By Julie Tangen
What led to your career in PR?
A degree in journalism, a quirky cover letter, and a stroke of luck. After earning my bachelors degree in journalism I traded my dream of penning columns at a newspaper for a 9-5 job with benefits in order to provide for my family. However, it was at this company that I got to know a regular customer who worked in corporate communications at Hewlett Packard. She encouraged me to get back to the career that I spent so many years studying—she really inspired me. Since journalism intersects with PR, she recommended I cold call a few local PR agencies and inquire about an entry-level position. One phone call, followed by a funny yet honest cover letter, got the attention of Joanna Kulesa . . . and the rest is history.
When you were starting out as an account coordinator, did you think PR would be your lifelong career? When did you realize it would be, and why?
I knew right away that high tech PR was for me. Once I joined my first account—Mercury Interactive—I was hooked. I stayed up late every night pouring over the pages of Computerworld, Red Herring and Java Magazine. I couldn’t learn about technology fast enough. 18 years later, I’m still hooked.
How have you developed your own career?
I have an ongoing commitment to learning and continuing to expand the boundaries of what I know. Reading, teaching, doing, asking questions—along with some professional training and amazing mentors and coaches—helps me get better and better at what I do. Learning something new every day is absolutely essential for staying on top of my game.
We all know the industry changes so rapidly. What are your tips for staying ahead of the curve?
Make innovation part of your company’s DNA. Be open to change—embrace it, love it, cuddle with it, make it your BFF. Stay nimble by working outside of your comfort zone. Try new things and share them with your colleagues. Break habits and never get too comfortable.
What’s a day like as a PR agency VP?
Every day I play many roles: The worker, the networker, the connector, the listener, the manager, and the mentor. I spend a lot of 1:1 time with both employees and clients to better understand what needs are/aren’t being met and help create strategies to course correct. Each day is different—I think that’s what I love most about my position.
What are the most important qualities of a PR agency leader?
To be a successful agency leader today, it’s important to push the boundaries and not be afraid to take your business beyond the status quo. Offleash didn’t gain a reputation for being one of the hottest PR agencies in Silicon Valley by being average. Our agency leaders push themselves and their teams to be the absolute best they can be. ‘Good enough’ is never enough.
How important is culture to a PR agency and what are the elements that make for a healthy one?
Company culture is our secret weapon to keeping our team happy, engaged and around for the long haul. With so many opportunities available for sharp PR professionals, it takes something really special to not only attract but also retain great talent year after year. At Offleash, we respect each other, we support each other, our office is open and collaborative . . . and, we have fun. Our employees are everything and I’m incredibly proud of the culture that we’ve built and cultivated, together.
What would you be doing if you weren’t working in PR?
This one is hard to answer because PR is what I know and love and I can’t picture myself working in any other field. But in a dream world, I’d most certainly have a little farm in Italy where I’d spend my time working in the garden and writing short stories.
Your biggest piece of advice for PR career progression?
Have big ambitions but be patient. I think this applies to every career, not just PR. If you set goals and work hard, you have the power to go as far as you want in your career. Take the time to master every level along the way. You might surprise yourself and go further than you ever dreamed. Good luck!!