Edinboro Alumni Issue: Steve Orbanek

Friday, October 13th, 2017 at 9:00 PM
Edinboro Alumni Issue: Steve Orbanek by Samantha Watson
Contributed Photo

The future is always hard to predict, but life has a funny way of taking people where they need to go. All Steve Orbanek wanted from college was to be a journalist. However, his hard work, combined with life opportunities, resulted in a bit of a different direction.

Orbanek is the marketing communications specialist at Penn State Behrend in Erie. Though not directly his degree, he credits his journalism background as the key to his success in public relations. 

“Writing has been the best tool,” he said. “It’s so applicable in everything you do.”

Orbanek also serves as president of the Public Relations Society of America’s Northwest Pennsylvania chapter, is a member of the Junior Achievement of Northwestern Pennsylvania Awareness Committee, is a women’s leadership advisor for ATHENA Powerlink Advisory Panel, and is a “Big Brother” for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. 

“I’m a big believer in being involved in something, but not if I can’t give it my all.”

Giving his all in everything he has done has not gone unnoticed, as Orbanek made the Erie Reader’s “40 Under 40” list for 2017.

“That was really surprising,” he said. “You don’t do things to make lists like that, but it’s nice. The work I’m doing matters to someone out there.” 

Orbanek grew up in McKean and graduated from General McLane High School. In 2010, he completed his undergraduate degree in journalism from Duquesne University. He continued on to obtain a master’s degree from Edinboro in communication studies.

“I really enjoyed building my relationships with the faculty,” he said. “Dr. Anthony Peyronel and Dr. Melissa Gibson have been professional assets for me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. They had confidence in me, which made me confident.”

Orbanek completed an internship as a sports writer for The Erie Times-News right at the beginning of his graduate program. This would lead to a job after he graduated from Edinboro in 2012.

His advice for students is to simply get involved. 

“Try everything. All I wanted to do was journalism; I looked at public relations as a step below. I was so mistaken. All these things tie into one another. It’s funny how much that changed,” Orbanek explained. “Don’t ever be afraid you won’t be good at something. That’s why you’re there, to learn it.” 

Journalism still plays a huge role in Orbanek’s life, not only in his career, but in his spare time as well. He still writes a few articles a month for The Erie Times-News, but one article for a magazine really stood out in Orbanek’s career. 

He was connected with a publisher in Wisconsin who asked him to begin writing for Drone 360. Orbanek was not initially familiar with drones, but following research, one piece became the cover story and was previewed in The Washington Post. Orbanek was mentioned in the preview by name.

“It was cool to see myself in a magazine while standing in line at Wegmans or Giant Eagle,” he said.  

As the marketing communications specialist for Behrend, Orbanek has a wide range of duties. He manages the college’s social media, writes news releases, works on programs for the website and even does some graphic design work. No day is ever the same.

For example, in one work day, Orbanek made a program for a concert the college was hosting; worked on some posts for their social media; wrote a story about a career fair hosted at Behrend, including doing interviews for the story; wrote a news release about a speaker coming in as part of the university’s creative writers series; and lastly, wrote the bi-weekly employee newsletter. 

“You might lose focus if sticking to one area. It’s nice that I can bounce around,” he explained. “It’s been good to get experience in so many areas.”

He really enjoys working Behrend’s social media outlets, even more than he does working with his own. The Facebook page had very few “likes” when Orbanek started four years ago. Now, it sits at 10,500. It’s something Orbanek is very excited about and credits to posting good content and knowing the audience.

As president of the public relations society chapter, Orbanek has been able to work with other young professionals. He enjoys making connections with other people who share similar aspirations to him. He has spoken at and organized events and is currently putting together a mentoring program to help college students connect to local public relations workers. The goal is to allow students to make connections and receive guidance for school and their future careers.

This all from a college kid who not so long ago, only wanted to be a journalist.

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