By: Channing Gatewood

On Wednesday, March 30, Elizabeth Penniman, Vice President of Communications at the Red Cross, visited AU PRSSA to discuss her current work at the organization, and the education and career exploration that led her there. The event was well attended, which fostered an energetic question-answer session following the presentation, during which Ms. Penniman shared even more personal stories of how she has and still is navigating through her work at the American Red Cross and the communications industry.

The presentation covered many topics, but below are a few key takeaways:

  • Handling Negative Press

    • Ms. Penniman did not shy away from acknowledging the persistence (and annoyance) of journalists who attempt to discredit the work done by the Red Cross. She reminded us that though negative press will always exist, it can often be rooted in inaccurate or misconstrued information. Even thorough explanations and negotiations with negative press writers may not solve the problem, she reflected.

  • Corporate versus Nonprofit PR

    • Prior to working at Red Cross, Ms. Penniman held a few corporate public relations positions, and while she applauded the experience she received from these experiences, she also expressed her love for the heart and culture of nonprofit work. She describes it as ultimately “rewarding,” and as offering more long term work, as opposed to briefer, one-time projects that have been characteristic of her corporate work. She encouraged us to ponder our ideal work environment and work cause when deciding between the two.

  • Working at Red Cross: The Verdict

    • Elizabeth Penniman could not have expressed her love of the American Red Cross more, calling it a “great organization” that does “great work.” She discussed her opportunity to travel to Haiti when the Red Cross did service there following the major earthquake, as well as opportunities to supervise communicators nationwide who promote the Red Cross through social media as a form of service to the organization. Strongly satisfied with her own experience, Ms. Penniman encouraged any students interested in nonprofit PR to consider the Red Cross in their job and internship search.

Thank you to Ms. Penniman for sharing her wisdom and experiences with us! Interested in the Red Cross? Contact AU PRSSA’s own Greta Gustafson, who recently worked as a Red Cross intern!