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Perspectives Blog: Leadership profiles

Four Questions with Janet Swiecichowski, APR

Monday, July 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Eva Keiser
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With more than 20 years of experience leading public relations for public and private educational institutions, Janet Swiecichowski, APR is the director of public relations for the University of St. Thomas – Minnesota’s largest private, non-profit university.


Prior to St. Thomas, she led an integrated marketing communications program for Minnetonka Public Schools, which helped reverse declining enrollment and yielded 38 percent enrollment growth over 15 years.


In June 2018, Janet rejoined the Minnesota PRSA Board of Directors. She first served on the board in 2001-2002 and has been actively involved in chapter or national accreditation committees since 1999.


Over her career, Janet has been a fierce advocate for the profession, having served on the boards and as president of both the Wisconsin and Minnesota School Public Relations Associations, as accreditation chair for Minnesota PRSA and National School Public Relations Association, and on the Universal Accreditation Board representing both NSPRA and PRSA (2006-2014).

We wanted to understand more about what motivates her to stay so involved. The answers might surprise you.


When did you first get involved in PRSA and what prompted your involvement?

I first joined Minnesota PRSA in 2000, shortly after moving to Minnesota. I knew Minnesota PRSA would connect me with fun, smart, strategic people and a trusted network. I was immediately welcomed and have learned so much from top professionals in our field across all industries. I took great nuggets from health care, retail, financial, non-profit and defense sectors and applied them to my work in education. That breadth of expertise served my employers very well over the years.


What have you gained from your Minnesota PRSA chapter membership?

More than anything, my membership has exposed me to a variety of points of view, strategic ideas and effective tactics. I’ve brought things to the education sector that most people would not have considered. Learning from exemplary leaders in Minnesota PRSA provided me (and my employer) a competitive advantage.


Why have you stayed engaged with Minnesota PRSA?

To be honest, every year I evaluate my membership and the return on investment for the dues I pay. There were a few years I stopped my PRSA membership and was more active with educational PR organizations (after all, there are only so many hours in a year). I came back to Minnesota PRSA to reconnect with smart people, to reinvigorate my practice, and to pay it forward for all I’ve learned. My involvement with the Accreditation committee is very energizing for me. I get to see well-written communication plans (which inspire new ideas for my work), discuss in-depth complex issues facing a variety of organizations, and learn from our chapter’s most respected experts. All I give is my time, and I get much more in return.


Why did you decide to pursue your accreditation? How has the process impacted you?

I earned accreditation as soon as I could—at the five-year mark in my career. I was young, thought I knew it all, and regularly needed to persuade older leaders that what I felt in my gut was actually good advice. Studying for the accreditation exam changed my thinking from a tactician to a strategist, changed the vocabulary I used to counsel others, and put me a phone-call-away from experts in our profession when I needed advice.


When I decided to pursue accreditation, I included it in my annual performance goals and negotiated a raise when I passed the test. Now to be clear, my boss didn’t really know what APR meant, but he noticed a change in the way I approached projects and opportunities. Some years later, when I landed my dream job with Minnetonka Public Schools, the superintendent still didn’t understand the value of APR, but I knew all his past public relations directors had their APR. I talked to a few of them who told me my boss would have high expectations for proactive and planned communication. They were right, and the learning and network that accreditation had provided me also prepared me to exceed those expectations most of the time.


I’ve stayed involved in national or state accreditation committees since 1999. I’ve mentored hundreds of APR candidates, and I regularly hear, “I wish I would have done this earlier in my career. There are so many things I would have done differently and could have made much easier.” I remain active with Accreditation, because for me it is a fresh spring of emerging ideas and trends. In mentoring others, I keep my skills current in a rapidly changing field. I give my time and get much more in return.


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