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Alison Gaulden: Vice President of Public Affairs and Communication for Planned Parenthood

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As vice president of public affairs and communication for Planned Parenthood, Alison Gaulden is more than enthusiastic about her work.

“Where else can I passionately discuss sex, religion, and politics, get paid for it, and change policy to help women?” Gaulden asked.

In her position at Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to advocating and providing services for reproductive and sexual health, Gaulden considers herself to be a “reproductive freedom fighter.”

“I oversee the strategy for the public policy influence, grassroots advocacy, media relations, volunteer development, and election plan deployment,” she explained.

Another aspect of her job involves lobbying and performing legislative work for Planned Parenthood. This entails researching state and local policies that deal with women’s reproductive issues.

“We then determine whether it needs to be legislative [or] regulatory, target the audiences, which are elected officials, clients, and voter constituents, and the media with the message,” Gaulden said.

After changing her major several times-and which college she wanted to attend four times-Gaulden finally decided on a career in public relations.

“At my alma mater, University of Nevada, Reno, I realized PR would encompass my love of words, need for performance (both dramatically and competitively), and a talent for relating to people,” Gaulden explained.

Gaulden obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism and later received an MBA in Marketing from the University of Phoenix.

Prior to her current employment with Planned Parenthood, Gaulden worked as a retail manager for a department store, a supervisor for a nonprofit organization, and a fundraising officer for the YMCA corporate office. She feels that her prior experience has helped her with her work for Planned Parenthood.

“For the last nine years, my role at Planned Parenthood has incorporated all my previous experience and the added work of government relations and public affairs,” said Gaulden.

Additionally, Gaulden teaches public relations courses at her alma mater, the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is also the advisor for the university’s PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) chapter, in which capacity she helps students “become board members and strategic planners in the field of PR.” She has been named “Advisor of the Year” by the school for the past two years.

Gaulden has also received the Mark Curtis Senior Award for her work with the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Q. What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
A. I’m a competitive ballroom dancer. I make so many decisions [in my work that] it’s nice to just follow. [I also enjoy] landscaping. In my work, even with a “win,” the battle is never over; in landscaping, there’s a process and final product to admire and enjoy.

Q. Who is your role model?
A. My mother, for strength; my former professor, Jim Ellis, for understanding how to hand off the torch to the next generation; and my friend and former boss, Ed, for making me laugh.

Q. What songs are on your iPod right now?
A. I’m not hip enough for an iPod-I don’t like things in my ears. But I love “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol.

Q. What was the last magazine that you read?
A. Glamour and Mother Jones. Don’t you just love the juxtaposition?

Q. What’s your favorite quote?
A. I have two: “Life has taught me: We must put our convictions into action” (Margaret Sanger, founder of the birth control movement and Planned Parenthood) and “Be who you are. Those that mind don’t matter; those that matter don’t mind” (Dr. Seuss).

To students or professionals hoping to become successful in the public relations industry, Gaulden suggested strengthening one’s writing and grammar skills.

“I once told a journalism student who wanted to do sports writing that an athlete can’t come to the game with the wrong equipment and be a legend; neither can journalists come to the story without language,” Gaulden said. “Strategic thinking, planning, and implementation skills and flexibility are also critical. Again, that sense of humor makes it more interesting.”
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