From calling the Dawgs to calling the shots in her fast-tracked comms career, Whitney Jones is a true PR star. No really – in 2018, she was named PRSA Georgia’s Rising Star, which annually recognizes one up-and-coming PR pro with demonstrated leadership chops in the profession and the Chapter. So it came as no surprise that as a fast follow to that win, Whitney was named to PRSA Georgia’s inaugural Forty Under 40 class in 2019. Her star power has been on the rise ever since…
This edition of Chapter Chat, a member-focused series featuring candid commentary with industry insights, highlights how this award-winning PR pro got her start, made her mark and continues to push for excellence in everything she does. Plus, she shares a few tidbits of advice for early career PR pros and even discloses a hobby turned side hustle that has her pulling no punches.
Let’s get right to it and find out more about Whitney Jones – in her own words.
Q: Starting from the beginning, how did you get your start in PR?
A: After graduating from the University of Georgia – Go Dawgs! – with degrees in public relations and Spanish, I started my career as an account coordinator at Porter Novelli in Atlanta. I was pretty adamant in college that I did not want to go the agency route but am so thankful I kept an open mind and did. Starting out in an agency setting is such a great way for young comms professionals to cut their teeth in the industry and gain access to a wide variety of PR disciplines, industries and contacts early on in their careers.
At Porter Novelli, I had the pleasure of working on a broad array of clients across every industry under the sun. Agriculture, nonprofit, retail fashion, food, hospitality – you name it, I was able to dip my toe into it at the agency.
Q: When and why did you join PRSA Georgia?
A: I was an active member of the PRSSA Chapter at UGA, serving on the executive board as the director of the student-run PR agency. It was through that position that I was able to connect with a few people at Porter Novelli and get a foot in the door to land my first post-grad job. Not long after that, I joined PRSA Georgia in 2015 because I knew making new connections in Atlanta and the broader PR industry in Georgia would be a boon to my professional development and career growth. And my hunch was right! I’ve met the sharpest, most experienced and supremely creative people in the Chapter who lead communications at local nonprofit organizations, Fortune 50 companies and everything in between. The level of PR talent in Atlanta is unmatched, and joining PRSA Georgia is a great way to get exposure to some of the best in the business.
Q: Since joining PRSA Georgia, you’ve been an active volunteer. Tell us more about your current Chapter role and what’s keeping you busy!
A: After a few years leading social media, professional development and mentorship for the Chapter, I’m now co-chairing the newsletter committee. I love this role because I’m interacting with Chapter leadership and members of other committees on a daily basis to keep a pulse on what’s happening across PRSA Georgia. It’s important that our members stay informed about the benefits that come with being involved in the Chapter, whether that’s professional development, networking or leadership opportunities.
Q: You’ve won several coveted Chapter Awards including Chapter Champion, Forty under 40 and Rising Star – a truly impressive accomplishment! What do you credit to your career success?
A: Thank you! I’ve always had a strong work ethic and have sought out work on causes and clients that I’m passionate about, which inspires me to go above and beyond. But outside of delivering good work (as a baseline for being successful), I’ve been blessed to have some truly amazing mentors and advocates throughout my PR career.
Being good at what you do opens so many doors but having an advocate who mentions your name in rooms that you’re not yet invited to is invaluable. A good mentor is also someone who will give you tough love and call you on your stuff when you need it. My mentors have helped me grow by identifying blind spots and pushing me to take on new challenges. Having that network of support has been the differentiator for me, and I’m trying to pay it back by serving as a mentor and coach to younger professionals, as well.
Q: Pausing on PRSA for a bit, what do you do for your “day job”?
A: I am a communications manager for The Home Depot Foundation. I’m part of a small but mighty team that manages full 360-degree communications for the nonprofit, including PR, marketing, branding, organic and paid social and more. My remit is overseeing communications efforts for our veteran giving. We work with a network of nonprofit partners to provide housing for veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, critical home repairs for combat-wounded and senior veterans, and mortgage-free smart homes for catastrophically injured veterans. It’s really rewarding work and goes back to my earlier point about finding causes (or clients) that you’re passionate about.
Q: What advice do you have for early to mid-career PR professionals looking to advance quickly in their roles and grow their leadership chops?
A: First, establish that you’re a trustworthy and dependable person. That’s the foundation of any working relationship. From there, find ways to make someone else’s job easier, whether that’s identifying how to optimize a process or just following through with something you said you were going to do. Building a reputation as someone who is great to work with is the best way to advance quickly in your role and gain opportunities for more responsibility and leadership.
Q: We know you’re a big dog lover and a loyal Atlanta United fan. What’s something else you’re passionate about that our readers might not know?
A: I’ve been a kickboxer for a decade and have taught classes at a local martial arts studio, Atlanta Kick, for nearly five years. It’s quite the stress-reliever!
Q: Think fast – early bird or night owl?
A: Early bird! I do my best thinking in the quiet morning hours with a cup of coffee in hand.
Q: Think fast – what music do you have on repeat right now?
A: Go ahead and lock up “Déjà vu” by Olivia Rodrigo as my Spotify Top Song of 2021. I’m 20-something going on 16.
Q: To close, how can someone best connect with you?
A: Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.