Changing the Paradigm: A Conversation with Dr. Felicia Blow, APR

Dr. Felicia Blow smiles against a dark blue background with stripes of lighter blue across it

Each February, our country spends 28 days (sometimes 29!) celebrating the achievements by African Americans and honoring their role in U.S. History. When I thought of the intersection of Black History Month and communications, I immediately thought of Dr. Felicia Blow, APR.  

Although I had never made her acquaintance prior to our Q&A, her pictures filled my digital environment as news spread of her election as National Chair of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Our mutual connections formed through Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Incorporated and PRSA Hampton Roads (VA), all sent congratulations about her appointment as Chair of PRSA. PRSA is the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community.  

In her new role, along with membership growth and member development, Dr. Blow’s focus includes fully embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In 2019, she spearheaded PRSA’s strategic planning effort that led to the organization’s first three-year Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan. As that national committee’s co-chair, she was in a unique position to lead that effort. One year later, she ran for national office to become PRSA’s 2021 national chair-elect. Currently, she is the Associate Vice President for Development at Hampton University. 

As we reflect on the intent of Black History Month, I am grateful that this trailblazer spent a few minutes speaking with me about her new role, commitment to DEI, and the principles she lives by.  

In 2000, you served as the first African American female President of the Hampton Roads Chapter of PRSA. Fast forward to 2022, you’re now Chair of the national organization! Did you ever envision yourself taking on such a public role?  

Twenty-two years later – thank you for aging me! But no, I did not. I am a (Christian) believer, and I know God puts us where we need to be, even when we do not. I just did not see this position for myself back then. 

I am here because I really do love this organization. I love what we do, and I think what we do is valuable. Therefore, I want to do my best to contribute to the longevity of this organization and do my part to make sure that PRSA’s membership is reflective of the society in which we live.  

You’ve centered your career on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. How can communication practitioners work to turn this into reality? 

It is difficult. Overcoming challenges of bias around race, ethnicity, and the other many dimensions of diversity, is a huge problem – not just in America. I am confident, though, that one day we will overcome these issues. Intersectionality around DEI also is so important. The more we separate ourselves by saying things like: “No, you’re Latino, you fit here” or doing other things that pull apart, the less effective we are in our goal to drive racial equity. I firmly believe that what we do, as communicators will accelerate the coming paradigm shift. We encourage two-way exchange of ideas that will make the difference. We speak truth to power.   

What we do as communicators not only helps in the DEI space, but it encourages individuals to have courageous conversations, and in so doing, we elevate thought leadership around DEI. Again, I fully believe that communicators are the best suited to help overcome the challenges that plague us.  

What advice do you give to young communication professionals who are just starting out in their careers? 

The most important piece of advice is write, write, and write! To be an excellent communicator, you must write well. If you are pursuing a career in strategic communications, journalism, or public relations professions, there is no way around it. Think about it – even in social media space, where you have very short, crisp posts, you still have to create message that resonates and capture the imagination.  

The second thing is to work hard. To make yourself stand out as a professional and go the extra distance in performing a task. It will help you in the end.  

The third thing is to diversify your background. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Mass Media Arts from Hampton University, my Master’s in Business Administration from Strayer University, and PhD from Old Dominion University in Higher Education Leadership. I also serve on a wide variety of leadership boards and contribute in divergent areas. Doing so sharpens your skills. 

Finally, when you say you are going to do something, do it, and do it to the best of your ability.  

Your new leadership role within PRSA is off to a great start with the announcement of the Black Voices and Hispanic-Latino affinity groups. What efforts went into getting these affinity groups started? 

So often people talk about overnight successes, but there is no such thing!  

The formation of the affinity groups is part of the first-ever three-year Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan that PRSA adopted in 2020. That plan took a year to bring to pass as we did extensive research with PRSA members and beyond. We took our time in constructing the plan with SMART goals. One element within that plan was the launch of the affinity groups. With the amazing work of two dynamic PRSA member volunteers — Sabrina Brown and Thomas Bennett — we are fulfilling that vision.  

Minerva Strategies is in the process of developing our principles, which will be released soon. That leads us to ask, what three principles do you embrace in your leadership roles? 

My top three have been my key life principles for my entire life. They are: 

1. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Be kind, but do not compromise your values. You can still be kind, but hold people accountable.    

2. “Word is bond.Do what you say will do. Every time. Doing so consistently will enhance your credibility more than anything else. 

3. “Be honest and have integrity.” I have experienced some things in my years that make me wonder, Why would anyone do that? But there are some shady people out there! So hold onto your integrity. Hold onto your honesty and tell the truth, always 

About The Author

Elise McGlothian

Elise McGlothian


Elise thrives when creating a positive social impact through communications. She has a passion for equitably relaying information and moving people to support organizations tackling critical social challenges – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about Elise.