PR Legend: Mickey Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA


This post is part of The Plank Center’s Legacies from Legends in PR Series that was begun in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Public Relations Student Society of America in 2007.

NallMickey G. Nall is a Professional In Residence at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. As a full-time public relations faculty member, Mickey teaches a variety of courses including strategy and planning; principles of public relations; integrated communications; and the College’s capstone course on public relations campaigns. For more than 22 years Mickey was a member of the executive team at Ogilvy Public Relations, part of Ogilvy & Mather. His last 12 years he served as managing director of Ogilvy Atlanta where he led work for such clients as the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; The Coca-Cola Company; UPS; IHG; AAA-National and The United Way of America. He also served on Ogilvy’s global management committee. PRSA Chair & CEO (2013). He has won many industry awards, including the Silver Anvil.  He was the 14th Koten Guest Lecturer at The Plank Center; the first public relations executive in residence at the University of Oregon; inducted into the Georgia Public Relations Hall of Fame and a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Past president of the Florida Public Relations Association. Received the Ferguson Award from the PRSA Educator’s Academy as the professional who has contributed most to public relations education (2018). Trustee of the Commission on Public Relations Education and inducted into the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications Hall of Fame (2009).

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

– Lao Tzu

Just like that, you are graduating and beginning your professional journey in public relations. As a student you have worked hard to excel in your coursework, undertaken internships, and begun the process of developing a long and successful career. By taking that first step you are joining a large family of public relations practitioners. A family that works hard to make our world a better place; a place to live, to love, to laugh, and to make a difference. How much of a difference you make will be entirely up to you.

It takes a little time to move up through the ranks and become a leader in our field. All of the leaders featured in this series have great and useful advice. I’m going to try not to repeat their advice, you should read about their experiences and pearls of wisdom they are sharing.

Many in my generation of practitioners came through the field of journalism and other pursuits to public relations. I too started in journalism and was a staff writer at a daily newspaper, but my undergraduate and graduate studies and internships were in public relations. I loved it. I love to write, to produce and present campaigns, to solve problems and to develop a point-of-view for the organizations I had the pleasure to work for and to learn from early in my career. Moving to Washington, DC, I landed a mid-level position at Ogilvy Public Relations, part of Ogilvy & Mather. It was like the nine years of professional work before Ogilvy ever happened! It was a new and exciting time for me and I was inspired by all the great work being done there. I managed to be a part of team that was engaged in reducing residential fire deaths in the US as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was an exciting experience to utilize public relations strategy and tactical skills to generate attention and action to save lives. I had never thought of public relations as a life-saving profession. But it is! And it makes a huge difference in the health, well-being, and personal safety of people in our country and indeed our world. In my more than 22 years at Ogilvy in three offices, I went on to develop a variety of life-saving public education programs that moved the proverbial needle and delivered actionable results via public relations. You can too.

I now get to share my experiences and work with my students, which is another whole level of satisfaction and joy this profession has brought me through my lifetime. You need to find your joy and passion in the work.

Here are some tips to help you have a successful and rewarding public relations career:

  • Never say, “no.” Just say, “yes!” Learn from your experiences, good or bad, and you’ll grow into the leader you want to be. Volunteer and deliver for your organization.
  • Enjoy being on a team. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow, but be comfortable doing either. We are a team profession, contribute at the highest level you can.
  • Numbers are our friends – embrace them! Data and analytics are key to demonstrating proof of our work making a difference. Learn to embrace the data, find the information you need and use it to improve future planning and strategy for your organization or client.
  • Join and contribute to your professional organization. Life-long learning occurs in many forms, but I believe being a member of a community of public relations practitioners makes that learning more enjoyable and useful. Because we are team players being a part of our professional tribe really helps you to be networked, mentored and to contribute to the body of knowledge.
  • Mentor young and old. Speaking of mentoring, seek formal and informal mentors. I don’t know a public relations practitioner who doesn’t enjoy mentoring. It’s a way to give back, but also a way to learn from someone younger and in the early stages of their career.
  • Love the new technologies. Be transparent and participate in the new technologies available to your organization’s publics. By adopting change, you can also help shape the protocols and guidelines necessary to grow your brand, your organization and your community.
  • Keep ethics at the center of your universe. It is easy to say, ‘do the right thing’ always, but it isn’t always easy to do it. By keeping professional ethics center, by questioning sources of information, by determining facts, you can add to the conversation, not mislead or misguide consumers or the public.
  • Be yourself and share your point-of-view and laugh and share your successes and failures. Be open to expressing yourself, your opinions and values. Laugh often, most often at yourself and be willing to share your successes and your failures.

Enjoy this profession. It will take care of you, if you take care of it!

Best wishes for a long and successful journey.

Published: April 23, 2019