Public Relations Tactics

A Passion for PR: Jennifer Armstrong, APR, on Gratitude and Giving Back

September 5, 2017

Jennifer Armstrong, APR, is owner and principal of Kaia Consulting in Honolulu, where she also serves as president of PRSA’s Hawaii Chapter.

She has more than 15 years of experience consulting clients on a variety of communication needs in Hawaii. Her commitment to client services coupled with her passion for the work is the foundation of Kaia Consulting.

After graduating from Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, she attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Arts with an emphasis in Journalism. Upon graduation, she moved to Los Angeles to launch her career. While there, she interned for two of the city’s top celebrity publicists.

Armstrong eventually moved back to Honolulu and pursued a higher educational degree. She then enrolled in Hawaii Pacific University in its graduate program for Communication. In 2012, she started her own consulting company so she could successfully balance her work-home life.

An active member of the community, she has volunteered for various organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii and Aloha United Way, as well as PRSA. The Hawaii Chapter — one of PRSA’s first six — is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

She also recently became Accreditated in public relations.

“My journey toward achieving the APR credential was beyond fulfilling,” she said said. “The APR challenged me to prioritize my time and truly acknowledge my goals as a sole practitioner. Anytime you have the opportunity to review your craft in a more critical and fundamental way, it will prove to be beneficial to your clients, your community and yourself.”

Here, Armstrong discusses starting her career, maintaining work-life balance and giving back to others as a volunteer.

What was your dream job as a child?

As a child I wanted to be an astronaut. I was always fascinated with astronomy and I still am! When I realized that math and science weren’t my strong points, that dream sadly ended.

How did you first become interested in public relations and communications? Your undergraduate degree had an emphasis in journalism.

I’ve always been interested in the news and wanted to go into broadcast journalism. However, my love for writing and telling stories quickly grew through various internships in college. I knew that I wanted to help not only share stories, but also help these stories make an impact through other creative channels.

How did you get your first PR job?

Right after college I moved to Burbank, Calif., and immediately started looking into jobs or internships. I ended up working in retail, but also landed a paid internship with a celebrity publicist in Culver City. She had clients in the entertainment and spirits industries, which translated to a lot of fun!

In 2012, you started your own consultancy, in part, to successfully balance your work-home life. What have you learned about successfully managing the two?

I’ve learned that balance is done best when you focus. What that means for me is that my business and my family both deserve my undivided attention. I’m learning to perfect the art of mindfulness and try to be in the moment for each when it commands me to be. I’ve also learned that I do not do it alone. I have an amazing support system and they are there for me and for my family unconditionally.

Work-life balance aside, what’s the best part of running your own consultancy?

Finding my grit every time. Through my professional journey as a sole practitioner, I’ve come to know myself in many positive and negative ways. The best part is being real with my strengths and my flaws, and using it all to help pave a smoother path ahead.

What initially inspired you to get involved in leadership with PRSA Hawaii?

I joined the PRSA Hawaii Board three years ago. What inspired me to get involved was my fear of taking on too much. I had to see for myself that I could get involved on a level that I was not used to and, hopefully, contribute to our industry in some way.

You also volunteer with other local organizations. Why is this important to you?

Volunteerism is important to me because it grounds me. Helping others in need reminds me that we are all responsible for each other. I’m speaking from a macro level. 

When I help others, I am not only giving them something they need, but I’m also giving my daughters something they need too. I hope my kids learn from my example and keep the spirit of giving back alive when their time comes. I am responsible for that lesson.

How would you describe your leadership style and what makes a good leader?

I try as much as possible to lead from a place of gratitude. A position of power is always an opportunity to learn. I am a good leader because I stand beside people, not in front of them.

Founded in 1947, PRSA Hawaii is one of six founding PRSA Chapters. What are you most proud of about your Chapter? 

I’m most proud of our membership. Forty percent of our Chapter members have been with PRSA for 10-plus years. Our members are committed to the profession and committed to evolving as PR professionals. It’s humbling to be surrounded by amazing talent in such a small market. We’re innovative and collaborative, and that is why we’ve managed to sustain our Chapter for so long.

What advice do you have for new professionals looking to break into communications?

Public relations is about relationships, first and foremost. Create them and nurture them often.

Getting to Know… Jennifer Armstrong, APR

Any dinner guests — past or present?

My paternal and maternal grandparents — I’m realizing the treasures that they were and I would love to ask them countless questions about our family histories and about their own struggles of life to pass on to my own kids.

Favorite movie?

“Lion” (currently); “Grease” (all time)

Best local attractions?

Any beach on the island!

Favorite downtime activity?

Walking my dogs

Best career advice that you have received?

“It’s OK to say no.”

John Elsasser

John Elsasser is PRSA's publications director. He joined PRSA in 1994.


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