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Cortney Rhoads Stapleton: Vice President of Walsh Communications in New York, NY

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"Honestly, every time I see a story that I pitched in print or on TV, it is satisfying. Every story, every idea has its own merit and challenges, and it is exciting when you can figure out how to fit your information into the news of the day. It never gets old."

These are the inspiring words of Cortney Rhoads Stapleton, Vice President of Walsh Communications in New York City. Over the course of her career at Walsh Communications and Bliss, Gouverneur & Associates, she has worked with various clients ranging from management consultants to estate tax-planning professionals to executive recruiters to technology startups.

"On a daily basis, I manage accounts, working with my internal team members and clients to develop their ideas into provocative and relevant thought leadership. I also spend a great deal of my time speaking to the media about what they are covering and how our clients may be able to assist them as they develop the news," said Rhoads Stapleton.

Prior to joining Walsh Communications in 2000, Rhoads Stapleton worked for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) as a project coordinator at SUNY's Purchase College from 1999 to 2000.

"While with NYPIRG, I concentrated on lobbying efforts and media-relations initiatives in support of campaigns for access to justice, the environment, and child labor," said Rhoads Stapleton. "This was my first exposure to public relations—both pitching the media and also acting as a spokesperson for the organization in Westchester County. After that, I had the bug. I found that I loved the creative aspect of helping people and companies shape the news and educate the public."

Rhoads Stapleton joined Walsh Communications in the spring of 2000 under President Jerry Walsh, and the firm was bought by Bliss, Gouverneur & Associates in 2003. She said she loves being able to get creative with her job and the rewards of being part of a dynamic team. On the flip side, working with the media can be difficult because one always has to be ready to present new thoughts on a variety of topics.

"The news moves fast, and so do the reporters who cover it. You need to be able to move with them any day at any time. I happen to love this challenge, though, and highly respect the reporters that I work with," said Rhoads Stapleton.

Additionally, PR is a very results-oriented business, and professionals constantly need to produce results while managing client expectations, understanding the details of their business, and staying on top of what journalists are covering and find interesting at the moment.

"I think one of the biggest challenges is becoming an expert in the field you are pitching. For example, I do a lot of pitching about taxes for both businesses and individual taxpayers, and I need to understand a lot of the intricacies of the tax law, as well as what tax provisions are new, and be able to boil them down into layman's terms that people will find interesting. The tax code is long and complicated, but when you realize how taxes affect almost all aspects of your business and personal financial situation, it can become really interesting," she said.

Integrity, according to Rhoads Stapleton, is one of the most important issues in most professions. PR professionals need to be open, honest, and knowledgeable. The news moves fast, which means companies need to be ready to move just as quickly and must understand the importance of media such as blogs, podcasts, and online television outlets.

The greatest change Rhoads Stapleton said she has seen over the course of her career has been the Internet's acceleration of the media's speed to market. Her best advice for anyone eyeing a career in public relations is to really understand the PR function.

"If you are preparing for a career in PR, be aware of current events and read and watch everything you can," said Rhoads Stapleton. "Recognize what the news media covers and finds interesting; then understand fully what your clients do and how they fit into the marketplace and see if you can link the two."

She added, "A lot of companies, especially small to mid-sized ones, often don't realize how interesting their skill sets are. They may not understand how they fit into the big picture or how valuable their expertise may be. This is where good PR people can be a key asset."

Moreover, being able to write well and think creatively is important. Anyone interested in a career in public relations needs to talk to people in the industry.

"Prepare yourself by networking on your own. Being able to sell yourself is the first step to excelling at selling others and their ideas," said Rhoads Stapleton.

Outside of the office, Rhoads Stapleton stays just as focused. She is pursuing a master's degree in international relations at NYU's Center for Global Affairs.

"When I do have free time, I love to travel, particularly overseas," she said. "I also have a small photography business with a friend of mine who is a phenomenal photographer, so I try to marry those two passions any chance I get."

On the net:Walsh Communications

New York University

New York Public Interest Research Group

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