Profiles in PR: Kyla Aquino Irving on Donating Life

April 2, 2018

Name: Kyla Aquino Irving

Current status: Communications & Marketing Manager, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

Location: Sacramento, Calif.

Work experience: Developing and leading PR campaigns for local, regional and national public health outreach efforts, events and conferences.

Favorite downtime activity: Dancing with my husband Steven & 6-month-old Imani

Any three dinner guests: Oprah, The Dalai Lama, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Favorite place to travel: The Philippines (for beautiful beaches and visiting relatives)

Best career advice ever received: “Don’t expect; inspect.” It’s fitting in many occasions: checking resources, grammar and facts before releasing information to the public, or reading all the details when agreeing to terms of employment.


April is National Donate Life Month, and you’re an ambassador for the program. How did your passion for promoting health lead to a career in media relations for public health?

When I was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure at 15 years old, I wrote a book about my experiences to help guide other people diagnosed with kidney disease to get information. The book was eventually published by the National Kidney Foundation and distributed internationally.

There was a very elegant, compassionate lady who helped me prepare for media interviews. I admired her so much and I knew that I wanted to follow in her footsteps, but I didn’t know how at the time. Later, I learned that she was not just a great PR professional, but she was also a former TV news reporter and Accredited in Public Relations!


What lessons did you learn during the process of your own transplants? How do you carry these lessons over to your personal and professional life today?

The biggest lesson I learned in the process of my transplants is the power of storytelling. Telling my story has helped to encourage people of color to become organ donors. To this day, when I’m preparing materials for the media, I always remember to have a human story involved.

On a more personal note, waiting for my transplants has given me the mindset of the mantra: “Everything will be right in the end. If it’s not right yet, then it is not yet the end.”


What are some trends, opportunities and exciting things you see on the horizon for the nonprofit and association sectors of communications? 

I’m seeing inclusion in more places in the corporate world in a real way — even, dare I say, the Academy Awards had more inclusion of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.

I work for an organization that prides itself on being composed of people with disabilities serving Californians with disabilities in becoming more independent. Our commitment to diversity, intersection and inclusion has allowed our campaigns to make the greatest positive impact.


How have social media and the 24/7 news cycle changed the PR world? How can we stay relevant in today’s changing communications landscape and best reach our audience?

The new news cycle and social media have turned the PR world into a whole new arena where one-way channels (TV, radio, newspapers) have now become more interactive and instant. Fact-checking and vetting information in today’s world has become just as important as it always has been.


What advice would you share with a new pro looking to break into public relations and communications?

Always be open to learning something new every day. I have heard this from veterans of the business to this day. As the communications methods change, we have to be mentally nimble to shift with the times.

When Google Plus was first launching, I wasn’t comfortable putting myself out there right away, so I would only add women in business to my network. Before I knew it, I had a network of women in business that had grown to over 6,000. I’m not as active on Google Plus now, but I realize that having knowledge in new and emerging media is always valuable.

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.

Comments

Kyla Aquino Irving says:

I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention by name the lovely woman who intrigued me into the world of public relations: Tracy Bryan, APR!

April 11, 2018

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