shannon-mclaughlinInterview with a PR Professional

Recently in class we were asked to interview a PR professional.  Through one of my friends I had a chance to do an interview over e-mail with Shannon McLaughlin who assists with all PR endeavors for  Career Sports & Entertainment’s Client Representation Division.  She is a graduate from University of Texas and now resides in Atlanta. To see more about her and her Company visit

1. What is a typical week like?
– Truthfully, there is nothing typical about my work weeks. With more than 200 clients, and as the only PR person in my division, my days and weeks are constantly changing. However, the common thread is that I’m generally handling both proactive and reactive PR for my baseball players, golfers, coaches and sports broadcasters for the purposes of free agency, job placement, brand development, marketing support and occasionally crisis management.

2. What is the project you are most proud of?
– The project I am most proud of is the handling of the PR surrounding John Smoltz’s move from the Atlanta Braves to the Boston Red Sox. There was a lot of planning and strategy associated with the PR behind his signing and we had to make sure to get the message out in the right way. We were able to work hand-in-hand with the Red Sox’ in-house PR staff and put on our own local Atlanta press conference in our Career Sports & Entertainment offices following his Boston press conference to make sure the Atlanta media were given as much access to John as the Boston media were.

3. What is the most challenging thing you have done?
– There are new and interesting challenges that arise each day, but I would say planning Jeff Francoeur’s Christmas charity project in 2008 has been my biggest challenge so far. As a PR person, my expertise is not as much in planning and executing events and sponsorships as it does in pitching, release-writing, etc. So I just had to buckle down and learn as I went.

4. What is the strangest thing that has happened during a job?
– Wow, this is a hard one. I’ve been lucky enough not to have too many out of the ordinary experiences on the job. But a big challenge for me has always been the fact that I’m a female in an industry that is largely dominated by men. So I’ve had to learn things that are out of the ordinary for most PR people, such as being a composed professional in a men’s locker room and learning to brush off comments or conversations you wouldn’t necessarily like to hear. That was probably the strangest part of my job, having to adjust to being the minority female in the industry that is men’s professional sports.

5. How important is writing in your career?
– Writing is extremely important in the PR industry. On a given day, I’m writing several press releases, generating new and unique content for my clients’ websites and dictating columns on behalf of my clients. I would have to say that if someone is not a fan of writing, PR is not the right career to choose.

6. What has surprised you the most about working in PR?
– The biggest surprise to me, and the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make was accepting that not every media person I pitched was going to love my pitch ideas. Though I might feel that client XYZ’s story or event is unique and compelling, that particular media member may not be interested (ie, I can pitch Joe Golfer to Jezebel Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful because he’s our hot single client, but they might not feel the same way we do, and they might not even respond). And I’ve had to learn not to get frustrated or offended by that, but simply change my pitch, or get creative and target a different media sector.

7. Did your education prepare you for the PR industry?
– To be 100% honest, no. But I didn’t major in PR, so I think that makes a big difference. My Corporate Communication degree gave me a great foundation for my current career and armed me with some fantastic interpersonal communication knowledge, but it was my real-world experience that I learned from the most. What you really have to do to succeed in this business is try and take those things that you learn in school and apply them to your experiences once you’re in an internship or in the workforce. Because everything works out great in a text book in theory, but it’s not until you really hit a wall or fail that you learn how to overcome the things that aren’t able to be taught in the classroom.

8. What 3 tips would you offer someone starting in PR?
– First, as cliché as it sounds, network network network. I’m sure every single professor you’ve ever had has drilled this into your head, but it’s because the relationships you build are the ones that will either make you or break you in this profession. For example, I’ve gone to the last few Super Bowls and just walked around the media center introducing myself, talking about our clients in casual conversations and making media connections. When a radio show producer sees your face and remembers you, it’s much easier to pitch your client to that radio station in the future than if you cold call them and ask to have your client on their show.

– Second, know who you’re pitching. If you’re pitching a client to Elle Magazine, you need to do everything in your power to know what you’re talking about. You have to speak their “language.” If you’re not already familiar with that publication, research their specific demographic, know their general layout, etc. For instance, saying in a pitch, “Your readers would love to read about my client XYZ,” is a whole lot less convincing than, “A feature on my client XYZ would make a perfect fit in your ‘Inside the Fashion Industry’ section because her unique career path in the industry will make a compelling story for your young, fashion-conscious readers.”

– Lastly, when you’re searching for a job, volunteer and do internships, even if this has to extend past your college graduation. When I graduated from college, I’d been working in my school’s athletic media relations department for three years and felt like I was more than experienced enough to be hired in an entry-level position. But it can be brutal out there sometimes, especially in this economy. So for two years after I graduated, I did two professional internships and got paid very little, but the experiences I was able to put on my resume and the relationships I build are what have allowed my career to be where it is now. So you may feel like it’s grunt work to do internships, especially post-graduation, but they are invaluable experiences.






~ by atle1 on April 8, 2009.

2 Responses to “”

  1. I know exactly how you feel, I can’t wait until it is over either!

  2. […] April 21, 2009 aschlum1 I commented on An Le’s blog post. […]

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