Photo Courtesy of Kelly Nagle (5th from right).
Kelly Nagle, who previously served as Director of Communications at Visit Baltimore since Sept. 2016, is now serving as Towson University’s primary point of contact for external media as the new Director of Media Relations and News.
Nagle also previously held media relations positions at Remline Corp., Santa Monica Travel & Tourism, ALE Solutions, Kumon North America, and Maryland Transportation Authority. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
So, starting at the beginning, tell us about yourself. What were you doing before Towson?
I grew up in the Baltimore area, I went to high school in Towson. I love this community. I went to Villanova University and received a communications degree with a PR concentration, and there I was very active with the Public Relations Student Society of America. That’s where I fell in love with PR….
Beyond travel, working in higher education was always a dream of mine. When I saw that Towson University had this open position I knew I had to go for it and put my hat in the ring because I really believe that Towson University is one of those institutions that is focused on creating diverse and inclusive environment, so to be part of that institution and help tell that story would just be a dream for me. Especially because my love for learning really started here in this community.
I’ve always wanted to be a part of something greater than myself. I think that’s been a common thread in all of my professional positions that I’ve held. I want to be part of something greater than me, and that is helping the greater good. I really believe that Towson University is one of those institutions that is doing that.
You’ve brought us all the way to your new position as the Director of Media Relations and News. What do you do in this role?
A big part of my job is to help shine a light on all the great things that are happening at this university every single day. For instance, earlier this week our team worked on a segment with Jamie Costello of ABC2 News. He has a segment called “2 Good 2 Be True” that really focuses on something too good to be true.
One of our female volleyball players, Payton Windell, suffered a season-ending injury in early September and got one more special moment at SECU Arena where she delivered a service ace. She wasn’t supposed to play and coach put her in and she delivered a service ace that closed out the game. She had family in town watching her so we brought that story to life and it ended up being a part of that segment.
Jamie Costello came and interviewed her and we collaborated with the athletics PR team to bring that to fruition. It’s really about finding those unique stories that strengthen Towson University’s brand. Our primary mission at Towson University is to support and serve our students and make their degrees more valuable by raising the profile and reputation of Towson university. It’s a really exciting time for Towson so we want to really maximize the opportunities and build on that moment right now.
That segues into my next question, what is the biggest opportunity you see in this role and the biggest challenge?
I think the biggest opportunity here is changing the narrative for Towson and showing all of the opportunities Towson brings to their students. I think the challenge is Towson University is such a huge university with many different colleges and departments, and so it is important to us — while we are telling this new narrative for Towson — to make sure our messaging is consistent throughout the colleges and the University, and that it’s authentic to how the students feel about the university.
A brand identity is only as authentic as the clients or patrons or the locals or the students who are actually living and breathing that brand. Our challenge is making sure that the messaging is consistent throughout so the entire University can maximize these opportunities. For me, I want to really help the University partners to see what those newsworthy opportunities are. To show them what is newsworthy and maximize that not only from a local standpoint but from a national standpoint as well. Helping to really leverage that.
It’s really two sides of the same coin. It’s such an opportunity to change the narrative but it’s a challenge to keep that consistent and make sure that it is authentic; those really feed into each other.
I think the most important part, like I said earlier, is that at the end of the day it’s really about the students for us. We want to make sure the brand and the stories that are being told resonate with the students. It’s fine if they resonate with outside audiences but the more important part is that those stories help to build a sense of pride and unity within our own university campus and student body.
That’s so important because as a student I don’t consciously think about the media message or am I seeing Towson represented off-campus, so that’s an interesting dynamic that I’ve never really thought about.
Yeah, so last night I actually sat on the fall panel for the PRSSA [Towson’s Public Relations Student Society of America], which was an opportunity to speak with students and hear their passion for Towson: what Towson means for them, the opportunities it has brought to them, that’s what it’s all about. I’m really excited to immerse myself in this community and meet the deans, the professors, the students that are making these stories come to life. I want to leverage these stories by pushing them out to a bigger and wider audience.
Is there anything you want people to know about your role, what you do, or what the communications office does?
At the end of the day, we’re storytellers. We want to not only share the positive things going on in this campus externally but also internally. We have a great website, we are active on social media, we have a newsroom that shares stories about what’s going on campus every day. For us, feedback and ideas are huge.
First of all, if there is ever a story idea that a student has, send me an email. I have an open door. I am a quick phone call away. I am looking forward to meeting students and hearing their ideas for what they feel are the best and most positive stories and how Towson has impacted their lives. If there is any way could be getting that information out better or communicating, we want to hear from students and hear those ideas.
My role is really to ensure that we are securing earned media outside of the University but also that we are telling those stories in an efficient and effective way internally which ultimately will build that sense of pride and community within our university. We are open to ideas and accessible.
In addition to that in my role, I have had so many mentors along that way that have made my career. I definitely want to serve as that mentor to students. That’s why I served on the [PRSSA] panel last night. I want to help bring my professional experience and perspective and help serve as a mentor to students. Certainly, there are so many resources beyond the obvious at this university, so I think that knowing that we have an open door policy and want to work with students is a message I want to emphasize.
With any new position there is a big learning curve. With any role I have ever had I really immerse myself in the community, in the brand. That’s how I am able to bring those stories together and connect the dots. I think as far as the team too, we have a new brand identity that we are really trying to bring to life.
I talked a lot about my passion for Baltimore. Like you said, my life has come full circle and I have been able experience PR out on the west coast and bring it back to Baltimore. What really excites me about Towson University is how much it is giving back to the community. There are so many programs that professors are leading that are helping to build the greater Baltimore region. Towson’s BTU [Baltimore-Towson University Initiative] program is something that I am really excited to tell that story. Coming from Visit Baltimore and seeing the opportunities and challenges this city face, it’s really exciting to see a university that is fostering socially conscious students that want to give back to the community. That’s something that I am really excited about and is one of the reasons Towson University is the school I want to work for.
– Compiled by Amanda Carroll