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ExPRessions :: Featured Professional

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Featured Professional: Janet Aronica, Account Coordinator at Kel & Partners

How did you get your first full-time job?

It was hard work! I started my job search in November of my senior year.  I knew I wanted to move to Boston so I did a lot of research on the companies out here and I used to Twitter to make contacts at said companies.  In February, I came out did informational interviews. Pretty much everyone said they weren’t hiring.

Around that time I did an informational phone interview with my current boss, and we hit it off pretty good.  Again, she wasn’t hiring, but told me to get back in contact with her if I did move out here. One thing led to another, and she ended up having an opening for me a month later and I got this job.  Yay!

Basically, I was really persistent and I tried to keep my chin up no matter how many times people told me they had a hiring freeze.  I think what really worked for me was doing the internship at SHIFT after graduation.  It kept me in the PR “loop” and made me look more proactive to potential employers.

I don’t think more experience could ever hurt you when you are young and just starting out.  Doing an internship after graduation isn’t the most popular idea with people because there is definitely this expectation that you “have” to get a job.  But I would tell anyone that there is no shame in doing an internship and waiting tables the summer after you graduate until you hit your big break.

How long did it take to get your job from the time you graduated?

I started at Kel & Partners in August, so three months.

What has helped you stand out from other recent graduates? Did you have a strategy for this? How has social media helped your career?

I think that my involvement with social media helped me stand out from other candidates.  Twitter is awesome! It really helped me build a network in Boston while I was still living in Upstate, NY.  People always asked about my blog during interviews.

Social media also helped me at my last internship and at my current job because I think people recognized that I had a skill-set and an interest in that area, so I’ve been given fun and interesting projects that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work on if I didn’t know about social media.  I definitely had a strategy for this, and I based that strategy off of several bloggers and social media marketing pros that I look up to.  (Julia Roy, Sarah Evans and Julia Allison from Non Society have influenced me more than they know!)

What advice do you have for young PR pros?

Oh gosh, I’m still learning new things every day myself!  I guess it’s these four things:

1. Do internships in a lot of different areas. I did corporate, agency and nonprofit PR/marketing internships so I got a feel for a variety of stuff.  I would also say to really take a good hard look at yourself, think about which internship made you happiest, don’t deny it and find a job in that area. Don’t be afraid of what you really want.

2. Get involved in social media, without a doubt. Even if you see yourself working in the most traditional, old school, anti-Twitter industry – there is still value in growing your network and personal brand in social media.  It can definitely be intimidating at first, but you may find you have a strong interest in that area, after all.  I thought Twitter was dumb at first, but I gave it a solid chance for about a month and then I was hooked – and it’s turned out to be a great opportunity for me.

3. Have a question? Google it first! Try to fix it yourself. Want to know how to make a row in Excel? Google it. Want to know how to make a folder on the shared drive? Try a few things on your own, and then ask for help. As an intern and as an account coordinator, always try to be proactive and make your manager’s job easier by trying to manage yourself.

4. Don’t expect to have it all figured out by age 23. You’re gonna make mistakes and you’re gonna be confused sometimes, but that’s part of the excitement of your early twenties.  Work hard, learn all you can, make connections and don’t forget to have a blast while doing it.

About Janet

Janet is a self-proclaimed internet geek, marketing girl, and consummate creative-type living in Boston, MA. She is originally from Buffalo, NY, and received her B.A. in Communication/Journalism in May 2009 from St. John Fisher College.

Janet interned for at SHIFT Communications before landing her first “big kid job” as an account coordinator at Kel & Partners. Her passions include fitness and writing. She indulges both passions over at her blog, Social Health Nut.

Connect with her on Twitter @janetaronica or shoot her an e-mail at janetaronica [at] gmail.com.

Featured Professional:

Liz Presson (@elizabethcp), Brand Evangelist (Manager) for GOSO, a BOALT product in Washington, D.C.

How hard was it to find a position out of state?


