After finishing up business school and moving to Atlanta to take on his first professional position with one of world’s leading PR agencies, John Walker sought deeper and more meaningful PR learning and classwork.
So, he promptly joined PRSA Georgia, diving straight into the Chapter’s membership experience and earning leadership roles, including serving as president. During his time as president, the Chapter became the second largest in the country, a distinction it maintains to this day.
He’s now an executive committee member of PRSA’s Counselors Academy, the national section specifically for independent agency leaders. John’s meteoric level of involvement with PRSA dovetailed with his rise through the professional PR ranks, from a succession of C-suite positions to founding his own firm, Chirp PR, in 2017.
He even finds time to impart his knowledge in the classroom as a part-time business communication instructor at Georgia State University.
Chapter Chat, a member-centric profile series mixing industry insights with candid commentary, set out to discover what makes this consummate PR executive and man of many hats tick.
Let’s get to know John Walker in his own words, shall we?
Question: You have a long history of involvement with PRSA Georgia and with PRSA National as well – what compelled you to not only join our organization in the first place, but also take on leadership roles?
Answer: I joined PRSA Georgia to accelerate my industry acumen and to cultivate a network of talented professionals whom I still learn from daily after more than 20 years. Giving back to the industry enables you to stay on top of the latest trends while concurrently cultivating the potential for other professionals to make a long-term impact on the profession and professional.
Q: Where do you find creativity and inspiration?
A: Creativity and inspiration comes, surprisingly, most naturally for me when doing nothing and in the least expected places, including while working in the garden, walking the neighborhood, reading a book, or while sleeping. A lot of my biggest ideas transpire when I practice mindfulness.
Q: Can you share your thoughts on the importance of organizations and companies doubling down on their PR efforts during our current challenging times?
A: Brands must be timely to remain relevant and resilient in the good times and bad. The pandemic allowed companies to scale back their overt messaging and enabled them to be more empathetic and compassionate about the realities facing society. Brands must be sensitive to how content (planned or new) could be perceived today and in the future. Show how your brand can help and rise to the occasion by offering solutions, helpful tips and information – not sales. Take time to show solidarity with your customers and employees to build trust and show empathy. In times of crisis, you must turn on a dime to ensure trust, relevancy and authenticity with your customers.
Q: What is the professional accomplishment you are most proud of?
A: Delivering results that matter for our clients and ensuring a high quality of work-life balance for our team members are what makes me proudest. The financial rewards are tertiary when you enable your clients to stand out like rock stars and empower your team to live, and work, on their terms – whenever and wherever they prefer.
Q: What part of Georgia do you live in and what’s your favorite aspect of living there?
A: Fortunately, I’m able to split my time between West Midtown (Atlanta) and Lake Sinclair. While I love life in the city, it’s been nice to ease the pace on the lake, in particular amidst a global pandemic.
Q: What is your favorite social media channel and how can someone best connect with you?
A: Instagram as I’m a very visual person and enjoy seeing the life and professional experiences of others – @jewalk404 @chirp_pr.
Q: Do you have a favorite Chapter memory?
A: There are numerous Chapter memories that I’ll forever cherish, yet one always makes me smile. As president, we grew our membership and became the second largest chapter in the nation. I vividly remember the board meeting when (PRSA Georgia Chief Operating Officer) Denise Grant excitedly shared the news, and it’s a delight that we’ve maintained the position over the years.
Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
A: Being present, practicing mindfulness and allowing myself the opportunity recharge in order to show up, make an impact and deliver results that matter. I also enjoying teaching business communications at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, sharing my experiences and learning from the students’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
Q: What’s your best piece of advice for practitioners that are new to the PR industry?
A: Build your network, ask a lot of questions and raise your hand to take on more assignments that challenge you. By working with others, you’ll learn more about yourself and areas for improvement. By asking a lot of questions, you’ll learn from different viewpoints, approaches and best practices. By taking on more assignments that challenge you, you’ll be able to continuously improve, rise and shine to any occasion.
Q: Looking beyond the pandemic (optimistically), what are your hopes and aspirations for PRSA Georgia?
A: My vision for PRSA Georgia is to become the largest chapter within the society based on our top-notch programming, innovative member engagement and industry leadership that continuously advances the profession and the professional.