Longtime PRSA Georgia member Becky Peterson has been active with the organization locally and nationally since joining PRSA what she jokingly recalls as “100 years ago.” What is in fact a notable 20 years of membership has been glittered with exciting career moves – and literal moves, too. The independent counselor currently resides in Indianapolis, where she has lived since 2015.
So why would this multi-faceted PR pro maintain her local Chapter membership in Georgia despite living out of state? As Becky tells it, her PRSA Georgia membership helps keep her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the Peach State’s PR community as well as with several Georgia clients. Plus, with kids and now grandkids in the Atlanta area who she regularly visits thanks to the flexibility to work from virtually anywhere, there are multiple synergies.
This edition of Chapter Chat, a member-focused series featuring candid commentary with industry insights, highlights how one standout member taps into the PRSA network to fuel connection and collaboration well beyond state borders.
Let’s get right to it and find out more about Becky Peterson – in her own words.
Question: Starting from the beginning, how did you find your path to PR?
Answer: I graduated college with a journalism degree but started on the agency side with both Hill & Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller, which at the time were the two largest agencies worldwide. They were great first gigs and instilled in me the agency pace. After that, I worked for the Houston-headquartered retail chain Foley’s, which was later acquired by Macy’s. I was the PR manager leading communications for 38 stores across four states. After starting a family and moving for my then husband’s job with child No. 1 at six weeks old, I started freelancing and never looked back.
Q: Speaking of your move, when and why did you join PRSA Georgia?
A: My family and I moved to Alpharetta in 1999 and I joined the Chapter almost immediately after that. I was a staunch PRSSA member in college and understood the benefits of getting connected right away. I was highly motivated by the professional development component, as well, which remains true to this day.
Q: You still have a PRSA Georgia membership despite living out of state. Why is that?
A: My PRSA Georgia membership has made it seamless to keep my connections. A lot of my clients are based in state, as well. It’s excellent to know people for my own networking purposes but I also love being able to help others connect, too.
What we have is such a trusted camaraderie. When I first joined, I honesty couldn’t believe just how collaborative and open everyone was, especially the Independent Counselors (IC) Special Interest Group (SIG). I’ve belonged to other professional organizations where it’s not like that. I credit it at least in part to our Southern hospitality and my goal eventually is to move back here since grandkids apparently keep happening.
Q: Over the years, how have you stayed involved with the Chapter?
A: I’ve done so much over the years! Some highlights are co-chairing the membership committee with Keri Tomsic and Lynn Medcalf, APR when we were meeting at Elyse Hammett, APR’s office in Buckhead. I’ve also helped with planning Chapter meetings as part of the Professional Development Committee. And currently, I lead the Chapter’s Career Center in partnership with the Website and Newsletter Committees. It’s really been picking up steam. If you haven’t checked out the listings recently, there are a ton and that actually keeps me really busy!
At the national level, I also have judged Silver Anvil Awards for four or five years now, though not consecutively. It gives me an insightful snapshot of what other people in the industry are doing, including best practices, innovations and new ideas.
Q: More recently, what has your Chapter involvement looked like given the limitations of COVID-19?
A: Because of COVID-19 and the Chapter’s expansion to more virtual learning, I’ve joined more sessions recently which has been great living 500+ miles away. I attended the 2021 Annual Conference, which I loved, especially the DE&I sessions. Candidly, I went into it thinking that I’d be able to multitask during the conference but the speakers and content were so compelling, it had my full attention.
Q: Pausing on PRSA for a bit, what do you currently do for your “day job”?
A: I’ve been an independent consultant for about 25 years now total and I love the flexibility it provides me in a number of ways. I’ve been really fortune in my career to be able to choose who I work with and what clients I support, and I’m a big believer in working for genuine, good-hearted, authentic people.
I’m also able to manage my schedule in a way that works best for my clients as well as my personal interests. Anything media relations focused, I’ll prioritize during a certain window of the day. But if it’s a nice afternoon and I can get out in my kayak for a few hours and work on writing assignments later into the evening as a tradeoff, I totally embrace that option.
Q: Do you have a specialization or focus in your work and client mix?
A: Most of my work is media relations and writing focused – and PRSA is definitely a common thread for how opportunities have come my way! I’ve partnered with agencies and in-house corporations for longer-term freelancing and temp gigs. Currently, I’m working with Aprilaire out of Madison, Wis.; Eternal Reefs out of Sarasota, Fla.; a real estate attorney firm in Roswell, Ga.; and a Miami-based agency with a roster of mostly franchise clients like Firehouse Subs, Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions, Central Bark and others just to name a sampling!
Q: As a seasoned PR pro, what are the highlights of what you do?
A: Media relations has always been exciting for me. I know there are a lot of PR pros who would say not to call reporters but it’s a standard part of my outreach approach. You’d be surprised sometimes that reporters are pleased to talk to a live person, and I’ve placed some truly great stories that way.
It’s also always very rewarding when you can connect your work directly back to business results. I recently placed a local broadcast story that was picked up by NBC national. My client’s sales team was able to pin a direct correlation between new service inquiries and the markets that ran the segment. There was no dotted or twisted line – it was a direct business benefit that was driven by PR and that’s super rewarding to us PR pros!
Q: What is one “unofficial” skill or experience that you’ve put to use at work?
A: I’m a classically trained vocalist, currently singing with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir (well, as pandemic allows singing again, we’ll be rehearsing). The singular focus of working on a difficult passage in music, rehearsing over and over again translates to my work. What I mean is that I often think, “For this 15 minutes, I’m going to focus on getting this pitch exactly right.” Or, “This hour is dedicated to this client.” Not sure that’s a skill or experience, but it is a technique that has worked for me over the years.
Q: Where do you find creativity and inspiration?
A: Honestly, I’ve had some of my best ideas while looking at the lane lines at the bottom of a pool (I swim about three miles a week and there’s not a lot else to think about) or running (brainstorming a difficult issue takes my mind off the step-by-step pain)!
Q: What is your favorite social media channel and how can someone best connect with you?
A: Again, I have to be honest. I feel like social media is a necessary evil because it’s so very easy to get distracted and go down one rabbit hole after another. I’d really like to leave that all to the “young ‘uns,” but I know I need to have a presence. I’m on Twitter and Instagram but primarily a Facebook girl; however, I try not to hang out there too much. I’m happy to have anyone reach out to me directly at Peterson.Becky.J@gmail.com.