By Ashlynn Webb
FPRA Member Since 2016
The past year has been a wild roller coaster full of twists, turns and loops going more than 50 m.p.h. and it gave me a lot of challenges to face – from getting laid off from my #DreamJob to working two jobs to finding a great new job in an adorable town. But, even though it’s a chapter in my life I’ll never forget, I wouldn’t have gotten through it without my very close friends and FPRA family.
Before I tell you about that, I first need to tell you a bit about my FPRA story and how much this organization has given me since 2014.
My FPRA journey started as a student member in Quotes, the PR Club at UCF. The networking and opportunities I received as a student member were invaluable, which included touring local agencies with the best teachers, meeting phenomenal PR professionals, and listening to professionals speak at conferences.
I knew I wanted to work at Universal Orlando Resort when I graduated high school, but I was going to need to network with the right people and have good experience under my belt. I went out and did just that.
I attended Intern Pursuit, networked with the professionals and landed an internship with Orange County Animal Services (OCAS). I was there for over eight months and I gained so much experience. I pitched local media, wrote press releases, drafted social copy, dabbled in photography, visited news stations, and even did radio and TV interviews on behalf of OCAS to feature adoptable animals.
As for networking, I was one of the lucky students who got the opportunity to hear Alyson Lundell, APR, CRPC talk about the opening of TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and more in 2015 as part of a student field trip attached to the annual conference. I was giddy and smiling the entire time – just ask my friends. When it was over, I made sure to ask for a business card and connected with her on LinkedIn.
A couple of years later, she came to Lindsay Hudock’s PR Case Studies class with Tom Schroder, VP of Corporate Communications for Universal Parks & Resorts, to talk about the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. I was over the moon and made sure to speak to them after class (even if only for a second). I interacted with Alyson on social media afterwards and stayed up to date with everything going on at Universal, which was so easy because I was at the parks all the time and a huge fan.
After I graduated college, Alyson saw I posted a #TBT photo (the very same photo featured above) and saw it was my dream job. She reached out and let me know they had an entry-level position that was open. So, as they say, the rest is history.
I spent three wonderful, awestruck years at Universal working on Halloween Horror Nights, Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle and so much more. When the pandemic started, Universal was hit hard and leadership had to make some really, really tough decisions to keep the business moving forward. I was unfortunately laid off from a job I enjoyed so much – even if it was very stressful and hectic at times.
When my layoff happened, I looked to my FPRA friends and family to see if they knew about any open positions so I could stay in Orlando. They sent me so many opportunities and I’m forever grateful for all of their help. Their support ended up helping me land a new full-time position with the Town of Oakland. It’s only been a couple of months since I started, but it’s a wonderful position in a beautiful town.
The best part? My boss, Elisha Pappacoda, is currently the FPRA Lake Chapter President who I heard marvelous things about before I even interviewed. She even told me after accepting that one of the many reasons I received the position was because of my involvement in FPRA because it set me apart from all of the other candidates.
But that’s not all FPRA has given to me. I’ve gotten the opportunity to serve on the FPRA Orlando Area Board for a little over three years now with some highly-respected, award-winning professionals. I’ve learned so many new skills from LeadershipFPRA and the countless monthly board meetings.
Even though the past year was a frantic chapter of my life, my story has only just begun. I cannot wait to see what is in the next chapter for myself professionally and personally alongside my FPRA family.