Amanda Vela, M.A. in Public Relations ’13, spends her days creating social media content, press releases, multimedia narratives, fact sheets, public information materials, communications plans, and more for the Town of Zionsville, a suburb of Indianapolis with approximately 30,000 residents. As the Director of Communications and Community Relations and the Public Information Officer, she is tasked with communicating the town’s strategic plan, vision and objectives to constituents and stakeholders, among many other tasks.
Before joining Zionsville in 2016, Vela worked as a communications manager for Downtown Indy, Inc., and a freelance literary publicist for Bohlsen GroupWe asked Vela more about her current job:
1. What do you enjoy most about working for the Town of Zionsville?
“In my role, I work for the mayor and for all Town of Zionsville departments – the parks department, police department, fire department, economic development department and others. I love that my job is different every day. In one day, I could be participating in an ice rescue training with the Zionsville Fire Department and also scripting and staging a video shoot for the Mayor’s State of the Town.
I also “geek out” learning the ins-and-outs of government – government policies, strategic planning and the coordination behind local operations. I enjoy learning from our team members how a sewer construction project works, how potholes form, how a façade grant can serve our business community or how waste gets treated in our wastewater plant, and then breaking down that information to make it more digestible, interesting and informative to citizens. We have incredibly dedicated leaders at the local level and I learn from them every day.”
2. Have you had many struggles or challenges at your job? If so, how have you dealt with them?
“In working in communications for a government municipality, I aim to build trust with our constituents. In doing so, I work hard to ensure everything I write or share is verified and accurate. In a way, a government entity is held to higher standards than other industries to be accountable to truthful, transparent and accurate information. This can certainly be a challenge in daily communications as well as longer-term communication planning. During the pandemic, we were looked upon as a local resource for our residents for vital public health information. Every word I write can be scrutinized and have different meanings to different people. I always aim to be careful and strategic (read, read and read again) with the information I write and share.”
3. What did you appreciate most about your experience as an M.A. student at IUPUI?
“I worked on PR and communications plans with local organizations and this was extremely beneficial in gaining ‘real world’ experience. I remember working with IndyHumane on a plan and a video and that was a great experience for both myself and the organization. I also appreciated the professors who were extremely knowledgeable and experienced in their field.”
4. How has your graduate degree helped you with your career?
“It helped land me my first full-time (not freelance) job in the industry, which was the communication manager for Downtown Indy, Inc. I am thankful for the entire experience and the impact it has had on my career.”
5. What advice do you have for current public relations students? Similarly, do you have any advice for young professionals who are just starting out in the field?
“I would tell current PR students to find the industry that fits you and that you are excited about. It took me a few different experiences in different industries to figure out what I wanted (and mostly what I didn’t want) in a job. Some will enjoy the agency life and others will not. Internships can help with experiencing different businesses and types of work.
For young professionals who are just starting in the field, keep up to date with webinars, courses and continuing education experiences that will help hone your skills. The PR and communications industry continues to evolve and change rapidly, especially from a technology and social media perspective. There are many free or low-cost resources available.”