Melissa Zuckerman, account director at JPA Health Communications, was one of three women honored recently by Washington Women in Public Relations with a 2016 Emerging Leaders Award.  The award is described as “a special accolade for young women active within the communications field who have made a significant impact on the industry.”

Capitol Communicator interviewed Zuckerman to gain insights into this award winner.

Melissa, how did you get started in communications?

My passion for communications began in middle school when I joined yearbook—and quickly decided I wanted to start my own magazine one day. Fast forward to more than 15 years later—the magazine dream fell to the wayside, but after graduating high school as the managing editor of the yearbook, completing my undergrad in advertising and public relations, and receiving my graduate degree in integrated marketing communications, I changed my dream to helping mission-driven organizations make a difference in this world by communicating and engaging their audiences effectively.

How has communications changed since your first job?

I’m lucky to be a part of the generation that saw, and continues to see, first-hand how our industry is breaking down the silos (advertising versus digital versus marketing versus public relations) and coming together to develop purely integrated offerings and expertise. More and more organizations can trust they are communicating and engaging their goals to audiences based on their needs and wants, rather than the latest and greatest channel or product.

What skills will it take to be a success in the coming years?

As I move through the next 5-10 years of my career, it will really take investing in my leadership skills to make me successful, but also to help build the next generation of communicators. Right now, I’m really committed to investing in my emotional intelligence—being self-aware, self-regulating, motivated, empathetic and social—so I can be the best team player and leader.

What lessons have you learned that you want to share with others?

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously, but take your work seriously. We’re all humans and we all make mistakes. Focus on enjoying the journey, the people on that journey with you, and learn from the successes and failures along the way.
  • We’re all our own advocates. We work in a fast-paced, people-driven industry but, at the end of the day, your professional journey is yours and yours alone. Know what you need and want, and make sure it keeps driving you every day and you clearly articulate it with others.
  • Love what you’re doing. Life is unpredictable, but we can control that our career lets us do something we’re passionate about. Never stop searching or refining your passions.

Who are your role models?

My older sister Stacey. Even though she’s only four-and-a-half years older than me—and we’re in completely different fields—watching her big life moments gave me the opportunity to learn before I even got there. She also helped me write my first (second, and probably third) resume, so I guess I couldn’t be where I am professionally today without her. I also like to “thank my mom,” but seriously, I wouldn’t be the person I am today personally or professionally without her.

If you didn’t go into communications, what field would you have gone into?

I would probably be a program manager at a nonprofit organization because I would be able to directly help people while supporting a mission-driven organization.

What are the things you like to do when not at work?

I’m a very family- and friend-focused person, and usually spend my time just being with loved ones, enjoying life. I also just like being around dogs, especially my white-shepherd mix Maya.

Anything else we should know about you?

I’m obsessed with dogs and binge-watching made-for-TV movies. I also notice every advertisement around me no matter where I am, and always think about what goals and audiences the organization had in mind when they created it.

 

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