Member Spotlight: Bill Brewer

For nearly 30 years, Bill Brewer, senior vice president of public relations at ZLRIGNITION, has made his name in the public relations scene within Des Moines. His journey began back at the University of Missouri when he was studying journalism.

Life has a funny way of taking us down the road of the unexpected.

From someone who dreamed of being in the news industry, even a play-by-play announcer for the Chicago Cubs at one point—life took Bill on an unexpected journey. Bill ended up switching his profession to a completely different side of the media industry—public relations.

Bill Brewer spoke with Ashley Dalsing, co-chair of the Central Iowa PRSA newsletter about his career in public relations and what he plans to do after retirement.

Tell us about your college experience?

I attended the University of Missouri (Mizzou), Columbia School of Journalism and majored in broadcast journalism. After my junior year at Mizzou, I had the privilege of interning at WHO Radio and TV. This internship actually evolved into a full-time job, so I ended up completing my education at Iowa State University and earned my Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication.

Could you tell me what your career path looked like from graduating college to now?

After working at WHO, I was offered a news director position at a small radio station in Nashville and worked there for four years, before returning to WHO as the managing editor. After that, I went to work for United Press International as the Des Moines Bureau Chief where I served as the chief Midwest political editor and covered national political conventions.

In 1988, I moved into public relations as a communication director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture, then to the agency business at CMF&Z. And since 2001, I’ve worked at ZLRIGNITION where I am currently the senior vice president of public relations. 

Wow! What a depth of knowledge and experience in this industry you have! What does your job entail?

I play a lead role planning and executing public relations strategies for clients in home shelter and health care.




Could you tell me about your childhood dream—and did you imagine doing what you are now today?

My dream was to become the play-by-play voice for the Chicago Cubs. However, I realized early on that ‘back in the day’ there were only 20 baseball play-by-play jobs in the entire country.

By the time I got to high school, during the Watergate era, I was bitten by the “news bug,” which led to my broadcast, wire service and eventually, my public relations career.

I would never of imagined being in public relations, but I thought it would be a smart career decision when the United Press International went bankrupt.

What do you love about the public relations industry?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with many outstanding professionals. I’ll mention two in particular: Carol Bodensteiner who has been a great mentor and helped me grow from tactician to strategist. She also persuaded me to join PRSA. And, Louie Laurent who has the best strategic mind of anyone I’ve ever met.

What do you plan to do post retirement?

I will continue to play golf—usually badly (he laughs), and spending time with my grown kids and grandchildren.

Additionally, I plan to stay active in Central Iowa PRSA and occasional public relations consulting work.

For all the aspiring public relations pros and current professionals practicing in the industry, what is a piece of advice you would like to leave them with?

When I worked for United Press International, I learned that no matter how great a story I wrote, the first thing that would happen is a subscribing newspaper would delete my byline. I took that lesson into my PR career. I leave my ego at the door, because my success is absolutely secondary to the success of the organization or client I am working for.

Please join us in congratulating Bill Brewer on his retirement within the public relations industry. He will continue to be active in the Des Moines public relations community. Please leave a comment to congratulate Bill on his future endeavors. 

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