What inspired your switch from journalism to public relations?
“For me, personally, it was time to make a change. News is cyclical, so I was basically doing the same thing every year unless it was an election year. You’ve got hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and school shootings on Fridays. I was at Associated Press (AP) for just about 20 years and I’ve been doing news before that. It was time for me to do something different. I also wanted to be in a place where I could actually affect change. As a journalist, you’re not supposed to inject your personal feelings into what you’re doing; at least that was the case years ago. I wanted to come to a place where I could be effective, help people and be a beacon for change. Hager Sharp is an awesome place to do that. All of our clients are health, wellness and education centered. Those are all topics that are very important to me. I was raised on public education. Seeing public education kind of attacked and different changes in that field really interested me. I felt like I could work with an organization like the Department of Education. That to me is like, ‘Wow, okay I can actually help them get their messaging out and maybe influence some of the direction of the education policies that organizations are putting out.’ Back in 2008, I had an opportunity to come over to Hager Sharp at their old location and talk to them about pitching strategies. When I came in, I was just welcomed and the environment was so friendly and people seemed genuinely happy here. I spent over an hour just talking to people after my presentation. I felt that if I ever left news, I would work at a place like Hager Sharp.”
What has surprised you the most about working in public relations?
“How difficult it is. I thought it would not be as hard. I really want to work with someone on a panel that discusses the things you should know about moving into the field of public relations from journalism. When I was at the desk at AP, communications pros would call and pitch stories to me. But the pitches were always late, too commercial, off topic, etc. Some were good, but those were the pitfalls. I spent a lot of time on the phone explaining to people why their pitch didn’t work. I felt like I was spending all this time doing this that maybe I should go somewhere and keep that from happening to the next planning editor. They don’t have to explain to my people why we missed an opportunity because I know how a newsroom works. There’s much more that goes into working in PR than just pitching. I think many journalists don’t have an appreciation for all that goes into the work that communications professionals do and the materials that you owe your clients. It goes so much farther than just pitching. Also, you’ve got to manage your own time. It’s critical.”
What aspects of your background have been most helpful for your success in the PR industry?
“Definitely all of the news experience without a doubt. I know what news is and I generally like to think that I know whether a pitch is going to be successful or not. I also like to think some of my good, old-fashioned retail experience has come in handy. You have to know how to work with people. When people come to you with a problem, you’ve got to be the solution person. I feel like when people come to me, I’m their solution woman. Having good communication skills from working in retail, the news judgement skills, understanding the tenants of journalism helps me be successful.”
How do you handle stress and pressure?
“I handle it with a smile. I’m so thankful for the job that I have. There’s no way that you get a job just two blocks from where you used to work. I get to come to a place where the folks here are fantastic and so smart. Hager Sharp offers so many benefits. We have yoga, Hager Sharp Day and fantastic Christmas parties. I’m so thankful and blessed. When I do get stressed, I say a prayer and pick up the phone and call my mom. I ask her for advice and sometimes for help on pitches. We have to find a way to appeal to the average Joe. I use my mom as a reality check.”
If you were going to write a book about public relations what would it be called?
“I don’t think I would ever be qualified to write a book about PR. I would possibly write a book about looking before you leap. Maybe I’d write about understanding public relations for anyone considering making the change from journalism to PR and also for college students considering majoring in PR. I would write some tips about what you can expect once you get through the door and how to grow your skills. I know that I have to be forever growing and developing and I have to go back to school at some point.”