PR professor recounts experiences at CSUF, encourages dedication

In Features
( Sarah El-Mahmoud / Daily Titan )

Since his graduation from Cal State Fullerton in 1999, Ken Hagihara hasn’t had much down time and has few regrets about his career in public relations.

Part-time CSUF lecturer Hagihara got a swift start working at PR firms in Newport Beach while he was in college. However, ethical issues led him to quit his job and start his own business shortly after graduating.

Hagihara has been president of Integrity Public Relations for almost 18 years, which focuses on the tech sector along with nonprofits such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

He is also a deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy Reserve at the third fleet headquarters in San Diego. He works mainly in Navy outreach campaigns, sending officers out to places like Medieval Times and Dodgers games during Los Angeles’ “Fleet Week” to promote a positive public image and build awareness for the Navy.

He went only a week without a client after leaving his first PR agency job to start Integrity PR on his own. Buffalo Technology, a client from his first job, fired the agency Hagihara had quit and followed him out, becoming Integrity PR’s first client.

“When I quit the agency, I was not entrepreneurial at all. I was scared,” Hagihara said. “For about a month, I just figured I’d just handle (Buffalo Technologies) for now, and I’ll keep looking for a job and then as word of mouth spread, more clients kept coming at me.”

He credits the public relations management capstone class at CSUF for giving him all the tools he needed to get his start. Hagihara now teaches the class himself, tasking students with creating their own PR plan and working directly with local nonprofits in teams.

“I also have a really high level of respect for this program because being an employer on the other side of hiring people from this school and seeing the applications and interviewing people from other schools, I realize how powerful this program is,” Hagihara said.

He prides himself in hiring almost exclusively CSUF students. He has influenced and stayed in touch with many of them who have found their own success in public relations.

“I picked up so many of my skills that I still use today in PR (from Hagihara),” said Kristin Daher, who worked with him at Integrity PR for three years. “He was always very, very motivating.”

Daher is the president and chief storyteller of Powerhouse Communications, an agency she started in 2015. Her company is located in Santa Ana and specializes in food service, working with various companies including Del Taco and Pieology. Daher connected with Hagihara shortly before graduating at CSUF in 2005, when he made a visit to one of her classes.

Hagihara continued his involvement with CSUF in 2004, when he was honored by the college as a distinguished alumni. He found enjoyment in sharing his experiences and mentoring when invited to speak to classes. He went on to earn his master’s degree at USC before returning to CSUF as a lecturer.

“You marry the fact that I like teaching with the fact that I think this is the best communications program in the West. This is the only place I wanted to teach,” Hagihara said.

Hagihara lives by the philosophy of trying everything he wants to do and living without regrets. He said he never thought he would own his own successful company, get his master’s or be a lecturer at Cal State Fullerton, but he’s here, making an impact on public relations students and the department.

“Once you decide what you want to do, you just put in your time and the money will be there,” Hagihara said. “But you gotta love what you’re doing, because if you don’t, you have 40 years to work and that’s a long time to not enjoy what you’re doing.”

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