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June 11, 2010 / Briana Patrick

Assistant Account Executive

Leslie Emanuele, Assistant Account Executive, Cookerly Public Relations

Leslie currently works for Cookerly Public Relations, a mid-sized Atlanta, GA PR firm, and provides media relations, issue management and writing for clients in the areas of energy, technology and education.By way of background, She interned at Cookerly while in college at UGA and was hired after graduation.I found Leslie through a friend of a friend that is also Practicing PR at UGA. I conducted a phone interview with Leslie, and below is an answer and question format for you to view and maybe get some ideas of your own about life as a PR practitioner.

1. What’s a typical week like? (If no week is typical, then what was last week like?)

There’s no such thing as a typical work week. Agency PR attracts people who thrive on the adrenaline of never knowing what the next project (or crisis) brings. My job mainly consists of supporting my team – whether it’s drafting copy for an annual report, pitching client stories to media or helping plan events. I also do a great deal of monitoring traditional and social media for events, stories and client mentions that impact their industry, entity and reputation. You never know when a story will demand your response on behalf of a client.

2. Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.

This year Cookerly launched our agency’s social media campaign, and I was able to do most graphic design work on the project. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your handiwork on the Web two months into the workforce.

3. How important is writing in your career?

Paramount. Writing is one of the most critical aspects of a PR career.

4. What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?

Network. Intern. Repeat. Everyone I interviewed with knew me before I walked through the door. I would never have gotten a job in the May 2009 hiring slump had I not made those contacts. You won’t either. Now make some business cards, smile and get out there!

5. What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?

I would have listened more closely to my finance-loving father’s advice over the years. Trust me, the crash course lesson on health insurance, benefits and retirement plans was much less fun than if I had simply learned along the way.

There are also plenty of skills that will help in your career, even though they won’t necessarily be a factor in whether you get hired, e.g. layout experience, graphic design, public speaking experience, knowledge of Wikipedia, etc.

6. Did your education prepare you for working in PR? How?

I graduated from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Mass Communication. My courses made my day-to-day PR work easier. They gave me a better grasp of succinct writing, editing, speaking deliberately, researching, planning and clean design. My graphics professor got me involved on campus and taught me that a Communication degree extends beyond the classroom and encouraged me to get involved and network with future colleagues and employers.

Taking courses (or even majoring) outside of communications can also be an asset in the PR field. Don’t become so PR-focused that you can’t relate to your clients in finance, energy, etc. Vary your expertise so you can better put yourself in your clients’ shoes.

7. What has surprised you the most about working in PR?

I was pleasantly surprised at the collaborative nature of PR. I never expected the face time that I have had with upper-level management and was happy to discover that as an entry-level employee (and even as an intern) I have a seat at the table.

8. How has PR changed since you entered the field?

New media grew leaps and bounds just in the ten months between my internship and start date. It will be interesting to see how it continues to evolve the PR field.

9. How does technology affect your daily work?

I use new programs and tools to build media lists, monitor media, design layouts and for social networking on behalf of the agency. It has been – and will continue to be – a learning experience to find the “next new thing.”

10. When your company is hiring for an entry-level PR position, what makes a candidate stand out?

The company’s first impression of you is your resume. Keep it concise and relevant. Give numbers and explain how you took your experience to the next level. We look for candidates that are involved and show drive and determination through work experience, volunteering, etc.

Once you get in the door, come prepared to interview. Do your homework; know what we do and who are clients are. Dress professionally. Have questions ready. Take notes to show you’re interested. It doesn’t all boil down to who has the highest GPA or most experience. Enthusiasm and a positive work ethic can get you a long way. Ultimately, it boils down to whether you’re a good fit for the company and whether they are for you.

This interview really helped me as a student striving for a Public relations major understand the ins and out and comings on entry-level at a PR firm. It’s defiantly not what I thought it was going to be like, but I love a challenge, so it seems like something for me.

-For more information on Leslie and Cookerly Public Relations visit their website with the link provided below.

Cookerly Public Relations

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