PR Legend: Tina McCorkindale


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.Tina-McCorkindale-Headshot final

Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, is the President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations. She taught as a professor for 15 years and has more than 10 years of experience working in corporate communication and analytics. She serves on the boards of several industry associations and has received several awards for her contributions to the profession.

The Path You Take is Up To You

Born in the ‘70s, I was raised in the Deep South in a middle-class, Catholic family. Growing up, I witnessed racism, classism, xenophobia, and sexism. Both my parents worked very hard. In fact, my mom was one of the few moms I knew who had a professional job. My dad always joked he went to the school of hard knocks instead of college—he taught me to be resourceful and figure things out on my own. My parents did expect me to get good grades, and I was an excellent student, but they weren’t going to pay for my college.

After I graduated high school, I worked at a catfish restaurant while I attended community college. My employer said they would pay my tuition if I moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to manage a new restaurant. After I moved to Hattiesburg and started working full time, I pursued my degree in journalism and graduated four-and-a-half years after I finished high school. Because I was a full-time employee and student, I never had time to do extracurricular activities—I never did an internship (until I was in my Ph.D. program) and I was never in any clubs or pre-professional associations, except for honors societies. Soon after, I pursued my master’s and then my Ph.D.

Why am I telling this story? Because I am an individual who took a different path. I worked extremely hard to get where I am, but I was also fortunate to have a series of events align in my favor. Each new experience opened a new door and exposed me to new people and thoughts. My professors and my fellow students encouraged me to do more and pursue more, and I did. I moved to Miami, then spent a summer in Chicago (for my first internship), before heading out to the West Coast. When I lived in Los Angeles, I went to Bangkok six times living on my own in a non-expat area. These experiences changed my life and my outlook on my potential.

The reality is some people will have better opportunities than you. They may go to better schools or get better internships, but in the long run, the most important path you take is up to you. Don’t be afraid to go live in a new city. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you. Learn from others rather than promote yourself. Based on my experience, here are 10 “life” tips I would give:

  1. You may have to work harder than your peers. If you don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else, you have to work harder. You will have to study more and learn to handle rejection. It’s not fair, but you can be whomever you want to be if you trust in your abilities.
  2. Stay current. Stay updated on what is happening in current events. Read, read, read. Read books, fiction and non-fiction. Listen to music. Attend cultural events. Travel. These experiences help make you a well-rounded person and helps you become a great conversationalist.
  3. Choose your battles. If you fight for everything, then no one will know what you stand for. When it’s time, stand up and be heard, but choose wisely.
  4. A positive attitude is everything. You don’t have to be a Pollyanna, but a can-do positive attitude is key. People can be trained on skills, but a bad attitude is harder to change.
  5. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves. No job is belittling. Help others and help your colleagues succeed.
  6. Offer solutions to problems. Not everything will have a template or a guide. Be proactive and be resourceful. If you have an issue, approach your supervisor with a potential solution.
  7. Always do your best work. Everything you do should be the best that you can do. Stay outcome-focused.
  8. Be nice. People remember how you treat them and how you make them feel. Treat others well no matter what their position is in an organization. Help others be successful.
  9. Not everyone will like you. Taylor Swift said it best, “Haters gonna hate….shake it off.” Channel your inner Michelle Obama and remember, “When they go low, you go high.”
  10. Trust your moral compass. Always do what you think is right and speak up.





Published: April 17, 2019