In January 2021, Jemia Kinsey Singleton – founder of Kinsey Communications – will become President of the PRSA NJ Chapter. She recently took time from her busy work schedule to reflect on her career in public relations and her goals for PRSA NJ members in the year ahead.
How did you get your break into the PR industry?
Growing up, PR was not a field that I was familiar with at all. It was either doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. It was not until college and a friend of mine mentioned that she was interested in PR that I started looking into it. I was on a pre-med track, but realized that I did not enjoy science. After learning more about PR and getting my first internship, I knew that PR was the right field for me.
What was it like to found and grow your own agency Kinsey Communications?
My journey to starting my business was not a conventional one. I had the opportunity to meet an amazing woman, Betsy Helgager Hughes, who at the time was a VP at Ketchum. A couple of years later, Betsy and I reconnected and after serving on a PR committee together, she shared that she was impressed with my work. She had recently started her own firm and asked if I wanted to join the world of entrepreneurship and work with her. It was an offer that I couldn’t refuse so in February 2003, I started Kinsey Communications. I was based out of Atlanta for many years and after moving to New Jersey seven years ago, I have had the honor of growing my business here.
Were there some important “lessons learned” in the firm’s early years?
I learned that you are your brand and that when it comes to entrepreneurship, it’s important to have more than one client if possible – but all clients should feel like your one and only.
Can you share your vision and goals for the chapter that you would like to achieve during your term?
When I joined PRSA NJ I got involved with our Diversity & Inclusion Committee and as an African-American woman, D&I in the field is very important to me. I would love to continue to see D&I as a focus area for 2021, including engaging more young professionals and college students of color.
I also want to see our committees grow by engaging more members. I really want to focus on ensuring that we get to know our members, tap into them more, and show the amazing value of being a member of PRSA NJ.
What are some of the projects you would like to accomplish during your tenure?
Membership recruitment and retention, hosting more opportunities for members to be engaged and get to know one another, mentoring for young professionals, and enhancing/updating our PRSA NJ website to name a few.
You have played a lead role in Diversity & Inclusion education within the PRSA NJ Chapter and the PR industry statewide. As President, what do you believe are significant next steps to continue in this area during 2021?
One thing I have been very proud of with our D&I committee is the series of webinars we did this year to help turn talk about D&I into actions people can take to move the needle, and actually bring about change in their professional and personal lives. D&I is not an issue that only people of color should lead. It will take making it a priority for all of us to bring about REAL change. Now that we have started the Courageous Conversations about D&I, in 2021 we will focus on continuing the conversations.
If you had to give a grade on a report card, what would you give the PR industry as a whole for diversity, equity and inclusion?
I think that there is an interest there for the industry to embrace D&I, but there are still many who don’t support it or don’t think it should be a priority. We have also heard from attendees during our webinars that companies, agencies and organizations want to make D&I a priority in theory, but they may not be committed to doing the work to make it happen. We saw companies and people place a greater level of effort into D&I this year, and I hope it continues into 2021 and beyond.
What other challenges do you think are among the top concerns of New Jersey’s PR and communications professionals as they head into the new year?
2020 has been a challenging year for people professionally and personally. We now live in a world of Zoom calls and social distancing and for some, the loss of their job. Now as we prepare to enter 2021 with so many unknowns, I think that it will be important to use our PR skills to continue being creative on ways we can connect virtually, support one another, and let others know about job openings and opportunities.
What are some benefits that come with being a member of PRSA NJ?
I have met some amazing people by becoming a member of PRSA NJ. After being in my hometown of Atlanta for so many years, being in New Jersey was challenging. Through PRSA NJ, I have been able to network with others, have the opportunity to sharpen my skills, and contribute to the PR community in New Jersey. I learned a long time ago that you get the most out of being a member of an organization when you get involved.
What is the best way for members to get involved in the PRSA NJ community? During our kickoff meeting in January, I am planning to make sure that we do a major push during that time and throughout the year to get more members involved with our committees, events, and activities. Many people want to get involved but don’t know how to. Members can also reach out to me at any time. We have some amazing and talented PR professionals in our state, and I’m really looking forward to meeting many more of them.
What advice do you have for young professionals just starting out in their PR or communications career?
PR is a wonderful field with so many facets to it. Find which facet you love but learn as much as you can about others. Get a mentor, network (even if you are uncomfortable doing it), find opportunities to sharpen your skills, and get involved with PRSA NJ. (smile)
What is the best career advice you received and how has it helped you throughout your career?
It’s a cliché, but I have always been told how important it is to work hard and play hard. Balancing work and life can be challenging to say the least but as important as it is to work hard, you have to take time to enjoy life to the fullest. You only get one shot at it.