guiding the career in public relations

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Nicholas J. Ashooh

As with many of my colleagues, I didn’t plan a career in corporate communications.  I started covering high school and legion baseball as a stringer for the local paper in high school.  I loved sports, loved writing and was thrilled to see my first by-line.  I went to Marquette University – a school with a fine journalism program and a great basketball team – with the intention of becoming a sports writer.  But just before graduating, I took a public relations course – a rarity then – and heard a representative of Wisconsin Bell give a very impressive talk about his company and the telephone business.

After graduating I had to choose between becoming a reporter for a rural New York daily or an all-purpose community representative for a small hospital near Boston.  I took the hospital job, and did everything from writing the hospital newsletter to running conferences.  It turned out to be a great choice and started me on a fascinating journey through the world of corporate public relations:

  • 1976 – 1978         Assistant Director of Community Relations, Mount Pleasant Hospital, Lynn, MA
  • 1978 – 1990         Public Information Representative, progressing to Director of Corporate Communications,                                                       Public Service of New Hampshire, Manchester, NH
  • 1990 – 1992          Vice President, Corporate Communications, Paramount Communications Inc.
  • 1992 – 2000         Vice President, Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.
  • 2000 – 2006        Senior Vice President, American Electric Power, Columbus, OH
  • 2006 – 2010         Senior Vice President, American International Group, New York
  • 2010 – 2013          Global Vice President, Alcoa, New York
  • 2013 – Present      Senior Director of Corporate and Executive Communications, APCO Worldwide

As you build your career, remember that all experience is valuable, especially the problems you’ll encounter.  The problems I faced at Public Service – a star-crossed nuclear plant and bankruptcy – gave me opportunities to learn and stretch and get noticed by senior management.  And while I hope the recent financial crisis is never repeated, the lessons I learned at AIG simply can’t be learned anywhere else.  Above all, stay positive and do your best, no matter what.

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