Katie Bender is a community and public relations officer at Northrim Bank, where she manages external communications and public relations, and manages the bank’s contributions program. She also volunteers with PRSA Financial Communications on the Executive Committee. We chatted with Bender to learn more about her decision to pursue a career in PR, her advice for young professionals and what PR lessons she’s learned in the banking industry. Read the full Q&A.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in public relations?
I spent the first part of my career in fundraising and communications for nonprofits. I realized that the things I liked most about my job were related to communications and public relations. I didn’t mind fundraising, but it wasn’t why I was passionate about the organizations that I had worked for. When the position at Northrim Bank became available, I was excited to shift into the private sector and focus on public relations. I had a steep learning curve to get caught up on the financial sector, but loved being able to engage with our customers and the community through communications and public relations.
What does an average day look like for you at Northrim Bank?
Most of my work is project-based. Currently I am working on finalizing our annual report, overseeing our sponsorship of the lditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the events surrounding the race, and helping lead the event planning for our Economic Summits, which we host in three cities in Alaska. I work closely with the rest of the marketing team and executive staff on these projects to ensure that the Bank has great coverage throughout Alaska. I also help draft and edit communications that go directly to our customers.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned in your role that applies to PR?
Proofread EVERYTHING. Even if you have read a document 10 times, make sure you double-check it one last time before sending it out to the world. Tips that I like to use are to read it out loud and have someone who has never seen the document before proof it before it goes to print. Both of these tips have saved me in the past and I use them for every project that I work on.
When you’re not busy working, what do you like doing in your spare time?
I like to run and bike. Pretty much anything outside when it’s not too cold. I look forward to fishing this summer and filling my freezer for the coming year.
What advice do you have for young professionals entering the field of public relations?
Spend time observing as much as you can. This can be observing your supervisor or the leadership of your organization. You will learn how they communicate and their expectations of their employees. This will make your job much easier and you will learn the ins and outs of your organization much faster than if you do not engage. You can learn so much by simply listening, and you will be a better PR practitioner because of it.
About the #MeetPRSA feature: The diversity, membership and board development committees have joined forces to periodically feature PRSA Alaska Chapter members and volunteers in an effort to highlight the strengths and expertise of members. If you would like to be featured or if you would like to nominate someone, please email Katie Montanelli.