Carmen Marsans was one of two people to be inducted into PRSA-NCC’s National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame on Oct. 12 during the Chapter’s 49th Annual Thoth Awards Gala at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (The other inductee is John Seng.) In advance of her induction, Capitol Communicator interviewed her and our Q&A follows:
Carmen, how has public relations changed in recent years?
Public relations continues to evolve at a rapid pace, especially since we live in a global society that is very multicultural and multi-generational. Today, the field of PR has become more challenging when it comes to keeping up with the 24-hour news cycle and the necessity to compete for the attention of multiple audiences across so many more communications channels. However, the core practices remain the same—messages must be carefully crafted based on facts and in a tone that speaks to the culture, traditions and the values of different audiences. Just as important today as it has always been, the trust between the client and the audience is crucial to lead a PR campaign and get success. Another significant component or character trait of a good PR professional will always be the importance of building strong relationships that will strengthen your credibility and future career.
What skills will it take to be a success in PR in the coming years?
I think it will take ongoing learning, creativity, empathy and an open mind. PR professionals need to keep abreast of the pace of news via social media channels and the other sources by which people get news and information these days. However, we cannot forget that media relations remain a critical tool for our industry to provide true and accurate information. Another skill set that many tend to forget is the ability to develop and nurture meaningful relationships that will last a lifetime. This could not be truer for me at Comunicad. Comunicad is a multicultural agency founded on the principles and values of leadership, meaningful relationships, and fostering an environment that supports and invests in people, one person at a time. This is our mantra on how we do our work every day.
What lessons have you learned that you want to share with others?
A requirement for me has been to take leaps of faith, calculated risks and to be an advocate for myself throughout personally and professionally. The hardest lesson has been to push through the challenges and not let fear or disappointments paralyze me. I learned quickly in life to put my ego aside, accept guidance, and learn from everyone I have worked with, regardless of their position or title. At the end of the day, it’s about the integrity, credibility, and sincerity of an individual. Another important lesson is to give back and pay it forward. I’ve always believed in helping others and will continue to do so for as long as I am able.
I am also convinced that treating friends, clients and co-workers with empathy and respect is important for career success and personal growth. The saying “you reap what you sow” is real. We should all be kind to each other. While I haven’t always agreed with the decisions or ideas of others, I learned to respect their right to voice those opinions, which also provides an opportunity to reassess or learn something new.
Who are your role models?
I have several role models starting with my parents and grandparents who shaped my life through their actions and how they lived their lives. I come from a very close-knit family filled with role models who work hard, help each other in difficult times, and model tremendous resiliency when confronted with challenges. These characteristics continue to guide me daily.
In my professional life, I give thanks and appreciation to my mentors, people like Joy Letsinger and Tom Hickman. They opened doors along my career path which helped me recognize my skills and abilities to step out of my comfort zone. Their trust and support boosted my confidence and taught me how to become my own advocate.
I also continue to be inspired and learn from everyone I meet. I work with an incredible group of professionals at Comunicad. Their dedication to excellence, commitment to do the best work possible for our clients and their empathy for each other continue to provide inspiration.
If you didn’t go into communications, what field would you have gone into?
I would have been a teacher. I love to offer guidance and share what I know with others. Being a teacher would have provided an opportunity to transmit that passion for learning and teaching others. I nurture that desire to teach by introducing the joy of reading to my grandchildren. In many ways I am that teacher, but in a different field.
What are the things you like to do when not at work?
I love to spend time with my family, especially my grandchildren. We have a large, extended circle of family and friends, and make time to spend weekends for family get-togethers. I also love to take walks, read and, whenever possible, travel.