Apr 10, 2012

Inside PRN: Meet Our VP of Communications Strategies

Colleen Pizarev with a Flat Stanley that her young nephew gave her to travel with around the world. Here, Pizarev and Stanley are in Tokyo.

(This year, we’re highlighting some of the folks who keep PR Newswire operating smoothly. This is the first in the series, featuring Colleen Pizarev, our VP of communications strategies, and the architect of many of PR Newswire’s global news release distribution services.)

Colleen Pizarev remembers interviewing for her first job with PR Newswire.

Her least favorite question came up: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Folks who know Pizarev won’t be surprised by her frank answer. She wanted to still be working with the same company, especially in Silicon Valley, where job turnover was high.

That was 18 years ago.

“I said as long as I’m still having fun, I don’t see any reason for leaving,” said Pizarev, vice president of communications strategies for PR Newswire from her West Coast office. “It’s been 18 years, and I’m still having fun.”

Over the years, Pizarev has been credited with a bunch of milestones for PR Newswire.

She was the company’s first telecommuter in 1997. And since 1994, Pizarev opened PR Newswire’s first offices outside the US, namely, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paolo, Rio, Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, and Paris.

Her passports include stamps from every continent except Antarctica.

On the personal side, traveling around the world for work has been fabulous. She’s tried dog-sledding in Canada, climbed the Great Wall of China, rode an elephant in Thailand, and been on safari in South Africa.

“I’ve been able to see some wonderful places and do things that I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I work with great clients and even greater people.”

But the job didn’t come without its challenges.

As the director of international operations early on, Pizarev commuted from San Francisco to Hong Kong for three years, staying there for weeks at a time. Each international office that she opened took several months to get off the ground. Her husband and son were supportive throughout, and they now laugh about the mishaps that occurred during her long absences.

Today, Pizarev works entirely with North American clients looking to grow a global presence.

For them, her advice is simple: You have to know what you’re doing and where to go to get help.

“Every country is different. There are pitfalls that if you don’t know about, can seriously damage the outcome of your communications,” she said. “There are a lot of companies that don’t have the luxury of large agencies or people on the ground. They need to access people who know what to do.”

Pizarev knows what to do. Because of her deep global connections, it’s easy for her to help a company hold an event in another country, find journalists in a new vertical market, or reach microbloggers in, say, China. She helps clients take their communications plans and expand them in markets where they have little or no presence.

This kind of work especially can be daunting for companies that have never swum in these waters before.

“Smaller companies struggle with branding overseas, and there are a lot of things that can be done remotely that will assist them without significantly increasing effort or budget. With large companies, a lot of the struggle is with consistent messaging and global agency management,” she said. “I help them to realize that it’s not as complicated as they thought. There are things they can do to make it a lot easier for them.”

Pizarev has an MBA in international finance and is a member of the International Public Relations Association, where she credits getting most of her professional development. In addition to PR agency experience, she also has a background in journalism, freelance writing about technology for a couple of years while her son was young. She continues to write — blogging for her own site, The Travel Gods are Laughing, and writing for Older Not Dead.

Even in her off time, Pizarev enjoys travelling. Growing up, her father was in international business and at times would take the family with him.

So her plan always had been to have a job that would allow her to travel.

“I really love what I’m doing right now, working with clients and helping them with communications outside of their comfort zones,” Pizarev said. “And I hope to still be doing it in five years.”

Christine Cube is a media relations manager for PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

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