Meaningful time: A week with alumna Julie Dixon, Barry Saunders Visiting Professional

Public relations executive Julie “Jules” Dixon ‘91 gave UNC Hussman students valuable insight into the communications field with a week in residence as a Barry Saunders Visiting Professional in November. The program, which was established in 2018 by an anonymous donor to honor the longtime former News & Observer columnist, brings top professionals in residence at UNC Hussman to connect and interact with students, sharing diverse perspectives from industry.

Through lectures, class visits and informal gatherings, Dixon, an NC Media & Journalism Hall of Fame publicist and a senior communications strategist, shared insights gleaned from over 28 years of top-tier expertise in crisis communications, social media relations, sports marketing, integrated marketing, entertainment, corporate communications, internal communications and diversity/inclusion recruitment.

“The halls of our UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media have always been a magical place for me,” Dixon said.  “I am honored to have been selected for the coveted residency ... and my ultimate goal for my time on campus was to connect with as many students as possible in our Hussman school — guiding them, showing them the ropes of our exciting industry and debunking any misconceptions they could have about our field. “

Hussman students were thrilled to hear on-the-ground stories from the PR frontlines — from Beyonce’s Washington, D.C. press junket for McDonald’s and the Ronald McDonald House, to managing brands after national disasters.

“Julie Dixon represents a tremendous alumna success story for our school, and she is a model for our students on how to build an influential career in strategic communication,” said Susan King, dean of UNC Hussman. “The Saunders Visiting Professionals program makes it possible for executives to spend meaningful time with Hussman students in residence at the school, while giving students direct access to professionals at the top levels of the industry.”

Dixon gave three standout lectures on public relations and communication in which she left the students with firm takeaways for their careers. For example, Dixon provided the “ABC’s of crisis relations” — which she called the hallmark of her path to success. She told the audience that crisis responses could make or break their careers and advised, “Stay calm. Stay focused on the truth. Be relentless about protecting your client’s brand.”

“She told impactful stories from her years in the industry,” said graduate student Betsy Mann, who appreciated that Dixon provided “take-aways such as better relations with the media and how to emotionally prepare oneself in a crisis communication scenario.”

Dixon’s lectures also focused on the value of diversity in public relations. She noted the concrete pitfalls that come from a lack of broad perspectives — pointing out that many companies could avoid significant mistakes if they incorporated diverse voices early in their branding processes.

Dixon, who is a new member of the UNC Hussman Board of Advisers, is a perfect example of the deep expertise the school can draw on to provide powerful role models as Hussman students prepare to take their first steps into the professional world.

She said, “It was all about my students and teaching them as much as I could, and it was beyond magical to be with them. I will never forget it. All of my career, I have walked my walk with Maya Angelou’s beautiful words as my mantra — ‘When you learn … teach.’"

To hear more from Julie Dixon, including insights into her career, don’t miss her chat with Dean Susan King on the Start Here / Never Stop podcast.