Wise Words From Public Relations Experts Pat Ford and Marcia DiStaso

At 6:15 P.M. on Wednesday, November 10, the students of PRSSA assembled in the College of Journalism and Communications for a general body meeting featuring two of UF’s own on-campus PR experts. Speakers Pat Ford, a UF Professional-in-Residence and Senior Advisor for Burson-Marsteller, and Marcia DiStaso, a UF PR professor and the Public Relations Chair, opened up about their experience and expertise working among the top agencies and PR professionals in the world.

Pat Ford imparted valuable advice as well as an absorbing account of his professional career, with a resounding passion for the values which he holds foremost in all his work. Ford’s 28 years of experience working with renowned PR agency Burson-Marsteller is marked by responsibility for client satisfaction and the immense pride which he took in his agency’s projects. Though exemplifying excellence and prestige, it is Ford’s habit of bolstering others, especially young professionals, and his intent to meaningfully impact the world which has defined his career. Above all, he advocates for diversity, holding the Diversity Champion award as testimony.  

The clearest message delivered that night was the value of an altruistic attitude. As Marcia DiStaso espoused the prominence of UF’s PR program, Ford expanded on the stirring effects of industry leaders. A high achiever himself, he remained aware of the long road of progress ahead and his capacity to create headway. Both speakers stayed in line with this message regarding advice on achievement in the industry itself.

“Half of succeeding in this business is to just care,” DiStaso said.  

Ford’s approach to excellence was encapsulated as he responded to a student’s question, “Is it a young person’s game?” In tentative confirmation, Ford pointed out the importance of constantly monitoring news and trends. The question reflected the fast pace of the industry and the necessity of staying up-to-date. Rather than taking youthful advantage as a sort of deterrent, he saw this as an energizing factor towards harder work.

DiStaso explained how students should not expect a long running in a single agency such as Ford’s. According to her, many professionals will likely hop around among the multitude of agency types. She urged students to be investigative and research them, especially by going in-person to see agencies and attending info sessions.

“We have to be careful that when we think of agency we don’t have one thing in mind,” DiStaso said.

Distaso also urged students to consider an advantageous opportunity to enroll in two new immersive courses providing industry insight. The courses will be taught by world-class professionals Linda Rutherford, CCO for Southwest Airlines, and Lesley Gaines Ross of Weber Shandwick on the CEO activism and crisis management. 

PRSSA members in attendance were very lucky to hear from these two incredible speakers who lent their sincere remarks on success and fulfillment in the PR field. A big thanks to Pat Ford and Marcia DiStaso for their time and knowledge.

Written by Whitney Mecca 

Photo credits: Langston Dunbar