Tell us about your academic background
I graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/public relations and am still very connected to the University. While in college, I had to work and pay my way through school; I’m so proud of the education I received, and the relationships and opportunities I’ve been able to cultivate in the decades since. I try to give back in a small way by serving on the Board of Directors of the IUP Alumni Association and serving as professional advisor to IUP’s PRSSA chapter.
What was your first job and how did you find it?
While in college, I worked as a freelance writer for the Pittsburgh Press/Post-Gazette and also covered some sporting events for theAssociated Press. But, my first full-time, professional job was in the communications department at Thrift Drug Company, a division of JCPenney (now Rite Aid via a couple of mergers/acquisitions) in Pittsburgh. I found it by networking with other IUP alumni working in the area and was told by a person that their friend was about to leave a job at Thrift. So, I had my resume and cover letter in at the right place at the right time, and the rest is history.
What was the most important lesson you learned from that job that you still carry with you?
I can think of two lessons. First, there are many different types of people and personalities in the workplace. As a result, you need to have flexibility in how you deal and interact with people to accomplish your goals. Second, be able to recognize an opportunity when you see it. While I was an entry-level person, I was quickly able to write speeches for the company president and interact with other executives because I was willing to accept challenges and opportunities that I wasn’t really comfortable with at the time.
Give us a snapshot of the remainder of your career path, in addition to your current job and responsibilities.
Over the years, I have served as an account executive at Public Images, Inc., a boutique public relations firm on Long Island, N.Y.; worked as communications director of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association, a trade group representing the lumber industry and promoting consumer goods and sustainability relating to hardwoods; and as public relations director at Westhead Marketing Communications, a full-service agency. Then, in 1993, I founded Krakoff Communications Inc. and spend 14 years growing that business before rolling it into global firm Burson-Marsteller in 2007. I was senior director in the Brand Marketing Practice with some of the best and brightest people in the business both around the country and around the world. While I immensely enjoyed my time at Burson, I was once again bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to restart Krakoff Communications in August 2013. It’s been a great three years since, and I look forward to growing the business while making it a place where people truly enjoy their work and clients enjoy the results they achieve by partnering with us. As the president of a smaller firm, I wear many hats from company management and new business development to rolling up my sleeves and writing, working with designers and doing whatever it takes to make our clients and my company successful.
You recently formed a new business partnership with the Stryker-Munley Group. Congratulations. What made this partnership so attractive to you and how will it affect the work that you do?
Yes, we are really excited about this. First, being part of Stryker-Munley Group now gives us a large number of high-quality people to work with in major business centers including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis, northern New Jersey, Sacramento and St. Louis. Plus, we plan on expanding into other markets as we move forward. The biggest effect this will have is the ability to tap into so many talented professionals to allow us to better serve our clients while having a presence in multiple cities to help clients with needs outside of this area.
Looking back on your career, what was the best piece of advice that you ever received?
My dad, some professors and others always said to find something you love to do and you’ll be successful. They were right. While you may never love what you do all day every day, if you find something that makes you happy and feel challenged, you’ll find that you have a little extra jump in your step and will be successful because your passion and energy will be palpable.
Tell us about a memorable moment in your career.
I helped a client plan for a visit from President Barack Obama who wanted to release the latest economic numbers in my client’s factory. It was interesting to meet and shake hands with the President while dealing with the White House Press Corps and to work with journalists representing media from around the globe. I also am very proud of being inducted into the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Hall of Fame in 2011 because it is recognition from my peers that I must be doing something right!
In your opinion, what are the three most important attributes needed to be a successful public relations practitioner?
In no particular order, I’d say be an enthusiastic learner, be a great writer and be strategic. We all need to be willing to be lifelong learners and constantly improve our writing and communications skills while paying attention to strategies that will meet our communications objectives.
What is your advice to students who want to work in public relations or young public relations professionals just starting their careers?
See question #6. Find something that makes you want to get to work each morning and doesn’t feel like work. I’d also urge young professionals to be flexible and to be open to the opportunities that may become available as they progress through their career. While some people like to have their lives planned out for many years, you just never know when a change in direction could be a great thing.
How has the public relations field changed since you started working?
Since I wrote college papers using an electric typewriter and used a 5-1/4” inch floppy disk to store things on my first work computer, it’s obvious that technology and the opportunities and challenges of the digital world are the biggest changes I’ve seen.
What’s next? What do you see as the next big trend in public relations?
I’m not sure exactly what the next trend will be, but I do know that a trend that never goes out of style is for public relations professionals to be able to tell a good story so that our audiences are informed and motivated to take actions that will be beneficial to both themselves and our organization or client.