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