Humans of PRSSA: Alia Al-Chalabi

For this week’s Humans of PRSSA post, we interviewed Alia Al-Chalabi, a sophomore in the College of Communication studying PR. Alia is originally from Freehold, New Jersey.

What made you join PRSSA?

I joined PRSSA because of Nicole [Haftel]. She was the one who told me about it and how they always have cool speakers that come to meetings. The thing that benefitted me the most was the [regional] conference, because there were so many people who were so excited about PR – it was great networking. And I also met up with a few people who I met at the conference afterwards to just learn about their companies, which was interesting as a sophomore because I’m not really looking for a full time job yet, but I could meet all the amazing people I’ll eventually work with.

Why did you choose PR as a major?

I originally started as a journalism major, and I thought it was a little too structured for me. The writing part of it was more of a formula, which I didn’t really enjoy – I love being creative. PR was great because it was a mix of writing and expanding on those skills but also working with clients to see what they’d like to achieve, so that passion is there. PR is so creative and there’s so many different outlets you could do. You could do B2B, you could do event planning – which is what I do now which I love – and I think PR is a great mix of everything I’m interested in. It’s so cool to work with clients and to see their dreams come true.

What’s your dream job?

Right now I’d really love to work at an agency to start out – probably one of the bigger ones, but I’m not sure yet. Right now I’m currently interning for a nonprofit called the Sumaira Foundation, which is so awesome. It’s been really fun and it’s definitely something different I’d consider going into after I graduate. My dream job would be to work for America’s Test Kitchen. I’m an avid baker, but I’d also be doing PR for them, so it would be a great mix of two things I love.

Who has been your favorite speaker from the weekly PRSSA meetings?

I really liked Monique from Weber Shandwick. She had a lot of great advice about not worrying so much about the future. She had a really calming presence and had a lot of great insight into what it’s like to work in an agency.

What would you tell people who have no idea what PR is or what we do?

I would say that it’s not marketing and it’s not being a publicist. It’s not any of the things you might associate it with. It’s more business focused, but it’s a great mix of that and writing. PR professionals make what their clients are envisioning a reality, no matter what it is. PR professionals are also really strong communicators, and work hard to help clients achieve what it is they are trying to do.

What is your opinion on the evolving role of PR given today’s social and political climate? 

I think it’s more important now than ever. You can’t really be a company and not think that PR is important. A lot of people think, “I don’t need a PR firm to help me”, or “I don’t need an in-house PR staff”. That idea has really been going down and people are recognizing the importance of having a good reputation and having someone who understands what you need as a company. In the social and political climate, it’s really easy to misspeak, so you really need to see how your values will reflect your company in the future.

Edited by Veronica Paskulin

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