A day in the life of a public relations pro - What’s it like to work in PR? Five professionals from five areas talk about what motivates them, what inspires them and what they do all day. Marc D. Allan reports

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.

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

themselves.



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



Age: 35



College: New York University



Specialty: Film



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

that.



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

movie does.



Caraco will be there to get the writer to the set and coordinate photo

shoots.



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

media.



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

movie.



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

process.’



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



Age: 24



College: American University



Specialty: Publishing



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

magazine.



But she likes the fact that her current job uses many of her

talents.



’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



Age: 25



College: Rollins College



Specialty: High-tech



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

succeed.’





Name: Bryan Housh



Age: 23



College: Iowa State University



Specialty: Generalist



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

the industry.’



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

Microsoft.



He’d originally intended to go into advertising, but switched to PR

’because there was more writing involved. And less math. I still love

advertising.



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

guess.



It’s always exciting when you get good coverage for something.’





Name: Kathryn Metcalfe



Age: 30-something



College: Northwestern University



Specialty: Healthcare



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

story?



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.’



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