Looking for a position in DC was stressful. My internship was coming to an end, and I knew that they wouldn’t be hiring due to the economy. I knew that I had to make something happen fast. For about a month I was doing five to seven interviews a week. Some were for paid internships, but most for full-time positions.

Any down time I had was completely dedicated to my job search. I went to every interview I was invited to. Even though I needed a job and was completely ready to start my career, I was not going to settle. I turned down a couple of second interviews for positions that weren’t going to fit for me.

Because I didn’t know much about the area I had to do a lot of research. I would drive around looking at names on buildings and go home and Google the names. I utilized every contact I had and just asked questions– where should I look, what companies they knew, etc.

What does your position entail?

My position requires that I head up all efforts in the promotion of GOSO,  a social media and marketing suite for automotive dealers. I not only tout the benefits of GOSO to the automotive community, but I also work hard to position the GOSO brand as a social media industry leader. This includes writing all promotional materials: web copy, commercials and blog posts. I present the GOSO product to automotive OEMs (Ford, Chrysler, etc.) and dealer principals. I utilize social media tools and I’m an advocate of the social media movement. I also help design our booth at automotive expos and conferences.

What has helped you develop your career and improve your skills?

I’m lucky enough to work closely with my superiors. The owner of the company, Adam Boalt (@boalt), gives me consistent feedback. He’s readily available and I can ask questions without hesitation. I think that finding someone knowledgeable within a company and using them as a resource is the most valuable way to learn. Honest feedback is priceless.

What has been the most difficult part the transition from full-time student to full-time professional?

As a full-time student and advertising manager at CMU, I was always busy– classes, work and homework. Any free time I had went to being a college kid, as it should. As a full-time employee, my free time is my own. It’s liberating to come home and feel free, but it’s important to decide who you want to be in addition to your 9 to 5. I love my field, and I want to be the best. So, I’ve made my job part of my life. I’m available to clients all the time, and because writing is a key aspect of my job I’m a food writer and I have a personal blog. That’s been the hardest part, deciding what my personal life is going to be like now that I have time for one.

What would you suggest to a young professional who is preparing to enter the workforce?

I suggest entering the workforce with an open mind. I had a very specific idea of what kind of public relations job I wanted, and if I wouldn’t have opened my mind I would not have the job I do today.

Be careful when applying for positions on Craigslist. I was asked to come in for an interview by email for a PR/marketing position posted on Craigslist. When I got to the place, which turned out to be a chiropractor’s office, there were at least 20 other people sitting in the room. The doctor came out and told us that he needed a PR person, but first we had to pass a test. He gave us 100 fliers and told us to go out on the street and hand them out to people who were willing to give their email addresses and phone numbers to us. Then, they would call the people the following week and whichever interviewee got the office the most business would win the position.

Did I mention that this was on an extremely hot DC summer day? I was in a full business suite with high-heals. I had my portfolio and briefcase in hand. The office was clearly getting free help by having interviewee’s work. Truly out of line, needless to say I left after about a half hour and never looked back.

Enter the contest to win a PR/social media book by commenting on blog posts. Information here. Deadline extended to Friday, Nov. 6.

Anne Veltema

Featured Professional:

Anne Veltema, Marketing Communications Coordinator, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.


How did you get involved in health care PR?

Internships and co-curricular activities while at Central Michigan University. I volunteered at Central Michigan Community Hospital in the nursing department. I then completed an internship in the marketing department. That experience positioned me for an internship with Trinity Health which paved the way for my first job at Metro Health Hospital.

I think it’s important to look at why I got involved in health care as well. The health care industry touches nearly everyone. Who hasn’t been in the hospital? Who hasn’t waited nervously for the test results? Health care is so real to me. A lot of my classmates in college wanted to go into automotive PR and work at metro Detroit agencies. I wanted nothing to do with automotive PR. It’s a car and I drive it. My relationship with cars ends there. Health care, on the other hand, significantly impacts and changes lives on a daily basis.


