Interviewing a PR Professional: David A. Patterson, Executive Director of the Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau

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David A. Patterson is the Executive Director of the Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Bureau is funded solely by a 5% innkeepers tax placed on all overnight lodging rooms in Vigo county. This is important to know because the revenue created by this tax positively affects many events and aspects of the community. Consequently, there is no local financial burden on our residents to promote our community. David has been a family friend of mine since I was a small child; he is also a lifelong friend of my father. We conducted a face-to-face interview for the purpose of fulfilling my assignment and to better understand event service management from a PR perspective.

What’s a typical week like?

“It involves phone work with organizations and people to create relationships for the different events managed, logistics from signage, discussions over traffic with law enforcement, and communication with volunteers for said event. Also creation and request of media placement for advertising and or solicitation purpose. All aspects of event management.”

Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.

“The Division I Cross Country National Championship. This event consists of distance from all over the United States. These disciplined student athletes make for a great event. Not only does our community receive a great amount of revenue we are also represented in a great moral light.”

What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?

Utilize evolving technology to create efficient and cost effective methods to put out a given message.”

What do you use to connect with people?  

“It’s gone from print publication to web based and social media. Technology has made it (getting information) easier. I try to stay current with evolving technology. I read industry publications and review other community’s information for example.

What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?

A broader knowledge of the history of the community I work for. This being job specific to me. I also would have gotten into computers earlier and gained a better understanding of web based communication prior to the trend becoming a transformation society.

How important is writing in your career?

Extremely important! All communications are a reflection of your own personal education and the community in which I  (or you) serve. First impressions are incredibly important whether it is by the written word or spoken.

Did your education prepare you for working in PR? How?

Without question, I was an English and business major. Being an English major writing and reading comprehensions are basic fundamentals of business relations.

What has surprised you the most about working in PR?

How positive of an industry it is. How positive the work place is compared to other industries. How long municipal projects take to unfold, simply because of how many things are involved in the entire process. Unlike sales there is much more positive reinforcement.

How has PR changed since you entered the field?

The adaptive use of technology has created a more efficient way to access information.

What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?

1.Be extremely conscious of every aspect of communication. How and what you say will dictate the perception of those you’re trying to influence to understand the message you’re trying to convey.

2. Understand the needs of the people you serve, research the people and entities that will positively influence your position.

3. Form relationships with people who will carry your message to the masses, such as the media.

This interview has solidified why I want to work in PR. From how Mr. Patterson spoke of the field it is a very positive industry, which is reassuring because I strive to be a positive person.  I am a firm believer of “treat your employees well and they will do good work.” A lot of people make PR out to be somewhat cut throat or dog eat dog, so of course when David spoke about positive reinforcement I was happily surprised and reassured.

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