Media Relations Executive Started in TV News
Journalism | May 13, 2010
It’s an image Robert Thompson will never forget. Children separated from their parents, refugees with only the clothes on their backs, many without shoes. This wasn’t a foreign country, but downtown Denver. As the communications director for the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter, Thompson knew just hours after Hurricane Katrina hit, his life and the lives of hurricane victims relocated to Denver would never be the same again.
Thompson is a 1986 CSU graduate who majored in Speech Communication, but also completed courses in the JTC Department’s television concentration. His road to the American Red Cross and now Mile High United Way of Denver actually began with covering the news instead of being on the helping end of the story. Thompson’s first job landed him at a television station in Laredo, Texas, where his primary job was as a weatherman, but in a small market he also was a reporter and anchor. “Coming out of CSU, we knew how to do it all”, said Thompson. “It was valuable experience I quickly had to put to use.”
After climbing to bigger television markets, including stops in Alexandria and Shreveport Louisiana, Columbus, Ohio and San Francisco, Thompson finally found himself back home as part of the launch of FOX 31 news in Denver. “As great as it was to be back in Denver I was growing weary of the television grind and knew I needed something different that offered a balance in life.”
That something different was a transition from television to public relations, where Thompson became the communications director for the American Red Cross. “It was the perfect transition from television news because I still dealt with breaking stories, but was on the other side of the microphone,” said Thompson. “I still believe the best public relations practitioners are those who know what the media want.”
After more than four years with the American Red Cross, Thompson recently became media relations director for Mile High United Way of Denver. He recently helped launched the agency’s annual fund raising campaign, an especially hard challenge during the economic downturn. “Colorado has the most nonprofits per capita than any other state, but that means many of us are competing for the same dollars. It’s especially hard because we see more people than ever needing our services. Many people don’t realize that even the smallest donations, five dollars, can make a huge difference.”
Thompson volunteers his own time on call with the American Red Cross meaning he can be dispatched within four hours to a disaster and act as a spokesperson. His giving doesn’t end there though. He and his partner are actively building a school in impoverished Ojo Caliente, Zacatecas, Mexico. “I am fortunate that in my job and life, I’m able to practice what I preach. It’s all about giving,” And it all started in those hours after Hurricane Katrina.
-Sarah Pooler, JTC Instructor and JTC class of ‘86