When it comes to something as personal and private as a person’s health, do you think social media is an appropriate platform for health care marketing/communication strategies?

Social media is an excellent tool when deploying marcom strategies. More and more consumers are looking for health information online. They want to find other people going through the same struggles as them, they want their questions about a certain condition answered and they want to learn more. Social media enables a health care PR practitioner to extend the reach of messaging through technology. It’s important to follow the same privacy guidelines with social media as with traditional media.


Can you speak to some of the unique challenges health care PR pros face?

The hardest and most uniquely challenging part of my job is approaching patients or their parents after a traumatic event. I am the liaison between the media and the hospital so when a reporter wants to talk with a mom whose son is now paralyzed and lying in our hospital after a horrible car accident, I am the one who must approach her to let her know a local TV station wants to talk to her about the situation. When a teenage girl nearly drowns and is on life support, I am the one who has to approach her dad to share the media request.

I always work the nursing staff before entering a patient’s room. I ask the nurse to introduce me. Families have so many things on their mind and my presence is just one more distraction keeping them from their child. If family wants to talk, I help make that happen. If they don’t want to share their story, I help make that happen too.


How do you promote your health care institution both locally and nationally?

Specialties are the differentiating factor of programs and services at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. We are a Grand Rapids-based hospital serving children throughout Michigan. Our marketing and communications initiatives are designed to promote “why a children’s hospital”. We promote our more than 150 pediatric trained physicians and 40 pediatric specialties through a mix of marketing, public relations, community relations and advertising.


What should a student interested in health care PR do to prepare themselves for a career in this field?

There are so many ways for students interested in health care PR to set prepare for success. Ideas include:

  • Maintain an active membership in PRSSA including traveling to regional activities and national conferences. I am still in touch with people I met nearly 10 years ago through PRSSA.
  • Attend local PRSA events for both learning and networking opportunities. Again, I’m still in touch with professionals I met through attending PRSA while in college.
  • Pursue informational interviews with professionals in the city you wish to intern or find a job.
  • Write for your student newspaper.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a first impression. Whether it’s at a PRSA meeting, committee work or an e-mail, a professional never forgets a good student or a bad one.


How do you stay competitive in your field?

I stay competitive by following my own advice: networking, education and the pursuit of excellence. Cliché as it sounds, it’s true. Those three tools have worked well for me thus far.


Anything else you’d like to add?

Facebook is a wonderful tool but is not the place to be sharing photos of your Friday night keg stand, spring break adventures in Cancun or anything else you wouldn’t want your grandma to see. I’m not that old to realize these things don’t happen but I don’t want to see the proof it’s still happening. Imagine you land your dream internship and the first day the CEO asks to meet you. She asks you to pull up your Facebook page. Is there anything on there you wouldn’t want her to see? If so, take it down.

I encourage you to find a sector of PR that you’re truly passionate about. I am so fortunate to work in health care PR, more specifically children’s health care, and hope all students are lucky enough to find their calling early on in their careers.

Decide what you want and make it happen. My last semester of college was dedicated to finding a health care job in Grand Rapids. After visiting all the hospital Web sites it became clear no positions were available. I then contacted the PR directors at each hospital inquiring about possibilities not listed on the Web site.

Metro Health was actually looking for someone to work on a contractual basis. I ended up obtaining a doing business as (DBA) certificate and worked on contract for one year. I billed them for my time much like an agency bills a client. It was only 30 hours a week so I picked up a freelancing writing opportunity with a local lifestyle magazine. I was also a substitute teacher on Fridays to earn a full time salary. Not the most glamorous thing for a PR graduate to do but it meant I could do what I wanted to do – work in health care public relations in Grand Rapids. My situation would likely be hard to replicate but it proves preparation and persistence pays off.

Special thank you to Gina Bericchia, who is interested in health care PR, for submitting questions for Anne.


Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.