Informational Interview Recap

Wendi PatrickI had the pleasure of talking to Wendi Patrick, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Savannah Christian Preparatory School. Wendi earned her degree from Georgia Southern University in Early Childhood Education. After graduating college she began teaching Kindergarten at SCPS. When the Headmaster of the school decided to add a public relations position, Wendi was selected for the job!

I met Wendi last semester while I was enrolled in the PR Events class. I was so excited to talk with her about her job and the PR profession. She gave me some great insight into the PR world and some of the things she has seen and learned during her time as a public relations professional. Here are some of the questions Wendi answered during our interview:

1.) What’s a typical work week like?
“You have to see what’s coming ahead and make a plan for the things that need to be covered and what should be covered. You have to prioritize what should be focused on first and what can wait until later. Then it’s a matter of setting an agenda and a to-do list. As far as press releases go, I set up a schedule of what needs to be sent out immediately and what can wait for later in the week. Thursday, I start planning for the next week and what all needs to happen.”  Wendi also explained that she personally looks at what has happened in the last 30 day and what she thinks will happen in the next 30 days. This gives her an idea of what is news worthy and what she should set as top priority.

2.) Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.
“I rarely look at something I’ve done and am completely pleased. I am very critical of my own work. One project I am proud of however is the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) informational session. I had a clear message of who we are at SCPS and what our brand is. You could see who we are and people could feel who we are by the image we created at the convention. This was the first time we ever did this particular event and I thought it was a great success. We carried out an entire idea.”

3.) What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?
“I study magazines, newsletters, etc. I was just last week reading magazines from 6 years ago and comparing them to today’s magazines. I also have several peers in the same area of work that I speak with. I see where we came from to see where we are going. Also, talking to different age groups.” Wendi went on to say that she works with a team of people of all different age groups and that really helps her get different perspectives on things.

4.) What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?
“I wish I would have known that social media was going to be so important. I would have started networking on social media sites sooner and given a lot more credence to social media. I still need to get better at it and utilize it more.”

5.) How important is writing in your career?
“I didn’t choose this, it chose me. When my school needed a public relations person, my principal said it would be a great choice for me because I am a great writer. Now however, I have less time to do what I would like to do. I’m a wordsmith, but with that you need time to edit. And sometimes I don’t have the time to do all that. But I do love writing and the process of picking just the right words to convey a message.”

6.) What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?
1. You have to be passionate in what you are promoting, marketing. I can’t imagine publicly relating for something I didn’t fully believe in. 2. You have to have real connections and relations with people on the inside of your organization. When I chit chat with our teachers and parents I get the real pulse of the people that know us. 3. You have to have connections and relationships with people on the outside. I have friends that work for the media that I can talk to that I trust. They can help me craft my story.

7.) Did your education prepare you for working in PR?
No, my formal education did not. Other than my writing skills. My college writing teachers did prepare me for my Pr career but my college degree is in Early Childhood Education. What did prepare me were my good instincts. The instincts I used with my student’s parents when I taught Kindergarten. Also, I’ve had to teach myself what to do. I learn best in community. The non-profit world, volunteering, really taught me tons as well! You get to take on jobs you wouldn’t ever be able to take on professionally so you get great experience.

8.) How has PR changed since you entered the field?
“Social media has changed it. Instead of sending press releases out via fax or email, we tweet. Our school is slow to catch on to the social media trend but we are working to incorporate it more into our program. My hope is that the administration will eventually feel comfortable enough to use social media. It helps in so many ways and we can do so much with it but I do think, especially in the school setting, that rules need to be in place.” Wendi continued by saying how social media can not only help the administration and staff but also the parents and students. She said it is just going to take a while until everyone is comfortable with it and on board.

9.) When your company is hiring for an entry-level PR position, what makes a candidate stand out?
“For me, volunteer experience says a lot about a person. If you are really involved, especially with fund-raising, you are already utilizing your PR skills. People who are volunteering and in leadership positions especially stand out. Sometimes being in a Greek organization also looks good because they have philanthropy and its a good networking experience.”

10.) What has surprised you the most about working in PR?
“The thing that has surprised me the most while working in PR is that not everybody gets it. Not everyone understands the importance of good public relations. They don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to seek out opportunities. To me, it’s instinctual, but there are so many people that don’t have that gut feeling about things. Not everyone understands how things sound. You can try to train and explain but I really think it’s either you get it or you don’t. It’s like being a gracious host. Some people just know how to throw great parties and invite people into their homes. They have the house spotless, the perfect food and they just know how to entertain guests in their home.  And then there are some people that just don’t know how to do that.

After talking to Wendi, I can honestly say, I was a little bit scared about graduating and getting a job in PR. Although everything she described sounded like me, I am a little bit afraid to enter into that kind of lifestyle voluntarily. I think Wendi really helped me see that preparation and planning are key to being successful, not only in public relations, but in life! No more procrastination for me.

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2 Responses to “Informational Interview Recap”

  1. marielorelei Says:

    I love that one of things that Patrick does to stay current in the public relations field is to read magazines. Who would have ever thought that something that millions of teenagers and housewives across the land do to pass time could be something that a professional does in order to improve their skills, that’s just amazing.

    I think that it’s great that she has a degree in early childhood education and found a way to parlay that knowledge into a public relations career. It definitely shows that there is plenty of competition out there for tradition public relations students, but it also shows how versatile the field can be. There’s no sort of knowledge that one can’t lean upon in order to be a great public relations practitioner.

  2. […] Informational Interview Recap by Candice […]

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