Monday, June 27, 2011

Interview with PPRA's Fast Track Award Winner: Darren M. Behuniak

Congratulations to Darren M. Behuniak, 29, director, marketing and communications for the Devon International Group! Darren was recently awarded the Fast-Track award from the Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA). He was nominated for this award by Christopher Lukach, who works for Anne Klein Communications Group, LLC in Mount Laurel, N.J., and who is incoming president for PPRA.

The PPRA Fast-Track award honors a member of PPRA who has made great contributions to the organization, profession, the community and who exemplifies PPRA’s vision for the future. The nominee has been in their profession for 5-8 years and receives a commemorative plaque. Below you will find some more information on Darren.

1. What is your current job? Tell me a little bit about that.

My title is director of marketing and communications for a group of corporate companies, but I feel more like an agency director.

I work for the Devon International Group, which is a multinational group of six companies in King of Prussia that span healthcare, IT, and international business. Our U.S. headquarters are in King of Prussia and we have offices around the world, including a major base in Shanghai.

I lead a department that is responsible for public relations, marketing, web presence, advertising and branding programs for all of the companies. We operate like an agency within a corporate environment, as we support our own “clients” and their respective goals.

I routinely meet with our founder, the companies’ presidents, and sales executives to shape business strategies and ensure that our messages are communicated effectively to all audiences.

It’s been an unbelievable experience to work in health insurance, computer hardware and software, medical devices, and other industries. And I have been lucky to work with a fantastic staff skilled in public relations, marketing, web design, and graphic design that works so well together.

2. Where did you attend school?

I attended La Salle University in Philadelphia and earned a B.A. in Communication, with concentrations in public relations and mass media writing. Go Explorers.

3. Where are you from? Where do you reside now?

I am originally from upstate New York, near Saratoga. I currently live in Oaks, PA, but will be buying a house in the Conshohocken/Plymouth Meeting area. Soon. Very soon. Hopefully.

4.  What is your biggest challenge/opportunity at work?

I have had the unique opportunity to work alongside senior business, financial, and legal executives at a young age. Exposure to these seasoned business vets is invaluable, and having access to these leaders has helped me align our communications efforts more closely with business strategies. That is why it is so important that PR folks continue to serve in decision-making roles at their company or organization.

Regarding challenges, I think the biggest is “bandwidth” – but I hate that business term, so I’ll say “resources.” PR pros where many different hats – media/community/investor relations, social media efforts, event planning, fund raising, writing/editing, marketing, sales, etc. – so prioritizing and accomplishing goals can seem overwhelming at times.

The ability to communicate is very powerful, but with this expertise comes a self-imposed responsibility, I’ve found, to make sure everything is done “properly.” You need to delegate – if you have the resources – and pick and choose your internal and external battles wisely.

5. What is your favorite part about your job?

Getting a pizza or having a “liquid-fueled” brainstorming meeting with my staff after work hours. There are some fantastic ideas that come from not having an agenda, sitting in a room together, and just throwing ideas out there. Nothing should be off the table, because sometimes the wackiest, most inappropriate ideas can lead do something feasible, brilliant, and effective.

6. What is your dream job?

Playing golf on the PGA Tour. Or, playing second base for the Phillies or Boston Red Sox. Or, being the owner of a successful public relations/media relations/online marketing agency.

7.  What advice would you give other PR folks? Or those entering the field?

Meet as many people as possible. It sounds cliché, but clichés are started for a reason. The more people you know and network with (and PPRA is great for this) the more valuable you become.

Another tip: If at all possible, check email once every hour or two. For many PR folks checking email every time the red light blinks on your Blackberry or a notice comes up on your computer can be a time waster.
Professionals in crisis communications – and maybe some agencies – may not be able to get away with this, but I’ve found that email influx can be very distracting. 99% of your emails are not urgent – focus on your work first, and you may have a more calm and productive day.

8. I understand you are engaged. Where did you meet your fiancé?

My fiancé and I met through a friend. More specifically, we met through a woman that I hired – the first professional hire of my career. I’m glad I didn’t hire the other person. 

9. What are your future goals?

I would ideally like to have my own digital agency, to start. There’s a window for the next five to ten years to really help business combine PR and marketing skills to drive sales, cause awareness, etc. online. After that I think the younger generations will easily and fundamentally take online business light years beyond where we’re at even today.

And like everyone, I’m trying to think of the next Facebook or Twitter. However, I have a suspicion that niche social sites – as opposed to having everyone know everyone’s business – will be more popular in the future.  I think people will want their information out there less in years to come, so capitalizing on this anticipation is a goal.

This interview was conducted by Meg Boyd. Meg Boyd is currently a communications specialist for Catholic Health East, a $6B geographically dispersed, multi-unit, Catholic healthcare organization that serves ministries in 11 states. Here she delivers effective communications for both internal and external audiences in a wide range of mediums in the corporate office.

She is also a freelance writer for Main Line Today magazine and volunteers for many community organizations including the Women’s Resource Center, Good Works, Inc., and Chemo Clothes. She is chair, communications and marketing for the Villanova University Alumni Association, Greater Philadelphia Chapter and is a member of both PRSA and PPRA currently working with the PPRA Proactive Program in assisting Rock to the Future with their public relations efforts.

She earned a M.A., in strategic communication from Villanova University and a B.A., in communication from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio.

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