Future of Communications: Q&A WCA@Lunch Speakers

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Written by Zahra Adamjee

This week, we are very excited to present July@Lunch: The Future of Communications, featuring our four outstanding panelists, Melanie Fish, Jeff Hahn, Lauren Mauro, and Colin Pope.

July@Lunch will inspire a discussion about where the field of communications is going as we face a constantly changing environment. Our speakers will share how communicators can stay ahead of the curve in a world grappling with fake news, technological disruption and rapid-fire change.

To give you a brief introduction to several of our panelists, the Women Communicators of Austin had a short Q&A with Melanie Fish, Lauren Mauro and Jeff Hahn.

Melanie Fish | U.S. Public Relations Manager, HomeAway

WCA: Where did you begin as a communications professional?

Fish: I graduated from SMU and started mailing audition tapes, big bulky beta tapes, to small TV stations all over the country. I drove across Texas introducing myself to news directors, my favorite being a man in Tyler who leaned back, put his boots on his desk and recommended I “cut my cheerleader hair.” I finally landed in Topeka, Kansas, anchoring and reporting the news. I worked in TV news here in Austin as well, but quit to stay home with my kids. Consulting and freelance writing kept my brain alive during those years but the projects that enabled me to reinvent myself as a PR leader were the ones I did in the non-profit world – with Leadership Austin, LifeWorks, and Texas CASA. I often tell people I’m a terrible PR professional, because I absolutely can’t PR anything I don’t believe in.

WCA: What sparked your interest in a communications related field?

Fish: My first love was theatre, and I went to college expecting to major in it. I got scared I would starve and feared rejection, so I shifted to broadcast journalism (let’s be honest, they’re both theatrical). I didn’t realize journalism provides just as much opportunity for rejection and low pay as a theatre career does.

WCA: What is one piece of advice you have to give to fellow professionals about maneuvering the field today?

Fish: Despite the rapid changes in the communications field, there is one constant. Be informed and know what’s happening in the world around you. At one of my first news internship interviews, I was given a current events quiz and couldn’t name more than two Supreme Court justices or the Secretary of Defense. Humiliating myself was a life-changing experience. I never stop reading, watching, asking, and remembering.

 

Jeff Hahn | Owner and Principal, Hahn Public Communication

WCA: Where did you begin as a communications professional?

Hahn: I started as an intern with Motorola Austin’s government relations office in 1990. From there, I migrated through all the corporate communication functions, including: employee communication, public relations, public affairs, financial communication and executive comm’s. For 12 of my 15 years with the company, I was also a member of the company’s crisis management team.

WCA: What sparked your interest in a communications related field?

Hahn: Texas Governor John Connelly. In 1980, I was a sophomore in high school. Governor Connelly had come to northeast Iowa, where I grew up. My mother took me into town to hear him speak – which was a big deal: a) we got to leave the farm during the week, and b) on a school night. I sat on the middle aisle seat and after his speech, he came down the center aisle and shook my hand. I thought to myself right then, “I’m going to Texas.”

WCA: What is one piece of advice you have to give to fellow professionals about maneuvering the field today?

Hahn: Become an expert. I know many communicators who succeed because they work hard. I have discovered, however, that work ethic alone just makes you a better list maker. I’m a collector of persuasion models – I study and use them every day; that’s my expertise – and I have found them to be enormously useful in cracking the most difficult and complex communication challenges. When I bring those to bear on a high-level communication challenge, problems get cut through quickly and solved. My ability to draw on these models from memory gets me a seat at the decision-making table.

 

Lauren Mauro | Director of Consumer PR/Influencer Relations, Dell

WCA: Where did you begin as a communications professional?

Mauro: I attended the University of Texas (hook em!) and volunteered for many communications organizations and internships to network and learn more about different jobs to help in selecting a major and career. I interned at a boutique PR agency, an advertising agency, a non-profit, and a large PR agency, GCI Read-Poland, which led to a full time job on their tech team. I worked there for five years and then moved over to Dell to gain some in house communications experience and have since worked in many different functions and divisions. I currently manage public relations and influencer relations for Dell’s Consumer and Gaming businesses and love it; it’s fast-paced, challenging and fun!

WCA: What sparked your interest in a communications related field?

Mauro: When I was little I would watch the news with my parents and dream about becoming a news anchor. I wanted to be in the middle of the action reporting on the latest events and news. I applied for the Comms School at UT and then started to explore different functions within communications and learned that Public Relations was the best fit for me. I got really lucky and picked a career that I still love today and every day.

WCA: What is one piece of advice you have to give to fellow professionals about maneuvering the field today?

Mauro: It’s not new news that the media landscape has changed and we now live in a 24/7 news cycle. In order to stay relevant, you must stay up to date on the latest social platforms and how to use each one to consume and push out news.

About Jennifer Van Gilder

A marketing research and health communications professional passionate about doing work that changes lives for the better. Adept team leader able to develop and execute integrated, multichannel public awareness campaigns and community-based solutions.

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