As chief communications officer for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, Michelle Egan directs internal and external communications for the company charged with operating the TransAlaska Pipeline System. Reporting to the president, she is responsible for all aspects of formal company stakeholder, media and government relations, crisis communication and philanthropy.
In addition to being CCO, Egan is the 2023 PRSA chair, where she has volunteered with the organization for more than two decades and has served as treasurer.
With more than three decades of experience, Egan has been at the forefront of organizations navigating business, societal issues and more. That great responsibility is part of what excites Egan about the future of communications.
We caught up with Egan to get her take on the future of the communications industry.
What book, podcast or other media do you recommend to other comms pros?
Egan:The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis by Helio Fred Garcia is great as an audiobook.
The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James Kouzes and Barry Posner is a must for leaders at every level.
75 Years of Impact and Influence: People, Places and Moments in Public Relations History is an inspiring tribute to communicators behind significant societal shifts. Its publication marked the 75th anniversary of PRSA.
What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for work?
Microsoft Teams and Zoom have become essential to my job as a chief communications officer and to my role at PRSA. Both break down geographic barriers so I can connect and collaborate with colleagues across the U.S. and in other parts of the world.
What communications challenge keeps you up at night?
Breaking through all the information clutter is a real challenge for me personally and professionally. I worry about living in a polarized society where people are getting news and information from sources that just reinforce their worldview. Mis and disinformation flourish in that environment, making it more and more difficult for clear, accurate messages to break through; AI will only exacerbate that.
I sleep better knowing that an army of smart, ethical communications professionals share my concern and are working for solutions. We are in universities, board rooms, nonprofits, community organizations and all levels of government and we are a powerful influence.
What excites you most about the future of communications?
Over the past few years communications professionals demonstrated our value by helping organizations navigate business and societal issues and stakeholder expectations. Being at the center of strategy and problem-solving is exciting. It’s a huge responsibility and an opportunity to really impact outcomes.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Early in my career, I was “at the table” with leaders with far more experience and technical knowledge. It was intimidating and I had to find my voice, making sure my values and perspectives had an impact. In one case, I had to speak up to shut down unethical conduct. I’ve been at lots of different “tables” over the years and those early experiences really shaped my approach.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Always put people first. It’s the theme of every great leader I’ve known.
Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.
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