Meet Meredith Libbey, APR, Communications Manager at Ford Motor Credit Company.
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Education: Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Economics from Mount Holyoke College; MBA in Marketing and Organization Management from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University
PRSA Board Position: At-large director and co-chair of the accreditation committee (with Leigh Lindsey, APR)
How did you end up where you are today?
I began my career doing marketing research for a bank and then moved into advertising on the client side. I have also worked in training and development, internal communications, community relations and customer service. I joined Ford Credit in Franklin (then operating under the PRIMUS brand) in 2000 and returned in 2014 after working with Metro Nashville Public Schools for about five years. I like being on the steep end of the learning curve and applying lessons learned in new ways.
Tell us about one of the most memorable experiences of your career.
When I was with Metro Schools, I worked on school visits with dignitaries, including President Obama. We shared stories about the school and its teachers with the White House speechwriter. After President Obama praised one teacher by name, the teacher broke down in tears. He said he taught because he loved students and never expected any recognition, certainly not from the President. I had a similar experience at the first reception for Metro’s Blue Ribbon Teachers hosted by Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos. The honorees were overwhelmed by the chancellor’s remarks and by the event. I love shining the spotlight on great people and causes.
Do you have any advice for young professionals?
I will share advice I received: Don’t just polish your craft, learn about the business. We cannot be effective practitioners, much less counselors, unless we have a deep understanding of the organizations we serve. I also advise PR professionals of any age or career stage to earn accreditation. It is a way for young people to prove their competence and for more seasoned professionals to prove their continued relevance.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for Nashville-area PR professionals?
There are more channels for storytelling than in the past, which means both smaller audiences for traditional media and increased opportunities for exposure through newer media. Great storytelling and strong visuals are important, but you also have to understand the audience and assess if it aligns with your message and your target. When Oprah was on the air and delivering huge ratings, I turned down an opportunity to be part of a show because it did not make sense for us. That was difficult, but it was the right thing for our organization.
What’s one PR rule that you live by?
Sue Atkinson used to say, “Tell the truth, tell it all and tell it now.” That is good counsel.
As APR Chair, what are your goals for the Nashville chapter?
I’d like two or more members to earn accreditation every year. We have run a series of workshops, with recommended reading for each, to give structure to prospective APRs and now have several members in process for 2018 and others who have it on the radar for 2019. We are making progress.
What advice do you have to offer to someone considering their APR?
Earning accreditation is a heavy lift, but well worth it. The APR process forces candidates to think deeply about the profession and their own PR practice and to refresh their knowledge.
I also recommend candidates read “Effective Public Relations” and the APR Study Guide before they prepare for the panel presentation so their PR plan and portfolio reflect best practices.