Interview with Shonali Burke

A few months ago, I participated in the Social PR webinar that Shonali Burke offered. It was free, and afterward, you could sign up for a more in-depth program with her. I was really impressed with what she offered, and wanted to learn more about her.

Shonali Burke

Photo credit: Cade Martin Photography

I discovered she loves ABBA and Elvis, and is a really good knitter. She also has a presentation style that is low-key so you don’t feel intimidated asking questions. The result is that you learn.

Shonali does have one advantage over most speakers because she is a former actress; however, for those who may fear public speaking, she notes that the benefits of public speaking far outweigh any drawbacks.

“I love getting up on a stage and ‘performing,’ as it were; the best speakers are great performers,” she says. “l Iove interacting with the audience and knowing I’m helping them in some way; that’s a huge high.”

The challenge of public speaking is being on top of your game. Shonali says she never assumes that she will “wow” an audience. “That would be a surefire recipe for disaster,” she says.

“Regardless of how small or big the event, or audience, is, I always rehearse and bring my A-game.”

Shonali brings her A-game as an adjunct at John Hopkins University’s M.A. in Communications program. She teaches nonprofits in the digital age and PR writing. One area she emphasizes is the importance of measuring efforts.

“You have to know what you’re working toward, i.e. begin at the end. You have to have specific goals and objectives in mind, otherwise how will you know whether or not you’re getting closer to them?” she asks. “A lot of PR measurement still focuses on outputs; we really need to be focusing, as a body, much, much more on outcomes.”

As I said, I “met” Shonali by participating in a free three-day webinar that she offered. She shares why she sometimes offers free courses. “I’ve learned a lot from wonderful, super-smart people who have shared their knowledge without charging me. I’ve tried to respect that, and not take advantage of it, and feel I should do that, too.”

“It’s my way of paying it forward.”

In addition to paying it forward, Shonali says that offering free webinars and contributing on Twitter and blogs enables her to demonstrate her value. “Why should you give your hard-earned money to someone who has not yet demonstrated their value?” she asks.

“If we provide incredible value for free, then when we have paid offerings, people are far more likely to buy.”

Whether you choose to follow Shonali on Twitter (@Shonali) or on her website ( or you pay for one of her courses, you can be sure you will receive incredible value.