PR Interview with Krista Giuffi
Anyone that has read this blog or my posts on Twitter probably already knows that I’m a big fan of the blogging of Krista Giuffi – AKA PR in Pink, so it should be no surprise that I’ve used this Q&A project to interview Krista for episode 003.
On a side-note, she admits that she voted for Jesse Ventura for Minnesota governor in 1998, but says it is “not because he was a professional wrestler. No, her reason was two-fold: a.) He was in my favorite X-Files episode b.) I didn’t think he would actually win!”
Krista, if you could do anything (professionally) outside of PR / Communications, what would you choose and why?
If I had to throw it all away and not do anything related to PR or communications, then I would choose to be a marine biologist and study sharks. That was one of my first “little girl career dreams,” but my lack of interest in math kind of deterred me from pursuing it as a career. Plus, once I got my first word processor and started writing at age 14, it as all communications from there….
In your LinkedIn bio, you lead with: “I believe in the power of good, honest communications.” What made you decide that it was important to highlight ‘honest communications’ is there some dishonest communications you are trying to distance yourself from?
That line was from my resume at the time I set up my LinkedIn profile. It stemmed from when I was trying to work in PR and the stereotype is that if you work in PR, then you are a “spin doctor” or a “hack.” I was trying (and still try) to convey that any work I do in communications– be it PR, corporate stuff, or otherwise– is based on honesty. If I believe in my client, my product, my company, etc., then it’s easy. I feel that’s what a potential employer (because that’s who is going to be reading that part of my profile closely) should know about me, and that I am not a BS-er and never will BS nor shill BS for anyone or anything.
You recently made the change from corporate communications to alumni relations. How are these two career paths the same / different?
Oh, there’s a lot the two have in common. I’ve been meaning to pick up my blogging and gear it toward the alumni relations/advancement communications field. One area I see a lot of carry-over is the way in which alumni relations is based on relationship building with the alumni. You have to take your time to get to know them as individuals; know their interests; understand if they are philanthropic; find a way to connect them back with the institution. It’s very much like media relations was with reporters back when I worked in PR. You had to get to know the reporter’s beat; know what they liked to cover; provide them with useful content and build a relationship before you pitch.
Until your recent blogging vacation, you regularly wrote a popular PR / Communications blog. What did you get out of that (hopefully soon-to-be-revived) project?
Yes, I do hope to revive the blogging effort! It was immensely rewarding for me when I worked in PR because I got to know people (much like you, Paul) who shared the same interests in the field and from whom I could learn a lot. It was challenging to write every week, but I made the effort and planned ahead, so it really is like having a second job. It was also cathartic to see my throughts expressed for the world to see, because I could hear my tone and feel my emotions in them. It’s really something I hadn’t counted on but appreciate having gone through the blogging exercise.
How did you originally get into public relations / corporate communications?
I like to say I was forced into PR– I actually got a job at a Spanish-language newspaper in Philadelphia thinking the publisher wanted to hire me to be a reporter. He gave me a few assignments but started asking me to help him write press releases in English and pitch ideas to the local media about the newspaper-sponsored activities. At the time (circa 2004-2005) the Spanish media was booming but it soon imploded and I realized it was easier to get a job in PR than in the print newspaper industry. Plus, as soon as I found my groove in PR/communications, namely healthcare or medicine, it was an easy fit for me. And now, I find that I like working in alumni relations for medical schools because it has the same connection to healthcare that I want to follow in every future job or career path I choose.
If you could change one thing about the PR / Comms industry, what would it be?
That’s a tricky question– I don’t know how best to articulate it, but sometimes I think people working in PR get so wrapped up in their little bubble of a world that they forget that the industry can come off sounding like it’s filled with a bunch of d-bags. For example, the whole hub-bub about PRSA wanting to define “public relations” started this whole social media discussion and back and forth between PR professionals (so much so that people were threatening to revoke their PRSA membership). When I explained the situation to my husband, a complete layperson, he asked me, “what is the big deal? Even if you define it, I still couldn’t tell other people what it is you do for a job.” See, all that work for a definition and it still only served those of us in the industry and did nothing to help our image with the outside world.
In what ways do you think social media has changed the larger communications industry?
I think it’s caused the communications industry to listen to it’s customer base more, whether they like to or not. At the same time, I think those who are social media savvy enough know how to work it for the better of their clients or companies. When it all started, communications pro’s were like, “oh, you can’t control the message on social media.” But now, I’m seeing sponsored tweets, social media ambassadors, and suspecting a lot of fabrication on social media that it leads me to believe that, given the right circumstances, you can control the message. You just have to be smart enough to know how to do it.
Do you make any attempt to differentiate you personal from your professional social media persona? If so, how?
Not really– my social media persona pretty much is my professional persona. I think both LinkedIn and Twitter are my professional face, but even with those, I don’t share much personal stuff because it’s not the appropriate forum for it. My Facebook account is private to only friends and family, but even there, I’m careful about what I post because people still post such trivial stuff. I try to treat social media like I do real life– keep it interesting, share something of substance, try to cut down on the self-promotion, and keep it real.
The best PR / Communications people you’ve ever worked with share what quality?
I don’t know if I could pinpoint one particular quality, but some of the best PR/Communications people I’ve worked for had integrity, honesty and passion for what they did.
What advice would you give young professionals just starting out in this industry?
Try to get a job with as much flexibility to try different things– be it writing, media relations, event management, client service, etc. Even the lowest job on the ladder can give you a lot of experience to get you to the next level. And it’s been my experience that if you reach a glass ceiling and there is no more upward mobility in your current workplace, it’s always worth it to get out and move up elsewhere.
What is the best professional advice you ever gave / received?
As much as I hated hearing my boss at the time say it, I realize this is my mantra when it comes to confronting a problem. My boss at that time would always tell me, “Don’t come to me with problems; come to me with solutions.” When you’re working with a manager and want to show some initiative, it’s helpful to not only bring a problem/issue to their attention, but to also present some solutions to demonstrate that you have the ability to overcome them.
What is your Immediate reaction to the following?:
Twitter: Fun for trolling
Facebook: Getting tired
Google+: Not interested
Corporate blogs: Corporate speak
LinkedIn: Online resume
Social media: Dot.com bubble?
Public relations: Still relevant