At the tender age of five, Niki Ianni was already a budding PR executive. Born a pet lover, she and a friend took to the streets of Woodbridge, Va., walking neighbors’ dogs for a modest fee. Seeking to grow their business, the pair created and distributed their own promotional fliers, which yielded a flurry of phone calls from families eager to send their family pet on a stroll. And while the “JenNik Dog Walking Business” didn’t last long, Ianni’s early ability to combine her passion for animals with a knack for promotion has led her to a post-college job with the Humane Society of the United States in Washington. The drive that was evident in her childhood has served Ianni particularly well as a strategic communication major in the School of Communications and Theater. She has made her mark as firm director of PRowl, Temple’s student-run public relations agency, which offers students real-world experience by providing low-fee services to area non-profit and small business clients. Ianni has led the firm to new heights, landing several high-profile clients and attaining a prestigious national affiliation with the Public Relations Student Society of America. And she’s done it while balancing multiple internships and attaining grades strong enough to put her at the top of her graduating class, with summa cum laude honors.
Temple Times: Why did you first choose Temple?
Niki Ianni: The second I walked onto Temple's campus I felt I was at home. I can't describe it other than just having that gut instinct and feeling that the people that you're around are going to be there for you the rest of your life. It just felt like I was surrounded by family. And its proven to be exactly as I thought.
TT: What led you to pursue public relations?
NI: When I was graduating from high school I actually wanted to go into theater. But as graduation approached I knew I needed to find a career that was going to provide more options for me. I wanted to find a way to marry my passion for theater with my love to connect with people. I didn't really understand what public relations was until I was a sophomore. I thought it was just talking to people and planning parties — I had the whole “Sex and the City” thing in my head. And it has turned out to be so much more than that. I'm really glad that I followed through on my instinct.
TT: How did your interest in animal rights begin?
NI: I've grown up with animals my entire life — I've always had at least three or four cats at my house at a time. When I was six years old, I wanted to make some money and thought, ‘why not start a dog-walking business.’ Then I started pet sitting and then it turned into raising money for local ASPCA shelters. So it's kind of been this life-long passion of mine that I didn't even really recognize it could turn into a career until recently.
TT: Was dog walking what seeded your entrepreneurial spirit?
NI: I would say it was the start of my social entrepreneurship, because I was really never in it to make money — I was in it to have an impact somehow. I've always had this urge to leave my mark on my community, whether it was through protecting animals, or volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, or helping with neighborhood clean ups. Whatever I did, I always wanted to know that it really improved the quality of life for my family, my friends, my community members and eventually the world at large.
TT: How have you juggled your many responsibilities?
NI: I came into Temple knowing that I was here to work hard first and play later. Don't get me wrong, I've had my fun. But at the same time I always knew that I had these four years to set myself up to be as successful as possible. I think it was just my passion that kept driving me forward. And I'm really happy in the end that I did what I did because these experiences have paved the path for success for me after graduation. I feel confident that going forward I'm going to have a fantastic career — my dream career — and it's all thanks to Temple and to the experiences that I've had here.
TT: What’s your proudest achievement at PRowl?
NI: I would have to say this year when we achieved national affiliation. It's something that the firm wanted to do for a while, but just wasn’t ready. I gathered some of my key staff members, and we worked hard for about a month and a half putting together stats and information to show that we deserve to be among the elite ranking of nationally affiliated firms. The day I got the letter saying we were accepted was one of the most rewarding in my last three years with the firm. I hope that it means PRowl and its staff members are set up for even greater success after I leave.