Interview with a PR Professional

For my informational interview, I decided to interview a family friend that I have known for many years. Rich Mitchell works for Ernst & Young, one of the “big four” accounting firms. Although he is a CPA and works primarily with specific markets of the company in the Northeast region of the country, he also deals with public relations and other communications areas. He received his bachelor’s degree at the Ohio State University, and has been working for Ernst & Young in Akron, Ohio for the past 20 years. Since Rich lives in Ohio, I conducted the interview on Skype one afternoon to find out about his career. The interview lasted for about 15 minutes, and here is the conversation, broadly condensed so it is not so long.

Working at such a large firm, a typical week for Rich usually starts early and ends late. He prefers to work out of his office, which is about 30 minutes from home, and is constantly talking to clients and receiving emails from the time he gets in his car, around 6 a.m., to the time he leaves work, around 5 p.m. During the day, he attends meetings with various clients of the company, discussing issues dealing with company image, current media and press surrounding the company, and working to “grow certain markets” that are firm clients. When I asked him about one of his most memorable accomplishments or projects he has worked on, he laughed and said he is constantly working on so many projects that he learns from them all in different ways. Although he works in public relations, Rich is not a member of PRSA, although he says he would like to gain more knowledge in the industry by becoming a member soon. He has only been working in PR for the past 2 years, and he is taking time adjusting from his accounting background.

Rich told me that he wishes he had taken a stronger interest in writing and developing organizational skills before he began working in the field of public relations. He says he was aware that working with public relations would entail a lot of writing and typing, but not to the extent that he uses it on a daily basis. He uses his Blackberry primarily for sending emails and such, so he told me his writing skills are not that formal. Since he has been with the company for so long, he has interns and younger employees who write the formal press releases and other documents because he does more of the speaking on the phone and traveling to meet with clients. Rich says he is good with Excel and older computer programs, but the only form of social media that he attends to currently is Facebook. He says his wife and daughter know much more about using Twitter and blogs than he ever will. I asked him if he thinks it is important for new public relations graduates to know how to use social media, and he “definitely thinks it is something that will be common among all areas of the industry.” This made me feel confident about the knowledge I have been obtaining all semester in my social media online class!

The three tips that Rich gave me about going into public relations are:

  1. Be prepared to do a lot of busy work you probably won’t want to do.
  2. Use your creativity and think outside of the box for solutions.
  3. Network!

He could not stress the importance of networking yourself and your name and sending out resumes to any possible employer. He told me “It’s all about who you know,” and I have found this to be true in so many instances in my life. From handing out business cards, sending someone a quick email, or making a phone call, Rich said little actions can make a big difference in the future. After the Skype webchat was over, I felt more confident that working in public relations is something I am passionate about and hope to make my future career. It obviously takes time and experience to move up in a company, but I am willing to do that in order to be successful.



Filed under PRCA 3711 Practicum

5 responses to “Interview with a PR Professional

  1. marielorelei

    I think that Mitchell’s number one tip was priceless. “Be prepared to do a lot of busy work you probably won’t want to do” probably sums up the reason why I don’t think I want to head straight into a public relations job after graduation. After all the stress and work that goes into college, some of which seems like tedious busy work, it would be nice to take a break from it all.

    His second tip about using creativity to think outside the box was also pretty perfect. I’d have to say that this is what drew me and probably one of the things that draw other people towards the public relations field. There’s nothing like knowing that your off the wall ideas can actually be worth something special to a company that needs that fresh new breath of air for their upcoming campaign.

    I’m glad you got to interview someone that highlights the fact that public relations and the people that work within the field are in no way typical. A CPA that does public relations is definitely a stellar double threat.

  2. Pingback: Practicum Blog Comments (25) « Life as a Dreamer

  3. smcclou3

    That’s really cool that you have Rich as a contact. I’m glad you chose him to interview to give us students a different perspective about public relations. This interview shows that sometimes the job you do isn’t necessarily the degree you have. For instance, I know a lady with a degree in sociology and she’s does logistics for corporate events like conferences. Of the three pieces of advice Rich gave I think busy work is my favorite part of the day. My busy work happens to be scanning the newspapers and magazines, updating the publicity boards, and tracking coupons. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy writing press releases and fact sheets, making press kits, and things like that; but it’s seeing the media run a piece on your company that’s exciting for me.

  4. Hi Lauren. I think that writing is essential for PR practitioners. Obviously you want to make sure you are well equipped and are a perfectionist when it comes to creating public copies. Especially when dealing with clients. Just think how awful it would be if someone caught a typo on one of your projects! Having a good writing background is also helpful when writing press releases and sending emails. You can cover up certain things when you speak, but when it’s written and typed out that’s a whole new ball park! I enjoyed reading about your interview. The tips were very helpful!

  5. Pingback: Blog Responses « Interning While Doing Practicum Might Be a Little Backwards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s