For those in attendance at the FPRA Gainesville holiday party in December, the surprise on Sarah Carey, APR’s face was obvious. She had no idea she was selected to receive the chapter’s 2012 John Detweiler, Ed.D., APR, CPRC, Professional of the Year Award until the moment her name was called.
But to everyone else, it was no surprise.
Carey is director of public relations at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. During her 22 years in public relations, she continually demonstrates great professionalism while gaining positive exposure for the college with numerous stories placed throughout the country.
One nomination reads, “It never fails that I read or hear about an amazing story coming from the College of Veterinary Medicine. We have a true public relations gem right here in our community.”
Another reads, “As long as I’ve known her, she is always working on a big, national story. She is one of the most professional practitioners I know.”
Carey manages media relations, social media and her college’s web presence, as well as works closely with others throughout the college and university to meet communications needs in effective, efficient and meaningful ways. She is grateful for the opportunity to share so many stories of animals overcoming huge odds, such as the dog that was bitten by a rattlesnake and survived, thanks to the veterinarians at the UF Small Animal Hospital.
“We all need inspiration and evidence that there are good stories and happy endings out there,” Carey says. “I personally feel rewarded when I can see the faces and meet the people behind these stories, because I appreciate what a unique position I am in, to be able to hear about these kinds of cases and share them with others.”
While Carey believes relationships with journalists are important, she says it’s the story that matters in the end.
“Your credibility as a PR person is tested over time based on how well you can judge the genuine newsworthiness of a story,” Carey says. “It’s all about the credibility of the pitch.”
In her role with the college, Carey finds that as there are more tools and mechanisms in public relations, it’s critical to use her time effectively.
“With the time I have for the goals we have as a college, it makes more sense to concentrate on one or two social media tools effectively, consistently and well, than attempting to use many tools but using them poorly or ineffectively. For us, that’s primarily Facebook, although we’re also exploring the Twitter universe,” she says.
Carey notes that the public relations field can be stressful, so she balances by recharging through activities such as reading, creative writing, exercising and spending time with her dog.
“If we are coming apart at the seams emotionally, we are not going to do the best job and we’re not going to be able to be there for the people who depend on us,” Carey says.
Carey describes receiving the Professional of the Year Award as “indescribably special.”
“To be acknowledged by one’s peers in this way says: we get it and we see it and we know what you’re doing and it matters. What a gift and what a treasure to know that.”