Jocelyn Breeland, Executive Director of Strategic Communications, Residential and Dining, Stanford University
Tell us a little about your past and your current job…
I’m on my second or third career – depending on how you count. With a degree in International Relations, I started as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service. The position took me overseas to Senegal, Greece and Morocco, but I also had a few interesting stateside assignments (including on the National Security Council staff).
My next career was as freelance writer, but I started work in PR with a national association when my oldest started college and I wanted a more reliable job.
Moving back to California in 2015, I’ve been working as Executive Director for Strategic Communications for Stanford’s Residential & Dining Enterprises. We provide student housing and dining but also operate retail cafés, a hotel, athletic concessions, and conference and meeting-planning businesses. The position mixes audience engagement and driving revenue, which I enjoy.
Any quotes that you love?
“Penguins is practically chickens.” It’s from my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon, “8 Ball Bunny.” Basically, Bugs, a penguin from the ice show, and a hobo end up stranded (and starving) in the Pacific Ocean. The hobo looks at the penguin fondly, while his thought bubble shows a rotisserie chicken and says, “Penguins is practically chickens.”
I think about this a lot. Especially about the circumstances where we’re able to convince ourselves the strangest things are true.
What’s your biggest accomplishment?
Raising two amazing women. My daughters are strong, and smart and compassionate. I’ve often felt like I was flying blind as a parent, but I couldn’t be happier with the result.
Tell us 2 truths & a lie about yourself…
- I “shot” a hippo…on a photo safari in Tanzania! The giraffes and zebras and lions may get all the attention, but I consider pictures of hippos in their natural habitat a once-in-a-lifetime treat.
2. I’m not a doctor, but I played one on TV.
3. I’m implicated in the theft of a wreath after a formal, diplomatic wreath-laying ceremony.
What do you like about PR?
Two things: Telling and collecting stories, and figuring out the strategy puzzle. How do I take the pieces – research, data, my organization’s objectives – and create a result that works for us and our audiences? I love these aspects of PR.
What it’s like to go through the APR process? Any advice for future candidates?
I learned PR on the job first. The APR process offered a framework to place what I was missing with the pieces I already know. I formed a study group with two other experienced PR pros and between the three of us, we had a bunch of case studies that helped us understand the principles we were mastering.My advice about the APR is like the Nike slogan: Just Do It! The benefits vary among individuals (self-confidence, career advancement, etc.), but every APR I know is glad they made the effort.
What have you learned in this business that you’d give as advice to others?
Have a plan. You can always make a stab in the dark, and sometimes those work out. But you have a better chance of success if you’ve been deliberate about considering your options. Even when you have to guess, make an educated guess.
If your life were a movie, what would it be called?
The Incredible Tale.
And who’d play you in this movie?
Angela Bassett. She’s fierce.
(Two truth & a lie answers with a few details)
I really do love hippos. Hippos are my favorite animal and I have scores of them – plush, carved, animated – in my home and office. But the truth is I’ve never seen one outside a zoo! That was a lie (but hopefully someday I’ll make it a truth).
Been on TV as a doctor?
True-ish! I spent a day playing a nurse on the set of “House” as the winner of the “Laugh Your Way to Hollywood” contest. Meeting the cast was a blast and walking around the set in scrubs was surreal. So much fun. As a bonus, I got to see one of my childhood faves – Peter Graves – who was a guest on the show. Sadly, my Emmy-deserving turn as a background artist mostly landed on the cutting room floor.
The wreath story is also true. Early in my diplomatic career, I represented the US at a weekend of celebrations in Greece. My obligations included three wreath-laying ceremonies, but the embassy only purchased two wreaths. I had to send my driver back under cover of darkness to steal the second wreath off its frame! I learned a lot of lessons the hard way that trip, but it was good practice for my career.