As with many of my colleagues, I didn’t plan a career in corporate communications. I started covering high school and legion baseball as a stringer for the local paper in high school. I loved sports, loved writing and was thrilled to see my first by-line. I went to Marquette University – a school with a fine journalism program and a great basketball team – with the intention of becoming a sports writer. But just before graduating, I took a public relations course – a rarity then – and heard a representative of Wisconsin Bell give a very impressive talk about his company and the telephone business.
After graduating I had to choose between becoming a reporter for a rural New York daily or an all-purpose community representative for a small hospital near Boston. I took the hospital job, and did everything from writing the hospital newsletter to running conferences. It turned out to be a great choice and started me on a fascinating journey through the world of corporate public relations:
- 1976 – 1978: Assistant Director of Community Relations, Mount Pleasant Hospital, Lynn, MA
- 1978 – 1990: Public Information Representative, progressing to Director of Corporate Communications, Public Service of New Hampshire, Manchester, NH
- 1990 – 1992: Vice President, Corporate Communications, Paramount Communications Inc.
- 1992 – 2000: Vice President, Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.
- 2000 – 2006: Senior Vice President, American Electric Power, Columbus, OH
- 2006 – 2010: Senior Vice President, American International Group, New York
- 2010 – 2013: Global Vice President, Alcoa, New York
- 2013 – Present: Senior Director of Corporate and Executive Communications, APCO Worldwide
As you build your career, remember that all experience is valuable, especially the problems you’ll encounter.
The problems I faced at Public Service – a star-crossed nuclear plant and bankruptcy – gave me opportunities to learn and stretch and get noticed by senior management. And while I hope the recent financial crisis is never repeated, the lessons I learned at AIG simply can’t be learned anywhere else. Above all, stay positive and do your best, no matter what.