Emily Gresham Wherle

Public Information Administrator at Northern Kentucky Health Department

Degree(s): BJ '01 (News/Editorial), MA '08 (Strategic Communication)

Whereabouts: United States, Cincinnati, Ohio

What do you do in your job?
I manage a two-person communications department for a four-county health department in the southern suburbs of Cincinnati. In this role, I’m responsible for media relations, online communications, internal communication, advertising, marketing and branding.

What have you faced in your career path so far?
I worked at Dan Pinger Public Relations, a local PR agency, for 1.5 years before moving to my current job. I also was a student in Mizzou’s online Masters Program from 2005 to 2008 while I worked full-time at the Health Department.

What was the best class you took at J-School and why?
Undergraduate: Although it was very stressful at the time, I think my semester at the Missourian was the best J-School class in terms of relevance to my current job. The experience of actually working in the newsroom of a daily paper was invaluable. I knew that I didn’t want to be a newspaper reporter when I took the class, but I did ultimately want to work in health care PR. In that course, I was able to get a good understanding of how the print media operates and how the stories that go into each day’s paper are chosen. This has helped me be more mindful of the constraints of the reporters that I work with now and to know which stories are likely to be covered and which ideas need to be re-worked to add some news value. I got a good foundation in news reporting and interviewing, which I use now when writing news releases, articles, guest columns, etc. Graduate: The process of working on my thesis was an amazing opportunity to grow as a PR professional and experience academia. My research focused on the accuracy of news articles about state and local health departments. I attempted to determine if having a PR person involved in the process affected the accuracy (I didn’t conclusively get data one way or the other). While it was hard to complete a thesis from a distance – I was in Cincinnati – and while working full-time, I feel that it added value to my degree.

What is one of your favorite J-School memories?
My semester in the Missouri London Program has to be at the top of the list. The opportunity to intern for a British company was so valuable. I learned a ton about British business practices and culture from my co-workers. My internship was at a publishing company, so I also learned that hard-core publicity, like what goes into promoting a book, was something that I did not want to do when I graduated. Finally, the coursework in London forced us to follow the British media, and I now have a better understanding of how journalists in Great Britain operate. I was in London during the 2000 presidential election debacle. That alone was an interesting lesson!

How has being a Mizzou graduate helped you, besides the education experience?
The J-School alumni are an amazing resource. When I was interviewing for my first job in Cincinnati, I got in touch with Katie Kelley and the MU Alumni’s Cincinnati Chapter. Katie helped me connect with Sandi Straetker, a J-School alum who was on maternity leave from the company that I was interviewing with. Based on the fact that I’d graduated from Mizzou’s J-School, Sandi was willing to help coach me for that interview. I did so well that I was offered the job before I even left. When I was moving to town, Katie helped more with advice on places to live, where the post office was, etc. It made a huge difference! A lot of my friends in Cincinnati have a connection to Missouri, although quite a few of them have since moved on to places like Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Kan., and Des Moines, Iowa.

What woman in the media do you admire most and why?
I’d like to say that I admire someone who works in my field of PR, but since so much PR work is done behind the scenes, not many names stick out nationally. I really enjoy the work of Anna Quindlen, who I believe was at The New York Times and wrote a column for Newsweek. She has a great writing style; I agree with most of her political views, and she writes a lot about issues facing women who are balancing work and family.

What is something about you that may surprise people?
I am a total germaphobe. I was conscious of hygiene to begin with, but after seven years working with public health and infectious disease, hand sanitizer is always at my side. Now that I have small children at home (six-month-old twin girls), I have stepped up efforts to keep colds, viruses and other illnesses away. Working moms don’t have time to be sick, either!

Updated: November 15, 2011