Perspectives and Advice from a 25-Year PR Vet

David Albirtton

By Joshua Smyser-DeLeon

David Albritton is the President of General Motors Defense LLC. According to his bio on the PRSA Foundation website, this wing of the GM family is “focused on providing a variety of innovative and advanced automotive technologies and services to the global aerospace, defense and security industries.” Before taking on this role as lead executive and general manager of GM’s new business entity, David served as GM’s Executive Director of Product Development and International Communications. Going back further through David’s career will show a communications professional with over 25 years of experience.

In my conversation with David, I focused on three key areas that could not easily be found via a quick Google search. First, we discussed the experiences and decisions that brought him to where he is today. Next, I got his perspective on the role diversity and inclusion plays in the current and future workforce. Lastly, he shared career tips for communications professionals as they build toward 25+ year careers of their own. Our conversation covered so much ground that it could not all fit into this writing. However, I have uploaded a podcast of our conversation so that you can listen to it and hear from David himself.

After discussing his career, I asked David to share his insights on the role and challenges of diversity and inclusion in the current and future workforce.

He focused on the importance of organizations not simply using D&I as a tagline. He has seen many organizations make D&I a project with little success. If creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is going to be done right, it must be woven into the fabric of an organization. David said, “Those [organizations] that do it well are truly more successful, because everybody shows up at work and they feel like they’re part of the equation.” Feeling part of the equation means feeling valued. Having a D&I workplace is good for everyone involved. Employee morale, retention, and production can all see increases if D&I is done well. D&I is the responsibility of everyone in an organization, not just one person, team, or office. It needs to be proven with action instead of treated as simply a talking point or project.

To end our conversation, David shared his top 3 career tips that communications professionals can utilize to make themselves stronger communicators and attract talent to their organizations.

1) Know Your Value Proposition

It is important to have a full grasp of what your value proposition is. Your value proposition includes how your resume is written. David mentioned seeing dozens of resumes from people, including mentors, whose resumes do not communicate their story well. In David’s words, “That resume, that piece of paper, represents you until you shake somebody’s hand.” Your resume matters. It can be a factor in getting called for a job interview or not. By not taking the time to put together a compelling, cohesive story that tells an organization all the great things you have accomplished and can accomplish for them, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage from other talent in the job market.

2) Commit to the Art of Networking

Networking is a big deal. No, not networking in the sense that you go to an event, trade business cards with people, and give yourself a pat on the back for making connections. Networking goes beyond this. After attending a networking event and meeting people, in David’s words, “it’s your job to follow-up with that person, connect with that person on LinkedIn, and then create a personal relationship”. This is important, because jobs will come and go, but relationships can last for years. The relationships you create now can lead to opportunities in the future. No one can predict where they will be in the future, but that should not prevent you from working strategically to get to where you want to go. Networking plays a big role in that strategy.

3) Become a Business Partner

If you are aspiring to be at the C-suite level of any organization, become a business partner. It is not enough to be a communications practitioner. According to David, “you’ve got to collectively work across your organization to be portrayed and have a reputation in that organization as being a solid business partner.” This means expanding your view of what your communications role is by understanding the business aspects of an organization as well as how those two areas serve and complement one another. A couple of steps David recommended to accomplish this were furthering your education by getting an MBA or taking classes that will help you not only understand the business side of things, but help you put that business into context as you communicate.

Joshua Smyser-DeLeon is an Assistant Director for Alumni Relations at DePaul University. He is also a graduate student in DePaul’s PRAD program. Outside of his work and academic responsibilities, his labor of love is working within and for the Puerto Rican community in his native Chicago. He serves on the Puerto Rican Agenda’s Chicago Chapter and is the Director of the Paseo Podcast, which highlights stories by, from, and about the Puerto Rican community in Chicago and around the world.
(Albritton Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

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