Thursday, July 28, 2011

Compiled: How you got your start in #PR or #communications

Yesterday, I asked readers to share how they got their start in PR or communications. The post is one of the most-viewed this month, and several readers took the time to respond here, on the don't get caught Facebook page and on Twitter. There's a nice variety in the responses, with the usual array of surprises, twists and insects. (Read on and see.) Feel free to keep this compilation going and share your story of how you got your start in the comments!

Bruce Trachtenberg described how economic conditions created the opening for a shift from journalism to communications:
Wow...that question took me back a few years. I had the incredible fortune of getting hired as a copyboy for The Oregonian in 1970, the summer before I started college. A year later, I was promoted to a part-time reporting position. I managed both college and my job over the next 3 years. But in 1974 a recession hit and the newspaper laid off its part-time reporting staff. I took the summer off to finish a few missing credits for my degree. After that, I started looking for work again. I decided not to go for another newspaper or media job, and instead tried my hand freelancing for the communications department of a nearby community college. After that, I was hired to work for Portland Public Schools full-time, and from then on have always worked in the pr/communications field. I stayed on the for-profit side until 1992, when I joined a private grantmaking foundation as its first communications director.
Emily Culbertson came to communications for the better work conditions and grabbed onto the tail of a topic, health care:
Like Bruce, I started out in journalism first. In the early 90s, I was a stringer for AP and a bunch of suburban dailies. I covered federal court under the watchful eye of a more senior courthouse correspondent, Shannon Duffy, who is still there today. I took my first communications job, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, a few years later for more regular hours and HUP's awesome tuition benefits. Almost all of my communications work since then has been related to health care. This week, I have to say thanks to David Morse, just now leaving RWJF after 10 years, Larry Blumenthal, Kathryn Thomas and Phil Hagerty for deciding that, although I didn't have a traditional background for philanthropy, that I might do OK at a foundation.
A move took Jackie Fishman, APR, from journalism to PR:
I had been working as a writer/editor for trade publications in Atlanta, GA. A move to the wild west of South Florida in the go-go 80s enabled me to find an account exec position at a small PR firm. The clients were mostly residential real estate developers. It was a wild and crazy atmosphere full of bloated budget excess and Intracoastal yacht press briefings. Sounds glamorous, but pitching "lifestyle" over substance got old in nine months. The firm's prinicpal took on a local hospital as a a new client, I think he lost some kind of wager, and I volunteered to be the account exec. Pitching stories about new medical procedures and fact-oriented health information was refreshing. The response from the local media craving more medical pitches and leads solidified my career in healthcare PR.
Miriam M. Hughes read "how" and described her method and skills, on Facebook:
By talking about stuff I liked and getting results!
Russ Campbell shared on Facebook that his fork in the road came through a temp agency:
I was a disgruntled liberal arts graduate and thought grad school was going to solve my problems so I went to a temp agency that Penn used. They asked if I could start the next day in the university's communications office. A dozen years later, I think I'm finally a light shade of green.
Ginger Pinholster wins for the only insect-related motivation. That, and insurance. On Twitter she replied:
Newspaper had fleas, no healthcare so I got PIO job.
Your intrepid reporter here asked for an explainer, and she added:
Marietta Daily Journal, 1980s: Newsroom flea-infested and no healthcare. There was a PIO vacancy at Ga Tech. Voila!
Patric Lane can look back and see a chain of events that led him to PR, and fit that into a tweet:
Every job I've had = comms, but didn't always realize it: sales >  customer service >  teacher > journalist > builder > #PR
Karin Lornsen, also on Twitter, credits three great paths:
Internships, diploma and great mentors
Thanks to all the communicators who responded, and as for the rest of you: How did you get started in PR or communications?

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