We look forward to learning more about Marguerite Pearson next week at our Women in Public Relations panel discussion – Thursday, June 24th on Zoom. Marguerite is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society. Click here to register now!
How was your career or the way you practice PR impacted by COVID?
One big change was content gathering. When we were all onsite, we walked around and took photos and videos for sharing purposes. Now our entire staff feeds several robust Slack channels, including adoptions, donations, and cute photos. We have not only more, but also more in-the-moment, behind-the-scenes content than ever before!
Another was the shift to virtual events. We couldn’t simply not hold our events, as they were key to meeting revenue goals. But we had to reimagine ways to capture interest in events that were not in person. We actually held three virtual events – two galas and Oktopurrfest. We produced much more video content than for an in-person event and produced high-quality hybrid events with the help of a production company. Our virtual gala held in May raised more than our in-person galas from the past five years.
What did you learn from practicing PR during the pandemic?
At first, we worried about the tone of everything, especially asking for support. Everything we did was viewed through a new, thoughtful, COVID lens. The pandemic hit so fast and hard and many people were impacted financially. But because our services were essential all along, and we were actually helping those in need, we continued to fundraise with very good success.
We found meaningful ways to talk about our work as it related to the pandemic, including meeting increased demand for programs such as our pet food pantry.
What path led you to your current position?
My path wasn’t specifically PR, though I studied communications in college. My path was a detour from working in a communications capacity for a college to volunteering at an animal shelter which eventually led to pursuing a degree in veterinary technology, then finding a marketing/communications/fundraising position in sheltering.
What other jobs and personal experiences have affected how you practice PR?
In managing negative situations, I used to over-explain. I sometimes still have the desire to do that in order to state all the facts and attempt to increase understanding. But I’ve learned that once someone is holding a strong opinion, it’s really hard to change their mind – even if they’re wrong. I try to not to give too much attention to or allow communication to focus too specifically on those complaining the loudest. If you’re on the right side of an issue, others will come to your defense and that’s better than it coming from you, Also, more through observing PR train wrecks (mostly political) rather than any personal situations (thankfully!) I’m always reminded of the importance of being honest in actions and communications.
What single piece of advice would you offer a new practitioner or someone contemplating a career in public relations?
Find an area that’s meaningful to you and pursue a career in that direction. I don’t believe you can be truly effective or happy at your job if you don’t believe in what you’re “selling.” If you aren’t really interested in the industry or organization, or if your personal beliefs are at odds with those of the organization with which you’re affiliated, it’s not going to work … at least not for long.
Marguerite’s 25-year career in animal welfare was founded in a New Year’s resolution when she and her husband began volunteering at a cat shelter. As her involvement increased and her love of helping homeless animals grew, she decided to pursue a degree in veterinary technology at SUNY Delhi. She became a licensed veterinary technician and worked briefly at a veterinary hospital, but soon realized that it wasn’t quite the same as helping pets with no one to care for them. When a position at the Animal Protective Foundation became available, she was able to marry her passion for helping homeless pets, her knowledge of veterinary science and her degree in communications from Ithaca College. After a two-year hiatus from sheltering, she joined MHHS in 2016 to manage communications and special events. Her four handsome kitties, all former neighborhood strays, are known as the “Troy Boys.”