While we never could have imagined what 2020 would hold for the world, even in times of uncertainty, staying bright can light the way for yourself and those around you— a vision Stefanie Macfarlane, APR shares and lives every day. The accomplished marketing and PR consultant and current PRSA Orlando president knows the power of exuding and attracting positivity and how that energy can shine a light on career opportunities and finding your passions.

We sat down with Stefanie to talk about her varied communications experience—which includes humble beginnings at a country radio station and years leading PR and marketing for a multi-million dollar hospital network—what it takes to succeed as an independent practitioner for 13 years and the magic that can happen when you embrace life’s literal and figurative roller coasters. 

About Stefanie

  • Town That Feels Like Home: Lake Mary, FL
  • Current Role: Marketing and Public Relations Consultant
  • Years of Experience: 25

Can you tell us a little about your career journey and a recent PR win?

My career journey begins at a Country radio station in Lakeland where I caught the PR bug during a high school internship that led me to study PR at FSU and then earn my Master’s from Cornell. I spent a short time in NYC at a small agency, raised money for the Epilepsy Association of Central Florida and taught PR Writing at UCF before landing at FARO Technologies, a high tech manufacturing company in Lake Mary. I left after a few years to diversify my experience at CBR Public Relations and a stint with K-92 (again a Country radio station!) before finding a home at Florida Hospital. After five years, despite holding my dream job as Marketing & PR Director for Florida Hospital DeLand, I decided to go independent. That was 13 years ago this week!! I’ve been blessed to have great opportunities and steady work. For the past seven years, I’ve worked primarily with the law firm RumbergerKirk as an extension of their Marketing Department. 

Recently, RumbergerKirk’s Managing Partner was quoted in Forbes. While the PR team at Poston Communications identified the opportunity for the firm, it was my guidance and messaging that I developed with the managing partner that was ultimately chosen to be included.

What are your top goals for 2021—as the President of PRSA Orlando? What are you most looking forward to serving in this role?

As president of PRSA Orlando, I am delighted to be leading a very talented group of board members who are focused on our key initiatives and providing meaningful professional development and networking to our members. I am most looking forward to hosting a successful international conference, PRSA ICON 2021 in October.

What advice do you have for PR pros navigating the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and PR students looking to join the industry during this time? What lasting effects do you think it will have on the industry? 

There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on how we work. Looking through my crystal ball, I believe many companies have seen the benefits of offering more flexibility to workers and some form of remote work will remain in place for many years. Our industry has long expressed the importance of clear and accurate information during a crisis, and we’ve all seen the unfortunate results and distrust that is bred by misinformation. In my lifetime, our role as communicators has never been more important. Those entering the profession should be prepared to understand the power of words and be guided by the principles outlined in our Code of Ethics

PRSA Orlando is hosting ICON this year. Can you tell us a little more about why being a host chapter is so special and why you think PR pros should attend?

It is an honor and privilege to host the world’s largest conference for public relations and communications professionals. There’s nothing like it. It brings together the best speakers and presenters to inform, engage and inspire us to look at the world around us and contemplate our role in it. As the host chapter, we help ensure an unforgettable experience for those who attend and look forward to sprinkling in our brand of magic and showing off Orlando’s hospitality. Details are coming together and we are hard at work to ensure we host a safe and unforgettable conference. 

How long have you been a member of PRSA and what made you what to be President of the Orlando Chapter?

This year I am celebrating 25 years of membership with PRSA. As my career has evolved, PRSA has been there every step of the way, offering me the insights I needed to advise my organizations and clients and giving me confidence in my voice and counsel. The resources PRSA offers professionals are stellar. If you’re not taking full advantage of your membership, I urge you to check out MyPRSA at prsa.org for discussion boards, case studies, a look at upcoming webinars and don’t forget to peruse Strategies & Tactics, which is always full of excellent advice and ideas. The camaraderie among professionals has offered me mentors and friendships that I value and helped me do my job better, but also helped me find most of my jobs. I am honored to give back to an organization that has given so much to me over the years. 

With Spring APR sessions in full swing, what advice do you have for professionals looking to take that next step?

Accreditation offers you the opportunity to take your career to the next level. Accredited professionals dig deeper and implement strategic programs that do more than create a buzz. They actually move the needle toward identified business goals. I always say that if you like to ask why before you begin a campaign or tactic, then you’re ready for accreditation. 

What’s your favorite part of being an independent practitioner?

The freedom to manage my own work schedule. I’ve been lucky to have a steady stream of work. I tend to prefer corporate communications roles, and I’ve been lucky to find opportunities to work as an extension of a team. I enjoy providing counsel and insight to my clients and helping them develop and implement their communication strategy. 

If you weren’t in PR, what would you be doing instead?  

Truthfully, there is no other job for me. I initially wanted to be an actress when I was young because of my penchant for dramatics. I also was told I’d make a great English teacher or even a lawyer, but I don’t think I would be happy with either career choice. I love to read and edit, so I could see myself working as a writer, editor or blogger. 

What are your favorite things to do in your free time?

I love spending time with my family. My favorite place to be is the beach, but I also really love hanging out in our theme parks. They all offer such unique experiences. My husband and I fell in love at Busch Gardens on Montu. I also love traveling, reading and playing games–cards or board games, I’m equally competitive. I just finished a ski trip to Keystone, our 4th time there in 5 years. I just love a vacation where you can eat to your heart’s content and burn it all off on the mountain. It’s the only vacation where I actually come home a few pounds lighter than I left!