Women in Business: Q&A with Patricia E. Jones Founder, Paws PR and P Jones Communications Inc.

09/09/2014 05:20 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

Patricia E. Jones is a public relations and marketing specialist, delivering a 360-degree solution to brand building, incorporating traditional media relations, advertising, video and social media. A former producer for NBC News, Patricia applies her journalistic acumen to creating highly successful strategic media campaigns. Patricia has been nominated and chosen as a top finalist in the 2014 Women in the Pet Industry Network "Woman of the Year" awards.

She started her career at NBC News as a Page, before eventually joining NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw as a production assistant. She was quickly promoted to production associate, researcher and producer. Patricia wrote and produced breaking news and feature stories for Tom Brokaw and NBC News correspondents. While at NBC, Patricia traveled nationally and internationally for the newscast.

Patricia joined the international public relations agency Hill & Knowlton, where she used her background as a journalist to develop and implement strategic marketing and public relations activities for clients. Her work at Hill & Knowlton earned a prestigious CIPRA (Creativity in Public Relations Award) and a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Big Apple Award.

Patricia was employed at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) as Director of Media Relations and was soon promoted to Vice President of Media Relations and Advertising. At the ASPCA, she led a team of four staff members and oversaw all communications for the nation's oldest animal welfare organization for seven years.

In 2005, Patricia launched P Jones Communications and has led successful integrated campaigns on behalf of a variety of clients. She successfully led an integrated communications campaign on behalf of Willets Point Industry & Realty Association (WPIRA) an association of 10 land/business owners that were threatened with losing their companies and property through the use of New York Cityʼs eminent domain policy.

She is also founder and president of Paws PR, a marketing company focused on raising awareness for pet product companies and animal welfare organizations. During Hurricane Katrina, Patricia's efforts to raise awareness via the news media of a nonprofit's work to rescue animals in the aftermath of the disaster resulted in over 8 million dollars in donations to the charity.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I've had many job titles over the course of my career including two important internships that helped direct and focus my interests. The first of which was at a veterinary clinic while I was in high school and the second was in the newsroom at CNBC during my college years. I've worked from the bottom up answering the phones at NBC Nightly News to eventually earning a place on the production team broadcasting from the shores of Normandy, France for the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.

At the ASPCA, I ran a 4-person department. From there, I opened a NYC office for a nonprofit animal welfare organization. And, nearly ten years ago, I started my own company.

The greatest gift I have received in every position I have held has come from the managers and colleagues I have worked with who showed me how not to lead. I know what it's like to be screamed at, harassed, and bullied in the workplace and I'm well aware of the adverse effect these behaviors have on morale. The culmination of my experiences in many different roles in different industries has provided me with a solid understanding of the interconnectivity of the communications and animal/pet world that I work in today.

I know from personal experience the importance of 'working up the ranks' and not skipping a step along the way. An effective leader surrounds herself with team members whose core strengths balance out her own treats her team members with respect and trust. An effective leader takes the time to appreciate their team, thank them for a job well done and works at maintaining an open dialogue.

What advice can you offer women who want to follow a similar career path?
Career paths are unique to the individual. I don't believe there are straight roads in any career path and my journey is the perfect example.

I firmly believe that it is vital to follow your heart and do what you love. When I was a producer for NBC Nightly News, among the many stories I pitched and produced , I made sure to include appropriate and timely animal interest angles as well such as therapeutic horseback riding, the rescue of animals in disasters and the rehabilitation of sea turtles. Eventually, I left NBC without another job in place because I inherently knew that I needed to find a way to use my skills to help animals.

I'm often asked for advice from women in communications who want to make a difference. I tell them to volunteer at a local shelter or rescue group and be of service in their own communities. Many nonprofits are embracing social media and video as tools to raise awareness of their missions and there is an expanding need for qualified communications professionals.

