Posted by: katiecrawford | April 7, 2009

Heather Huhman: A Day in the Life of a PR Professional

Heather R. HuhmanAs a public relations student at Georgia Southern University, one of my assignments, for  Barbara Nixon’s class, was to interview a PR professional. I began searching for possible interviewees and one afternoon while browsing on Twitter I came upon Heather Huhman.

Heather has been involved in public relations for more than seven years and has worked for a wide variety of organizations. I am glad that I got the opportunity to interview someone with such insight into the public relations field.

The following is my interview with Heather:

1. Tell me about yourself. What company you work for? Educational background?

“Entering my eighth year in the public relations industry, I have worked at both big and small agencies, in corporate environments, and at both nonprofits and associations. My clients’ and employers’ industries have ranged from health care to real estate to higher education to energy and more. In my current position as media relations manager at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), I head all external outreach. We are currently undergoing a major consumer and professional education campaign to refine occupational therapy for the 21st century.

In addition to my full-time position at AOTA, I’m involved in a number of other initiatives.

I am an experienced hiring manager who knows and understands the needs of today’s employers and internship and entry-level job seekers. My expertise in this area led to my selection as Examiner.com’s entry-level careers columnist in mid-2008. The daily, national column educates high school students through recent college graduates about how to find, land, and succeed at internships and entry-level jobs.

Because of my passion for public relations, I founded EntryLevel-PR.com– a free, niche online job board for internships and entry-level  positions in public relations- in 2003. The site continues to receive approximately 150,000 unique visitors each month. To better meet the changing of both candidates and employers, I plan to overhaul the site soon.

Finally, I am extremely active on Twitter– providing advice to young public relations professionals via the PRadvice hashtag, and job seekers pursuing all career paths via the CAREEREALISM Twitter Advice Project (T.A.P.) – and recently began offering career coaching packages for public relations students and recent graduates seeking internships and entry-level jobs.

I received a B.A. in communication with honors and a minor in business interests from the University of Missouri-Columbia.”

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

“As I am sure you’ve heard, there’s no typical day for a PR practitioner-let alone a typical week.” (Click here to read)

3. Tell me about a project that you are especially proud of.

“Going back a few jobs to when I worked at a boutique (small) agency, I was tasked with positioning the founder of a local real estate brokerage as an expert for the media. At the time, real estate was a really hot issue because the market was becoming more and more intense. So, this task was harder than it sounds! Within only a few months, I had landed her regular guest spots on two television stations and a monthly column in our local business journal, amongst other solid media placements. She literally went from being unknown to the go-to person for all things residential real estate in the Washington, DC metro area in a very short period of time.”

4. How important is writing in your career?

“Extremely important. I write everyday for my job, whether it’s a press release, a bylined article or content for our Web site.

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

“Be a sponge. Take in as much information as possible early in your career. There is something you can learn from everyone.

Find several mentors. It’s the best to have more than one mentor. One might help you plan out your career path, whereas another might advise you regarding professional development.

Have a ‘can do’ attitude. Schedule permitting, always be first to volunteer to take on new assignments. Actions like this will not go unnoticed by your supervisor (s).”

6. What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?

“I read many industry publications and blogs-Bulldog Reporter, The Strategist, Ragan.Com, O’Dwyer’s, PR Week, etc. I also get a lot of great information by following PRadvice hashtag on Twitter.

7. How do you feel today’s students are prepared for the challenges of new PR?

“I think the biggest problem facing graduating college students is not their lack of ‘new PR’ skills and knowledge, but rather their presentation. As I started to mentioned in my answer to the previous question, colleges don’t teach you how to write a cover letter or resume, and if you lost a potential employer there, it’s over. Employers are receiving hundreds- and in some cases, thousands-of applications for every open position, and thus are looking for any excuse to narrow down the application pool. Before you can ever take on challenges facing PR today, you have to get in the door.”

After this interview with Heather Huhman, I felt like I learned so much about public relations today. I would like to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to participate in this interview with me.

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