Let’s talk diversity. Is there any career that offers as many different possibilities as PR? Name an occupation and there’s someone doing PR to help that field get its message out and, when necessary, cope with disasters.
Let’s talk diversity. Is there any career that offers as many
different possibilities as PR? Name an occupation and there’s someone
doing PR to help that field get its message out and, when necessary,
cope with disasters.
PRWeek spoke with five PR pros in five lines of PR (magazines,
technology, healthcare and movies, plus one generalist) - from neophytes
to more seasoned pros - to find out how they approach their work and why
they got into PR. What we found were reasons as different as the people
Some pursued it, some fell into it. Consider Kathryn Metcalfe, a former
reporter who ’hated PR people. I thought they were blocking me from the
people I needed.’ She switched careers because she thought it would be
the best way to make a difference. Brooke Hammerling got into it through
the example of a sister-in-law. Then there’s Kim Danley, who always knew
PR was the field for her.
These pros’ daily activities range from Andre Caraco coordinating media
visits during film productions to Kim Danley planning events for Maxim
to new-comer Bryan Housh polishing his phone skills working for clients
such as International Truck & Engine Corp. and Microsoft.
The common bond among these five is the love of their work and their
feeling that energy and creativity are vital to their success.
Name: Andre Caraco
College: New York University
Title: Vice president of publicity
Company: Columbia Pictures, Los Angeles
Quote: ’It’s fun and interesting and challenging. There’s such a diverse
group of people that one gets to work with in this business. And being
in PR, you get to meet them all, for better or worse.’
In June, and maybe sooner, you’re going to hear a lot about a movie
called The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson. Andre Caraco will see to
As Columbia Pictures’ vice president of publicity, his job entails
overseeing movie publicity campaigns from the green-lighting of the
picture (permission to begin filming) to its release.
During production, if the set is open, he’ll coordinate visits from the
media, both for short- and long-term publicity. A TV crew might be
invited to help create advance buzz. Magazine writers, who need months
of lead time, will be invited so their stories can come out when the
Caraco will be there to get the writer to the set and coordinate photo
The Patriot finished filming early this year, and advance word has been
good, Caraco says. One of his jobs is to get footage to show the
In this case, he’ll get 30 minutes of the movie to present, and he’ll
coordinate events where the actors, writers and director will meet the
media. Part of Caraco’s effort for this film will include getting the
word out about up-and-coming actor Heath Ledger, who has a part in the
As the June 30 release date draws near, there will also be promotions,
preparation of electronic and print press kits, junkets to coordinate so
the media can see the film in advance and meet the stars, and making
sure those stars have film clips for talk-show appearances.
While there’s always a specific movie to work on, Caraco’s duties also
include overseeing publicists and divvying up duties so that all of
Columbia’s projects are well publicized.
’There’s never enough publicity,’ he says, ’so it’s a never-ending
Caraco grew up in New York and went to NYU film school. His early jobs
included coordinating production for New York-based awards shows and one
season on the film crew of Saturday Night Live (those are the people who
make the fake commercials).
He went from there to Columbia Tri-Star Pictures in New York and
eventually transferred to California.
’One of the most exciting and challenging things is getting to shape and
mold a publicity campaign on a movie to present to the public,’ he
says. ’And also, to be able to work on so much terrific product.’
Name: Kim Danley
College: American University
Title: Account executive
Agency: Four Corners Communications, New York
Quote: ’In a short amount of time, I’ve managed to have great clients
and learn a ton. It’s been fun.’
These are good times for Kim Danley. A publicist for one of America’s
hottest magazines, Maxim, Danley got to celebrate in 1999 when
Advertising Age named Maxim magazine of the year.
’Maxim speaks for itself in its percentage of increase in its
circulation numbers and its increase in ad pages,’ she says. ’My job is
to make sure that every time they announce an increase, the appropriate
people know about it.’
Danley logs a lot of phone time in a typical week. If she’s not pitching
story ideas to various media outlets - especially the TV show Access
Hollywood - she’s providing reporters with information, setting up and
attending interviews and making sure her client looks as good as
possible. She describes her efforts as ’very customized PR.’
’My client will tell me what they want to do, what they want to get
press for and I go about it in a very strategic way,’ she says. For
example, when Maxim asked for more exposure in the business press, she
went after Forbes magazine, The Wall Street Journal and the Money
section of USA Today - and was successful at getting all three to write
stories about the magazine.
And when it comes to press, she’s hands-on, checking the questions that
will be asked and watching the visuals to make sure the models and the
magazine’s personnel are presented in a flattering way.
Danley grew up in southern New Jersey and studied public relations in
college. She began her career with People magazine, concentrating on
event planning to promote special issues like the annual Sexiest Man
Alive and advertisers who bought a certain number of pages.
Event planning remains part of her duties for Four Corners and Maxim,
which throws a number of star-studded parties befitting a hot
But she likes the fact that her current job uses many of her
’I got into public relations because I love to write,’ she says. ’I
love the creativity of it, and I’ve been lucky because I found a place
where I can think as freely as I want. Any ideas we have we’re welcome
to take from beginning to end, whether it’s a party or a story idea or
changes with the Web site. There’s not a set boundary of what my job is
and what I can do.’
Name: Brooke Hammerling
College: Rollins College
Title: Senior manager of corporate communications
Company: MobShop.com, San Francisco
Quote: ’PR? Please. I wasn’t interested. I had no idea how to do it. But
my first day, I got a placement with The New York Times on a food story.
From then on, I got into it.’
Brooke Hammerling seems to have done a lifetime of PR work in the last
four-plus years. And it all started quite by accident.
