APR Q&A: Getting to Know David Blandford, APR, VP Communications at Visit Seattle

David Blandford, APR Tell us about your role and responsibilities.

I oversee corporate communications, public relations and public affairs at Visit Seattle - the private nonprofit destination marketing organization for Seattle. We're in business to promote the region across domestic and global markets and, increasingly, are involved in local, state and national public policy and industry issues. That makes for a wide spread of departmental duties - from global travel/features media relations to industry advocacy, issues and reputation management, crisis communications and corporate social responsibility.

How did you get started in PR?

At the UW, I was a double-major in journalism and political science and not completely sure what I wanted to do. I realized by the time I graduated that the sum of each part offered a career in PR. My first job was in Washington, D.C. in the communications department at the United Service Organizations (USO). My boss was Chuck Hagel, who went on to serve in the Senate and eventually became U.S. Secretary of Defense. I got to be a part of some big media pitches, wrote a lot, learned a ton and had fun living in our nation's capital. That experience immediately confirmed my path at the confluence of writing and politics, issues and advocacy - and it's taken me to some amazing places in my career so far. Funny, maybe I knew what I wanted to do all along.

What are you working on right now?

Big projects include an update to our industry crisis communications plan, public affairs work for the much-needed expansion of the Washington State Convention Center and advocacy work on national travel issues related to security and transportation infrastructure needs. Also, as an active board member of the Washington Tourism Alliance, I'm working in tandem with tourism leaders across the state to establish a long-term, sustainable tourism funding plan for our state. Since the legislature's closure of the state tourism office during the dark days of the recession, we've been working on an industry led and funded plan. The next iteration goes to Olympia in January. My role is statewide advocacy and communications through the fall and into the session.

Why did you pursue your APR?

I wanted to go to a higher level in the profession and to test myself. And, it was a hard test. I recall beads of sweat. And I wondered whether I'd be able to finish on time. But I did, and I passed. And I've often drawn on the experience since then. I tell myself, "If you can pass the APR, you can handle this challenge." Invariably, I re-focus and push forward.

What value has it brought you?

The Nisqually earthquake happened right as I was preparing for the test and I found TV cameras and microphones in my face for several days after. The APR prep really helped me communicate during a major crisis situation in the city, and it's served me in many ways and on many occasions since.

Accreditation is a source of great pride and accomplishment for me and I'm always pleased to answer the question, "What does APR stand for?" It facilitates a broader conversation on the value of public relations.

But, the highest value of accreditation for me has been the sense of community it fosters. I think of so many good APR friends who studied along with me and who continue to draw from the lessons. We've bonded along a special path.

What PR strategy is really working for you?

The law of attraction. Like attracts like. A good story is a good story - even if it's not yours. I try to share ideas, leads and opportunities. Maybe they'll come back to me, maybe they won't. But I cultivate relationships and glean insights along the way.

What is the best tool, app, website, book, or other resource that other PR pros MUST check out?

Well, the AP Style Guide, of course!

Where do you find inspiration?

On the road. There's something about removing yourself from routine that calls forth great thoughts and epiphanies. These days, it's easy to plug in on a plane, but I try to resist. That space in the clouds has always been sacred to me. And on the ground in a new city, breaking from the schedule or the crowd to explore - get lost even - offers the same payoff. I've often been amazed at the power of travel in my life - as a chosen career and a source of personal development.

What excites you about PR these days?

PR practitioners. I love the way they think. Global in understanding, but sharp-shooters when they need to be. Ethical, committed, often the last to leave the office and the first to hit the remote server in the morning. I can spot a PR pro before I catch the job title. And when I need info or insight at another organization, they're the ones I approach first. PR is evolving in some good ways, and some ways that challenge us - but, I have faith that we'll figure it all out.

When you're not working, where can we find you?

Hanging on the beach at Alki, where I live. Walking my dog in the woods. Jogging, kayaking, back-country camping. Cooking at home or trying to keep up with so many amazing new restaurants in our city. We live in such an amazing place.

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