Jennifer Hawkins is a trailblazer in the public relations industry in the United States. She’s the CEO of not one but two integrated agencies – Hawkins International PR and Maverick Creative - which specialise in PR, social and digital execution in the luxury travel, wellness, lifestyle and hospitality sectors, among others. With her head office based in New York and staff dotted around the country, Jen’s clients are located worldwide, from South Africa to South America, Los Angeles to London, Boston to Bermuda.
Jen didn’t start her career in public relations. In fact, she didn’t even study it. In our podcast chat we discuss why she believes this was a contributing factor to her success in this industry, how to stay nimble and effective both as an employee and business owner plus we muse some of the lessons she's learned along the way.
Whether you’re an entry-level graduate, mid-way through your career or even considering starting your own PR agency, you'll find the chat invaluable. If you'd like to take a listen, you'll find the episode at the bottom of this blog or just search "The PR Pod" on Apple, Spotify or your fave podcast platform.
Be a Sponge
Experiences are key, in this industry. Whether you’re facing a situation yourself or observing others, take some mental notes of how that situation has evolved, been managed or what you would do differently. Heck, even take written notes. If you’re just focusing on yourself and not what’s happening around you, you’ll miss out on opportunities to grow and develop.
Curiosity is key
What you lack in experience can be replaced by curiosity.
There’s no doubt employers tend to zone in on applicants who have experience specific to their sector. But, if you can show you’re more curious to learn and evolve than someone who has the appropriate sector experience but no sense of curiosity, it may just propel you to the front of the line.
At the end of the day, highly motivated, enthusiastic and eager learners can be more beneficial to a business than someone who ticks the boxes of relevant experience but displays little enthusiasm for evolving with the business. Be curious and you'll be rewarded.
Follow The People
The idea of working with brands we personally know and love may feel like a dream come true. But, those opportunities don’t come around as often as we would like and we can often get fixated on the company or brand we think we want to work for and dismiss opportunities to learn from some of the greats in the industry.
When you’re applying for a job, look at the work opportunities you’ll be exposed to and the people you’ll be working with. It may be the role that will fast-track your experience and standing in the industry isn’t the one attached to the brand you thought you wanted to work for.
Don’t Let Pride Get In The Way
In this industry, we need to be excellent communicators for the clients and companies we work with and for. So why, when it comes to running our own business, navigating a challenging situation or progressing our careers, do we feel reluctant to ask others for advice or guidance?
If you want to move into a new sector and would like some tips on how to do so, look at who you know, who is a friend-of-a-friend or even people you admire in the industry you have zero connection with and reach out to them.
The worst that can happen is you get no response. However, you may just find someone who appreciates your curiosity and motivation and is more than happy to give you some insider tips.
Considering going freelance or even starting your own agency? Take a look at those in the industry who are doing it well and reach out to them. Most people are more than willing to share their insight, connections and their time with you. Just don’t forget to do the same with others in the industry when you have the opportunity.
You’re A Business Owner, Not Just A PR Expert
When you start your own agency, your focus is generally on building your clients, your team and delivering a service you’re respected for. But, don’t forget to snap out of the PR headspace and remember you’re also a business owner. Once you put client servicing to the side and start thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur , you'll find your business will evolve more rapidly.
Consider the people in your orbit who run successful businesses and chat to them about ways to develop your business. It doesn't matter if they're not in PR. They also have to hire people, manage staff, motivate people, increase revenue and keep an eye on developments within their industry. And they may have some little pearls of wisdom that can help your business become stronger, more effective, more competitive and ultimately, more successful.
Alternatively, take a look at business courses or programs you could enrol in. You're bound to rub shoulders with people who could be fantastic allies.
How To Stay On Top Of Your Game
We all need a little reminder of what it takes to be great in this industry. Here’s some of Jen’s recommendations:
Be agile and resourceful. Think quickly but rationally and clearly. Make the most of what’s at your fingertips.
Continue to learn, even if you’ve been in the industry for decades.
Be open to remote employees. The best person for the job may not be located in your city..
A smile goes a long way.
Be enthusiastic and curious to learn more or learn differently.
Follow through. Meet deadlines and deliver what you promise.
Be reliable. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room but if you’re the most reliable, you’ll be one of the most sought after.
Invest time in truly understanding your client. Know their story, their processes and what their business goals are, outside of PR.
Pay attention. Take note of what is happening in the news and how it might affect your business or clients. Observe how others in your company/team/ agency are managing challenges and opportunities. Read through the press coverage as you’re disseminating it to clients and see the kind of coverage your colleagues are securing and where it runs.
After More Learnings?
If you’d like to find out the resource that helped Jen navigate her two businesses through the pandemic or whether she thinks a communications/PR degree is a clincher to securing a job in this industry, take a listen to the podcast. You'll also find this episode on your fave podcast player, just search "The PR Pod".
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Images courtesy of Canva and Giphy.