A Career Evolution: Jacque Coe, APR, on How TV News Prepared Her for Public Relations

October 31, 2014

Jacque Coe
Jacque Coe

After working as a television news journalist for 14 years  at KING-TV in Seattle, Jacque Coe, APR, was ready to use her storytelling and interpersonal skills and apply them to the needs of clients and organizations.

“Public relations was a natural next step,” she says.

Coe, who has more than 25 years of experience in media and public relations, is the senior director of strategic communications for the Dairy Farmers of Washington. She also serves as a Board member of the Puget Sound Chapter and is the Chair of PRSA’s Accreditation Marketing Committee.

Prior to the Dairy Farmers of Washington, Coe was the director of communications and community engagement for the Bellevue School District. She has also worked as the communications director for the Washington Lottery. Coe attended Eastern Washington University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication-Radio/TV News.

You started your career as a TV news journalist. Why did you transition to public relations?

I loved TV journalism and still do, so the decision to leave was the most difficult of my career. I was afraid to leave because I couldn’t imagine any other career that would be as exciting, challenging, fast-paced and fulfilling as news.

I remember my KING-TV colleague Suzannah Frame telling me, ‘Jacque, I just don’t think you’re going to be happy. You’re too hardcore. You love this too much.’ And she was verbalizing my worst fears.

But my husband and I wanted to start a family and I didn’t see a way that I would be able to maintain the high level of commitment that KING requires and do justice to my family. Once you let go of fear of the unknown and say, ‘Been there, done that. Let’s see what’s next,’ it opens up a lot of options. I needed a way to put my storytelling skills to work, network, make connections, form relationships and develop the messages I knew clients wanted to say and customers wanted to hear. Public relations was a natural next step.

What was your dream job growing up?

In my home, everything stopped when the local and  national news came on. I used to sit on my dad’s lap and watch the news with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. [When I saw] the correspondents, I thought, ‘They travel all over the world, watch history being made, see the best and the worst that life has to offer and all they have to do is tell people about it — what a great job!’ I wanted to be a television journalist ever since I was about eight years old. It gave me all that and more, and my career in public relations has been just as rewarding.

You serve as chair of the PRSA Accreditation Marketing Committee. What inspired you to pursue becoming Accredited?

Like a lot of professionals, I noticed that some folks had ‘APR’ after their name, and they seemed to share some common traits: They were all extremely professional, well-respected, involved in their PRSA chapter and seemed to really know their stuff and be at the top of their game, career-wise.

I checked into it and heard that the program was rigorous, but that the professional development was great, and really low-cost. I wanted to truly accelerate my career in public relations and this seemed to be a good way to do it, especially for the cost.  It was the smartest decision I ever made to elevate my PR career.

Now that we have the 50th anniversary of the APR this year, it’s a really special time to share the value of the accreditation with people. I want all practitioners to experience the professional success in their careers that I’ve been able to experience, and the APR has been a huge factor for me, as well as luck and hard work.

What is the importance of Accreditation?

In my opinion, the importance of the APR certification is that it sets a widely recognized high standard in our profession. Anytime you set a high bar, publicize it for all to see and then recognize those who achieve it — it establishes a level of quality in a profession that’s a healthy standard of excellence. Do public relations professionals have to get their APR to achieve high standards and excellence? No. Does having the APR put you on that path faster and set a healthy high standard of quality for our profession — oh, you bet!

Do you think that being Accredited helped you advance in your career?

Absolutely! It immediately raised my visibility and a perception among colleagues in and out of the public relations profession whom I had met while rising to a higher professional level. It made it easier to market myself at higher career levels, and my salary has more than doubled in the 10 years since I was Accredited. 

What are your job responsibilities as director of strategic communications for the Dairy Farmers of Washington?

My new role is all about integration; integrating communications across all divisions in the organization to ensure a cohesive focus. So it’s about a holistic approach to link all parts of the organization to the mission and values to achieve the strongest possible brand.

What are some challenges you face in your day-to-day job?

One of the biggest challenges is connecting with customers with both urban and rural backgrounds, who are bombarded by marketing messages from all channels to share information about where their food comes from.

Also, when you have a wide range of audiences and a huge range of channels they use to get their information, you have to be constantly looking ahead for the next emerging channel, and whether it’s effective for an audience you have.  I lost my crystal ball in college. I could use that now.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about PR during your career?

Taking the specific and unique culture of the audience you’re addressing into consideration, which impacts what they hear and how they perceive messages, act and react. It can be the most relevant thing for you to consider.

What is the best career advice that you’ve ever received?

My former boss Ken Nakamura once said, ‘Remember Jacque — If you use your values and principles as your guiding light, and keep integrity in one hand and compassion in the other, you’ll know what to do and will usually be OK.’ He was right. I mentor a student and meet with a lot of professionals who want to know about how to get a job in PR and advance in their career.  I find most of those conversations center less on public relations and more on leadership, management, ethics and integrity. 

You are an avid sailor.  Can you draw any parallels between sailing and practicing public relations?

Sailing and public relations are a lot alike; you maintain your boat in the slow season to make sure you’re ready to set sail when the sun comes out. If you’re smart, you double-check your weather, lines and boat before you get underway.  You keep your eyes open for obstacles ahead, to the sides and behind you, and you’re constantly watching the wind, which can change quickly and without warning.  You meet amazing people along the way who come and go with the wind, yet you are always prepared to change course quickly and come about in the event you’re hit by a sudden gale (and I have been).

When it’s quiet and beautiful, it’s completely relaxing and therapeutic, but can be boring if you’re stuck bobbing with no wind in your sails.  And if a big wind hits, it challenges your skills and makes you think quickly — showing you just how much you know, think you know and don’t know, because the ocean can be unforgiving.  And, when you’ve had a good day on the water, you have the glow of a good tan and great friends to share it with back in port.

By coincidence, one of my sailing buddies is a mentor —Pete Delaunay, APR, a longtime PRSA member, who sat on my readiness review panel.

Editor-in-chief John Elsasser interviewed Jacque Coe,  APR, for this member profile.

Getting to Know... Jacque Coe, APR


Any three dinner guests and what you would have to eat?         

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Richard Sherman. Asian fusion served family style. 

Best place to travel?

Lake Chelan in Washington State or Kauai.

Favorite meal?

Dairy of course! But seriously — I’m a cheesecake connoisseur. With great hot coffee.


Ann P. Knabe, Ph.D., APR+M says:

Nice article, Jacque! I never knew you were a TV reporter in a different life!

Nov. 16, 2014

Angela Burrell says:

Thanks for sharing insights about your career experiences! It was fun to visualize the parallels between PR and sailing ;-) It's apparent that you're passionate about both.

Nov. 18, 2014

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