By Sydney Heile
The IU Beth Wood Chapter of PRSSA met with Marilyn Shank during our annual Indy Agency Tour this November. Shank shared her career path from starting at WTIU all the way to her current position with Eskenazi Health. Both she and her husband began their careers in radio and TV. They enjoyed working in Bloomington before opportunity drew them to Colorado. There, Shank worked as a promotions and production director for KRDO-AM-FM-TV. However, it wasn’t long before they returned to Indianapolis. Shank worked for WISH-TV and continued to gain valuable newsroom experience before she and her husband founded Shank Public Relations Counselors in 1987. Shank currently works as Eskenazi Health’s communications coordinator.
One of her favorite projects while working for Shank PR was a project with the Indianapolis Public Schools. She had to coordinate communications for multiple departments on issues ranging from school lunch menus to bus routes and circle drive construction. One of the skills she highlighted for us during this discussion was the value of research. Because the IPS project had such a broad range of issues, Shank found herself doing research and having to become an expert on the topics she wrote about. However, she made sure to tell us how important asking questions is.
“Understanding what you’re writing about is key to having your audience understand,” Shank said.
In our hour and a half lunch with Marilyn Shank, I was struck by how invaluable news room experience is and how much research plays a part in communicating. Although Shank’s insight may seem like common sense, we’ve all been guilty of writing something we didn’t understand because we didn’t want to do the extra work. However, being clear and concise in our writing also applies to concepts. If we, as communicators, understand what our news release is about and have written in plain English, our readers understand as well.
Also, knowing how the news release will go from being received to being published will add a huge advantage. Understanding of the news process and applying it to communications with reporters and editors will increase the likelihood of your release being published.
In all, I am confident we all gained new knowledge. But specifically, the news room and research components were the most valuable to me. Meeting and speaking with Shank was interesting, fun, and a learning experience. I speak for all of us when I say we enjoyed meeting and learning from her and look forward to our next networking opportunity.