Life in Public Relations: Media and Communication Programming

Life in Public Relations: Media and Communication Programming

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Maha Neouchy
July 17, 2013

Public relations (PR) and communications professionals come from all walks of life. Some work on Capitol Hill while others hold steadfast careers as journalists and transition into a communications field later. Last week, 40 summer Media and Communication interns had the opportunity to hear from a spring 2005 TWC alumna, as well as a TWC internship host supervisor, both of whom have years of communications and PR experience under their belts.

 

TWC alumna Jessica Reape, account supervisor with Adfero Group, has been working in PR for the last decade, developing campaigns for a number of different industries including energy, environment, women's health and children's issues. Internship host supervisor, Adele Cehrs, currently runs her own boutique firm, Epic PR Group. In the past, she has worked with a number of clients, companies and organizations including: Yum! Brands, DuPont, Lockheed Martin and Verizon Wireless. Both women spent time discussing their experiences with the group and ended the programming event by taking questions from eager and aspiring communications, journalism and public relations majors in the room.

 

What does the background of a PR professional look like?


Reape shared how she jumpstarted her career as a strategic communications professional. She actually got her start working as a press assistant for the National Governors Association during her internship with TWC in 2005. At the time she was still a student at the University of Rhode Island, where she was studying journalism and political science. Reape was already ahead of the game in comparison to the rest of her peers and caught the first big break of her career when she was offered an entry-level job, post-graduation. During her time as a student in Georgetown's PR and Corporate Communications program, she was recruited to Environics Communications by one of her mentors and professors. She only recently left Environics in March in order to become an account supervisor with Adfero Group. Although it was not her plan to leave, Reape realized the value in pursuing a new opportunity as a way of "owning my own professional brand and honing my skills of self-promotion."

 

Cehrs, like Reape, also majored in journalism and political science while she was an undergraduate at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. While she was the editor of Rutgers' school newspaper, she interviewed an employee at George Magazine. At the end of the interview, Cehrs asked her interviewer for an internship with the publication and succeeded at obtaining one. While at George, she was recruited over to PR by a Madison Avenue agency and eventually ended up working for Ogilvy Public Relations. During her time at the global firm, she launched campaigns for huge brands like Coca-Cola and Taco Bell. After her success at Ogilyv, she eventually made the executive decision to start her own firm, Epic PR Group, even though the economy was at an all-time low. Although it was one of the riskiest decisions of her career, she is still running the successful boutique firm six years later.

 

Student Questions

 

Samantha Arvin, an intern at the Peace Corps and student at Truman State University, directed her question at Cehrs and asked how long it took to get Epic up and running. Cehrs shared that "starting your own agency can be really tough and I started Epic as the market started to tank." But because she took that risk, she's now running her own small boutique firm with clients like Fortune 10 company DuPont, and even serving as a consultant for her former employer, Ogilvy. Running her own business also taught Cehrs that, "you have to do as much of a client reference as they do on you. Eventually, you also learn that you must weed out certain clients."

 

Jacob Williams, an intern at Campaigns and Elections and a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was intrigued by the importance of a PR professional's relationship with reporters. Reape shared that "it helps getting media coverage for clients when you have a relationship with a reporter. It's not about simply calling or emailing a reporter with a pitch but showing them you have a vast knowledge of what they are talking about." Cehrs shared that her firm strongly focuses on crisis communications and told the audience that there is "no such thing as off the record." She has learned that "you are as much interviewing the reporter as they are interviewing you." Cehrs also shared one of the tricks of PR when it comes to dealing with journalists: "give both sides of the issue. As long as you are transparent and upfront, then you are able to set a reporter up for success." Cehrs told the students that they should not reveal everything, only "enough to intrigue the reporter and keep them interested."

 

Lisa Ryan, an intern at Double R Productions and a student at Ball State University, was intrigued to find out if either women have ever "dealt with a client whose views did not align with theirs." While she may not always agree with all of the views of a company or organization, she can usually agree on what the campaigns stand for. Reape has fortunately never had a moral struggle with what she has worked on because most of her campaigns have an advocacy focus and do not directly deal with hard-hitting political issues. Cehrs has "absolutely worked with clients I don't agree with but has learned to draw the line."

 

Paige Strott, an intern at LMG Inc. and a student at the University of Tampa, wanted to find out about what it is like to work in-house. Cehrs believes that "working in-house is great because executives are your internal clients and you will only do subject matter over and over again." Reape used the example of being an in-house PR professional in a specific industry: "if you really want to work as a health care PR professional, then working in-house at a nursing association would be the perfect place for you."

 

Public Relations Advice Straight from the Source

 

The two women left the summer 2013 Media and Communication program with advice regarding their personal brand, paying dues in the industry and what to expect upon entering the field after graduation:

 

Adele Cehrs:

 

  • Be overly prepared and you will win.
  • Master your brand and don't be afraid to promote yourself; no one else is going to do it for you.
  • Don't expect any job to blow your mind, you have to work your way up and earn it.

Jessica Reape:

 

  • Whatever job you decide to pursue, go above and beyond.
  • Realize how exciting it is to work in the field of PR; you can be the one to help shape the message.

A Special Thanks

 

TWC would like to thank both women for providing tips and sharing advice with each and every Media and Communication intern!

[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]

[Read more about our Media & Communication Program]

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