Describe your career.
I’m the president of OPR Group LLC, an independent public relations/marketing communications business. Before I started OPR in 2010, I was the president of one of Pennsylvania’s largest independent PR firms.
I didn’t start out intending to work in public relations. As a kid growing up in New Jersey, I had wanted to be an architect and went to architecture school after high school. But I soon discovered that I didn’t have the design skill set I’d need to cut it as an architect, so I switched to teaching. My dad was a carpenter, and I had worked as a draftsman while in architecture school, so I majored in industrial arts education. But while I was doing my student teaching in the 1970s, the energy crisis really fascinated me. So by the time I got my teaching degree, I was more interested in pursuing my passion in alternative energy systems. Pitt offered me a full scholarship and a graduate assistantship to study energy resources in the School of Engineering. I jumped at it and that’s what brought me to Pittsburgh. After getting my masters degree, the bottom dropped out of the energy industry and the only job I could find was a public information position in the federal fossil energy research program. At the time, I had no idea what that was but I needed a job. I learned a lot in a real hurry and had to essentially acquire the education for this career that I should have gotten in college while I was actually on the job. But that’s how I got my start in PR.
After doing that for 4-5 years, a small PR firm here in Pittsburgh needed help with some technology accounts. I had lived in a technology environment both in grad school at the Department of Energy, so that’s how I got started in the agency business.
But I never lost my love of teaching, so I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the adjunct faculty at both Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University Center for Environmental Research and Education.
How do you explain what you do to other people?
This is the age-old affliction we in PR seem to have. We make our living explaining our clients’ businesses to the world, but for the life of us, we can’t explain what WE do to anyone who doesn’t already work in PR. I actually wrote an article on this phenomenon about 20 years ago called “PR and the Cocktail Party Syndrome.” We’ve all been there. You walk into a cocktail party and someone asks what you do. “I work in public relations,” you say. “Oh, you mean like advertising.” And to avoid stuttering out some inside-baseball PR-speak jibberish, we simply say, “Well, advertising is part of what we do.” And then you proceed to follow them all over the room all evening with “And I also do media relations…..and speechwriting…..and community relations….and social media…..”
It’s a bloody curse.
Where do you currently live?
I live in the small town of Chester, West Virginia, about 45 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh.
Where is your favorite restaurant?
My absolute favorite spot is the York Harbor Inn in York Harbor, Maine. (I used to live there.)
But in Pittsburgh, I like different places for different meals. Breakfast at Pamela’s, lunch at Gaucho Parilla Argentina, burgers (and those shakes!) at Burgatory.
How long have you been in PRSA?
Why do you believe PRSA is beneficial?
In my career, PRSA has been a fabulous vehicle for professional development, networking, and business opportunities. I once did a root-cause analysis of where my clients came from and found that PRSA was the best source of referrals. And some of the friendships I made in PRSA 30 years ago are still some of the best friends I have in this business.