Advancing the Profession and the Professional

Meet the Board Members: David Vossbrink

PRSA SV membership represents dynamic leadership at every level. In our new Web series, ‘Meet the Board” we will feature a new Board Member and creative collaborator who is leveraging and lending their skills to help transform our Chapter. The board members featured in this new Web series possess inspiring talents and come from diverse backgrounds. Please take a few moments to get to know the distinguished talent who serve PRSA SV as they share their personal stories and anecdotes about their experiences in the field and how they are endeavoring to make lasting imprints on the communications profession and within the PR community.


David Vossbrink, Director, Communications, City of San Jose
Past President, PRSA Silicon Valley 2011

How did you get your start in the PR profession?

After college graduation with a degree in history, I began as a community organizer on the wrong side of town in South Florida. I later discovered that I was doing PR for poor people, helping them get noticed by news media and heard by local officials to deal with basic quality-of-life issues in their communities. This led directly to a long career handling public information for local governments in the Bay Area, since municipal agencies both have the greatest impact on people’s lives and are the most accessible to achieve change.

Who/what has influenced you professionally?

Forty years ago my first boss and PR colleagues at East Bay MUD in Oakland taught me the basic framework and principles for effective PR, and over the years I’ve had the privilege to work with a series of strong professionals and leaders, including many through my participation in PRSA. Since American democracy derives from the consent of the governed, I can claim Thomas Jefferson as an influence as well. After all, true public consent depends on accurate, timely, and relevant public information; this has informed my career.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader in PR?

Making judgment calls on priorities, messages, resources, and time when advising senior management and program staff about communications strategy and tactics; when to make another run at reluctant managers and experts when they’re resisting doing the right thing; determining when to insert or delete commas and hyphens.

What skill do you most value in a PR professional?

Finding, developing and telling a story; writing, writing, writing.

What quality do the best PR professionals possess?

Honesty and integrity, of course. Broad-ranging curiosity, ability to learn quickly, and skill at seeing patterns. Willingness to ask tough questions and tell truth to power. Calm resilience and a sense of humor.

Where do great ideas come from in PR?

Everywhere. From Homer, Thucydides, and Shakespeare. Poetry on subway walls and tenement halls. From travel. From pulling weeds or hiking up the mountain. From three-year children asking why, and high school kids saying why not. From listening to people restaurants and airplanes. From listening, period.

What’s the greatest story you’ve told?

Once upon a time a group of people came together to improve their mutual quality of life by agreeing to contribute a share of their time and money to pay for services that none were able or could afford to do alone. This became a great “public thing” that provided a civilization with clean water, safe streets, and rooms full of books for all, and all had a right and responsibility to say on how to make everything work better.

About David Vossbrink

dvossbrink_photo1David Vossbrink is Director of Communications for the City of San Jose, where he oversees public information, media relations, and strategic communications services for the nation’s tenth largest city. He previously served as communications director for Mineta San José International Airport and as press secretary for former San José Mayor Ron Gonzales. David has worked in the field of local government communications for nearly four decades, including East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland and the City of Sunnyvale. He began his career as a volunteer community organizer with VISTA in South Florida working to improve living conditions for residents of poverty neighborhoods. Throughout his career, David has managed strategic communications planning, crisis communications, public policy development, community relations and media relations to build public trust, institutional transparency, and civic engagement for local government. He has served as president and treasurer of PRSA Silicon Valley, and coordinates the chapter’s professional accreditation program. He is a life member of the California Association of Public Information Officials, and in 2002 he received the Paul B. Clark Award from CAPIO in recognition of his career contributions to the public communications profession.


Twitter: @dvossbrink


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