Year of Graduation: 2012
Current Position: Public Relations Specialist, Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Program - Minneapolis, MN
Previous Positions: Press Representative and Staff Photographer, Guthrie Theater – Minneapolis, MN
Please give a brief description of your current position.
As a PR Specialist at Be The Match, it’s my job to add more people to the bone marrow registry by sharing inspirational stories of patients with blood cancer and Be The Match donors. I lead our story amplification team, which is made up of PR and social media specialists who help identify these stories, connect with the patients and their families and carry out pitching within local and national media. It’s a very rewarding job, and I feel so blessed to be able to represent such an amazing organization!
What path did you follow to get to these positions?
I knew I wanted to major in Communication when I started school, but I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with my degree. I sort of fell into Public Relations and started as a publicist for Sesame Street Live, VEE Corporation, which is based in Minneapolis. I got a lot of great PR experience planning publicity for our three U.S. tours. I worked at VEE for a year, and then I transferred those skills to theater and started working as the Press Representative at the Guthrie Theater for about 3 years. That experience increased my knowledge and connections within the local Twin Cities media market and helped get me to my current position at Be The Match.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Internships are so important! You have to start somewhere. After graduation and during the job hunt, you’ll be a standout to any employer if you can show that internship experience on your resume. Another thing to remember is that you learn so much on your first job. If an area of communication doesn’t seem like the right fit at first, try it out for a while, then gain other experiences in marketing. That’s the beauty of this major - it’s so broad that you can get experience in a lot of areas to gain more skills.
Also, it pays to be outgoing and curious. I got the Sesame Street Live job by reaching out to an alum who worked there. There happened to be an open publicist position, so I got lucky and set up an interview the next week. It never hurts to ask!
What skills are important in your field?
You have to be willing to put yourself out there in PR. It takes some guts to come up with a story idea, pitch it to a media contact and either move forward with that idea if they’re interested, or face some rejection. That’s part of the gig! For me, I really like the fact that I don’t work with an advertising budget - all the media exposure I secure is earned, so I don’t often feel a lot of pressure to book every interview I pitch.
It also helps to be organized. I need to set up a lot of interviews on a daily basis, so organization becomes really important to stay on top of interviewees and reporters to make sure everyone gets what they need.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
As I mentioned earlier, I feel so lucky to get to work for an organization with such an amazing mission – saving lives! I come to work each day inspired to help tell amazing stories and get even more people involved with Be The Match’s life-saving mission, so it’s a win/win situation for me.
As inspirational as these stories are, it’s also sometimes heart-breaking to hear about a patient who lost their battle with cancer. That emotional connection within my work is something that I’ve learned to embrace with this position, and sometimes it’s really challenging to continue to move on after you lose a patient. I often need to take a little mental break and allow myself to feel those emotions, then move forward with a new drive to help other patients in need of finding a donor on the registry. In a way, that challenge fuels my work each day.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I took Dana Drazenovich’s “Intro to Media Writing” class when I was a junior…and it was AWESOME. That course really helped me understand how people in the media write and function on a daily basis. Following my path in communication, this class was very valuable and sparked my interest in pursuing a job working with the media.
Through multiple internships with CSB Athletics, Minnesota Public Radio, KARE-TV and G.L. Berg Entertainment, I gained new experiences in the workplace and learned more about where I wanted to go after graduation. I also participated in JEC and helped plan events around campus. This was a great way to gain exposure to organizing events and working on a team.