I began my college career as an architecture major. After two years, I realized my passion was public relations, so I switched majors, relocated and began learning about and experiencing everything I possibly could in the world of public relations.
Although I’m glad I finally found my way, I wish I had realized it sooner. I decided to create this blog mini-series titled Five Minutes With… to help inspire young pr professionals by providing a quick look into the lives and careers of successful pr practitioners. So without further ado, let’s get started.
Introducing Tom Heapes
Tom Heapes is an associate professor of public relations at the University of Central Missouri. I sat down to discuss the various roles he has held during his very successful career.
Me: So Tom, myself and most of my colleagues know you as Mr. Heapes, superhero and public relations professor at UCM. But when you’re not teaching such an awesome group of students, what other pr jobs or extracurricular activities are you involved in?
Tom: Well Brooklyn, like you said, most of my time is spent either in the classroom teaching or in my office preparing for and grading the countless student assignments that are turned in each week. But what some people may not know is that I still consult for Trozzolo Communications, the pr firm I worked for before accepting my teaching job at UCM. I am also an active PRSA and APR member.
As for extracurricular activities, if I’m not busy working, you can usually find me on the golf course. It’s a great place to have fun and not think about my busy schedule.
Me: I can honestly say that with such a busy schedule, you must be an amazing multi-tasker. What’s your secret for keeping up to date with all of the different areas in which you work?
Tom: I’m not sure I really have a secret, but I use a lot of lists. I learned from Franklin Covey, which offers time management and training services for organizations and individuals. They suggest you create lists and categorize your life into roles. So I have my life categorized into UCM, Trozzolo, home, husband/father, etc. Writing everything down just ensures that I don’t forget anything and that all my projects are completed on time.
Me: I honestly think lists are essential for pr professionals. I know I create a new list to follow every week. Speaking about essentials, if you had to pick one skill that is necessary to success in the pr industry, what would it be?
Tom: Hmm… that’s a tough one. I think I would have to say the ability to communicate clearly would be the most essential. Although writing and relationship building is important, getting your message through to your target audience would definitely be the most important.
Me: Great communication skills will always be key in this ever evolving and changing industry. How would you describe the differences between working in pr in the early 2000s and now?
Tom: I would have to say the main difference is the advancement in technology and the introduction of Web 2.0. It made communication go from being one-sided to interactive. I remember back in the day, the first thing I used to do when I arrived at work was read the newspaper. Now, I browse the news through several social media platforms and websites.
Me: Wow. Things have changed quite a bit. So lastly, and completely non-pr related, what is your favorite band/singer to listen to while driving to and from work?
Tom: I can honestly say I’m a fan of all kinds of music. I listen to the podcast “Live from Daryl’s House” and that’s how I discover new bands and genres of music. But if I had to choose one, I enjoy the classics, especially The Beatles.