In honor of her last week of presidency, today we are featuring PPRA President, Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway. Meredith wears a dual hat as both the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Director of Communications and Marketing as well as the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s President. Meredith is a past PPRA Fast-Track Award & Dr. Jean Brodey Award winner. Come out and meet Meredith at PPRA’s Annual Meeting Celebration held tomorrow at the Liberty View Ballroom at the Independence Visitor Center. Register here.
PPRA: Meredith, tell us a bit about your background and your current job.
MZA: Prior to my roles as PPRA President and the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Director of Communications and Marketing, I spent nearly eight years at DuPont working in a variety of positions with vast responsibilities. Most recently, I served as a regional public affairs manager. In this role, I led internal and external communications, including 24/7 issues and crisis communications support, for eight manufacturing plant sites in three states – Delaware, New Jersey & Rhode Island.
I have received notable recognition for my work. Most recently, I received the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Rising Star Award from my alma mater. I also was named a “Rising Star of PR” by PR News, a “Hero” by the American Red Cross and “Notable Alumni” by Temple University’s Department of Strategic Communications. PPRA honored me with its Fast-Track Award & Dr. Jean Brodey Award. I am a member of the Public Relations Society of America and have received a couple of national awards from the student chapter of the organization. I also am an active member of the National Association of Bar Executives.
In addition, I am a past chair of the Philadelphia chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union Young Professionals and have led communications efforts for the annual Armenian Genocide Walk.
In my “spare” time, I have published two books of my own poetry – “Propaganda Begins with PR: Poetry for the Soul” and “PRhyme Time: Power of Poetry.”
PPRA: Who are your clients and what projects are you working on right now?
MZA: My clients essentially are the 12,000 members of the Philadelphia Bar Association – a diverse cross-section of lawyers, judges and politicians. I’ve been working on creating and promoting a number of important forums lately, from the recent one we held on the proposed sugary drink tax to the joint PPRA “Meet the Messengers” panel with the mayor’s new communications staff to hosting a forum with the three new justices of Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Other projects focus on pending legislature related to merit selection bills, medicinal marijuana and more.
PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?
MZA: The people. I enjoy working with some of the most influential leaders in Philadelphia and beyond, as well as helping to get the word out about all of the free legal advice and other pro bono support our members provide for the community-at-large.
PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?
MZA: Contributing to our chancellor’s mission to increase the Philadelphia Bar Association’s relevancy and visibility this year, which has led to an uptick in media coverage and increase in event attendance as well as timely and enhanced programming and membership initiatives.
PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?
MZA: Get involved. From serving on trade/industry association committees to volunteering in your communities to attending conferences and seminars, it is important that we be connected, relevant and educated.
PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?
MZA: I’m sure these answers will surprise some, but I can’t get enough of The Bible (book) and the original 1971 Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (movie) with Gene Wilder. Here’s to righteousness and breaking through glass ceilings!
PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly?
MZA: I’d disclose this information if it were public knowledge, but privacy also starts with “PR.” 😉
PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?
MZA: Sometimes “wit” and sometimes “wit-out.” Often with extra cheese, but never whiz.
PPRA: Since this is the last week of your presidency take us down memory lane and describe your first week as President?
MZA: I had very big goals, including a detailed month-by-month plan for the year. However, most of my energy and efforts the first week as president were focused on team-and-relationship-building with PPRA’s new leadership and planning our annual Board Retreat. This immediately started with 1×1’s with every Board member, followed by our Board Retreat and then culminated with a special happy hour for Board members and committee chairs.
PPRA: You had many accomplishments as PPRA President, what would you consider your greatest?
MZA: Moving the needle while staying committed to our three initiatives for the year. We weren’t afraid to try things differently. PPRA programs were substantive, creative and fun. Our partnerships helped us build bridges. The support we provided to Mighty Writers has been meaningful. Plus, founding the PPRA Sylvia Kauders 50-Year Club will forever be something I am honored to say we launched this year.
PPRA: What do you see for the future of PPRA?
MZA: For one, a much-needed, long-awaited and highly anticipated new website. We weren’t able to complete the project this year, though I know Ashley Berke and Gary Bramnick will carry the torch to completion in 2016-2017. Additionally, we are looking to rebrand PPRA, so in addition to a new website, we may also have a new logo and more. Furthermore, I envision us being the go-to association for reporters who are looking for PR experts on any given industry or beat as well as the place every active Philly PR professional can call “home.”