On Monday, Oct. 22, ETSU’s Entrepreneurs’ Club hosted guest speaker Mary Ellen “Mel” Miller of the Tennessee Valley Authority to speak about public relations and how to implement the R-PIE process in everyday life.

Mary Ellen Miller
(Contributed / TVA)

Miller, who is a public relations contractor for Tennessee Valley Authority, works on communications strategy and tactics for the Boone Dam project and is one of only 2 percent of media professionals with an APR-accreditation. She spoke to a room of about 20 people, giving public relations tips, discussing the R-PIE (research, planning, implementation and evaluation) process of public relations.

Miller graduated from ETSU with a Master of Business Administration in 2000 and was a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Club while she was at ETSU, giving her a unique ability to relate her work to the projects club members were working on.

“I’m a proud ETSU-alum, she said. “I love the university, and if I can help the university by preparing a small talk and hopefully inspiring an entrepreneur here to go on to success and to be able to share with them some tips tonight and see hopefully that they can use those tips in their business adventures, [then I will].”

She also drew on her experience working on the Boone Dam Project to give examples of how these concepts play out every day. She discussed how the TVA managed the PR fallout after the Boone Dam’s seepage issues, as well as how the TVA measures good, bad and neutral media coverage regarding the projects.

“When we started in July of 2015, we knew this would be a five to seven year project, and we know it’s going to be seven and done by July of 2022, but through all that time you’re working to gain trust,” Miller said in her speech.

The talk drew people from not only Entrepreneurs’ Club, but also those currently working in PR. Former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden also attended.

Miller discussed her path to gaining her accreditation in public relations, detailing the process and her own experience in the journey in hopes of inspiring others to pursue their own APR-accreditation.

”Once you put in your application, it’s a one-year timer that starts ticking and you have to have it completed in one-year. It’s essentially like a master’s in public relations.” she said.

She continued to talk about her struggles and how she overcame an early failure in the process, as well as a serious shoulder injury to eventually gain her accreditation.

“I think one thing to emphasize is that Dr. Czuchry [ of the Department of Management and Marketing faculty] always talked about being a lifelong learner, so even though I’m 18-years out of MBA School, I just got my accreditation this year,” Miller said.