By: Troy Heatwole
In honor of Black History Month, we at PRSSA want to acknowledge and bring recognition to MDJ Professor, Gene Shelton, who has been an active participant in the advancement of black voices in the journalism and public relations fields.
Professor Shelton has enjoyed an expansive career working in journalism, media, and public relations. After graduating in 1972, he began his work as a reporter for The Cleveland Press.
He shifted in his career and moved to Los Angeles. He worked as a publicist and writer for different influential studios including Motown Records, Columbia Records, and Epic Records. His clients have included some of the greatest names in music: The Jacksons, Prince, Davis Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, The Beach Boys, Chaka Khan, and so many more. One of his most notable clients has been the reigning “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson. Shelton worked extensively with the musician’s album promotions of Off the Wall and Thriller.
When asked about what advice he would give younger students, he said "My advice to future practitioners is to be true to yourself. Work with a passionate drive to be the best at what you do. Any job that causes stress, is not the job for you. Always practice with a solid foundation of truth, integrity and empathy for others."
Professor Shelton has earned numerous awards throughout his career, such as The Robert G. McGruder Distinguished Leadership Award that “recognizes the accomplishments of media professionals who encourage diversity,” as well as the Judge Harold K. Stubbs Humanitarian Award for Distinguished Service in Education. His advocacy for diversity has also earned him the Kent State University Trailblazer Award.
Black pioneers, like Professor Shelton, continue to open doors for people of color within the world of
communication and information, inspiring a new generation of storytellers.
By: Joyleah Odom
Dr. Cheryl Lambert, an MDJ professor at Kent State, shares her most memorable experiences in her career and encourages students to take outside opportunities to find new interests.
After earning her master’s degree in journalism from Temple University, Lambert spent several years working as a publisher and feature writer in Philadelphia. However, her need for a support system and sense of belonging ultimately drew her in a different direction.
The position of public relations in internal communications at Sears headquarters opened up and Lambert was able to use her skills in journalism to aid her in this new position. Even with her prior experience as a writer, Lambert still had difficulty transitioning from journalism to public relations. It required her to do lots of “on-the-job learning," but she said that it was worth it. At Sears, Lambert could recognize the work the company did to celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion.
“… there was a strong tradition in corporate headquarters of promoting and celebrating diversity,” Lambert said about the company. “There was a sense of belonging from well-regarded employee resource groups which partially served as advisory organizations to the company CEO.”
In her career, her favorite campaign of all time was “Sears Grand!” The project was a rebranding initiative that included the creation of a stand-alone store in suburban Chicago with new items such as clothes, groceries, etc.
“We did some media training of the store manager, connecting with a small non-profit to introduce ourselves to the community, hiring a jazz band to play on the soft opening night,” Lambert said. This project was also memorable because it was her first chance to be involved with external public relations. To this day, she still remembers this as still one of her fondest work memories.
Lambert’s advice for aspiring public relations professionals is to take opportunities outside of your area of interest and be content with not always getting accolades for your work. “I heard a tough saying once ‘your paycheck is your praise,’” Lambert said.
By: Joyleah Odom
To celebrate Black History Month, PRSSA would like to highlight Mike Jackson, the Professional-In-House for the spring semester. Mike has a long and impressive career, one that we hope inspires you to be ambitious and never settle for less.
Mike Jackson is the founder of 2050 Marketing, a marketing consulting firm that helps companies build their brand to best fit the America of the future. 2050 has worked with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups.
He has worked with companies such as Coors, USAA, Vision Media, and several others. Additionally, he has had executive leadership roles at Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Coors, and GM. He provides his expertise as a marketing analyst guest commentator and contributor for NBC, CNBC, ABC, NPR, CCTV, USE Today.
As of recent, Jackson has returned to his alma mater to be a Professional-In-House and to work with Franklin Advertising. When asked about what he enjoyed most about his career, he said he enjoys his ability to work with global brands. He is proud to be one of the few African Americans to lead advertising and marketing for General Motors. One of his favorite projects that he worked on was assisting Insurance and Financial firm, USAA in the agency selection process after they terminated a seven-year relationship with their creative and media agency over a racist email controversy. "I worked closely with the USAA CMO, to define the values necessary for new agency partners, and assisted with the selection of the new agency," Jackson said.
When asked about how to achieve a common goal with a diverse group of people, he said “staffing your teams (internal or external) with a diverse set of thoughts and experiences is the key. My style is to respect everyone that I come in contact with while maintaining a focus on delivering outstanding results.”
Starting 2050 Marketing has come with its own set of challenges. With the companies goal of adapting and preparing for the America of tomorrow, it is difficult to get large companies to adapt. “Most of the challenges are convincing brands and agencies to allocate resources and convincing c-suite leaders to emotionally invest, accordingly,” Jackson said.
When asked about his time at Kent State, he said, “my time at Kent State helped me ‘grow up,' refine my personal and professional skills, and have the confidence that enabled me to be a leader in corporate America at a time when opportunities for African American males were few and far between.”
We celebrate Black History Month and Mike Jackson’s career in hopes to shed light on the amazing things African American people have done for this country. We wish his career well and we're excited to watch how he continues to strive ahead in the field of communications.
By: Macy Rosen
The PRSSA Kent Chapter brought a little magic to Kent for Monday night’s meeting! In the first meeting of the semester, four PRKent alumni, who now work for the Walt Disney Company and Parks, spoke about their experiences with Disney. Jay Shannon, Director, Public Affairs and Executive Engagement; Paige McCalmon, Project Integration Manager; Kelli Fitzpatrick, Senior Story Editor; and Peggy Korecko, Senior Application Support Analyst; all shared their PR magic within Disney. All of our speakers had great information and advice for our staff, students, and alumni.
Priscilla DeCapua, ’08 Kent State School of Media and Journalism alum, did an amazing job guiding PRSSA Kent while putting this meeting together. She collaborated with our very own VP of Professional Relations, Kayla Polansky. As a freshman PR major at Kent, I lovewatching and learning from the upperclassmen members and alumni of PRSSA Kent. They are amazing role models and really set an example for the underclassmen who are interested in being board members in the future.
I found the most important takeaway from the meeting was networking. Networking is known to be the core conversation of Public Relations careers and many other communications careers at the PRSSA meetings. Each speaker emphasized the importance of connecting and networking and gave examples of how it has helped them get to where they are now.
On the topic of job interviews, the speakers gave us great tips and advice:
McCalmon: When you’re asked what your strengths are, have specific examples of why you are good at each trait.
Korecko: Make a connection to the interviewer and be yourself.
Fitzpatrick: Keep your skills sharp (Ex. Write for fun, take opportunities to make connections).
Shannon: The interviewer doesn’t owe you a job, sell yourself and be authentic.
All of the speakers seem to enjoy their jobs at Disney and shared their mix of daily tasks and experiences during the meeting. We heard about scriptwriting, cast events, executive roles, travel opportunities, tours, and more! The most important point that the speakers made was the opportunities they have received and continue to receive through Disney. McCalmon and Shannon reflected on their opportunities, as they began in lower-level positions, and are now currently in executive and HR positions.
McCalmon, ’93 Kent State PR graduate stated, “PR was the one major where you could end up anywhere.” This statement really spoke to me because as a PR major, it can be hard to know where you’ll end up. This group of speakers gave our viewers so much confidence in our majors and school.
Overall, I found this to be a fantastic meeting. It is so gratifying to see our very own alumni working for such a magical, world-renowned organization. It’s a magical day to be a part of PRSSA (Kent)!