignments we have put together, to help me with my A.P.R.

Unfortunately, the past two years have really propelled many of us PR professionals into situations where we have a crisis at hand and we’ve had to react quickly due to the changing nature of COVID-19. So, I looked back again on this crisis communications, the course that I took, and I really appreciate that, as it did prepare me to some extent for– never completely prepared– but to some extent for what we went through over the past two years.

For me it was the transition from broadcasting, news broadcasting, into public relations. And I know there are a lot of people who do that, but there really is a transition with it. Again, that’s why I chose to go back and get my master’s degree. My experience in Northeastern helped me prepare in many ways, including offering me leadership skills, as I mentioned, preparation for crisis communications and also acquiring my A.P.R. when I went back a couple of years ago to get my accreditation in public relations, which is really all about research, planning, implementation and evaluation of communications campaigns. So, I felt as if I was again able to go back and look at a lot of the textbooks I had used, and some of the assignments we have put together, to help me with my A.P.R.

Unfortunately, the past two years have really propelled many of us PR professionals into situations where we have a crisis at hand and we’ve had to react quickly due to the changing nature of COVID-19. So, I looked back again on this crisis communications, the course that I took, and I really appreciate that, as it did prepare me to some extent for– never completely prepared– but to some extent for what we went through over the past two years.

Pam Fultz

“Getting real world experience… I think is vital.”

What do you think a student-run agency could provide for students in experience to help them have abilities they need in the real world?

Benjamin

Well, first of all, I think that’s tremendous and wonderful, and I applaud Northeastern… for having that as an option because, it’s interesting, especially as you get older, it’s tougher when you’re going back after your master’s degree to get an internship, per se. So, being involved with that is something akin to that, I would say. But getting real world experience, which I think is vital– when I started in broadcasting quite a few years back, that was my entry point was getting an internship, and this is getting real world experience. And so, I just think that it’s going to provide a lot to the students. What are you actually doing as the PR agency?

Pam Fultz

Everything that a PR agency would do. The idea is to be full service, designing campaigns, doing press releases, social media, we have some people doing graphic design, we have people who are doing… outreach interviews. We have website designs… site updates, it’s really every facet that would be involved in a PR firm.

Benjamin

I just, again, I think that would be so helpful as you move forward, because not just having the degree, but also having the experience and the examples to share too of the work that you have been doing will be so helpful when you’re looking for a job in the future, because that’s what companies are looking for is not just the degree, but they want to know that you have some sort of experience to go with that and that you already know how to potentially do the job, not just that you learned about it in a book. I think it’s great.

Pam Fultz

You’ve been in professional communications a long time, from journalism to education to just being in public relations all around, running so much now. What tenets of communications theory have you carried with you this entire time that you think apply the most?

Benjamin

Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned that, because even going back to my broadcasting days and then moving forward into PR, oftentimes as communicators that’s the thing that we can lack the skills at, is communication. So, I would say making sure to communicate in a clear, concise and consistent manner, whether internally with colleagues or externally with clients, prospective customers and influencers, it is just crucial to be authentic and reliable and communicate.

Pam Fultz

From soup to nuts, in every, in every single situation.

Benjamin

 Absolutely.

Pam Fultz

It’s been wonderful having an interview with you. I have just one last question. So, as a professional who came out of the program and who has had so much success, what’s your advice for students in CPS today, entering the field?

Benjamin

I would suggest students be prepared for an ever-changing, but fulfilling job. The role of communications professional can range from community relations, to media relations, to social media, to speechwriter, to marketing, to advertising. Find the niche that you enjoy most and learn as much as you can about it, but then learn more about other areas so that you’re well rounded. And also, the other tip is learn to write. That is one thing I’ve taken with me from career to career, journalism to public relations to education. As mentioned, clear, concise and consistent, but also don’t be afraid to be creative. It’s really relevant in each industry to engage with your target audience, to be able to write clearly, communicate effectively.

Pam Fultz