Laura Blank, APR
Job Title and Function: I’m the Senior Adviser for Public Relations at World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. Our team is based in several cities across the country, and we work virtually together and with media based anywhere in the world to help tell the stories of World Vision’s work.
Most Rewarding thing about working in PR today: I’ve been curious about the world since I was a little girl. In fact, that inquisitive nature was part of the reason I was attracted to journalism (before I started working in public relations). I spent several years working in television news in New York City, and I loved the constantly changing rhythm of each day. I love that in both journalism and public relations we’re constantly meeting new people, facing new challenges and being asked to creatively tackle a new project. I’m still learning every day – about our work as a global relief, development, and advocacy organization and about my work as a PR professional. And I find that so invigorating.
Craziest/most challenging thing you’ve done in PR: Within my first three months on the job at World Vision, I landed an amazing segment on Good Morning America with World Vision’s Gift Catalog. I pitched the booker on the idea almost six months before the segment aired. She and I had worked together at CNN, and it turned out it was exactly the kind of thing they were looking to do for the holidays! I met one of their VJs in Ghana for a shoot to show how the Gift Catalog makes an impact in the lives of the families who receive items like goats, and we did a two-day shoot there. That piece turned into a package that aired before our live segment in December. For the live segment, we filled the Times Square studio with live animals. There was a rooster crowing on the jib cam, pigs running across the studio floor, chickens squawking and interrupting the anchor, and cows and llamas in the corner! I also spent a few months shopping around New York City to find items that were similar to items we provide families through the catalog. We brought those into the studio and had the GMA art team create over-sized price tags and big red bows for them. I joke that my career peaked after that segment. It’s been all downhill ever since 😉 [You can see a link to the live segment here: https://vimeo.com/153048488]
Advice for new PR pros: I guest lecture at UNC – Chapel Hill, and I always share the same three pieces of advice with the junior and senior public relations students there:
1) Take chances. In the fall semester of my senior year of college, I applied to more than 100 television stations, hoping someone would take a chance on me. I heard back from exactly zero news directors. I was crushed. But I started to look for other opportunities, and I heard about an all-expenses paid fellowship program for communications students in New York City. They took about 40 students from an applicant pool of around 600 at the time. Long story short: I applied and was accepted and moved to New York City immediately after graduation to start my internship (which led to my first TV news job!).
2) “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Find your own path. One of the great things about working in PR is that, unlike a career in a field like medicine or teaching, there isn’t a clear-cut path to success. This can be a wonderful thing – but it can also be stressful as you’re starting out in your career. Don’t let the lack of clarity intimidate you, and don’t compare your path to anyone else. There are a million ways to get into this field and find great success through the years; find your way.
3) Read. Read. Write. Write. Network. Network. Public relations has changed dramatically in the past few years, but some of the basics remain the same: you must be a great writer. You must be curious. And you must be engaged with your community, professionally and personally, to continue to grow your career. I always tell students that the best way you can get a foot in the door – or find your way once you land that first job – is by constantly working on these skills. Reading, writing, and networking will always be a good investment of your time!
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