Profiles in PR | Tara Curtis
Your Name: Tara Curtis
Your Position: Director, Communications
Your Business: West Virginia University Alumni Association
Company Website: alumni.wvu.edu
Twitter: @WVUAlumniAssoc (business) @WVUGal93 (personal)
Services You Offer:
The WVU Alumni Association represents West Virginia University’s largest constituency – more than 185,000 alumni worldwide. We provide outreach opportunities throughout the country, develop opportunities for social and professional networking, and engage our alumni through communications, including web, social media and printed communication.
Your Niche Area of Expertise:
Communications, strategic messaging and media relations.
How Did You Get Started in this Business?
My first real “communications” job was working for an energy company where I had an opportunity to develop great skills in the areas of crisis communications, media relations and internal/external relations. The experiences I gained with this company really helped me enhance my professional skills and developed my work ethic. I have always enjoyed working with nonprofit agencies, so when the opportunity was presented to work for my alma mater, I jumped at the chance. Working with alumni who are passionate about their university makes my job fun, challenging and wonderful.
Do You Have Any Advice for Universities Trying to Expand Their Network of Alumni Across the Globe?:
One: Engage, engage, engage! In today’s world of social media and quick communication, engaging your audience — no matter who it is — is key. Our work with social media has enabled us to capture those wonderful success stories of our alumni while building great affinity with our organization.
Two: Listen. Listen to what your constituents want/need, not what you think they need.
Three: Make the most out of opportunities. We have wonderful working relationships with various units around the WVU campus. This has been critical to engaging our alumni both here and abroad. By “pooling” our resources, we have been able to expand the global footprint of WVU and we certainly could not have done that on our own, particularly on a small budget. And take advantage of social media in engaging your international students/alumni base — it’s easy and it’s cheap!
What is your Craziest Workplace Story?
In one of my former positions, we were stressed and pressed for time. We were trying to meet a deadline and some people were trying to make us miss it. We worked as a team to make sure we succeeded. That meant our secretary wrapping up a package that needed to be mailed by 6 p.m. while I ran to my car, her literally throwing the package into my rolled down window as I passed through the parking lot, and stumbling into the FedEx building with one minute to spare. A little humor and a great “cast” of coworkers is a must!