PR People: Elizabeth Poindexter
Job title and function: I am the director of communications for the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences, a position I’ve held since October 2015. Our department is fairly complex. It houses seven different programs (including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology), in addition to several other programs and centers. I plan our department’s internal and external communication efforts. Internal efforts include our departmental e-newsletter, internal communications alongside the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health Care, clinic updates and donor relations. Externally, we promote our students, faculty and staff in a variety of different settings, including through earned media and owned media outlets.
Most rewarding thing about working in PR today: For me, promoting meaningful work is the most rewarding part of working in PR. Even though our department’s work is complex, I love distilling that work into meaningful stories that are easy to relate to for an outside audience. Not everyone knows about Allied Health, but almost everyone knows someone who has worked with a therapist or clinician regardless of the discipline. Forming a connection in someone’s mind between our work and how it relates to them is very rewarding, whether we are communicating with potential students, donors, faculty members or others. Similarly, with my background in broadcast journalism, it is rewarding to continue to do that type of work through different avenues, and I love having a more tailored, fine-tuned message to constantly promote.
Craziest/most challenging thing you’ve done in PR: One adjustment I made in my current role included re-evaluating how my degree in journalism could still be a strong suit in the world of PR. There are several aspects I’ve carried over: the ability to write well, working on deadlines and interview skills. Other skills, such as maintaining objectivity, are an example of something I’ve had to occasionally reconsider. At the end of the day, I work to put our department’s best interests at the forefront of our communication and don’t necessarily approach that work as I would have in the newsroom.
Advice for new PR pros: If you haven’t worked in journalism or learned about it, you should! That is the one piece of advice I constantly repeat. My time in the newsroom definitely helped me understand what it is really like to work alongside PR professionals, and it also motivated me to do a good job once I transitioned into PR. I also recommend continuing to learn about new skills or ideas as the landscape of PR and communication changes; good PR doesn’t always mean a well-crafted press release.
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