APR Q&A: Getting to Know Janelle Guthrie, APR, Communications Director, Washington Employment Security Department

Amy Guthrie, APR Tell us about your role and responsibilities

I lead a team of eight communicators who support the Washington Employment Security Department's mission to help connect employers and job seekers – supporting transitions to new jobs and empowering careers.

How did you get started in PR?

I entered public relations as a lobbyist for a local agricultural organization. With a degree in political science and journalism, I looked to PRSA to help me learn critical strategic communications skills.

What are you working on right now?

Right now at the Employment Security Department, we are preparing to launch new internal and external information technology solutions. Our biggest project is the release of a new unemployment benefits system in January 2017. My team had 1.5 dedicated staff working on this project but several others are engaged in developing instructional videos, print materials and web content to assist our customers in making the transition from our existing system to a new one.

Why did you pursue your APR?

Back when I pursued my APR, I was considering moving to a new city where I didn’t have the strong network I have in Western Washington. I knew having my APR would help demonstrate a higher skill level and a dedication to the profession. I ended up not moving, but I’ve never regretted the friendships I made in my APR classes and the added level of professionalism and skill I gained from achieving accreditation.

What value has it brought you?

Initially, the accreditation process really helped me develop my strategic communications planning skills. Now more than 10 years after achieving accreditation, I think it’s a valuable way, as an experienced professional, to demonstrate my commitment to the profession and to giving back to an organization that has given so much to me.

What PR strategy is really working for you?

I continue to rely on a good solid communications plan to guide my work on every project I pursue. Whether it is a large, multi-agency effort or a small internal project, taking the time to map out a strategic plan with clear goals, objectives, tactics and timelines really helps me provide professional guidance to others on the project team.

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

One of my favorite recent trainings/books is called Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change. Even though we are generally not the sole change agents in any project, it is helpful to have a good background in change management and how to influence human behavior as we contribute to projects day-to-day.

Where do you find inspiration?

I really enjoy the content on LinkedIn – particularly pieces about leadership, management, and internal communications.

What excites you about PR these days?

I have always loved how public relations allows you to reinvent your career no matter what point you might be in your career. I’ve had three main eras in my career: the political era, working for the state Senate; the statewide elected era working for two state Attorneys General; and now the public service era, working for a state agency that provides direct service to the people of the state of Washington. I’ve also had a chance to work as a lobbyist and to work in corporate communications at Microsoft. Public relations is exciting because it evolves as the world evolves. I’m excited about what the future holds—and I know my public relations background will help me change and adapt to anything that comes my way.

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

I’m a volunteer-a-holic. Aside from my work on the PRSA National Board of Ethics and Professional Standards and my roles with the Puget Sound chapter, I am the communications and marketing chair for the for the Thurston County United Way Women’s Leadership Council, helping women and girls achieve self-sufficiency; I’m also the marketing and social media chair for the Thurston County Relay for Life to raise money to fight cancer; and finally, I serve as the communications chair for the Washington Chapter of the International Association of Workforce Professionals. And when I’m not doing that: I love spending time with my family, my husband and my cat, Mr. Tigger.

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