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Join OCPRSA in Celebrating Black History Month

Black History Month

By Gwen Earle, OCPRSA – Co-Chair Programs

As we celebrate Black History Month, I reflect upon my career as a Black professional and I’m grateful for the trailblazers who paved the path for my success. My career began in Anaheim with a corporate telecommunications company (PacBell/AT&T), where I progressed through the leadership ranks from an entry level position while attending California State University, Fullerton. As a result, I achieved an accomplished 29-year career in various facets of the business, specializing in global strategic marketing. 

What I appreciate most is the mentorship, support and tremendous leadership from those who served as great role models. Early in my career, of technical operations, my manager came to me and said, “We are impressed with your skills and talent and want to promote you, but be aware that you will be supervising all white men.” He also said, “You will need to prove your ability to others and work twice as hard because you are a women and Black.” Well, a long story cut short, I ended up earning their respect and was told that I was the best manager they ever had.

When my long journey in the telecommunications industry came to a close. I went back to earn my MBA at Webster University in Irvine. I was also looking to work for a non-profit with a reputable national brand and was hired by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Orange County. After a merger with the Greater Arizona service area, I was provided the opportunity for a PR role. I’m currently the Director of Community Engagement in Orange County.

I’m truly thankful for the opportunities that I have been given. Black History Month is a reminder that all Black people should be given the chance and support needed to flourish in their careers.  

Here are three keys of success:

Keep Learning

Be willing to learn from others with more experience than you and identify a mentor or role model. We can all learn a great deal from PR pros who can share the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn about Black PR Pioneers. Also, consider ways to broaden your PR knowledge through degree programs and continuing education. If you’ve been in the industry for at least five years, consider deepening your industry knowledge by pursuing your accreditation in public relations (APR).  

Stay Current on Industry Trends

Ensure that your PR skills remain relevant and help to elevate your career. Read local and national newspapers, PR trade publications, and key social media sites. Consider joining PR LinkedIn groups.

Expand Your Connections

Join and engage with professional organizations such as the Public Relations of Society of America, which has local chapters nationwide. Attend education programs such as online seminars and panel discussions. I had a mentor who recommended that I join OCPRSA to connect with other PR pros within my community. It has proven to be a very beneficial learning experience where I have met some terrific PR pros who have been extremely supportive. As a result, I now serve on the Board of Directors as the Co-Chair of Programs.

In addition, there is the National Black Public Relations Society which provides mentorship, networking, job opportunities, internships and career strategies for professionals in private, government and non-profit industries. There are also affiliate chapters to connect with local PR pros.

As the OC Director of Community Engagement for the Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest, I’m a firm believer in staying connected with your local community. Find ways to use your PR skills in support of the Black Community, which includes engaging with Black-owned businesses. It was Coretta Scott King who said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate action of its members.”

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