We look forward to learning more about Mary Rozak next week at our Women in Public Relations panel discussion – Thursday, June 24th on Zoom. Mary is Director of Communications at Albany County Executive’s Office.Click here to register now!
How was your career or the way you practice PR impacted by COVID?
When COVID-19 hit, it reminded me in many ways of my journalism days and 9/11. There are many differences with one happening over a period of time and the other having an immediate devastating impact and continuing, some would say through today. My mission is to assist the County Executive as he informs people who live, work or visit Albany County about what is happening and how it impacts them. While we held press conferences on events regularly, the pandemic meant we needed to hold daily press briefings to keep the public up to date on what was going on and to answer their questions as much as possible. This was practical, necessary and the best way to connect with people who watched live on Facebook and tv stations for months and still tune in to Facebook when we hold our weekly briefings. During the months that followed, the briefings turned into appointment television/Facebook at 10:30 each morning with guests who spoke with the County Executive about issues ranging from food delivery to business loans and so much more.
What did you learn from practicing PR during the pandemic?
Everything I’ve ever learned was magnified and underscored the need to always speak in plain English and to know your audience. Never underestimate how important words are because people will hear what they want to hear and we need to communicate accurately to get messages across.
What path led you to your current position?
Once a journalist, always a journalist. I worked in tv and radio for 18 years as a reporter, anchor, producer, talk show host, news director and everything in between. When the economic crisis hit in 2008, I lost my job, took all the skills I had developed and worked for United Way of the Greater Capital Region. I did everything from Leadership Giving to launching United Way 211, marketing, communications and organizing large-scale volunteer events as a general contractor from start to finish. My current role is the flip side of tv news and allows me to focus on how to get the best stories out to reporters about what the county does.
What other jobs and personal experiences have affected how you practice PR?
Everything we do in life and the people with whom we interact impact what I do. I’m a Capital Region resident who shops local, go out to dinner (finally again) and waits in line at the bank. I hear what people say and watch what they do. That’s the most valuable insight that I gain each and every day. Listening is so important. It’s the key to being successful. What happens when you meet someone new? Ask them about themselves and most people will be happy to start talking. When you’re listening and following up on something they said, they’ll continue to open up and you have found out so much more than if you’d started the conversation with “great weather we’re been having.” Certainly, an ice breaker but we want more than that, don’t we?
What single piece of advice would you offer a new practitioner or someone contemplating a career in public relations?
You need to be a people person who really listens and cares. You have to believe in what you’re doing and that will shine through. If you don’t care about what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, people can spot that right away. We work most of our lives. Spend time doing what you love and the time will fly by.
Mary is a graduate of Syracuse University where she earned her BS in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She started her career in radio news as a reporter, anchor, talk show host and news director where she and her team in various markets were honored for excellence in news and talk programming. Mary transitioned into tv news and was a founding member of the 24-hour cable news station which launched in 2002 known as Capital News 9. She was welcomed by United Way of the Greater Capital Region in 2009 to assist with leadership giving, communications and to launch the health and human services phone line, United Way 211. During her time there, she also worked with hundreds of volunteers each year on large-scale volunteer projects in the community. In 2012, Mary joined Albany County as the Director of Communications to work with County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. She is responsible for internal and external communications, audio-video production and social media platforms. She is a native of Massachusetts and has lived with her husband in Guilderland since 1994.
Click here to register for our 2021Women in PR virtual event.