Meet PRSA SV Member: Elisabeth Handler, APR!
April 15, 2019

Public Information Manager, San Jose Office of Economic Development

Tell us about your current job…

I’m the Public Information Manager at the San Jose Office of Economic Development, and at this stage of my career, this is the best job I’ve ever had. It’s not easy, but it’s calling on everything I’ve got.

I chose to live in San Jose. Now I get to promote the city that I live in and help them tell its story which is a special privilege. Also, I’ve been able to manage a branding program for the identify of the city (city with a small c – not the government office) based on research about the people who live and work here and WHY they’re here. It’s a complicated story to tell but for the first time in 40 years, I’ve not heard one negative response in all this work. You don’t get to say that very often in PR.  

Any quotes that you love?

“No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” Lois McMaster Bujold

You always need a battle plan, but it’s never going to stay in that first draft. You always need a backup plan.

What’s your biggest accomplishment?

Helping shepherd this branding initiative and changing the way people think about San Jose. I’m currently working with an amazing agency (based out of Kansas City) that specializes in helping cities form their identity statements. They’re one of the better agencies I’ve ever worked with.

Tell us 2 truths & a lie about yourself…

1. I ran for Burbank City Council
2. I spoke Serbo-Croat at the age of seven
3. I have been married twice

What do you like about PR?

PR applies to everything. There’s no human endeavor that it’s not relevant to. Having that perspective means you always have something you can contribute in conversations. PR’s about communicating. It’s a keen little lens into every day human life and I love that.

What it’s like to go through the APR process?  
Any advice for future candidates? 

Honestly, I went through the APR process under extreme protest. At the time (years ago), PRSA National required board members to be accredited, and I was on the board of the LA chapter so that meant I had to get my APR. But things weren’t as automated, so we had to physically go to an agency’s office for the exam, working on typewriters because they didn’t trust word processing to be confidential! It was like something out of Charles Dickens—so clunky! That said, I found it to be a real game-changer for my whole practice. I was more confident in how I was doing my job because of it. This body of knowledge about how we strategize, the formal planning and implementing PR programs—I wasn’t aware of these things and it was a revelation to me. It was very helpful and I don’t regret it for one minute.

What have you learned in this business that you’d give as advice to others?

In terms of planning and implementing, the North Star is asking three things:

1. Who is the audience?

2. What do they care about?

3. How can they best find it out this information?

Everything that I’ve done that’s worked best puts the audience first. Planning, writing projects, implementing strategy, all of it. Always think of the audience first.

If your life were a movie, what would it be called?

I Could Be Wrong

And who’d play you in this movie?

Sigourney Weaver

(Two truth & a lie answers with a few details)

1.I ran for Burbank City Council—true! I ran in a field of 12, and came in at #4. The top three candidates went into a run-off election, and they all courted my support. As a result, I had the opportunity to serve on the City’s Parks & Rec Board for 12 really great years.

2. I spoke Serbo-Croat at the age of seven—also true! My family lived in Europe until I was a sophomore in college, and we spent five years of my childhood in (what was then) Yugoslavia.

3.I have been married twice—false! Just one marriage and one divorce – the result being two amazing daughters and four grandchildren.

Here is an image that includes the branding that I helped shepherd for San Jose’s economic development initiatives. And of course, since I am in PR, it’s a ribbon-cutting!

  • Previous Post
    Meet PRSA SV Member: Jocelyn Breeland, APR!
  • Next Post
    Meet PRSA Member: Sarah Sullivan, APR!