The PR professional I interviewed for this assignment was Tara Lefave. She is the Public Relations Manager for a software development tools provider, Altova. This company is located in Beverly, Massachusetts and also in Vienna, Austria. Lefave is a graduate from Westfield State College, located in Westfield, MA. She graduated in 1996 with a BA in Communications and a concentration in PR. She has over ten years of PR working experience and has worked on the agency and corporate side of PR. Below are the questions I asked her and the answers she graciously provided me with.
- What’s a typical week like? (If no week is typical, then what was last week like?) My typical week is juggling various tasks and deadlines. Working in-house instead of at an agency provides me with more creative freedom; however, I am the only person handling the PR for my company so I manage everything from award submissions and press release creation to analyst relations and editorial calendar research. In an typical agency setting there would be a team of individuals who worked on all these activities for a particular client(s).
- Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of. In the software development industry the most prestigious award are the Jolt Awards (http://www.joltawards.com/) . First you must submit a nomination for your product(s) and then finalists are selected from those nominations. Each finalist must provide their product(s) to each of the Jolt judges for further review. In the meantime, it was my responsibility to maintain contact with each of the 15 judges, providing them with the latest information on our products (e.g. in the midst of the Jolt product review we launched Version 2009 of our software tools which includes many important new features). The importance of maintaining positive relationships with members of the software development community (bloggers, industry experts, editors, etc.) finally came full circle. The Altova MissionKit won the 2009 Jolt Award for ‘Best Development Environment’ making everyone at Altova very happy!
- How important is writing in your career? Very important. I write all the Altova press releases as well as award submissions, our customer newsletter, replies to blogs, responses to industry trends and editorial opportunities, etc.
- What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR? 1.) Make and maintain strong relationships with industry experts, media contacts, analysts, etc. 2.) Learn all you can about Social Networking (e.g. blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) These will be important communication vehicles moving forward in your career. 3.) Never pitch an editor off topic. They HATE that! 4.) Find a mentor and LEARN all you can from them
- What do you do to keep current in the PR industry? I attend seminars, Webinar, etc. that are offered by PR services such as BusinessWire, MarketWire, Cision (formerly Bacon’s), PRSA, etc. I also do a lot of networking through former colleagues, Clients, and on Facebook and Linked In. All of these services will provide you with the tools you need to help move your career forward.
- Did your education prepare you for working in PR? How? Yes, but it was mainly through internships and not text books. I would strongly suggestion doing an internship from both the Agency and Corp. side as they are very different but will also teach you things not found in a textbook (e.g. work environment, how to interact with colleagues, etc.)
- What has surprised you the most about working in PR? When I began my career in PR I thought it was all about writing. While it is a large part of what I do, I’ve learned that relationship building is also a VERY BIG part of working and PR. And with today’s technology (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc., it’s harder to form these “personal” relationships.
- What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR? How difficult it would be to move from one industry to the other. For example, I started my PR career working for a client who produced plastics. I worked in that space for over 4 years, but when I wanted to make the switch to technology I was told I need more technology experience. Finally a company took a chance on me and I’ve been working in technology PR for 4 years now. So if you want to work in consumer PR start there not in B-2-B, the switch will be too difficult later on.
- How has PR changed since you entered the field? In one word — Technology. When I first started in PR I was on the phone constantly. We MAILED editors hard copy press releases / press kits. Now everything is electronic and email communication is the preferred method for just about everyone!
- How does technology affect your daily work? I use technology all the time in my daily work. I use email as my primary way to communicate with editors, customers, colleagues, etc. I’ve also begun using such social networking sites as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. As I said earlier, learn all you can about social networking as it will be an important communications vehicle moving forward.
- When your company is hiring for an entry-level PR position, what makes
a candidate stand out? We do not employ any other PR professionals. However, if I was to have an entry-level PR position available I would look for the candidate to be eager and willing to learn, very well organized, have good writing and communication skills, know about social networking and how it works, and be enthusiastic about working in PR.