Questions & Answers

Marissa Verson Harrison

Marissa Verson Harrison

Marissa Verson Harrison

Marissa Verson Harrison, founding principal of San Francisco’s

InterActive Public Relations, claims to have a skeleton or two in her

closet, among them a stint skating to the mellow tones of Barry Manilow.

Since our skeletons are considerably worse, we’ll withhold comment for


What is your role at the agency? I shake things up around the office,

making sure my teams are mentored, challenged and enthusiastic about

their work.

Tell us something interesting about it. One woman is a volunteer foster

parent for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, so we

often have little kittens running around the office. It’s a stress

reliever and it’s great community service.

What was your most embarrassing moment? While demonstrating to a new

employee how to pitch the business press, I had her listen in as I

smugly pitched a high-level editor. I closed the pitch with ’this really

is a Wall Street Journal story.’ The editor, from The New York Times,

promptly responded, ’Great, why don’t you call them,’ then hung up.

How did you get where you are today? Reading voraciously, asking lots of

questions and listening to the answers. Acting more confident than I

feel. Knowing how to learn on the fly.

What would you do if you didn’t do what you do? I would be a saleswoman

or a lawyer. Essentially the same things I do now, just different


What would you like to change about the PR industry? The perception that

PR is all about ’smile-and-dial.’ Also, I’d like to find a way for

journalists and the PR community to walk in the other’s shoes and gain

respect for each other’s work.

Who will be the PR industry’s next big hero and why? Who was the last

big hero?

Who do you most look like? On a good day, Marisa Tomei. On a bad day,

Monica Lewinsky.

What is your favorite sport? Skiing. It’s invigorating, social and

challenging all at the same time. And the apres ski isn’t bad


What is the best invention of all time? The phone. I am from a family of

four girls.

What is your best and/or worst habit? Correcting people’s English when

they say ’good’ instead of ’well.’ I think this qualifies for both best

and worst.

Name one thing about your past that people would be surprised to


I was an ice skater. During my last performance, I skated to Barry

Manilow’s ’I Can’t Live Without You.’

What is the secret of your success? ’No’ doesn’t mean no. It just means

’not now.’

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