Feature article from the PRSA San Antonio Byline, July 2011 issue
If you were at the July PRSA mixer, you probably enjoyed crunchy chips, creamy queso and tangy sangria courtesy of Melissa Sorola. Melissa secured a sponsorship for the event and combined food with our fun and fellowship. It’s not surprising the mixer was a success, considering Melissa’s history with planning successful events and building strategic partnerships. Learn more about Melissa, and how, in addition to being regional communications director for Time Warner Cable, she’s also a mom, an Aggie, a runner and a travel aficionado.
How long have you worked in public relations/communications?
I started my career in public relations/communications as a student at Texas A & M University in College Station. I had my first experiences in PR during my last semester at A&M in 2001 with an internship in the Office of University Relations; I assisted with press conferences and wrote for email communications piece that were distributed to all faculty and staff. I also wrote for The Battalion, the university student newspaper, which taught me how to see things from a journalist’s perspective. I graduated in December of 2001 with my B.A. in Journalism and began my official public relations career in San Antonio in January 2002.
How did you find the industry?
I initially entered Texas A&M University as an education major thinking I was going to become a teacher. After talking with a university counselor, I realized a career in public relations was the better path for me. I had been involved in journalism in high school and loved news, reading magazines and newspapers, and current events but never realized I could have a career in public relations and help create that news. It was the counselor who suggested I switch majors, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I really enjoy the planning aspect of developing public relations campaigns and seeing these plans come to life through skillful execution. Developing these plans and seeing them implemented to successfully create positive results for Time Warner Cable gives me great satisfaction. I’m fortunate to work for an innovative and exciting company, and I have the best coworkers who make coming to work every day a complete delight.
What are your hobbies?
I love to spend time with my family and friends and to read – even running is a nice escape for me lately. Traveling for fun is a new hobby, too, and my daughter is at a great age where she’s really able to appreciate exploring new cities. We’re going to New York City this week!
Tell us about your family.
I am the mother of an amazing daughter Carolina, 15, who is going to be a sophomore at Holy Cross High School, and I am a member of a remarkably supportive family led by my mom and dad who live in Del Rio. I have a brother, Rene, who lives in Houston with his wife, Marissa, and their family, and I’m truly enjoying being an aunt to my niece, Stella, 2, and nephew, Sebastian Rene, 4 months. The majority of my extended family lives here in San Antonio, including my extraordinary grandmother and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins who have been inspirational and instrumental in the development of my career and the person I am today.
Have you had a PR mentor? How has that mentor helped you succeed?
I have a couple of PR professionals who I call mentors. Kelly Morris, who was my boss when I worked at Taylor West Advertising & PR in 2005, is one of the most respected public relations practitioners in the city for a reason. She’s the best, and I continue to learn from her. When I came to work for Kelly, I had the tactical event and media relations skills down and she really taught me to develop strategic public relations campaigns. Kelly would also tell me to come to her with “solutions, not problems.” That’s a lesson I use every day and it has made me a problem solver. My current boss, Jon Gary Herrera, is also a key mentor. Jon Gary has taught me valuable lessons in crisis management and message development and also supports me in my growth as a Time Warner Cable employee and public relations professional.
Both Kelly and Jon Gary have always pushed me to be the best public relations practitioner I can be. I’m very grateful for their continued support and mentoring.
What advice would you give to young professionals or others entering the field?
Don’t burn bridges. I can create an interesting diagram of the people I’ve worked with in San Antonio and how they’re all connected. I worked on the Time Warner Cable public relations account at two different agencies and Jon Gary Herrera, my current boss, was the client both times. If I hadn’t done a good job and built a good relationship with the client during that time, then I wouldn’t be at Time Warner Cable today.