By Charleah Trombitas
Mike Fernandez, CEO of Burson-Marsteller, shared his journey to success and spoke about the transformation of PR during one of the sessions at PRSSA National Conference in Boston. He began by telling us how he was raised in somewhat of a lower-class family, nobody ever thought he would amount to much. His parents pushed him to do his best and he ended up getting a job on Capitol Hill after six weeks of knocking on doors. He shared that he just needed to learn to ask the right questions. Instead of “Hello, do you have any job openings?” he got a job when he asked, “You guys look busy. Do you need any help around here?” With that, it began his career filled with asking the right questions.
As Fernandez worked his way up, he was infatuated with the idea of making something better. When most people ran from a crisis, that’s when he would step up. He was hired into multiple companies during a time of crisis, always excited for the opportunity to turn a bad situation around. As he worked through crisis after crisis, he took note on how populations were changing. “We have a responsibility as PR people to think. We have to think about how demographics are changing and how the world is changing,” Fernandez said.
Communications is changing; the world is more social. These tips made me realize how much the world really is changing. As a graduating senior, I will be entering the workforce with an entirely different media landscape than those out of school for a few years. This session emphasized, for me, the importance of active learning. If we as PR professionals can learn all throughout our careers, we will be ahead of the curve and ready to tackle changes at any time.
Fernandez also touched on the basic need to be human as PR people. “PR means people rule,” Fernandez said. Being human in a PR role is something a lot of speakers touched on in sessions at conference. It can be easy to get caught up in statistics and business goals, but at the end of the day, the function as a PR representative is to reach, connect and inspire PEOPLE. His words were refreshing to hear that sometimes in the hardest of situations, remembering that everyone is human can be the solution to a dilemma.
Mike Fernandez explaining the “new definition” of PR
For his final takeaways, he left the crowd with these words of wisdom:
If Mike Fernandez is advocating for us to be our full selves in our profession, I think we should listen. We should all feel a little more inspired to be our true selves in all aspects of our life. As Fernandez said, everyone can use their own experiences to their advantage in the workplace!