By Hannah Ross


We love catching up with AU PRSSA alumni and hearing about how they’re taking on the PR world. I recently talked to Ashley Sayers, who’s tackling public affairs and lifestyle PR  at the same time. This week I heard from Jessica Noonan, an AU PRSSA alum who works in New York on Employee Engagement and Change Management. It was interesting learning more about that side of PR and how Jessica got where she is today.


1.   Can you describe your involvement with PRSSA and PRSA?

I knew I wanted to join PRSSA before I even applied to AU so I joined my freshman year and was quickly an active member as co-coordinator of the 2010 National Conference. It was a blast planning and such an amazing experience for my resume. After that I decided to run for the PRSSA National Committee and was one of the first AU students to get a position. That expanded my network a lot, both professionally and personally – I met my NY roommate and bridesmaid on that committee!

Within PRSA, I’m involved on a national level as the past chair of the New Professionals Section. It’s a great group to join when you’re starting as a PRSA member and the section is free to join with promo code AM16 when you sign up!


2.   What was the process that led you to your current position?

Immediately after graduation I joined Burson-Marsteller’s Corporate practice after interning there twice. I had a great experience working on media relations for five years, but with how much media is changing I started thinking of what else I was interested in, and being a Kogod major, consulting has always peaked my interest. That led me to speak with one of my mentors who is now my coworker within the Employee Engagement and Change Management (EECM) group at Weber Shandwick.


3.   Can you talk about what you do now?

Employee Engagement and Change Management are growing fields for communications professionals as more companies focus on improving their employee experience and are going through changes from new leadership to rebranding. What I do varies by the day – which I love! Consulting and agency life is made so you’re constantly working on a variety of projects with different clients. Specifically, my group helps with strategically developing internal engaging communications that inspire employees to adopt everything from a company’s new vision statement to a new company that just merged with theirs.


4.   How was the transition from Washington, D.C. to New York City?

Seamless! Like a lot of AU, I’m from New Jersey so it was like coming home for me. The biggest adjustments were not driving around anymore, moving into much MUCH smaller living conditions (I went from a house in DC to a converted two bedroom with no common space) and not hearing politics discussed as frequently. NYC is such an amazing city with so much to offer a young professional. If you’re interested in city-swapping post graduation, I highly recommend it!


5.   You work with Employee Engagement. Can you talk more about that? How do public relations and employee relations come together?

At the core of what we all do – whether for external or internal audiences – is communications. No matter the title, we’re communicators inspiring an audience to believe in what we’re saying. It’s also becoming more important to Chief Communications Officers (CCO). A recent Weber Shandwick study found that 70% of North American CCOs see employee engagement/employee advocacy as their #1 priority over the next 12-18 months. You see internal communications falling under the job description of PR roles more and more frequently, so it’s a critical aspect of our industry.


6.   Can you talk more about your work with Change Management?

My team’s work in the realm of Change Management is expansive – we’ve helped companies going through mergers and acquisitions, leadership changes, office moves and more. Our role is to ensure everything we do is in the best interest of the employee and we’re thinking of our strategy and communication tactics from their perspective.


7.   What unique challenges do you face in your position?

It’s important to have a full understanding of the company to achieve success with its employees. When we’re onboarding a new client it can be a challenge to quickly get up to speed on their company, their industry and their employee sentiment. We do a lot of research in advance of getting the business, but there’s always more to be done. Since our group is typically project based, we normally have several clients at once in a wide variety of industries with different goals.


8.   How do you stay up-to-date on the issues facing your clients?

I keep up to date on the news in general, I subscribe to newsletters like The Skimm. When I did more media relations I had Google Alerts on all of my clients to see what was being said about them organically. Now I mostly keep up to date on EECM trends so that I can apply those learnings to the issues my clients are facing. I read a lot of Employee Engagement articles, but also regularly attend webinars on Internal Communications.


9.   How did AU, PRSSA, and PRSA help you get to where you are now?
I cannot say enough awesome things about AU and PRSSA, but I’ll try to keep it short! AU was the absolute best school I could have gone to for college. My dual degree (BA in Public Comm and BSBA: Marketing) prepared me perfectly to have strong communications skills with a business background. PRSSA gave me great resume building experience along with a strong network of PR professionals to have as references, colleagues, mentors and even roommates! You’ll find the PR world is extremely small, so having a strong PR network is essential to success in the industry.


10.   Where do you see yourself in five years?
I definitely intend to stick within the EECM realm, so I see myself still doing this in five years. The work is a natural fit for my professional passions and I love it!


11.   How would you compare and contrast your experiences in different PR agencies?

I’ve found that each agency has its own personality and you have to decide which one your personality best aligns with. In many ways PR agencies are very similar – with numerous clients, billable work, structure and more. What makes it different are the type of people that work at each one, the office environment and culture.


It was so great of Jessica to catch us up on her post-AU PRSSA professional life and her work with EECM sounds really fascinating. Anyone interested in that side of PR or thinking of making to DC to NYC transition could learn a lot from her. To see what more alumni like Jessica are up to, check out our Alumni Series!