Hammerling grew up in Rye, NY. After graduating from college as an
English major (with a focus on creative writing), she was looking at
grad schools while also trying to find a job. Her sister-in-law, Stacey
Bender - ’a PR goddess’ who runs a boutique agency, the
Bender-Hammerling Group - asked if she wanted to help out. She started
writing press releases for French’s Mustard and Frank’s Original Red Hot
Sauce, got a story placed in The New York Times on her first day. She
figured she’d found her niche.
She moved to Los Angeles, worked for the InterActive Agency handling
primarily entertainment-related clients, headed north to San Francisco
to Access Communications and, after a year there, joined the Internet
start-up formerly known as Accompany.com, now called MobShop.com.
’I wanted to focus on one company and be connected from the roots,’ she
says. ’In an agency, it’s really great, but you have four or five
clients on your plate at a time. For some, that works really well. For
me, I can only concentrate on one thing at a time.’
MobShop.com is a group-buying network that lets individuals and
businesses come together and purchase items such as Palm Pilots in bulk
to save money.
Initially, Hammerling says, she’d never heard of the concept. Since
June, though, it’s been her job to spread the word, which she’s done by
taking total charge of the PR campaign. That’s included everything from
making media contacts and putting together the company’s press kit to
writing and disseminating press releases, booking MobShop executives for
speaking engagements and meeting with business analysts to tout the
company. ’Basically doing everything an agency would do,’ she says,
’but internally and at a much more intimate level.’
For Hammerling, it’s not much of a stretch from the creative-writing
career she expected to have. She dreams of someday earning a fellowship
at Stanford University to pursue writing further. ’But right now, I’m a
big fan of my company,’ she says, ’and it’s my goal to make sure we
Name: Bryan Housh
College: Iowa State University
Title: Assistant account executive
Agency: Grant/Jacoby, Chicago
Quote: ’It’s hard to get your foot in the door. So it was gratifying
after doing two internships and being low man on the totem pole to get
that call that said, ’We’d like to offer you a job.’’
Less than a year out of college, Bryan Housh finds himself in the PR
trenches. For starters, he’s been making a lot of calls to get Chicago
media out to events - one recently was for an Epilepsy Foundation event
called Golf Around Chicago.
’I’ve had to learn to talk on the phone a lot better for pitching,
calling media, which I hated to do when I started,’ he says. ’I’m
getting used to it now. There are always the editors who hang up on you,
or their answering machine is tailored to you.’
He’s also been doing a fair amount of writing articles for press kits
for clients such as International Truck & Engine Corp.
’I like writing,’ he says. ’It’s hard to get used to the technical
truck terms, but I’m learning. I’ve been reading trade publications
trying to get familiar with the terminology and what’s been going on in
Housh, who grew up in Omaha, NE, moved to Chicago after finishing
college in May. He started with an internship at BSMG Worldwide, moved
to Leo Burnett for two months and started with Grant/ Jacoby about two
months ago. His main responsibilities are International Truck and
He’d originally intended to go into advertising, but switched to PR
’because there was more writing involved. And less math. I still love
And I love PR. I’m hoping at some point I’ll be able to get involved in
the advertising aspect of the communications industry.’
But there’s something about PR that he finds intriguing.
’In advertising, you pay for the coverage,’ Housh says. ’We are able to
do it without paying for it. We’re able to talk them into it, I
It’s always exciting when you get good coverage for something.’
Name: Kathryn Metcalfe
College: Northwestern University
Title: Senior vice president and managing director
Agency: Cohn & Wolfe Healthcare
Quote: ’Public relations is a lot harder job than most people realize.
And for those who thrive in this area of healthcare, I think there’s no
greater work that you could do.’
Kathryn Metcalfe says there’s no such thing as a typical day in
healthcare PR. ’You can have good news, crises or issues crop up at any
point in time. We’ve had drug approvals come on New Year’s Eve, we’ve
had major news stories in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
We’re really on the go and on call 24-7.’
For Metcalfe, representing pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham
means handling questions about Paxil, the antidepressant drug, and
Avandia, the new diabetes drug, as well as the company’s vaccines. It
means maintaining a constant presence with the client to create PR
strategies to keep its products in the public eye.
Among her recent projects was helping get the word out about social
anxiety disorder. Working on behalf of the Social Anxiety Disorder
Coalition, she contacted reporters and pitched them a story with a great
hook - an interview with Donny Osmond, who suffers from this affliction
that makes it difficult for him to appear in public. Social anxiety
disorder is treated with Paxil.
Metcalfe started as a journalist. In high school, she worked at KBCI in
her hometown of Boise, ID as the station’s only nighttime reporter.
After finishing her undergraduate and graduate work, she worked at the
Lexington (KY) Herald Leader.
During her reporting career, many healthcare stories fell to her and she
developed a strong interest in the field. ’But for me,’ she says, ’it
was one thing to say, ’OK, I can write the story.’ It was quite another
to say, ’OK, now can you influence it? Can you create and build a
Can you make a story where there was no story before?’ I think that’s
one of the most intriguing parts of healthcare PR - and for that matter,
public relations in general. We make things happen.’
She got into PR with Noonan/ Russo Communications and rose to senior
vice president and managing director before joining Cohn & Wolfe. The
work in healthcare has allowed Metcalfe to achieve her goal of
influencing the story.
A few years back, Metcalfe was working on an account for a company that
had new approaches for treating wounds of diabetics. Without treatment,
patients often had to undergo amputation. While on that project, she ran
into a woman in her building whose diabetic father was going to have his
foot amputated. Metcalfe told the woman about her client. The end
result: her father’s foot was saved.
’Talk about a personal tie to the work that you’re doing,’ Metcalfe
says. ’It’s very rewarding.’