Experts predicted that a pioneering technology would revolutionize how people consumed news, sports and entertainment. But it would also drastically disrupt the status quo, riling entrenched power players and challenging ingrained consumer habits.
So, its success depended on an effective marketing strategy, executed by a team of creative young innovators fluent in the latest communication techniques.
Michelle Abaldo played an essential role in the effort. The technology? Cable TV.
“It was a lot of fun,” she recalls. “It was all young people working in new media. It would have been comparable to say, working at Facebook now.”
Abaldo enjoyed a ringside seat for the emergence of many cultural milestones during the course of her accomplished career in media, marketing and public relations. Now, the 66-year-old Vero Beach resident and director of institutional advancement at Indian River State College is retiring 28 years—to the day—after she started.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey. My dad was a history professor there for 30 years. I started my career in cable TV, working for the largest cable system in the New York City area in public relations. We worked with all the new cable program providers that were coming out at the time, like MTV, HBO and ESPN. This was the late ’70s, early ’80s, and they were all trying to get started. I met my husband, Stephen, working at the company. We have a grown daughter named Lisa. She’s a hotel manager.
How did you come to the Treasure Coast?
We moved to Vero Beach, and I worked at an ad agency for a couple years, then I started at the college.
What stands out as a significant change you’ve seen working in the public relations industry?
We used to mail news releases out. Can you imagine how long that would take? Now we email them and people get them instantly. The time component has really changed. There’s much more of an emphasis on visuals.
What changes have you experienced throughout the years working with reporters?
When we used to issue the college’s budget, 10 or 15 years ago, the reporter would call and say, ‘On page 45, we see that this payment was $5,000 less than last year’s budget. Please explain that.’ Now, if we send out a shorter synopsis, we would get one short question on the lead sentence in the email.
Have you seen a lot of changes in academia, too?
Certainly—distance learning. Most courses are what are called blended courses. If not online altogether, they have some kind of online component.
What do you think will always remain the same in academia?
The relationship between the professor and the student, because of that human element. The human connection is always the most meaningful to people. Data is a tool now because we have so much access to data, but we have a saying, ‘See the faces of your students in your data.’
What do you appreciate most about your experiences working for IRSC?
I really felt like I found a home with the college because it’s so committed to helping people and changing people’s lives. I always wanted to do something that means something to people and certainly the college does that.