Fireside Chat:: Communications Professionals: The North Star of Any Organization

Blogger: Susan Vernon-Devlin (Orlando Area Chapter)

Fireside Chat: Communcations Professionals: The North Star of Any Organization
Lauren Worley, Artist and Talent Director, The ONE Campaign

A little heat (from an on-screen fire), two comfy chairs, Roger Pynn, APR, CPRC, and Lauren Worley of The One Campaign, sat down to share a little about how Lauren, a Kent State grad got to where she is today.

Inspired by the West Wing television series, Lauren followed her dreams to be a press secretary. She called up a NASA colleague for whom she had interned with 15 years prior and that started it all. To have them think that a girl from Ohio could work with the greats like Neil Armstrong was a dream come true.

Prior to NASA there was work with political campaigns. The great think about a political campaign is it’s 170 days, you can sprint to the finish line. It’s a new challenge every day. You may not have a job at the end, but it’s a sprint, so there is an end. With the NASA job, it’s a marathon and you have to come in with the same enthusiasm every day to do the job. “The best part of the campaigns for me is that I love eating pie, “ said Lauren. “ I don’t know about the candidates, but eating pie on the campaign trail is my favorite.”

If her life was a movie, Lauren would love to have Kristen Wiig play her. A few years ago it would have been Angelina Jolie, but the role Kristen Wiig played in the movie “The Martian” really showed how it’s done.

Lauren had always wanted to be a doctor; she had those parents who made her get a job in a hospital one summer and she got sick every day. She was a junior in high school, she was all set to be a doctor, but her high school anatomy teacher recommended journalism school. That sent Lauren to a job at the local radio station, “less blood and guts”, but very fulfilling.

Lauren offered this broad perspective on our profession: As communication professionals we get to see all sides of an organization. We get to work on internal and external communications and at some point what makes us the heart of the organization is the fact that we will have to explain things to the general public and what the decisions the organization makes can affect peoples’ live. Our job as PR professionals is “trying to get people on the train with us.” That’s why you see so many PR professionals become the chief of staff; they have that 30,000 foot view of the organization so it’s a natural progression to move forward to leadership positions.

How do we become C-suite professionals? It’s always about authenticity and credibility. Whether we are writing a press statement or an email. We need to find the right people to share our messages so that people will get on the train.

The toughest feedback that Lauren ever had to give happened when she was chief of staff for the Lt. Governor of Ohio. The Lt. had hired a friend of Lauren’s. This friend found herself in a situation where she was not showing up for work. It’s hard to correct a friend, especially if there are political ramifications. Ultimately the person was fired and there was an inspector general investigation. The toughest thing was to go to my boss and say I made a mistake. Then going before the staff was equally hard. People did not crucify Lauren for her choice, they stated that her friend was an asset, she was caring and they wanted to keep in touch with her even after the incident.

What’s the thing that Lauren is most proud of? A press conference pulled off with a lack of technology. She was down at the external tanks assembly building. They planned for a press conference after a huge success. At 8:45 a.m. the boss wanted to take the communication into space, and talk to the International Space Station. He added elements that would involve the space station and connecting with NASA TV. Lauren could have panicked, as technology was not readily available, but the people on site worked hard to make the phone lines accessible and get things going. The phone lines did not work at the time of the press conference, so Lauren’s boss decided to call them on his cell phone. He called the International Space Station on his cell phone. Amazing! It ran live on NASA TV, and she received praise that her press conference was great. Lauren was relieved and hoped for liquid libation to celebrate the success.

Lauren now works with The ONE Campaign, with Bono. The decision to leave the job as press secretary at NASA was not an easy one, but she knew it was time to move on. “When you look at your North star, you will know when it’s time to choose a new job that fits your life at a particular stage and time.” She wrote a list of pros and cons to decide how to move on. She wanted a smaller company, closer to earth, no more political campaigns and something that would challenge her. She followed The ONE Campaign on social media, and wrote to their recruiter to see if they would have a job for her. They did.

Now Lauren manages the people that Bono recruits to work with his organization. She’s gone from working in the stars, space, to working with the stars, luminaries and celebrities, on earth.

A side note: being a good PR person means answering the question you want to answer, not the one that you were asked.

Lauren once managed her own PR firm for 11 months. It was the hardest job ever and she was constantly hustling for work. She’s had clients fire her and that’s really hard. When you’re fired it does not mean you’re not a good person, it just means you’re not good at that and that there is something else you should be doing. Losing political campaigns is also hard. When you’re down and lose an election it’s hard. You need to recognize you’re not going to be great at everything. My job isn’t me. That’s sound advice from Lauren.

The government job was a reliable source of income, an interesting industry and something that she could really grow her career from. The ONE Campaign is a new journey. All the roads she’s traveled have added to who she is and who she will be in the future.

Takeaways:

  • Establish an honest relationship with your bosses so that you can always be honest with them and champion their causes.
  • Know your constituents and talk their language so that they understand your message.
  • Offer up unconventional solutions; things that make sense or crazy ideas may lead to success.
  • Whatever the challenge is, push yourself to try, you can always come back home.
  • Authenticity and credibility go hand in hand.
  • We are given much, when much is required.

WorleyCommunications directors provide the conscious for every organization. Lauren B. Worley, former press secretary and senior advisor at NASA, has more than a decade of experience guiding organizations toward their respective North Star. In this session, Lauren discussed the leadership qualities required of communications professionals, and how public relations professionals pilot organizations to maintain credibility, authenticity and originality.

 

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