PR & Social Marketing Specialist
Connect with Vanita: LinkedIn
How did you break into your industry and how did you advance to where you are today?
I purposely searched for a college program that was recognized as the leading training ground for PR professionals. It was important for me to find the right professors who used practical methods to prepare students for their first day on the job, especially because I had no prior experience in PR. I was switching over from a major in International Studies and needed the first-hand experience from industry experts.
After that, I took on internships and volunteer work to build my profile. At the same time, I was competing with hundreds of PR students for the same entry-level job. With no luck in securing many interviews, I switched gears and began to focus less on being a “doer” and more on highlighting myself as an achiever by leveraging numbers, efficiencies and results in my resume. By doing this, I secured over 20 interviews and met the right recruiter who knew the right agency.
After that, I quickly learned that agency and start-up life weren’t right for me. I then searched for a company that had the budget to invest in its communications department and in its employees. It’s not easy to move from job to job so I made sure to do my research and apply at a company that I could call my work home.
I wouldn’t say that this was an easy process but if you focus on future-proofing your skills and using data to framework your successes, everything will fall into place.
What are some important lessons you learned while job hunting?
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the job. Everything falls into place and will work itself out. But always continue to work on your skills and you will eventually be recognized.
What has been your approach to networking?
My approach to networking has been focused on building and maintaining relationships with various stakeholders.
I did not invest a lot of time in networking events but I did invest in building relationships with clients, media, influencers, vendors, peers, professors, etc. I’ve leveraged my network to learn and grow and to be up-to-date on the latest industry trends. This approach helped me find a job within the B2B industry.
What are the best ways to stay up-to-date on industry trends?
Subscribe to newsletters written by leading software companies (Hootsuite, Cision, Talkwalker, Salesforce, etc.). They often publish reports or blog posts that touch on the latest industry trends.
Describe a typical day of work for you. What are your key responsibilities?
Key responsibilities include managing the company’s public relations, social media and blog programs.
No day is the same; I could be working with a team member to develop a study on a timely topic, meeting with team members to develop content for the blog, working with the design team on creative assets, developing metric dashboards, speaking with vendors, brainstorming campaign ideas, media outreach, working on social marketing campaigns, etc.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Working on campaigns that focus on timely topics, having access to leaders who teach me new things every day, and professional development support.
Do you have advice on how to handle a difficult boss?
It depends on the severity of the situation but communicating has worked for me in the past. Remove all emotion and handle the situation professionally and in a direct manner. If it is to the point where nothing is changing, rope in someone who can mediate.
If it is to the point where you dread coming into work, start applying for other jobs and do your homework. Only interview with companies that have a positive reputation (Glassdoor is a great resource for this), and don’t be quick to accept an offer if it doesn’t feel like the right choice.
What do you know today that you wish you knew when you started your career?
It’s important to work for an agency that is at the forefront of industry changes. This will only benefit you since PR professionals need to be experts in showcasing measurable impact, and that can be difficult to do if you’re using old school methods. The baseline of PR is storytelling but how you build and tell that story has changed over the years.
For those that work in-house, the marketing department is a core part of your day-to-day. Notable results stem from integrated campaigns so it’s important to work together. Although marketing and PR focus on different strategies, they do share common goals.
What are some common myths about public relations that you’d like to bust?
A common misconception is that PR equates to media relations but it encompasses a lot more. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines it as “… a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Publics include media, customers, investors, influencers, vendors, etc., and the communication process involves more than media outreach.
A second misconception is that media relations is the only important skill a PR professional should have. Although it is important, the PR industry is evolving and professionals need to adapt by:
- Learning social, influencer and content marketing;
- Knowing how to support campaigns with a unique creative strategy;
- Understanding the importance of SEO optimization;
- Becoming tech-savvy by learning how to use Google Analytics, PR and social media software, social listening software, and CRM and CMS software.
In the end, all of this will help PR professionals create stronger, integrated campaigns that get results.
What are your professional goals for the future?
Continue to invest in my education and push myself to further strengthen my knowledge in other marketing disciplines.