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PR Industry: Don’t Count Out Alabama

Published on December 4, 2020, at 11:40 p.m.
by Emily Safron. 

Many think of big cities and hot spots like New York City and Chicago when it comes to public relations. However, the state of Alabama has grown tremendously in this industry. From Birmingham to Gulf Shores, there is a vast amount of PR professionals in this “sweet home.”

Patti Conwell, APR
Patti Conwell, APR, became her own boss in 2017 when she founded PeeTee Communications LLC. “I always wanted to work on my own,” Conwell shared. “My interest post-college was working in a position of service to others. I was not definite on what that looked like, but it was always a dream of mine for many years to work on my own and be my own boss.”

After graduating from college, Conwell relocated to Maryland and ended up as an executive secretary for a nonprofit in Baltimore, Maryland. She wiggled her way into a part-time then full-time public relations position, working in nonprofit PR for eight years before moving back to Huntsville to go into teaching. Conwell attended grad school from 1996-97 and taught at her alma mater, Oakwood University, for 20 years before leaving to start PeeTee Communications LLC. As the owner and content writer, Conwell provides writing services ranging from ghostwriting to editing services. Her favorite part about this role has been the ability to make her own hours.

Conwell came back to Alabama because she wanted to give back to her alma mater by strengthening and expanding its public relations curriculum. “Being able to grow the program at OU and make it a strong program has been my goal and was a goal I feel like I achieved. Being able to see one of my own students step into my teaching position that I left and take the curriculum to new levels is probably my favorite part.”

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Conwell’s biggest tip for an aspiring entrepreneur is to be clear on the goals you want to achieve. “Those things are very important: starting out with understanding the purpose and who you’re targeting and then just going for it,” Conwell added. “When you’re in a position to sink or swim, most likely you’re going to swim because sinking is not an option.”

Ally Dorrough, APR
After graduating from Auburn University in December 2011, Ally Dorrough worked in Atlanta for a few months before relocating to Gulf Shores for her husband’s job. Before becoming the communications & marketing specialist for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission, Dorrough had no idea that tourism PR existed!

Dorrough’s role is within the sales team, coordinating with the leisure marketing and communications team in addition to media relations and strategic planning. “I have to stretch and shift my thought process quite a bit to fulfill needs and get creative for my wildly different markets,” Dorrough said about her favorite part of her position.

Being able to work in tourism has allowed Dorrough to see her home state through a different lens than others. “We have abundant landscapes and diverse communities in our state from the mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, and it makes my heart happy to tell our state’s story in new ways and bust through age-old stereotypes,” she explained.

Sara Franklin
After beginning to experience seizures for the first time at age 30, Sara Franklin started to learn a vast amount of information about seizures and epilepsy, which eventually led her to become the executive director of Epilepsy Foundation Alabama.

Franklin’s schedule within the pandemic consists of many online meetings focusing on the nonprofit’s communications strategy, media relations, fundraising and development, and event and education programming.

Franklin’s favorite project within this role has been working with the Epilepsy Foundation Kids Crew. “Working with our Epilepsy Foundation Kids Crew brings me pure joy!” Franklin shared. “The Epilepsy Foundation believes that kids can change the world. We created the Kids Crew to make sure people know they are not alone and to show how much people can do when working together.”

Mary Elizabeth Roberson
Mary Elizabeth Roberson graduated from The University of Alabama in 2009 and worked a few jobs before landing her role at Peritus PR. Now director of public affairs, Roberson’s daily schedule includes a mix of collaborating with her co-workers on communications strategies and connecting with clients every day.

Photo by Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash

“I love working with both our team members and clients to help them be successful through communications,” Roberson noted. “We love when we can help our clients be successful and move the needle on something important to their goals.” It has been rewarding over the years for Roberson to see communications projects they have supported come to life and make an impact.

Roberson’s favorite part about working in Alabama is that she finds it to be a state where relationships matter. “It has been great getting to know people in the industry and maintaining those relationships. There are connections I made in college and through internships that I still keep up with. Seeing that progression and maintaining those relationships is so important in PR,” Roberson said. “Being a Birmingham native, I’ve enjoyed seeing the city continue to grow and thrive. What I love most about working at Peritus is that the work we do will have a positive impact in our communities and the state.”

With The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa being home to the top PR school in the nation, it is no surprise that there is such success for the industry here. The opportunities are endless for public relations in Alabama due to the amount of creative, innovative and hard-working individuals in the industry.

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