How to Become a Public Relations Professional

by Staff - Original publish date: April 22, 2013

If we can take anything away from the world of marketing and advertising, it’s that the right spokesperson can make or break an organization. Enter Kayla Tucker Adams, a public relations executive with more than 13 years of experience. She began locally through education, expanded nationally through non-profit, and has now garnered global reach working with CNN, CBS, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Huffington Post, and Associated Press among others. She is the Director of Public Relations for T.D. Jakes Ministries, the second largest church in the country.

Adams attended Prairie View A & M, a historically black university and the second oldest public institution in Texas. She majored in radio and television, switching her minor from sociology to public relations after a professor convinced her it was a more effective alternative. During her senior year, she interned with the Fox affiliate in Houston, in which she covered a murder. “Watching the lifeless body, covering gruesome stories, working holidays and weekends was not what I wanted to do,” she said, realizing her true desire for PR.

In May of 1997, she graduated with honors. A month later she was hired at Chase Bank, managing for three years before progressing to AT&T. Although she took a hiatus from PR to experience the workforce she made a comeback through education. Adams taught TV communications in the local public school system and soon after became the PR director at the Evolution Academy Charter School. She developed marketing and media training curriculum, coordinated fundraisers, and served as the official spokeswoman.

Over the next three years, she worked as the executive director for two different school districts. At the same time, she was the managing editor for Phalcon Star Communications, publishers of three Dallas-area community newspapers. She worked as an on-air reporter, broadcasting to over 30,000 viewers, produced front-page articles, and gained advertising from local businesses.

In March of 2009, she became the Director of Communications for March of Dimes, the non-profit group dedicated to improving the health of mothers and children. She launched national campaigns, PSA’s, and publicized advocacy efforts in conjunction with the state. In just three months, she acquired sponsors that generated over $500,000 of media placement for their events.

One day Adams was notified about the Director of Public Relations opening at T.D. Jakes Ministries. “I sat on the email for about two weeks before agreeing to interview because I was still involved with non-profit,” she said. To her benefit, the hiring process took nearly a year, due to the ministries highly particular selection and thorough background checks.

Adams had previously listened to Bishop Jakes sermons, donated to his causes, and even owned a few of his DVD’s. On her refrigerator, she had a letter on “Defeating the spirit of fear” from one of his lectures. “I have his teachings on my wall and here I am walking into a position at his ministry,” she exclaims. “How ironic is that?”

She was officially hired in October of 2010. “My main duty is to retain positive media coverage for the church and manage Bishop Jakes's film career, public image, and 30-year marriage with First Lady Serita Jakes.”

In 1996, Bishop Jakes moved from West Virginia with 50 families to found The Potter’s House of Dallas, expanding it into the non-denominational mega-church known today as T.D. Jakes Ministries. “There are over 30,000 members and Bishop Jakes is what keeps them coming back,” Adams says. “He is a dynamic man of God; he makes lessons applicable to member’s lives and feeds them with positivity.”

In a typical week, Adams works 50 hours drafting reports, distributing press releases, managing social media, developing pitch strategies, negotiating public appearances, coordinating photo shoots, and leading media campaigns. “Each day is really different, that’s what keeps it interesting for me,” she says.

You name the outlet and Adams has worked with them; CNN, Fox, CBS, TV One, Oprah Winfrey, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, Steve Harvey Show, Washington Post, AP, People Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Essence Magazine, and the 700 Club. She has also worked alongside media personalities such as Soledad O’Brien, Sally Quinn, Dr. Phil, and Roland Martin.

Adams managed the release of Bishop Jakes New York Times bestseller, Let it Go, and his 2011 movie “Jumping the Broom.” Organizing the red carpet premiere in Dallas meant managing screen stars Angela Basset and Paula Patton, producer Tyler Perry, and award-winning gospel singer Marvin Sapp.

Through all of this, the most challenging and triumphant moment of her career was working with Oprah Winfrey. “She is my favorite by far and one of the most sought after clients in the PR world,” she said. In the fall of 2011, Adams pitched an in-depth look at Bishop Jakes and his ministry to the O network. She worked with Winfrey months and months in advance before she agreed to visit the ministry and interview Jakes in December. The piece was recorded and the segment was set to air in February. Just as luck would have it, Adams got severely ill a week before broadcast. “I got so sick I couldn’t get out of bed for several days, but in the end I pushed through it and completed the final edits just in time.”

In 2012, Bishop Jakes spoke at President Obama’s inauguration breakfast. Jakes has been an advisor to the last four presidents and has even counseled First Lady Michelle Obama. “We have an international reach—that’s a dream for public relations professionals, as well as local, national, and key players,” Adams expresses.

On a personal level, Adams is looking forward to collaborating with the First Lady.  “I think she would inspire great change in our ethnic community, but I need to get really creative before approaching her,” she admits. Adams has an open mind in terms of expanding outside of Texas, but only for a truly exceptional opportunity. “I am interested in becoming more of a specialist in crisis management and communications in the future.”

The PR market varies from state to state. New York and California have more firms due to the entertainment industry, but that comes with greater entry-level competition. On the contrary, corporations, non-profits, and practitioners across the nation consistently experience an influx of growth.

Her advice for aspiring public relations professionals is to do “you need to know what you’re going to do on a daily basis, what degree it entails, salary, job outlook,” she explains. “The more educated you are, the better decision you can make for your career.”

To learn more about T.D. Jakes ministry, click here.