Maria Garcia is a Senior Communications Associate at the Open Space Institute, an organization which protects land for recreation, habitat, clean water, and healthy communities from Maine to Florida. In her work with OSI, Maria develops written and visual content to raise awareness, engage audiences, and drive people to action. Previously, Maria was a Community Engagement Coordinator at Vassar College. After focusing on translating scientific literature and communicating complex scientific concepts to the public during her senior year, she graduated from Vassar College with a B.A in Biology.
Maria is one of four outstanding panelists to be featured at this year’s PRSA Capital Region Chapter Women in PR event. We asked her five questions to help you get to know her before we dive into a deeper discussion on July 18!
What path led you to your current position?
Right after I graduated, I was working at Vassar College in the Biology department as a Community Engagement Coordinator. As I was considering the next steps to advance my career, I tried to capitalize on all the opportunities presented to me, including volunteering at events and applying for positions that seemed like a reach. An internship opportunity at the Open Space Institute (OSI) was forwarded to me and several other recent graduates in an email and I applied for the position at the last minute, on a whim. Though I was rejected for the internship, it ultimately led to me working at my current position at OSI.
How does a focus on public relations help your organization meet its strategic goals?
Working for a land conservation organization, I find that people don’t really know how we operate and many people don’t even know what a land trust is. Being able to effectively communicate with and engage the public helps garner support for our projects, which ultimately helps OSI achieve its goal of protecting land for people, for wildlife, forever.
What other jobs and personal experiences have affected how you practice today?
As a young practitioner, my current position at OSI has been and continues to be the most influential in terms of how I practice. I am very lucky that when I was hired my manager knew and accepted that I had a lot to learn about the field. As a beginner, I was provided guidance and presented with opportunities for exploration and growth. Before this job, I didn’t know the first thing about writing press releases, but through trial and error, and a lot of feedback, I have gotten better at it. Thankfully, continuous learning and accepting new and challenging projects continues to be a huge part of my work and is supported by my manager and organization.
What is something you’ve learned by working in PR that civilians wouldn’t know?
Sometimes press releases are recycled! So a publication will take part (or all) of the release that someone from a different organization wrote and just put it on their website under a different author or “ by staff” and maybe just change the title.
What single key piece of advice would you offer a new practitioner or someone contemplating a career in public relations?
Don’t shy away from feedback and (constructive) criticism; think of it as a learning opportunity and a chance to get better at what you do. So much of communications and PR is collaborative, so there will be many eyes, comments, suggestions, and corrections on any piece of work that gets published. Don’t take the input of others personally. ABL: Always be learning 🙂 and ask questions!