Karen Brodbeck, PRSA-CI board member and vice president of public relations at OSF HealthCare System

1). Please tell us about yourself.

I was born at Fort Leonard Wood, a United States Army installation located in the Missouri Ozarks. I moved around a lot as a kid and am quite open-minded and outgoing as a result.

I attended the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois where I double majored in political science and mass communication with a concentration in advertising and public relations. I earned a Master of Business Administration at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

I am married and my husband and I have two sons – James and Jacob. Our family’s pets includes a bearded dragon named Spike and a giant schnauzer named Klaus. I enjoy running, making (and drinking!) beer, and sewing.

2). Why did you select a career in PR?

Public Relations was one of my favorite subjects as I pursued my undergraduate degree. I was always fascinated by how companies and individuals responded to things in the public setting. The excitement of crisis communications appealed to me, as did the humorous and creative approaches available to proactively get your name out there.

3). What do you like most about your job? 

With public relations, no two days are alike and you’re often the first to learn new and exciting information. Having previously worked in the automotive industry, the move to non-profit (specifically health care) has given me a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment.

4). What do you enjoy most about PRSA-CI, and how has chapter membership helped you?

I am relatively new to the organization, but I appreciate it for several reasons. First, for the opportunity it provides me to connect with my peers and be part of a community that supports and understands one another. Second, I love having the opportunity to serve on the board and “give back” in a way that is both meaningful and relates to my profession. Third, the programming so far has been fantastic!

5). What makes PRSA-CI different than other communication associations? 

In my experience, the cliques that sometimes exist in organizations either aren’t here or they are properly managed. People are genuinely interested in making connections and getting to know you, and it’s a very welcoming environment for all ages and levels of experience.

6). What made you decide to run for a PRSA-CI board position? 

My family recently relocated from the Ottawa/Streator area to Peoria. Before I moved, I was involved in numerous organizations and several boards. I wanted to find a way to network and put my skills to use that was compatible with my demanding career and young family. This was the perfect fit, and I am grateful for the chance to serve.

7). What are two significant changes or challenges you’re seeing in the PR industry, and how do PR professionals prepare for them? 

More emphasis on strategy and more proactive media coverage is the first challenge in my world. As communicators, we are sometimes contacted too late or not at all, and we could have added value for our organization and our customers by having a seat at the table.

The second challenge, which somewhat links to media coverage, is journalists are having to do less with more. We have to find a way to cut through the clutter of available information and differentiate ourselves, while also providing all of the tools and information necessary to make their jobs and lives easier.

8). What advice would you give recent college graduates who are looking for a full-time PR job? 

You’re making a great decision. Public relations is an ideal field because you can work in any industry and you have the skills needed to work for a large company, small not-for-profit, PR firm, or even go into business yourself as a consultant. You can work full time or part time (thought let’s be honest – we’re basically ALWAYS on call). My best advice is to do an internship if you haven’t already and when you get that job offer, if you’re at the very bottom of your pay scale, respectfully request to start a little higher. The difference it will make over your lifetime is substantial!