In honor of her first week of presidency, today we are featuring the 2016 PPRA President, Ashley Berke. Ashley is the Director of Communications for the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet). Ashley has been a PPRA member for over 11 years and is a past PPRA Fast-Track Award recipient.
PPRA: Ashley, tell us a bit about your background and your current job.
AB: I am the Director of Communications for the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet), where I oversee media relations, marketing, publications, social media, and the website for the renowned school and its two hospitals. I previously served as Director of Public Relations for the National Constitution Center. I graduated from Cornell University in 2005.
PPRA: Who are your clients and what projects are you working on right now?
AB: We just wrapped on our new TV docu-series for Animal Planet. The show follows six of our fourth-year veterinary students as they complete their rigorous training. We hope to announce a premiere date soon, so stay tuned!
Other fun projects that I’m currently working on include promotion of our new robotics-controlled equine imaging system at New Bolton Center, sponsorship of NBC 10’s Clear the Shelters initiative, and an amazing event called the Best Friends Bash that brings together craniofacial patients from CHOP and canine craniofacial patients from Penn Vet for a unique form of pet therapy.
PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?
AB: Well, for starters, I love animals. But what I love most about communications is that every day is different. You can never predict what’s coming – one minute I might be writing a pitch and then a national news request will come in and my day will totally shift. It keeps me on my toes.
PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?
AB: The TV docu-series for Animal Planet (see above). Pitching the show and securing a network took over two years, so it was incredibly fulfilling to see it come to fruition. Filming non-stop for three straight months was exhausting but eye-opening and exciting at the same time. We think the show will bring national attention to Penn Vet and showcase just how intense veterinary training is. Please tune in!
PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?
AB: Be a sponge. Soak up as much knowledge and advice as possible. This is a constantly changing industry, and PR pros – no matter their experience level – must stay on top of the trends in order to remain relevant.
PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?
AB: Movie – The kid in me can’t say no to watching The Goonies over and over again. I’m also pretty obsessed with The Royal Tenenbaums. Book – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?
AB: I love the Reading Terminal Market and the Mutter Museum.
PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?
AB: From Steve’s Prince of Steaks, a cheesesteak hoagie with (“wit”) onions and American cheese. They pre-melt the cheese!
(Now I’m craving one.)
PPRA: You’ve been a very active member of PPRA, describe your road to becoming the next PPRA President.
AB: I joined PPRA as soon as I graduated and started my career. My boss at the time, Denise Venuti Free, recommended that I join as a way to meet the key players in Philly’s PR community. It definitely paid off. I never would have gotten to know so many people in so many different cross-sections of our industry if it wasn’t for PPRA. A few years into my membership, Bill Cowen reached out to me and suggested that I join a board committee. He was serving as President-Elect and asked me to assist with College Relations. As a recent graduate, it was a perfect fit. After that, I joined the board in an official capacity and have been serving ever since.
PPRA: What can people expect from you and what do you hope to achieve as the new PPRA President?
AB: You can definitely expect a lot of enthusiasm! I am so grateful to PPRA for helping to shape my career. During my presidency, I want to hone in on what makes PPRA unique, and utilize that to energize our members and build on our successes. To me, PPRA is a wonderful community of mentors and friends. We can learn so much from one another. I’m looking forward to a great line-up of educational events and the chance to grow our mentorship and community outreach programs, which are near and dear to my heart.
PPRA: The PR and communications industries are changing everyday. Will you be making any “changes” to PPRA to reflect this?
AB: The Board has long felt that the PPRA website is in need of an update. I certainly can’t take credit for starting this project, but I do hope to see it come to fruition this year.