My career sprang from a lifelong interest in the power and influence of mass media.
Growing up on Long Island, my two passions were always media and theater. I continued with my passions at college, where I majored in theater and English. After graduation, I started out by teaching high school English. I really enjoyed my first couple of years, but after four years my passions eventually led to a turning point. Although I enjoyed teaching, I found my deeper media and theater interests beckoning me.
So I applied to graduate school programs in communication and theater and came to one of the major crossroads in my life when I was accepted by the College of Communication at Boston University and the Yale University School of Drama. In investigating Boston University, I met the head of the advertising, public relations and mass communication program, Bruce MacKenzie, who really sold me on the exciting opportunities in the program and especially in the public relations program. At the same time, though, Yale offered a prestigious opportunity to study at one of the world’s foremost theater schools.
I eventually chose Boston University and public relations and I never looked back. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to pursue my passion and turn it into my life’s work.
Writing of pursuing your passion, I would like to offer today’s PR hopefuls and new professionals three pieces of advice. First, be a media junkie and have an insatiable curiosity about life. Stay current on how newspapers and magazines are evolving, what the biggest programs are on network TV, cable TV and satellite radio and why, and, especially, what the new rules of today’s digital and social media are. Or put another way, stay curious. Creativity is borne out of systematic observation of what’s going on around you and the ability to take what may seem to be two unrelated observations and put them together in a way that the result is a fresh and exciting new way of seeing things. Applying this skill in the business world will allow you to develop and communicate imaginative ideas.
My second piece of advice is to keep an open mind and don’t assume any position is beneath you when trying to land your first job. If that first offer is not what you’re looking for, seriously consider taking it anyway. For one, the job market is tight and competition is as tough as ever. Second, taking that first job offer will allow you to break that frustrating cycle: no experience, no job; no job, no experience. Third, you’ll gain experience in areas of public relations you might not otherwise have been exposed to that will serve you later in your career.
And my final piece of advice: join in today’s conversation. Do you blog? Do you use social networking sites? Do you create podcasts? We’ve moved from a time in which content was delivered from agenda-setting organizations to a time in which individuals contribute and in many ways set the agenda. I urge you to join this conversation because your chosen field enables you not only to create compelling conversations but to drive them in fresh and important directions that will distinguish you as a PR professional.
Following these tips and being persistent can open the door to what has been a challenging and rewarding career for me – one that’s allowed me to do something I truly love for 30 years.
Here are some of the mileposts from my exciting PR journey:
- Bachelor of Arts, theater and English, State University of New York at Geneseo
- English teacher, Shoreham-Wading River High School (4 years)
- Master of Science, public relations, Boston University College of Communication
- Intern, Exxon (summer)
- Account Executive, Burson-Marsteller (1 year)
- Vice President, J. Walter Thompson (5 years)
- Executive Vice President, G.S. Schwartz & Co. (1 year)
- Eastern Region Director, New York Director, Ketchum (9 years)
- President, COO, Ketchum (8 years)
- CEO, Ketchum (9 years)