Martha Whiteley, an adjunct professor within the College of Communication and the Arts, brings decades of experience managing public relations campaigns for brands such as Caltrate®, Centrum®, Technics and Panasonic to her Fall 2018 course in Crisis Communication.
Throughout her time in the industry, Whiteley developed and implemented strategic campaigns to drive the growth of major brands. As the corporate communications manager for Panasonic, she spearheaded strategic public relations campaigns and conducted media relations for the company’s consumer and business-to-business products. Prior to Panasonic, she was a public relations manager and spokesperson for Wyeth Laboratories, now Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, where she earned an Excellence in Communications Award from the International Association of Business Communicators for a documentary video on childhood vaccines. Earlier, she worked at the NYC-based Richard Weiner Public Relations agency, with responsibility for pharmaceutical accounts.
“When teaching the concepts of effective public relations, I share examples of campaigns I managed,” Whiteley said. “This includes everything from crisis communication with childhood vaccines, celebrity endorsements, introducing new pharmaceutical agents and launching electronic products. My professional experience substantiates my applied theory approach, which involves teaching concepts and best practices and then exploring and connecting with practical applications.”
This especially helps when teaching crisis communication, which is a particularly challenging subset of the field. Whiteley, who once helped prepare Wyeth’s president to testify before Congress at the height of the childhood vaccine debate, shared her experience helps easily explain concepts. It also gives students a sense of what to expect if they chose to pursue crisis communication after graduating.
Nikki Malupa, an M.A. in Public Relations student, shared her thoughts on the course. “When I step into Crisis Communication, I know Professor Whiteley expects us to be educated professionals and not only students,” she said. “The classroom environment she cultivates is collaborative, discussion-based and relevant to not only public relations, but also today’s challenges.”
“Crisis really is the Olympics of public relations,” Whiteley said, who explained that “all eyes are on you” when one responds to a crisis. “It is a different type of public relations, but it is exciting, and it gets your adrenaline going.”
Today, Whiteley remains active in the industry by developing strategic plans, creating blog and website content, and writing press releases for local hospitals, assisted living communities, and the August Symphony Orchestra and Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra. She is also passionate about teaching. She shared it is very rewarding to give students effective communication skills she knows will serve them well in the future and she considers her current profession the “best of both worlds.”
“My extensive experience in the industry taught me so much,” Whiteley concluded. “It is my hope the experiences and wisdom I gained will inspire the leaders of tomorrow and help prepare graduate students to be ethical communicators in a mobile, connected and diverse world.”
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.