By: Andrew Poulsen, Public Relations Technician, Sonnhalter
For more than three decades, award-winning public relations professional Tracy A. Oliver has been an industry staple for the city of Cleveland. As the director of media relations and local community affairs for Dominion East Ohio, Oliver oversees all media and public relations efforts and local community affairs for a company which has more than 1.2 million customers. Since 1984, Oliver has worked several communications and external affairs positions for Dominion and currently serves as the co-chair the community investment board.
I spoke with Oliver to reflect on what she’s learned over her illustrious career as a PR professional, the benefits of PRSA and what advice she has for new professionals in the field.
AP: What was your first job in public relations?
TO: My first job in PR was a media relations representative with the East Ohio Gas Company, now Dominion East Ohio. After working in radio for three years, I finally landed my first real PR job.
AP: What have been some of the most positive changes in communication throughout your career?
TO: I have seen communications being used much more strategically than when I first started in the industry. Communications professionals are bought into crisis management and communications planning much earlier, as senior executives see the value of utilizing PR professionals in promoting overall business interests. Certainly technological enhancements, such as social media and digital communications platforms, have changed the whole communications game. I am also very impressed with the level of skill, experience and credentials that newer PR professionals are bringing to the industry fresh out of college. Finally, I’m seeing more diversity in PR practitioners coming into the industry, who bring a variety of broad perspectives. However, I think there is always room for more inclusion.
AP: Can you recall any specific challenges you faced in the industry? If so, how did you overcome them and was there anything you learned from those challenges?
TO: I cannot recall a specific challenge that I have faced, but I know that I have used each setback in my career, and in my personal life, as a learning opportunity. Often in my professional world we dissect a crisis to see what we could have done differently. As the old saying goes, you learn from your mistakes.
AP: Why did you join PRSA?
TO: I joined PRSA to expand my network of colleagues, to take advantage of professional development opportunities and to learn more about the industry. My membership in PRSA has served me well over the years.
AP: What advice do you have for those who are newer to the field of public relations?
TO: I believe the basic ethical practices of public relations continue to be honesty and transparency, building relationships and managing the reputation of your company or your client without compromising your own integrity. I believe that is a strong foundation for newer professionals, as well as seasoned pros in this field.
Oliver earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and journalism from the University of Delaware. She and her husband reside in Cleveland Heights and have two children.
Andrew Poulsen has been a member of the Greater Cleveland chapter of PRSA since 2015. Andrew is a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. His work has appeared on Billboard.com and in Ohio Magazine, Cleveland Magazine and other publications.