Finding a job in the PR industry is doable. Recent University of South Florida School of Mass Communication graduates Meggan Mabry and Katy Parsons can attest to this.Both Meggan and Katy are assistant account executives at Roberts Communications, one of the top integrated communications agencies in the Tampa Bay area.
“Going from recent grad to young professional is a huge transition,” Meggan said. “I am still learning new things every day, and I am happy to help other students and young professionals in any way that I can!”
Here is our interview:
How would you explain Roberts Communications to those unfamiliar with the agency?
Meggan: Roberts Communications is a full-service agency that specializes in Integrated Marketing Communications. We do branding, marketing, public relations and advertising – all equally well. We utilize media-buying, print, radio and TV advertising. Our clients range from B2B, health-care, non-profit and B2C. Our agency mantra is “Create Change” – we are advocates for positive change to ensure our clients succeed.
What are your responsibilities at Roberts?
Meggan: I am involved with daily client relations and act as the liaison between the client and creative department. I assist in all client needs including writing the creative brief, copywriting, production and managing accounts and consulting.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Meggan: My favorite part of the job is the variety. Working with different clients and accounts allows me to experience a little bit of everything. No two days are the same! I love interacting with the client and delivering positive change.
Katy: My favorite part of my job is the variety of work I get to do. I never have the same day twice- it’s always something new. I really enjoy seeing how our projects create change for our clients. It’s very exciting to see a strategy come full circle and generate positive change for a client’s brand.
What do employers expect recent graduates to know for an entry-level position?
Meggan: You must be adaptable and willing to work hard. Anyone can have a sparkling resume, but you must have a strong work ethic to back up your skills. Employers expect to see a portfolio and evidence that you can multi-task (jobs, internships, school, etc.).
Katy: I think employers expect recent graduates to have a strong grasp on the basics- writing (AP Style), tactics, strategy and research. Recent graduates must also be knowledgeable of the industries they hope to work within (healthcare, finance, non-profit, etc.).
What are some industry trends that students should be aware of as they enter the workforce?
Meggan: Technology is providing easy access to almost anything. You can order food, movies, cars and homes all online. As technology grows, communication grows and people expect things FAST! You have to be able to keep up.
Katy: Keep your eye on the ever-changing world of media- Always understand how and where people are getting their information from.
What advice do you have for students who are currently looking for employment in PR?
Meggan: Get as involved in as many things as you can. Join your local PR organizations, get internships, get published (write for blogs, your college newspaper, newsletters) and be sure to take journalism classes (this will help you understand journalists and how to approach them). Look for jobs before you graduate. Apply to as many jobs and go on as many interviews as you can to gain experience. It will all pay off. Even if you don’t land the first job you will MEET people.
Katy: It’s a competitive world out there. Understand that and be able to communicate to potential employers what your strengths are and exactly how those strengths will be an asset to an organization.
What are some tough questions you were asked during your interview, and how did you handle them?
Meggan: Be sure to know facts about the company. Don’t go to an interview just talking about YOU – talk about the COMPANY that is interviewing you. Be prepared; if you are prepared there are no scary questions.
Katy: If you are honest and prepared, you can answer all interview questions with ease.
How big of a role does a portfolio play in the hiring process at a PR agency?
Meggan: You must have a portfolio. Besides your resume and cover letter, your portfolio is your only differentiator. This is your chance to shine and show you’ve already invested in your future career. Employers, especially creative ones, want to see how you stand out among the thousands of other candidates.
Katy: It’s huge! Some firms won’t give you an interview without one. You absolutely must have a strong portfolio with plenty of writing samples.
What is one skill you didn’t learn in the classroom that you wish you had learned prior to entering the workforce?
Meggan: One thing that I think is very important to learn is how to talk and deal with different personalities. This is not something that is learned in the classroom. You learn how to talk to professors and peers, but unless you work in customer service you don’t truly understand. I was fortunate enough to work in hospitality for six years, so I had some experience with this. However, many of my friends had not and talking directly to clients seems daunting to them.
During your undergraduate education, what class or activity most prepared you for your position today? Meggan: My writing classes definitely prepared me more so than any other class. Having a strong background in writing is the single most important tool you can have in the PR field.
Katy: Advanced PR [USF’s campaigns class] really puts all the concepts learned throughout the sequence to practical use. This course offers students an opportunity to see a project through from beginning to end, while using research to develop a strategic plan. Not only is this class a great portfolio builder, but also it’s an exceptional learning experience.
As a PR practitioner, what campaign or project stands out in your mind as being the most exciting and/or educational?
Meggan: I think the most exciting campaigns are the ones that help people in need. One of our clients, Verizon Wireless is very involved in domestic violence philanthropy. I helped at one of their signature “Clothesline” events where victims of domestic violence, shelters, and law makers speak about their experiences with the subject and give hope for escaping the violence. I witnessed women crying and thanking us for spreading the word. There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing you helped someone change their life. It was a powerful experience where I felt my work truly made a difference.
Do you have a mentor? How did you develop or initiate that relationship? How has your mentor helped you as a young professional?
Meggan: My boss, Christine O’Connor, is my mentor. She has worked at Roberts for 10 years. She started here when she was my age and is now a principal in the agency. Christine has taught me so many things in such a short amount of time. She always gives me guidance and support. I look to her for advice and wisdom. The great thing about Roberts is that there are so many brilliant people to have as mentors. I continue to learn from all of my co-workers. Each one has valuable insight and experience.
Katy: I am very fortunate to have an entire office full of phenomenal mentors. I work with an incredible group of talented individuals who have openly shared their own career experiences with me. Having a mentor has definitely helped me as a young professional. It would have taken me a lifetime to learn some of the valuable advice my mentors give on a daily basis.
Is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers? Advise? Words of wisdom? Warnings?
Meggan: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Everything happens for a reason and the possibilities are endless if you are willing to go after it.
Katy: Love what you do! You will always be more successful doing something you love as opposed to doing something you hate. Raise your hand, be tenacious and never stop setting goals for yourself and your career.