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PRSA Mentor Profile: Breakfast with Bobbi Lonobile

 

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Bobbi Lonobile for breakfast at the Coal Tower in Pittsford. Bobbi and I met while volunteering for PRSA – and through various events, committee meetings and social gatherings got to know each other. She is also one of the mentors in our PRSA Advisory Network, and is always willing to spare a moment to talk to a student looking for career advice. 

Sitting across from Bobbi at the Coal Tower was the first chance I really got to learn about her career, her tips for young professionals and her passion for mentoring the next generation of public relations pros in this area.

Been there, done that!

After graduating from SUNY Geneseo, Bobbi started her career working in communications for the Vermont Housing Finance Agency before eventually moving back to Rochester. Returning to her home city and looking for a new job, Bobbi says it was her sister-in-law’s connection to PRSA that helped her land her first PR job in the area – with the American Red Cross. 

For the next few years, Bobbi handled communications for the Red Cross. Between promoting the need for blood donors and handling the day-to-day communications for the organization, Bobbi got her first taste of Crisis Communications – first as the country was waging war in Iraq, and again during a huge Ice Storm in 1991.  

At the time, Bobbi mentioned that her boss at the Red Cross was involved with PRSA and encouraged her to attend events and participate in learning opportunities that would help her grow. In addition to the many skills she was learning on the job, PRSA helped Bobbi develop professionally and make meaningful connections in the field.

This set her up for the next steps in her professional career – as Communications Director at the Seneca Park Zoo and later at Visit Rochester. This was a topic in which I was well versed – my job at Break the Ice Media lies heavily in tourism and allows me to work closely with attractions and tourism agencies in the area. Among our excited chats about media writers, planning Anniversary events and scheduling itineraries, Bobbi talked about how these new roles put her at the heart of the flower city and allowed her to establish lifelong connections with many of the professionals in Rochester. (Bobbi also worked for a number of years in health care and as the Communications Director at the Eastman School of Music. She has done it all!) 

Now Bobbi spends her time freelancing and volunteering in various roles in PRSA. She recently reprised her role on the PRSA Rochester board of directors, and is an assembly delegate for the Northeast District Board. She was also recently named as a board member at the Mt. Hope Family Center. 

Wisdom for young professionals

As we were wrapping up breakfast, the conversation turned to mentoring. With the time and experience Bobbi has put into her career, she is full of advice and wisdom for young pros – a little bit of which she shared with me that morning. 

Bobbi mentioned that looking back she realizes how important it is to be as knowledgeable as possible about the industry in which you are working – whether it be technology, healthcare, tourism or something else. For someone who has worked in several industries – often in a director role – she believes it is important to attend functions, get on e-blast lists, and find ways to immerse yourself in the business. She mentioned how lucky she was to have surrounded herself with people who were willing to share their knowledge with her, and how mentoring young pros now allows her to give back in the same way. Most importantly, she mentioned that students and young professionals shouldn’t be timid about asking for what they want. 

 “Who else is looking out for you if you aren’t looking out for yourself?” she said to me at the end of our chat.

PRSA has a lot of fantastic ways to help students and young professionals make connections with mentors in the area. Find Bobbi Lonobile and other area mentors in the PRSA Advisory Network.

Sarah Blackwell
Sarah Blackwell is a PR & Marketing Specialist at Break the Ice Media and a College at Brockport Alum. She actively volunteers with PRSA Rochester on the PRism Committee, and as Chair of the Young PR Professionals Group. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or learn more about her in PRSA Rochester’s Advisory Network.

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