Darryl E. Owens is a self-professed “recovering journalist”. Currently the Associate Vice President of Community and Engagement at Beacon College, Darryl worked for 25 years as a Florida-based journalist before joining Beacon in 2016 as the then Director of Communications.
“I think many of the skills that make one successful as a journalist translate to roles as communications professionals,” says Darryl in his interview for PR Profiles. “Foremost, the ability to write.” Darryl considers writing an undervalued skill and one students and future PR pros must master if they hope to stand out from “everybody else who has a PR degree on their resume.” Darryl also listed research and relationship building among his transferable skills.
Even with his solid foundation, Darryl experienced a learning curve when leaving behind the field of journalism and stepping into his first communications role. “I knew the contours of what needed to be done, and I think I had good instincts, but there was something of a learning curve from A to Z, if you will, of public relations practices and tactics.” To “backfill those holes”, Darryl joined the local chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association and competed in local and state PR contests.
The amalgamation of Darryl’s skills is apparent in his helming of the ongoing Beacon College project, “A World of Difference”, a Telly and Anthem award-winning TV show. Beacon College was the first accredited institution in the US to award degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities and ADHD. “The college was looking for a way to establish ourselves better as a thought leader in the learning disability space,” says Darryl. “I had this idea about creating a television show that would do just that by focusing, empowering, and supporting these neurodiverse families. After conducting some content analysis and some primary quantitative research, I learned that not only does television lack neurodivergent-focused programming that supports real-life families in their journeys, but these families hungered for such content.”
Everything pertaining to the development and launch of the show was done on a shoestring budget. “On LinkedIn, I found and recruited a former Orlando television news reporter who had left the business and she became the show’s lone correspondent,” says Darryl. “We contracted with the local public access television station, LakeFront TV, to film and air the show. I scripted episodes. I booked experts. I found families in Facebook learning disability groups, and I approached potential difference makers.”
Darryl started the project in April 2020. The show premiered later that year on August 2. Excitingly, on September 3, 2022, “A World of Difference” was made available nationally via the PBS website and the PBS app. “I’m stoked that the show will be able to reach more households than ever with expert advice and inspirational and aspirational storytelling,” says Darryl.
Having now been in the field of PR for over six years, Darryl can officially declare that a journalist making the switch to PR is not the same as “going to the dark side”. As Darryl says, “In the end, I think both journalists and public relations practitioners are trying to capture audiences with compelling stories.”