An interview with…
There's one big regret and one amusing irony to Stu Opperman's education.
“I wish I would’ve tried harder in my high school and college Spanish classes,” says the graduate of South Broward High School and the University of Florida. “Being bilingual would be a huge asset to me now.”
While at UF, Opperman was obsessed with sports reporting and majored in broadcasting. “They've since gotten fancy and now call it telecommunications,” he says. “Interestingly, although public relations was part of the same School of Communications and its classes are in the same building, I had no awareness of it or what its students were learning. I was strictly focused on news and sports reporting.”
From 1988 to 1993, Opperman worked at WQAM – at the time, the only all-sports station in South Florida. He started as executive producer of various talk shows and then the Miami Heat broadcasting network. He was the station’s program director for a couple of years, and then worked on nationally syndicated sports shows.
But as he got older, the nomadic life of radio professionals – who are hired and fired with alarming regularity – convinced him to make a change.
What exactly does a program director do at WQAM?
I was responsible for the on-air programming, managing the air talent and support staff, and interfacing with the rest of the station’s staff – sales, production, promotions, etc.
What does a VP at a marketing company do?
At Ambit, it means creating and implementing communications strategies, being the point person for our clients and the press, representing the firm in the community, helping to generate new business, and being the “right hand” of Kathy Koch and Stan Brown, the firm’s senior leadership.
Biggest difference between working in radio and PR?
In radio, there’s an immediacy to almost all that you do, with most of the effort focused on what will air that day. In PR, the cycle is much longer, with today’s work possibly having the desired result months later.
Why did you decide to leave radio for PR?
I didn’t want to have to explain to my wife or future children that I lost my job because an out-of-town consultant decided an automated, all-polka format would be more profitable than the one I was working in.
Best and worst part of working in radio?
Best: Having access to interesting and talented people and creating compelling programming that’s heard by a large audience. Worst: Knowing that hard work and daily accomplishments don’t necessarily equal career advancement or job security.
Most frustrating part of your job now?
Wondering whether the lack of response from a media contact means they didn’t like the idea or just never received the email that I sent – due to overzealous spam filters, technical glitches, etc.
Funnest part of your job now?
Working with clients and media that respect my talents and value my expertise.
It hasn’t happened yet.
Amusing professional gaffe?
I once sent a memo to a client that included the typo “pubic relations.” Who would have thought one little “l” could make such a difference?
Weird dues-paying story?
Early on, I was talked into having a press conference by a client who thought it would bring them additional coverage. I knew the press conference wasn’t newsworthy, but I went ahead with it anyway, not wanting to seem uncooperative.
Needless to say, no one from the press showed up. The lesson I learned that day was to trust your instincts and understand that clients need PR practitioners to lead their marketing and communications, not the other way around.
One piece of advice you wish you could surgically implant into college students and young professionals?
Be prepared, be creative, and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts.