Blog Viewer

2018 Mentor Program Blog Post: Melissa O’Connor & Alison Zero Jones

By Melissa O'Connor posted 10-08-2019 08:49 AM

Alison_Jones_1.jpg Melissa_OConnor.jpg
MENTOR: @Alison Zero Jones
Director, Corporate Sponsorship
WXXI Public Broadcasting (Rochester, NY)
MENTEE: @Melissa O'Connor
Corporate Underwriting
Marketing and Advancement
UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina (Research Triangle, NC)

Corporate Support Performance Initiative

Mentorship Program Blog Post



I’ve never written a blog, so this is a fun assignment for me. My name is Melissa O’Connor and I work for UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina. I am just entering my 3rd year in this role. This past year has been a huge learning and development year and I owe it all to the PBS Mentor Program!! My first year at UNC-TV was exciting, but something was missing. I didn’t know at the time, but it was a mentor! There is something about a mentor that is very different from your director or manager. I have learned so many amazing skills to becoming the best public media sales rep I can be! I don’t even know where to start I have learned so much from Alison Zero Jones! She was always a phone call, email or text away! 

If I had to pick what I learned the most from Alison it would be proposals and presentations. If you could see where I was before this program with my proposals and where I am now, you might laugh. She has taught me so much about Excel and Power Point, as well as how to craft a presentation for the client including creating story boards and scripts! Oh, and I can’t forget invaluable knowledge on prospecting and finding the right leads for Public Media.

I must give Alison credit for me exceeding my sales goal this past year. I am a little anxious to not have her by my side this coming year, but I know I will have the skills I learned from Alison right in my back pocket. I hope I can share them with new hires at UNC-TV and maybe even be a mentor myself one day! Thank you, PBS, for making this awesome program possible!


  • $15k investment from a university with a statewide presence
  • $15k investment from science research center to sponsor Sci NC
  • $32k investment from retirement community to sponsor MASTERPIECE
  • $20k investment from agriculture research center for on-air fundraiser
  • Improvement in marketing strategy design and proposal execution
  • Mastery of storyboard design to help illustrate what can be done effectively within guidelines


Regular unfiltered and honest conversations with a public media newbie were super helpful in refreshing my understanding of what it’s like for corporate sponsorship executives in the beginning – from the challenges they encounter to the delights. There’s real value in having access to the perspectives of other professionals in the public media realm, as our challenges are unique in the media sales landscape, and we often benefit from delivering similar client marketing solutions regardless of geographic location.

Melissa and I created an environment where we could exchange ideas freely – a comfortable judgement-free zone where perspectives could be shared openly and honestly. Serving as a mentor for Melissa helped me gain a deeper understanding of the challenges corporate support professionals face early on in their public media careers, and I would often take that information and translate it into actionable insights for my own team’s use. Though I served as an account executive at WXXI for some time, it’s easy to forget that my experience in that role concluded years ago. Melissa’s thoughts and ideas have absolutely refreshed and invigorated the way I show up for my own team.

I think Melissa and I both found sharing our knowledge to be incredibly gratifying. We regularly fed off of each other’s energy and genuine passion for our mission-driven work. And as much as I shared, I also stepped back, listened, and worked to ensure I was asking good questions in an effort to help Melissa gain her own sense of clarity around complex issues.

From the get-go, it was apparent that Melissa had serious potential as a member of a corporate sponsorship team, and I enjoyed supporting her as she unleashed that talent across the state of North Carolina! A big part of building confidence selling public media is understanding and being able to articulate our unique value proposition, which is why PBS’ CSPI program is such a boon to corporate support professionals. Knowing how to leverage the tools and research that are at our fingertips, and how to build research one-sheets, marketing plans, proposals, and create storyboards suited for each client is also part of it, and this is where Melissa and I invested a lot of our time.

My mentee is crushing it out there, and I’m so proud of her. Grateful for the experience, professional connection and new friendship!