For our PRSSA Chapter’s monthly publication, ImPRessions, we highlight a professional who has made a significant impact in the public relations industry. This month, I had the pleasure of talking to Kelly Rossman-McKinney, CEO of the Rossman Group. She recently became our Professional Advisor and our whole team is looking forward to working with her.
Here’s what she had to say about the industry and why she loves what she does:
How did you get started in the public relations industry?
I don’t remember if there were any PR classes when I went to college at Wayne State, but my interest at the time was initially psychology, in which I majored. I had a great part-time job at channel 50 in Detroit, tho, and fell in love with TV so I added what was then called radio-tv-film as a second major. Turns out the combination is terrific for the PR profession. My career in TV was short-lived due to an early marriage and relocation to Battle Creek, but I ended up working at the Capitol and having several great jobs that included significant work in what I eventually realized was public relations. I tried a couple of times to get a job at the only PR firm in town at the time – Publicom, founded by our own Rick Cole – but never – repeat NEVER – got hired. MSU’s own Ned Hubbell – for whom your chapter is named – was the first person who actually recognized – and helped me realize – that the work I was doing in state government was really public relations. He helped me pursue accreditation and was immensely helpful when I started my own firm.
What do you do in your current position with your firm?
A little bit of everything – but I still love client work the best. I don’t do as much hands-on writing of basic communication tools – news releases, etc. – but I still write – or help write –most of the strategic plans and most of our pitches. I am also on the phone way too much, spend an awful lot of time emailing, or I am in meetings with clients or potential clients. Most of my real work – the strategic thinking – ends up being done after everyone else goes home. There are certainly aspects of running a business that I have to attend to – but those responsibilities are more like chores than the client work will ever be!
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Three things: crisis communications, pitching new clients, and public speaking. I really love the challenge of helping an individual or an organization navigate the sometimes treacherous waters when something bad happens to them. We’ve worked on all kinds of interesting crisis situations, from looming strikes to employee deaths to embezzlements to blown-up propane tanks – and lots in between. The challenge of helping figure out what a potential client needs – and how best to convince them that we are absolutely the best firm to help them (i.e., pitching) – still gives me a thrill, even though we’ve done it hundreds of times over the years. It’s really fun trying to figure out what a client wants to accomplish and how to get them to the finish line. And last but not least – I love public speaking, whether it’s a 20-minute keynote to a thousand people or a day-long workshop for 10 – it’s energizing.
What do you do in your free time (if you have any!)?
Right now, I’m a total football bleacher mom. Although my oldest son is long out of the house (he is deputy director of the Senate Democratic Communications office), I still have three younger kids at home. My sophomore son and 10 of his JV teammates got moved up to the Grand Ledge High School varsity team for the play-offs, so I’m at every game. Basketball and volleyball season are right around the corner, so I plan to hone my bleacher butt skills for the next several months!
What advice you would offer to students?
Depends on what students want to know, but in general, my advice is pretty simple – be curious, ask questions, pay attention to what’s going on in the world, find your voice – and dress, speak and act like every encounter is a job interview – because it just might be!