Blog Post 4

When I first learned about the True Stories project, I was apprehensive because I thought that it may be difficult to find someone who was willing to take time out of their busy schedule to be interviewed by a college student. This worry proved to be somewhat true when the first person that I was supposed to interview suddenly stopped responding to my emails. At first, I was very upset about this because I was looking forward to interviewing someone in my future career field. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to connect with Anne Marie Varga, who has inspired my interest in the public relations field. Anne Marie’s experiences as the Communications Manager at the Orange County Government, as well as her experiences prior to obtaining this position, provided me with a unique perspective on the crucial role that public relations professionals play in our society. After speaking with her, I gained a new interest and appreciation for the careful thought and critical listening that is involved in public relations.

My interview with Ann Marie also demonstrated the applicability of the concepts that we have been learning in class to the professional world. First, Ann Marie spoke frequently on the importance of critical listening in her profession. The first thought that I had when she brought up this topic was the SIER model. In crisis communication, she must focus on the content and context of the message, interpret the meaning behind the message, critically assess the meaning of the message, and finally respond to the message in a way that adds value to the situation. Hearing her speak about process behind formulating responses to crises demonstrated how the different concepts that we have learned in class can truly be applied to many real-world situations. The fact that I was able to make these connections was a huge success for me because I believe that my knowledge of listening concepts will allow me to thrive in the professional setting.

As a whole, the interview with Ann Marie was quite successful. However, we did come across some barriers to listening throughout the experience. First, I realized how important the environment is for effective listening. Our interview took place in KeKe’s Breakfast Café, so the interruption of the waitress, the loud conversations of other customers, and the abundance of background noise were quite distracting in the moment. Another barrier to listening was the fact that I had come straight from swimming practice to the interview, so I was fatigued and not in the best state of mind to concentrate. In other words, sometimes I was focused more on my own feelings than the conversation, which was a significant barrier to my effective listening. Nonetheless, despite these barriers, the interview as a whole was a fulfilling and successful experience because I was able to build a connection between what I’ve learned in the classroom and how it applies to the professional realm.

Blog Post 3 – Interview with Ann Marie Varga

My interview with Ann Marie Varga, the Communications Manager for the Orange County Government, focused mainly on the importance of listening in the public relations profession. Prior to conducting the interview, I thought that the public relations would have a much heavier emphasis on the speaking end of an interaction, because the profession is focused on constructing a favorable public image of an organization. However, Ann Marie explained that constructing this favorable image is impossible without listening to both the views of the general public and the people working within the organization. Public relations is also about building relationships and storytelling, which would both be impossible without effective listening habits. As Ann Marie said multiple times throughout our interview, “listening is critical.” Public relations professionals cannot create the ideal image for their organization without listening to the desires of the people that the organization interacts with on a day to day basis.

The most important recurring theme of my interview with Ann Marie was that building relationships is a key component of public relations. In order to build these relationships, you have to listen to the interests of the public so that you can communicate messages and stories that will be viewed favorably. Ann Marie also talked a great deal about the impact that technology has had on listening and creating relationships within her profession. She truly believes that “listening” via social media is critical for both creating stories that the public will be in favor of and correcting misinformation that negatively impacts the image of the company. However, she believes that there is no substitute for building impactful, real-life relationships with both her team and the public. Her view on the importance of listening in collaboration can be heard in the interview from minute 17:45 to 18:15.

The final central theme of my interview with Ann Marie was the significance of listening in crisis communication. In public relations, you often have to communicate information regarding crises. Ann Marie talked about how it’s important to listen both in person and via social media to make sure that you can mobilize your team when a negative story is brewing. Without effective listening in these situations, you cannot create a story that will properly depict the image that your organization is attempting to convey. This form of effective listening in crisis communication ties back to the themes of storytelling and building relationships. The only way you can connect with the community that you serve is through collaboration. This collaboration means building relationships with the people surrounding you, so that you can listen to their attitudes and ideas in order to create the most impactful stories for the community.

Interview link:

Below are links to 3 websites that highlight the importance of active listening and relationship building in PR:


Blog Post 2 – Interviewee

The professional that I am planning on interviewing is John Alton. In 2011, John and his wife founded Florida Swim Network, which is Florida’s leading source for swimming news. With the help of his broadcast partners, John has been given the opportunity to travel to swim meets all throughout the state of Florida to report video coverage of some of the best swim meets and swimmers in the country. John also writes stories and blogs on the popular topics in swimming, and his posts have been utilized as a source by a diverse array of media outlets.

John grew up as a swimmer in Florida, and continued his swimming career collegiately at the University of Florida. After graduating, he became a coach in the Orlando area. He coached athletes of all levels, including Olympic Trials qualifiers. In order to spread his passion for swimming, John created Florida Swim Network. Most recently, Florida Swim Network has become the primary outlet for University of Florida Swimming news and broadcasting. Florida Swim Network has been given the opportunity to have their broadcasts shown on ESPN, the SEC Network, and they have even started their own weekly TV Show called “On Deck with Florida Swim Network.”

I chose to interview John because I am interested in sports journalism, and I truly believe that listening is one of the most important aspects of his job. He cannot report the most accurate news without listening attentively to others and creating meaningful conversation.


Blog Post 1 – Interview Questions

After general introductions, I think the best question to start off the interview with the chosen professional would be:

  1. Can you talk a little bit about your professional background and the experiences that have led you to the position that you are in today?

This is a very general question, but I believe that it is important to start off the interview with a question like this because it helps both the interviewer and the audience to better understand the interviewee. I also think this is a great question because people generally love to talk about themselves and their experiences, so this will allow the interviewee to feel more comfortable.

Another question that I would love to ask in this interview is:

2. Growing up, we all have someone that we look up to as a role model and that shapes who we are as a person. Has there been any specific person that you have looked to as a mentor throughout the development of your career?

I think this is an important and interesting question because as students who will soon be entering the professional world, we will be looking for mentors to guide us as we begin our careers. I will be interesting to learn how someone who is regarded as a mentor to many young professionals was also positively impacted by someone else at the beginning of their successful career.

Ideally, we will all be interviewing someone in a position or field that we would like to work in in the future. Therefore a great question to ask is:

3. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start a career in the field of ___?

Of course, I would tailor this question to the person that I was interviewing. I think this is a beneficial question because you can get candid advice from someone who has been successful in the field you are looking to work in. This advice can help both the interviewer and the audience in their future career endeavors. It also gives the interviewee a chance to share their experiences, successes, and failures in order to benefit others.

As I said previously, it is important to give the interviewee a chance to talk about themselves and their experiences because this is what most people are comfortable doing. Therefore, I would ask:

4. Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?

This allows the interviewee to talk about themselves and their work, which they are presumably extremely passionate about. This is also a great question because it gives us a behind the scenes look at what it is like to work in this field. We may learn things that we would never be able to find on the internet when looking up job descriptions or the specific career field.

Lastly, I think it is important to ask questions that keep the mood light and that keep the interviewee/audience interested. So, I would ask:

5. What is the craziest or funniest thing that has ever happened to you on the job?

My hope with a question like this is to connect personally with the interviewee and to keep the interview from being too dry.