Session: Meet the Living Legends of Public Relations
Presenters: Bridget Coffing, chief communications officer, emeritus, McDonald’s Corporation;
Mike Fernandez, global chair of corporate and financial practice, Burson-Marsteller; Moderator: Brian Price, digital marketing manager, Starwood Retail Partners
Bridget Coffing and Mike Fernandez are two accomplished business professionals who both pushed through diversity boundaries in the workplace. Having intersected in their professional paths several times, they pushed the importance of building relationships and being able to rely on professionals that are not in your organization.
Working as the CCO of McDonald’s for the last 30 years, Coffing spoke on the importance of having an influencer role on the company. Fernandez, who currently works for Cargill, also added that no two companies or cultures are alike, so we need to adapt to our surroundings and the people we are dealing with.
The importance of networking and relationship building were touched on multiple times. Below are a few key concepts:
- You have to feel comfortable being direct with people. Conversation are not always pleasant.
- Today, nobody can work in isolation.
- There is something to be said for the ability to nurture and cultivate relationships.
- You will get a lot more done with people you have relationships with.
As young public relations professionals, it is important for us to realize we will not always have the answer. Having the ability to say “I’m not sure, but let me find out for you,” will go further than pretending you know the solution.
When entering the professional field in today’s world, some of the most important skills to have are the ability to integrate and take action, persuasive writing and developing a thick skin.
Coffing ended the session with a quote from Winston Churchill: “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other so we can have some conversation.” She explained that this quote has everything to do with the millennial generation, and that we need to stop and think about what it means as we enter our careers.
- Always be accumulating relationships and friendships and never burn a bridge.
- Transparency is everything. We are truth-sayers first and foremost.
- Do not let diversity hold you back.
- Learn how to lose graciously, and turn those losses into learning opportunities.
- The world cannot advance without asking questions.
Taylor Fleck is a senior public relations major at Grand Valley State University. She is currently an intern at Truscott Rossman, as well as vice president of public relations for her Chapter of PRSSA. When she isn’t obsessing over her dog, she is probably blogging, reading or eating ice cream. Follow her at @tayloraustin5 or connect with her on LinkedIn.