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PRSA Tampa Bay Member Spotlight: Suzanne Grant

July 26, 2013

Every two weeks, we put a spotlight on a PRSA Tampa Bay member to learn more about their public relations background, advice on best practices and why they love working in the field.

Former television journalist-turned PR professional, Suzanne Grant, APR is up next and she’s dishing on her career path and what she wishes someone had told her when first starting out in PR.

Suzanne Grant

Suzanne Grant

Name: Suzanne Grant
Title: Dir. of Public Relations and Strategic Communications
Company/Organization: Moffitt Cancer Center
PRSA Involvement (past and present): Current board member; co-chair, mentor and class facilitator for APR preparation course
Links to Personal and/or Professional Social Channels:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/suzannegrant
http://www.facebook.com/moffittcancercenter

1) Tell us a little bit about your career, educational/professional background and how you got to where you are today.
Twenty-five years ago, I started my career as a television journalist. My husband and I were both on-air reporters at the same TV station. I knew I needed a change when I had to take the baby with me to a 5 am “live shot” as daycare didn’t open until 7 am. Motherhood required more “regular” hours, so I decided to use my skills in the public relations field. For the past 18 years, I’ve focused on public relations working at agencies, nonprofits and in the corporate sector. For 10 years, I developed national campaigns for the American Heart Association, launching the organization’s Go Red for Women campaign in 2003. I moved to Florida in 2005 to manage communications, adverting and marketing activities for the American Heart Association throughout the Southeast. In 2008, I decided I wanted to move into the corporate world and joined Progress Energy Florida, now a subsidiary of Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the country and a Fortune 100 company.

In just four years at Progress Energy, my crisis communications and issues management skills were put to the test many times. I handled a wide range of issues including numerous protests, large rate increases, a broken nuclear power plant, a challenging merger and a fatal industrial accident. The work was exciting, but ultimately I wanted more. This spring (2013), I went back to my nonprofit roots and joined Moffitt Cancer Center as the Director of PR and Strategic Communications.

I have a Bachelors of Science in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University and received my accreditation in public relations in 2010. Since receiving my accreditation, I have volunteered to mentor others and lead study sessions for the Tampa Bay PRSA chapter’s APR study group as well as PRSA’s national online preparation program. And, this year I was fortunate enough to join the board of PRSA Tampa Bay.

2) Have you ever done anything out of the ordinary to apply for and/or get a job?
Breaking into the TV world is tough especially as an on-camera reporter. Back in the late 80s, I was looking to get my first on-air reporting job at a TV station in Watertown, NY. I did my research and learned that the hiring manager had a reputation regarding his hiring practices. I used that information to my advantage. I bought an ultra-short skirt suit, got the job… and wore pants every day on the job. I did my homework and made the situate work for me. Later after we got to know each other better, the manager asked me why I never wore skirts. I just smiled and told him that he knew why.

3) Have you earned your Accreditation in PR? If so, at what stage in your professional career do you recommend pursuing an APR and why?
I received my APR three years ago. As one of the chapter members helping others pursuing their APRs, I have found that around ten years of experience seems to be the sweet spot. Candidates with less experience have been successful, but often have to put in more time. Those who pursue it later in their career, like I did, may go into the process a bit overly confident and not be prepared to do the preparation needed to succeed.

4) What do you wish someone had told you when you first started your career in PR?
Focus on balance in your PR plans. As a former reporter, I relied too heavily on media relations. I wish I had a mentor back then that would have helped me realize the need to use more tools in the PR tool chest, but I worked as the only PR person in an adverting agency. Luckily, our clients were happy with the press they got, but back then I missed the boat when it came to many aspects of PR, especially community outreach and key leader engagement.

5) Do you think it takes a certain kind of personality to thrive in PR? What traits are most important?
I think skills and attitude are the most important success factors in any field. In public relations it helps to be naturally inquisitive, proactive and high energy.

6) In grade school, what things did your teachers note on your report cards that you feel correlate to the PR pro you are today?
My teachers always encouraged my creative thinking and writing skills which are two things that I believe help me excel to this day. I was constantly chastised for my poor penmanship – lucky for me I learned to type in high school.

7) What’re some of your personal hobbies outside of work/PR?
I am a member of the 2013 Leadership Pinellas class and have been a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters since 2009. My husband and I enjoy sailing and kayaking in Tampa Bay and look forward to a new life together as “empty nesters” when our son leaves for college in the fall.

If you’re interested in being featured in a Member Spotlight, contact Jenna Stock at stock.jenna@gmail.com.

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