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PR Gets a Voice: The Plank Center Launches “Talking Points” Podcast


Published on May 7, 2024, 3:56 p.m.
by Stephanie Smith and Meg Fullen.

Podcasts have surged in popularity over the past few years, with more than 460 million listeners worldwide. With podcasts emerging from established public relations groups like PRSSA and PRWeek, they provide practitioners with an effective way to tell a story. Through storytelling, podcasts help to grow and connect with target audiences, effectively conveying messages.

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations cemented its legacy in this era through its new podcast, “Talking Points.” Members of The Plank Center’s Emerging Leaders Committee are excited about sharing PR career advice with a wide range of listeners as Season 1 comes to a close.

Emerging Leaders

The Emerging Leaders Committee serves as a liaison between The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and those in the first few stages of their careers. Members of this committee are ambassadors of The Plank Center in their workplaces and embody the values that Betsy Plank held dear.

“Emerging Leaders started as an opportunity for young professionals to play more of an active role in The Plank Center,” said Sonny Franks Miller, season one “Talking Points” podcast host.

In the beginning, Emerging Leaders concentrated on developing resource guides. In recent years, the committee experienced significant development, expanding to provide additional strategies for growth development. One of the ways its influence continues to expand is through the “Talking Points” podcast.

The start of something new

The first season of “Talking Points” launched in November 2023 but had been in the works for about two years beforehand.

“At my first meeting with the ELC, we were talking through any new ideas, and I raised my hand and said ‘podcast,’ and Sonny said she had been talking about it for a while, so we joined forces,” said Carolyn Lok, Season 1 “Talking Points” podcast co-host.

“Talking Points” is more than just a podcast; it is a way to give PR students insight on what it is like in the real world.

“When I was a PR student, I was fortunate enough to go to these big conferences and meet with seasoned PR professionals and hear all of their background and expertise,” Lok said. “I wanted to share those conversations for those students who may not have the ability to go to those conferences or have access to bigger professionals.”

Photo via The Plank Center

Talking points

The “Talking Points” podcast integrates the perspectives of professionals who are starting out their careers in the industry and those who are well into their careers. The topics of conversation come from The Plank Center resource guides, such as developing workplace confidence, leading with purpose and mastering leadership at the middle level. As future seasons of the podcast progress, the strategy is to bring the resource guides to life through verbal conversations and different viewpoints from leaders in the industry.

The idea behind using the resource guides was to give young professionals insights into relatable content they can use in their everyday lives. The content comes easy for Lok and Miller to choose because it is relevant for them, as well as the listeners. Moving forward, Lok said they will be polling audiences on social media to see what they would be interested in hearing.

“At the end of the day, the resource guides are the bread and butter for emerging leaders,” Miller explained. “We really try to keep it relevant but have topics that are just as true today as they are tomorrow.”

The podcast’s guests are recommended by The Plank Center board members and connections through LinkedIn. The hosts pick the guests based on research of their lives and careers in the industry.

With The Plank Center continuing to grow, Miller explained they will be taking a different approach for upcoming seasons. “There are a lot of professionals who want to support The Plank Center’s mission, but they didn’t have a formal channel to do that,” she said. “Now, we have a big group of people who are passionate about supporting, so it has been a new avenue for us.”

Season 1

Photo via The Plank Center

Miller, Lok, along with a third co-host, Andrew Cook, were instrumental in bringing Season 1 of the podcast to life. The production was overseen by Maret Montanari, with editing handled by Facundo Luque. Season 1’s “big moves” focus included hearing perspectives about different kinds of moves such as promotions, geographic changes and expanding within a current role in a public relations career. The resource guide highlights six different kinds of moves someone can make in their career. The objective of Season 1 was to break up each of the six moves into a different episode.

With professionals like Molly McKenna and Katherine Ducker featured on the podcast, it provides listeners with the chance to learn first-hand experiences from some of the best in the industry.

Featured in episode three of Season 1, “The Big Promotion,” McKenna, the senior brand director of McDonald’s, discussed her 20-year career at the corporation and how she moved up the ranks within her career. McKenna shared the importance of advocating for yourself and having real conversations about what you want to accomplish in a career. Furthermore, she highlighted the need to connect with people, tell stories and shape perceptions in a public relations career, which is unwavering.

When discussing the trials within a career, McKenna guides listeners into thinking about the big picture. “When you come into those times when you are disappointed, it is actually a blessing in disguise and puts you on a path towards a different direction,” she said.

Photo via The Plank Center

In the sixth episode, “The Geographic Move,” Ducker, the vice president of corporate and financial communications at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, described making the geographic move from the East Coast to the West Coast to pursue her career. In explaining her “big move” experience, she noted the two big categories to take into consideration when someone makes a move, which are professional and personal reasons. Ducker emphasized that the different reasons for wanting to make the move do not have to be just for professional or personal reasons but could be for both.

She underscores the significance of being patient when adapting to new situations. “I would encourage everyone to think about what makes you tick and what are you going to be comfortable with that will get you out of your comfort zone,” she advised. “Give it time. All good change takes time for you to get comfortable with, so don’t rush to judgment.”

At the end of every episode in Season 1, the hosts ask a series of “rapid fire” questions to break the ice with guests. Some of these questions include their favorite food or “go-to” meal at McDonald’s. Lok explained the purpose behind these questions is to offer listeners the opportunity to know these guests beyond their professional lives.

Preparation for Season 2

Since the first season of “Talking Points” was published, the Emerging Leaders team is already preparing for a second season with some changes, including new hosts. While Sonny Franks Miller is returning, Tamarra Thal and Zane Landin will join her.

“I think right now the podcast space is very saturated, specifically in different genres like True Crime or comedy podcasts. It’s hard to infiltrate that if you’re not already well established, or you don’t have a great background. However, I think in PR we have a very unique opportunity to fill a space where it’s not as saturated,” said Lok.

In the first season, promotional efforts were centered on LinkedIn, leveraging polls and cross-promotion across platforms such as Facebook, X and Instagram, all directing traffic back to LinkedIn. Lok explained, “We’re hoping to evolve more of the promotion strategy to collaborate with other PR organizations (like PRSSA) and PR publications (like PRWeek) to increase awareness around the podcast.”

Gearing up for the second season, the Season 1 hosts are excited to see where this podcast will take the Emerging Leaders Committee and The Plank Center. “I think with defining your goals, your audience and finding ways to make your voice stand out and be unique, it’ll be successful. I’m hoping that is the case for us,” said Lok.

With high hopes for success, the hosts eagerly anticipate the journey ahead, aiming to carve out a distinctive space in the podcasting world.


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