Financial News & Daily Record – by Mike Sharkey Staff Writer
The two awards on the wall say “News Hound” and that’s a pretty accurate description of Maria Coppola.
Maybe it started when she was 14 years-old and volunteered to work on then Sen. Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. It certainly manifested itself while Coppola was in college at the University of Florida where she got her journalism degree and worked at WUFT. Since then, Coppola has been an intern, weekend news anchor and assignment manager.
Today, her world revolves around the other side of the news — public relations — as the director of public relations for BroadBased, a marketing and graphic design firm in Riverplace Tower on the Southbank. Coppola’s office is small, but packed with memorabilia from her years in the media and the past seven working with the media. There are photos and souvenirs from social and political events as well as plenty of personal things that only close friends and family may understand. A one-person department right now, Coppola has an office on the 22nd floor and a good view.
“I can see a sliver of the river,” she said.
Before joining BroadBased, Coppola spent seven years with The McCormick Agency. Pending changes helped make the recent move easier, but it was a major news event in 1999 that propelled her into PR.
“Hurricane Floyd was coming and the whole city was having a panic attack,” said Coppola, who graduated from UF in 1996 and was working at Ch. 30 when Floyd caused local leaders to order a mandatory evacuation. “I packed all my worldly possession into my Mazda Miata. I had a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a squeeze jar of jelly. I slept at the TV station for two days.
“Driving home, I realized this was not the career for me.”
Coppola started looking and got interest as a spokesperson from Shands, the City and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“Paul (McCormick) heard I was looking for a job and came calling,” said Coppola. “He knew me from my reporting days. We ate dinner and I left dinner with a job.”
Two jobs, actually. Coppola stayed at the station as a fill-in weekend anchor for about a year.
These days, Coppola has one job and plenty to do. She inherited clients and plans to grow the client base through current BroadBased marketing or graphic design clients. She’ll also spend plenty of time outside the office and building. She says BroadBased — which designed Mayor John Peyton’s Rally Jacksonville! and Baby Rally Jacksonville! book bags and brand — is a perfect fit.
“All of them are really good at what they do. They blow me away,” she said, explaining where she’d like to be in five years. “Hopefully, I’ll still be working here with a bunch of employees and clients. This is a long-term job. I am a partner in the division and I will work here for a long, long time. Hopefully, in five years we’ll be talking about my employees driving me crazy.”