Buffy Lockette, APR, Alabama chapter

BuffyLocketteName: Buffy Lockette, APR

Chapter: Alabama

Current position: Director of Public Relations at Jacksonville State University

How long in current position: 1.75 years (my two-year anniversary is in October)

First PR job: My first public relations job was as an intern in the office I am now leading! As an undergraduate majoring in communications at JSU back in the late 1990s, I was recruited to write for the PR Office (then known as the News Bureau) one summer while the student newspaper I worked for was on summer break. I discovered I loved writing for the university alumni magazine and creating press releases. I ended up staying on staff as a part-time writing intern for two years and never returned to the college newspaper. As a first generation college student, I didn’t realize there were other uses for my writing skills other than newspaper reporting and teaching English. So I “fell” into the PR profession, but I know it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be. In October 2014, I returned to JSU to direct the office where it all started 15 years ago. It’s so special to see life come full circle.

Where you attended college: I attended Jacksonville State University part-time from 1996-2000, nearly completing my major in communications, before moving to Florida with my husband in 2000. I finished my degree at the University of Florida, where I graduated with honors with a BA in Women’s Studies. I am currently completing my Master’s in Liberal Arts at Auburn University at Montgomery.

If you weren’t doing PR, you’d be: I have often thought I would have enjoyed working as a high school guidance counselor, college advisor or social worker. I get a lot of fulfillment matching people up with the resources they need to pursue their passions and succeed in life. If I won the lottery, though, I’d still do PR. I would just work for free for nonprofits who need assistance and can’t afford to hire a communications director.

Proudest professional accomplishment: Earning APR two years ago is my proudest professional accomplishment by far. Since I didn’t pursue a degree in public relations, I feel studying for APR helped me fill in the holes in my education, gain more confidence and truly become a public relations professional.

What is your passion? I am thankful that my passion is my actual profession. So many people hate going to work every day, but for me it’s fun. They say to find something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life. I am blessed to be living that proverb. My friends and family tell me I need to unplug more, but they don’t realize that I actually like working!

Why you are a PRSA member? PRSA helps me stay abreast of the latest trends in PR and stay current on best practices in my profession. It’s also a great way to network with peers in my field – we all need PR friends to share ideas and support. We are often the only people in our workplaces who do what we do, so we need to lean on each other from time to time for encouragement.

Each week, the PRSA Southeast District highlights one of its 2,700 members. To join PRSA, visit prsa.org.


Bob Mullen, Georgia chapter

BMullenName: Bob Mullen

Chapter: Georgia

Current position: Senior Public Information Specialist, Jacobs Engineering

How long in current position: 7 years

First PR job: Impact Theater Company (Chicago), Communications & Marketing Manager

Where you attended college: Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

If you weren’t doing PR, you’d be…… In the theater, acting, directing, producing, etc. Essentially, any/all roles to get the show or season off the ground and keep it going with full houses.

Proudest professional accomplishment: Being quoted in the New York Times. While working at Porter Novelli (ATL) for our client Philips on a product launch, I had the opportunity to answer a few questions of a NY Times reporter and ended up being quoted in the tech brief. Small but proud moment as it provided me with a chance to show my mother a tangible example of what PR professionals do in “real life.”

What is your passion?  Contributing a lasting benefit. In my role at Jacobs, I serve as Communications Director for the City of Dunwoody, Ga. (under a municipal services agreement). Nothing provides more of a sense of worth and purpose as when I’m part of creating something which makes a lasting impact on the community. To quote from Lin-Manuel Miranda “History has its eyes on you.”

Why you are a PRSA member?  For me, PRSA provides the opportunity to keep learning from other professionals of all ages, backgrounds and experiences.

Each week, the PRSA Southeast District highlights one of its 2,700 members. To join PRSA, visit prsa.org.

Katherine Brennecke, Georgia chapter

katherine brenneckeName: Katherine Brennecke

Chapter: Georgia

Current position: Managing Director, Training and Content at The Mathews Group

How long in current position: one month, but I’ve been with this agency for a little more than three years.

First PR job: Communications Counselor at The Mathews Group

Where you attended college: University of South Carolina – Aiken for undergrad, American University for grad school

If you weren’t doing PR, you’d be…… making television or advertising

Proudest professional accomplishment: finding a niche at The Mathews Group after many years in news. We’re a virtual agency, so we are blazing a trail in a lot of ways, finding new ways to work together seamlessly, having the advantage of offering almost round-the-clock support for clients because of our geographic diversity, and allowing us to have the cream of the crop on our team because we aren’t limited by location or other issues you may find in a traditional agency. I also love working with our clients in science, tech and engineering fields because it keeps us on the cutting edge of all things cool, and creating content that helps tell their stories is challenging and a tremendous amount of fun.

What is your passion? Helping people tell their story, whether that’s through creating a video for them, strategizing and executing internal corporate communication plans, crafting content or seeing our training clients “get it” when we coach them through media appearances, giving a speech or presentation or handling Q&A in a town hall or panel discussion. It’s all about telling their story and telling it well. That’s what makes me proud to do what I do.

Why you are a PRSA member? I love the educational resources – webinars, publications, online resources. It’s a wealth of information and I always find a great nugget to share with clients or colleagues.

Each week, the PRSA Southeast District highlights one of its 2,700 members. To join PRSA, visit prsa.org.

Renee Whitener, Tar Heel chapter

Renee WhitenerName: Renee R. Whitener

Chapter: Tar Heel Chapter, NC

Current position: Director of Public Relations, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation

How long in current position: 18 years

First PR job: Newspaper Reporter covering crime, local government and education.

Where you attended college: Appalachian State University

If you weren’t doing PR, you’d be……I loved being a news reporter so I’d likely be doing that in some form! Perhaps by podcasting (which I think is great because I spend so much time in a car!).  I love encouraging people and helping to make a difference so I’d develop stories with those goals in mind.

Proudest professional accomplishment: Helping my company successfully manage public and media relations during its worst crisis in decades: an ice storm that devastated our system and caused a week-long power outage to a third of our consumers who live in a very scenic, mountainous area of NC. Media attention went all the way to Good Morning America. Media interviews, arranging footage of our crews, monitoring reports, securing photography/video, working with internal staff as part of our emergency response plan and constantly updating our communications channels was a non-stop effort from the time the storm began on Christmas Day 2009 to full restoration on New Year’s Eve 2010. In addition to a strong media relations effort, we used social media, which was relatively new at that time, to keep our message consistent, accurate and timely. We also developed a dark website, which was also a relatively new concept at the time, to provide a more complete online source for a wide variety of information including news releases, photos, tips for safety and local emergency response resources, and more. We won a national award for our efforts but my greatest pleasure was the fact our efforts helped the consumers we serve. It gave them constantly updated information, helped alleviate fear and frustration and was a trusted resource 24/7 during a very frightening time for those affected. Our social media in particular gave our consumers a more personal way to connect with us during the crisis.

What is your passion? Many! If I had to pick, I’m most passionate about: yoga, hiking, photography, makeup artistry, and social media. I like finding creative ways to impact people through effective communications and I volunteer these services for my church, a local cancer charity and hospital foundation.

Why you are a PRSA member? PRSA keeps me updated on relevant issues and offers critical skills improvement in a field that is changing and evolving with technology and the world around us. It helps me become a more valuable public relations practitioner, which in turn benefits my company and the consumers we serve. I like the variety of online, print, workshop, webinar and on-site conference options. It also provides a network of PR professionals who share the same goals and values.

Each week, the PRSA Southeast District highlights one of its 2,700 members. To join PRSA, visit prsa.org.