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PRSA Tampa Bay Member Spotlight: Andy Fobes

March 20, 2014
Andy Fobes

Andy Fobes

Title: Director of Public Affairs
Company/Organization: Port Tampa Bay
Follow Andy on Twitter: @AfobesFobes; Facebook & LinkedIn.

1)    Tell us a little bit about your career, educational/professional background and how you got to where you are today.

I joined the Port Tampa Bay team as Director of Public Relations May 30, 2006. I came to Tampa from the Port of New Orleans, where I served as Chief of Protocol, hosting foreign groups, elected officials and dignitaries, and coordinated many of the port’s high-profile events. Prior to working in New Orleans, I was Public Information Officer for the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport, where I handled communications efforts and press relations. My experience includes media outreach, speech writing, publication design, media buying and event planning in both the private and public sectors. In addition, I have served as liaison for corporate and government affairs and in general community settings. I have served on many project and conference committees, and have supported various policy and industry-related efforts. As Marketing and Development Director for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast, in the 1990s, I cultivated skills in grant writing and corporate partnerships.

I graduated Cum Laude with a B.S. in Journalism (1992) and a Master’s degree in Public Relations (1994), both from the University of Southern Mississippi. I’m also a graduate (2001) of Leadership Gulf Coast, an intensive, multi-discipline program of the Mississippi Coast Chamber of Commerce.

2)    What do you suggest students do to stand out among applicants in the competitive job market?

Be unique, be polished, keep your head held high, be thoughtful, courteous and wear your best attributes on your sleeve.  Be honest, be forthright and be prepared to show your best work in the nicest presentation you can afford.  Know that you are always on the brink of something special in your life, and never feel boxed in.  Ours is a creative, competitive field, and we are the ones people look to for solutions, team spirit and continual challenge.  Be prepared to embrace the art of relationship building.  Make it happen!

3)    What do you love most about working as a PR professional?

Variety is what keeps me energized, and in PR variety is abundant. And I’m fortunate to work in an industry that is not only diverse, but keeps me in constant exposure to international cultures and new relationships. PR is perhaps the most diverse profession out there, as we can be in a seminar one day about legal standards and ethics—and on board a cruise ship hosting travel agents the next day.  This is my niche, and I’m quite proud of it.  I believe we are basically wired as public relations professionals first, and the rest is on-the-job-training to learn how to reach solutions and keep the train moving smoothly. We are multi-taskers, information gurus, proofreaders extraordinaire, and the ones who must follow through to preserve our credibility in all cases. These are rewarding attributes and contribute to the successful, seasoned PR professional.

4)    In grade school, what things did your teachers note on your report cards that you feel correlate to the PR pro you are today?

“Andy talks too much.” “Andy is a very good speller.” “Andy is one of my loves.” “Andy tries very hard to do better.”  “Andy has improved very much this semester.”  “Andy talks too much.” (Yes, I repeated that one, as this really must have been a precursor to my relationship building skills and the need to communicate with others.)

5)    When you see a great story in the press, what’s your immediate thought?

Concerning a story that I have pitched…I’m absolutely elated for the organization, but also for the particular customer who has benefited from positive press, particularly if it’s a centerpiece feature or a cover story about some exciting new project that involves millions of dollars in private investment and hundreds of new, high-paying jobs.  My thought is, okay, let’s hope this story stays on the right track throughout the gestation period of the project, because so much of what we see in business can be quite delicate or precarious and complicated.  Our job is to see and bring out the positive aspects of the story and work closely with customers and constituents to ensure positive press in perpetuity and definitely to be front and center when things aren’t going so well…to get that train back on its proper track!

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