Sister Rose Ann's principles of success through a PR lens

By Lauren Doyle, APR

Lauren Doyle is past president of Cincinnati PRSA and vice president at Wordsworth Communications.

Lauren Doyle is past president of Cincinnati PRSA and vice president at Wordsworth Communications.

The Presidents Award is the highest honor Cincinnati PRSA can bestow on a non-public relations professional. The award honors a Cincinnatian who doesn’t work in the public relations profession, but who uses PR tools to bring positive awareness and build the positive reputation of the City of Cincinnati. This year’s honoree was Sister Rose Ann Fleming, SND de N, the academic adviser to the men’s basketball team at Xavier University.

Sister Rose Ann was honored last month in a luncheon ceremony during which four of her long-time colleagues – Gary Massa, Sister Rita Sturwold, Jamal Walker and Tom Schick, APR – shared their recollections of working with the tenacious nun during her 30-year career at the university. In addition, Sister Rose Ann shared her own advice for success in life. These lessons apply not just to basketball players, but public relations professionals.

Here are a few of her comments:

Sister Rose Ann

Sister Rose Ann

The first principle develops from one’s definition of success. It is not about wins and losses. It’s about performing at your personal best. Xavier’s coaches have been intent on providing players with a behavioral blueprint of virtues that lead to strong competitors in the game of basketball as well as the game of life. It seems imperative that PR practitioners do the same: work hard, love what you do, be alert, take initiative, be intent on achieving your goals and develop your skills. Enjoy the confidence that comes from intense preparation and maximum effort.

Another of Sister Rose Ann’s principles revolves around continuous improvement. In basketball, the basics of the game are skills such as shooting, rebounding, passing, cutting and receiving. Sister Rose Ann spoke of the focus coaches give to help each individual player master at higher and higher degrees each of the basic skills. In doing so, the players learn not to compare themselves with others, but to become aware that with focus and practice, they are getting better at their game. 

Public relations pros, too, can benefit from constantly refining their skills – writing, strategy, budgeting, management, research and analysis, crisis communications, social media, media relations. What we call professional development is what players called continuous improvement. Focusing on growing those skills, and the unique talents of those on our teams, helps ease the sting of a loss and makes a win that much sweeter.

A final principle Sister Rose Ann shared is one we can all relate to: Put the team first. When Division I players are recruited, they believe that the coach wants them because of what they did in high school basketball. Very often the player sees himself as readymade for success at the collegiate level. It is a rude awakening to find out that the coach intends to remake them for the good of the team. This means that players must change their game before they can get playing time. 

This a tough lesson for the player to learn, but it’s a necessary one. In any team environment, there can’t be one superstar. The entire team must put ego aside and work together to be successful. Public relations is very often a “team sport,” and one in which the entire team must be aligned to achieve execute strategies and tactics, and meet goals and objectives.

Sister Rose Ann was a fine honoree for this year’s Presidents Award. Many thanks to those who attended and to the committee of past PRSA presidents who made the award possible: Lisa Doxsee, APR; Jonathan Kissell, APR; Lee Oberlag, APR; Rob Pasquinucci, APR; Rick Pender, APR; Tom Rosenberger, APR; Tom Schick, APR, and Ashley Walters, APR. Special thanks also go out to Elliot Campbell, PRSA’s business manager.