Today we are featuring Art Ellis, Vice President for Communications and Member Relations at WHYY. Art has been a PPRA member for 23 years and is a past PPRA Hall of Fame recipient. He has worked for WHYY since 1987, making this year his 30th year with WHYY.
PPRA: Art, tell us a bit about your background and your current job.
AE: I started at WHYY as a publicist in 1987 and over time picked up additional responsibilities in branding, marketing, on-air promotion and customer service. For the last 18 months I’ve also been managing membership, with a $12.5 million annual goal. Prior to WHYY I held PR positions at Case Western Reserve University and what is now Philadelphia University.
PPRA: Who are your clients and what projects are you working on right now?
AE: My clients are all internal departments at WHYY. One issue we’re paying attention to is how best to reinforce WHYY’s position as the region’s leading non-profit media provider in light of the recent shifts at Philadelphia Media Network.
PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?
AE: Constant change in the media field is both a favorite part and the greatest challenge. I get to figure out how to use new technology to better serve the public and at the same time have to deal with the challenges of pitching stories in a shrinking print media world.
PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?
AE: Working with my team to say farewell to Downtown Abbey. Our goal was to provide a great experience for our viewers while leveraging the popularity of the series to increase engagement and membership. We did everything from gala costume dinners to a City Council proclamation. Who knew 300 people could eat 700 scones in 15 minutes?
PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?
AE: Working at a media outlet I often receive errant PR pitches. Even the most experienced folks in our profession need to remember the basics: Before calling or sending an email, make sure you research the reporter/editor/program. And keep those pitches short and timely.
PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?
AE: I’ve watched Broadcast News (which ironically was released the same year I started at WHYY) many times. I’ll always remember the line uttered by William Hurt’s character when he is accused of “crossing the line” of ethical journalism. “It’s hard not to cross it–they just keep moving the little sucker, don’t they?” A great reminder of the need to pay attention to the ethics of any profession.
PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?
AE: My favorite stress reliever is to hike or bike in the Wissahickon section of Fairmount Park.
PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?
AE: Sorry, but I’d prefer a grilled veggie hoagie.