The field of public relations seems to have this glow surrounding it: visions of overflowing glasses of champagne, fabulous outfits and projects in exotic places. It seems like a modern working woman’s fairytale…so we assume it has to be made up. We decided to ask someone in the field what it’s really like to be a PR pro and see how our imagination holds up.
This April, Maggie LaMaack was named the 2014 Minnesota Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Young Professional of the Year, which we thought made her the perfect person to get the scoop from.
When did you decide PR was the career path you wanted to take? Were there any clues early on that made you realize you could be successful in the area?
In high school I was the editor of the yearbook and enjoyed reading and writing, so I think I always knew I wanted do something communications-based. I was lucky enough to have a really tough high school English teacher who made it her mission to cover my papers in red ink until I turned in something that was near perfect. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t learn those skills early.
I went to college thinking I wanted to be a journalist. At the time, the job market was terrible and a few of my professors strongly hinted PR might be the smarter move. I liked the flexibility and options PR provided and knew I could still put my writing skills to use, so I decided to move down that path.
Once you realized that you wanted to explore the world of PR, what steps did you take to make that a possibility?
After I started the PR track at the University of Minnesota, I started applying for internships and ended up doing six of them throughout and immediately after college. That might sound like a lot, but they were generally a semester or two long, and not full-time, so I was able to learn a lot about both the communications and agency side of the industry before I even graduated.
They were all so important because they taught me what I liked and didn’t like, and eventually steered me toward the agency side of the industry, which is where I have worked ever since.
Tell us about your first job in PR. Was it as glamorous as everyone thinks or was it a lot of grunt work?
My last semester of college I interned for a global clothing brand in London because I thought I wanted to go into fashion. It sounded super glamorous, but in reality I spent most of my time doing inventory and dealing with not very nice people.
But in the Twin Cities, everyone just has a different mindset. Most everyone I have worked with over the years has been nice and friendly, and while the work can be un-glamorous at times, agency life is fun and you get to work with smart and creative people. It does involve some very early mornings and long hours, but it also involves happy hours and fun office trips, so everything evens out in the end.
What do you think helped set you apart from the other young PR professionals?
I’m not sure what sets me apart exactly, but I do know that using and understanding social media has been extremely important, and has connected me with more people than I would have ever imagined. I feel like I am within two degrees of separation from just about everyone in the creative industry in the Twin Cities, just because of Twitter. Having that sort of network is indispensable.
In terms of PR people, I am about as introverted as they come. The term “networking” makes me anxious. But through Twitter I was able to “meet” so many people before actually meeting them in real life, and for me it has made all the difference.
Do you have any tips for someone wanting to break into the PR field?
Be persistent, make good connections and be nice to people. And use one space after a period.
Maggie lives in Minneapolis and currently works as an account executive at Bellmont Partners. She writes or has written for various local publications including vita.mn, City Pages and the Flyover and serves as the editor of LOL/OMG blog at l’etoile Magazine. She likes shopping and whiskey and Taylor Swift, obviously. Her job has provided her with a vast knowledge of the butter sculptures at the State Fair, AMA.