I tell anyone headed to college who wants to work in PR or media relations to start out working in a newsroom. All of the top PR people I know are former reporters, writers and producers. I find many people in public relations with little understanding of what it takes to work with journalists. I believe Paws PR's success comes from my team's ability to look at any product or idea, identify what is newsworthy and craft the story in a way that is of interest to a reporter.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Paws PR?
Hurricane Katrina hit a few months after I left my position at the ASPCA to launch my own consulting firm and eventually form of Paws PR. Like so many people in August 2005, I watched Hurricane Katrina approaching the Gulf on T.V. and desperately wanted to help. I knew that along with the many people affected by the disaster, many animals would be in distress, too. I reached out to a new and completely unknown nonprofit that was responding to animals in crisis from the storm. I called all my contacts in the media and worked around the clock coordinating press coverage for the animal rescue work. In the 2 months following Hurricane Katrina, my work generated national and international media coverage for the organization that resulted in 8 million dollars in donations and enabled the rescue and care of almost 2,000 pets. While it was the highlight of my career, it was also a low point. Unfortunately, the organization's founder did not make decisions from a place of integrity and I had to walk away from the group after improprieties were revealed. The greatest challenge I have faced is the harsh realization that nonprofit managers don't always operate with the morals you would expect from leaders. Fortunately, I've had the honor of working with some amazing individuals dedicated to truly making a difference for animals and can now discern between those

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
For the past seven years, I have worked closely with my client, Becky Robinson. Becky is the founder and president of Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats.

Becky was inspired to organize Alley Cat Allies in 1991 after stumbling across a colony of feral cats and soon learning there were no resources to help outdoor cats. Becky's tireless efforts have made Trap-Neuter-Return the accepted humane method of managing outdoor cats in our country. As an animal advocate who has dedicated a large part of my career to using my skills to make the world a better place for animals, Becky reminds me of the importance of never giving up and doing whatever it takes to be a voice for the animals.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I love what I do so work never feels like a chore. I am very selective in the clients I work with and seek out individuals who run organizations and companies founded in integrity and professionalism. Associating with people I can admire inspires me to wake up motivated every day to do the best I can to serve them. I surround myself with talented team members who share my passion for our work and their enthusiasm sustains me through what are often long days. While I work hard, I have learned to set boundaries and take time off to pursue my personal interests.

The biggest shift that enabled me to find serenity and balance in my life came after I developed a no tolerance policy for drama and negativity, which has sometimes resulted in turning down projects or firing clients who are not interested in collaboration or working in a mutually respectful relationship.

Surrounding myself with positive people who have balance in their own lives and who share my belief that we all have a responsibility to give back is what inspires me and gets me going every day.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
One of the biggest issues I see women struggle with in the workplace is not having a voice to ask for what they need or deserve. Too many women I know don't demand the salaries or promotions they have earned, and put up with bullying bosses and unmanageable work environments for fear of retribution.

As a business owner, I was deeply inspired by the words of MSNBC anchor and author Mika Brzezinski's in her book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You're Worth which chronicled the tough career lessons she learned about the value of women in the workplace and the gender inequality so many women face.

"Its okay to say what you want and what you need," was an important message I needed to hear as a small business owner.

Mika's most helpful lesson for me was to always demand what I am worth and to clearly communicate my value to others. It took me many years to learn to stand up for myself and today I do what I can to mentor other young women and teach them that it's ok to have a strong voice in the workplace.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I'll never forget being a young, eager researcher working on NBC Weekend Nightly News for an Executive Producer who held me to a very high standard of accountability. He sent me out on assignments with a gentle but firm warning to not return without the story. While not a traditional mentoring relationship, in looking back, having so much expected of me in my early career taught me invaluable lessons about achieving success and not accepting failure. I am forever indebted to this person for his tough love.

I've forged relationships with other small business owners and we share our successes and triumphs and cheer each other on. I believe mentorship is essential to developing the next generation of the American workforce and I make an effort to provide personal and professional development guidance to my younger team members.

What are your hopes for the future of Paws PR?
At the core of Paws PR is our commitment to using our skills to make the world a better place for animals. I'm proud to be on the Board of Directors of a newly formed nonprofit organization called Photographers For Animals, the brainchild of Paws PR Vice President, Elizabeth Putsché. The nonprofit, dedicated to helping animals through photography and videography, will allow us to reach a wider audience.

Additionally, we are working on a turnkey program to help animal protection groups and rescues raise awareness of their missions via media relations, social media and marketing.