The room was completely packed during PRSSA Kent’s meeting on Oct. 21. Students engaged in a panel discussion on PR in the public sector featuring Iris Cumberbatch and Stephanie Smith.
Iris Cumberbatch has more than 20 years of experience in global organizations. She has been a corporate communications strategist and key member of executive leadership teams, a crisis manager, bringing organizational skills and expertise to solving sensitive, time-critical issues, and a senior spokesperson, developing and communicating corporate messages to external and internal audiences including employees, the media, customers and investors. Most recently, Iris served as the Vice President and Head of Public Affairs at the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland
Stephanie Smith worked for the CIA for 27 years, serving in a variety of roles in the collection of intelligence. As Director for Support, she was the senior-most woman at CIA and the first woman to hold that job. In that role, she led the largest of CIA's four directorates (which included a worldwide workforce) and managed the CIA's largest budget. She achieved the highest rank possible at CIA and was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA Director's Award, and 20 performance awards. And of course, she is now a full-time assistant professor at JMC.
President Gabrielle Woodard, former intern at the Federal Communications Commission, moderated the panel discussion. Some of the questions included the following:
What was your most memorable moment?
Cumberbatch said her most memorable moment was a “proud” moment. She addressed the room about a time when she worked for Wachovia, the fourth largest bank in the country. The bank had been on a downhill spiral for 9 months and was beginning to fail. Cumberbatch worked with the CEO to communicate with audiences such as stakeholders, shareholders, customers and employees. Even though it was a devastating time, Cumberbatch said at the end she was able to look back at the communications and conversations she had with people invested in this corporation and say, “What I did made a difference.”
Smith said her most memorable moment was 9/11. She told the room how for months after 9/11 she lived at her office and barely saw the inside of her house. Smith explained that this tragic event was her most memorable experience because of her employees that went above and beyond their job when they were called to. “I had a front row seat to history,” Smith said.
What advice do you have for people considering a job in government?
Smith told the room that anyone interested in government should have a good understanding of foreign policy. She emphasized to everyone to be risk takers and strategists. Smith also noted that anyone considering a job in government should apply a year in advance because of the extensive application and interview process.
Cumberbatch told students to learn how the interrelationships inside the government work and how many parts of the government are related. She told students to always be curious. “Spend time with yourself and find out what gets your animated,” Cumberbatch said.