Jennifer Hendricks-Kaufmann, PRSA-Central Illinois board member and public relations manager, Carle Health System

1). Please tell us about yourself.

I was born in Springfield, grew up in Virden and love living and working in Champaign-Urbana within a couple of hours of my family. From a very early age, I knew I wanted to work in news/communications and spent about 10 years as a journalist. My job now combines my passion for interesting and challenging work with educating and informing. I manage Public Relations for Carle Health System in Urbana where I’ve served for 11 years, and in the years prior I was a television reporter. I worked at WCIA-TV in Champaign, WSIL-TV in Carbondale and WICS-TV in Springfield. I taught news writing at Parkland College and reporting at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I’m a proud “P.A.R.” and Saluki, with a master’s in Public Affairs Reporting from University of Illinois – Springfield and bachelor’s from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. I’m also a 2016 graduate of the Leadership Illinois program. My husband Marty and I have a son and a daughter, and we love to travel. In my downtime—when the kids are sleeping and my athletic administrator husband is working—I scroll Pinterest and watch HGTV, dreaming of which room I’ll re-do once my kids outgrow leaving fingerprints on the walls.

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

I view myself as an educator and believe it is my responsibility to help people understand sometimes complicated information. Whether it’s helping patients understand their medical care or helping reporters explain regulations, insurance and business changes that influence healthcare, everybody wins when accurate information is available.

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

It’s great to flex different “muscles” every day. In PR you can go from lighter image work like event planning to heavier issue management all within the same week, sometimes the same day.

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

I’ve been a member for about a year, and I appreciate connecting with colleagues. It’s good to understand that although we work in different industries, as PR professionals we face similar challenges, and it’s great to get perspective from others. I’ve developed friendships and look forward to getting to know more members.

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

I’m grateful that our members are based in different communities and that they work in PR for different sectors with colleagues in healthcare, banking and finance, agriculture, insurance, manufacturing, government and education. There’s a nice mix of people who do similar work.

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

I was involved with the Illinois News Broadcasters Association as a student and later as a board member. That organization was critical to my early career development, and I was eager to find a similar organization for PR pros. I hope serving in this capacity helps other professionals and students as the communications field changes.

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

In this information age with social media and the web, the landscape has changed. Anyone can publish anything, which can be good with citizen journalists or bad where some national media outlets are unapologetic with their bias. We need smart, ethical and skilled communicators to help navigate these waters. While the tools will change, the basics will not. You must determine who you are, what lines you will not cross and be dedicated to serving. As always, relationships are important, and credibility is crucial.

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

Be well read. Read everything. Know how to analyze, synthesize and measure results. If you didn’t have a great internship experience (or even if you did), volunteer for organizations you believe in and join regional professional groups like PRSA. Develop a servant-leader mentality where you are a problem identifier and problem solver. You’ll be indispensable to your boss, your company and your community.