Public Relations Tactics

Inside Higher Ed: Paul Kincaid, APR, Fellow PRSA, Reflects on 35 Years in the Profession

February 27, 2014

After more than 35 years in higher education public relations and 28 years at Missouri State University in Springfield, Paul Kincaid, APR, Fellow PRSA, the university’s chief of staff and assistant to the president for university relations, plans to retire this year. He will continue to work in public relations, marketing and communications on a project basis.

Kincaid began working at Missouri State in 1986 as the first full-time director of university relations and has held various leadership roles at the university since then. Prior to this, he worked at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, and Phillips University in Enid, Okla., also his alma mater.

At Missouri State, he has served under five presidents and two interim presidents, and assisted with four presidential searches.

Kincaid also oversaw the writing and publication of the Centennial history book, “Daring to Excel” and the creation of presidential plazas.
He has won several leadership, service and achievement awards and is active in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), in addition to PRSA, which he has been a member of since 1988.

How did you get your start in public relations?

It was somewhat of a journey. I took PR courses in college, but I thought I wanted to be a sports reporter. Then, I had a chance to work in the Sports Information Office at Kansas State University and decided that was what I wanted to do. The only job I could find coming out of college was as assistant news bureau director at Phillips University, which combined news and sports. It just has progressed over the past 39 years.

Describe your personal leadership style and what makes a good leader.

I try to lead by example and to always remember that my client is the University. I try to be as good a follower as I am a leader — you have to be able to do both.

I try to give credit, provide feedback and live up to all of the basics of personal interaction: Never tell a lie, always be polite and courteous, make criticism constructive, always do what you say you will do and do the right thing.

Why did you decide to take the APR exam? How have these skills helped you?

Taking the exam was personal for me. I wanted to test my skills and experience. I wanted to see if I could be successful even though we didn’t have a PRSA Chapter in Springfield, Mo. at that time; and I wanted to have the credential behind my name. The process was reaffirming and instructional, as I think it is with anyone who takes the exam.

Is public relations a popular major and profession choice among students at Missouri State — how are professors integrating social media into the classroom?

Public relations is growing in popularity on campus. We now have a strong and active PRSA student Chapter and we have some excellent PR professors. Social media is incorporated into many of the PR classes and has been for a few years.

What is the outlook like for the soon-to-be PR graduates or those new practitioners who have just entered the profession?

My understanding is that PR graduates are like other graduates. If they are willing to relocate and take a starting position, there are opportunities. If the search is too narrow on location, organization or title, then it will be more difficult.

You speak with many communicators in higher education. What are the issues that you hear concerning the profession, as well as trends and what’s top of mind?

One of the concerns I hear and that I share is a temptation to focus on the technology at the expense of best PR practices.

When I do presentations, I always start by saying: “Good public relations begins and ends with good policies and decisions.” No matter what form of communication you use, it comes down to that basic truth.

What challenges do you face in your day-to-day job as a communicator?

The challenge always is to identify the highest priorities and ensure that you have time to be successful with those. I heard someone say: “You can be the best ladder-climber in the world, but if the ladder is leaning on the wrong wall, it doesn’t matter. You have to identify the priorities.”

You’ve been a member of PRSA since 1988. Why is it important to be involved in organizations that focus on advancing the profession and continuing education?

PRSA is a high-level organization. The PRSA International Conferences are among the best conferences I have ever attended. I especially like the emphasis PRSA has on measuring success.

What advice do you have for someone hoping to enter the PR profession?

In addition to having strong PR skills, make sure you learn about the issues that are important to the CEO and the organization: strategic planning, budgets/funding, personnel, etc.

You add the most value when you are knowledgeable of, and can add value to, these discussions.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about PR in your 35-year career?

It’s all about trust, relationships and performance. It is hard work. And public relations is largely misunderstood and under-valued.

What inspired you to volunteer for PRSA, and what has kept you motivated?

You learn more by being involved so, to me, it was just a part of the professional development. I gained more than I gave, I am sure.

What are you most looking forward to regarding your retirement?

I am retiring from Missouri State, not work. I plan to remain active in the profession. I still have some tread on the tires, gas in the tank, innings in the arm or whatever metaphor you want to use.

One of the frustrations of wearing multiple hats is that you often don’t feel like you had the opportunity to do your absolute best at a project. After retiring, I hope to have a more limited number of projects so I can spend time working on each.

Getting to Know Paul Kincaid, APR, Fellow PRSA

Any 3 dinner guests — past or present?
Tim Conway, Red Skelton and Yogi Berra

Favorite movie?
“The Magnificent Seven”

Best place to travel?
Washington, D.C.

Best advice you’ve received?
In whatever job you have, approach it like a mini-CEO. Act like it is yours, do whatever it takes to succeed and know all aspects of the

Managing Editor Amy Jacques interviewed Paul Kincaid, APR, Fellow PRSA, for this month’s member profile.


Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


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