What Does a Digital Communications Strategist Really Do?
If you’ve ever wondered exactly what a Vice President at a mid-size PR agency does, here’s your chance to find out. Today on our Hoo’s Who Industry Insider Profiles, we learn from Laney Landsman, an Assistant Vice President at Makovsky. While this role will vary slightly from one agency to another and you may have a specific speciality area as Laney does in healthcare, overall, she gives a good sense of what to expect in a role at this level agency side.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Laney!
What do you do?
As an Assistant Vice President, I am responsible for the day-to-day client contact and account management activities for a variety of healthcare accounts focusing on patient, physician and general consumer communications. I am managing several team members across different accounts to ensure we are meeting client expectations, the quality of work is exceptional, and we remain on budget and within the appropriate timeframe. There is a lot of writing, research, presenting, counseling and educating yourself on trends in the industry to ensure you stay focused for your clients. I also proactively recognize opportunities and generate business ideas with account leadership. I really serve as the starting point to the overall development and growth of the accounts.
What’s your typical day like?
It is really hard to describe a typical day, because in public relations you can make a to-do list and by 9:00AM it can be completely shot. Usually though, I have client status calls, a block of time devoted to strategy and program development, a little new business research, and a lot of reviewing of documents before they are sent off to the client. Clients can call to ask questions about the status of a project or seek counsel on an issue that just came about.
What skills and experience would someone need for your role?
You have to be nimble to work in this industry. At the same you have to be able to keep things moving and think smartly, quickly and stay solutions-oriented. Being collaborative and patient are probably the two most important skills for a public relations professional. You can get caught up in the day-to-day without realizing you are losing sight of the road ahead and that can be really dangerous when you are responsible for ensuring the client’s needs are met. However, you are also responsible for teaching junior staff how to manage the day-to-day activities, which absolutely needs patience.
What experience did you gain in your previous positions that helped you land this role?
I’m in a unique position in our industry in that I have been with my company for nearly six years. Much of my experience has been gained by being in the trenches and watching how those around me succeeded. I’ve listened to how my superiors speak to clients and counsel them, how they truly first listen and then ask more questions to pull out what is really going on behind the request.
How did you start in the communications industry?
I had several internships in the communications field, one as an internal PR person at an advocacy association and then one at an agency. I started out focusing on health care since the subject matter interested me, and when I tried to branch out I found myself being pulled back in.
What got you interested in the first place?
Originally I was determined to become a physician, and when I realized chemistry wasn’t my forte I went back to something that was – writing and presenting. Communications seemed like a natural fit for my strengths.
What do you love about your profession?
Being in healthcare public relations, we work with a lot of companies that are focused on treating conditions that truly impact people’s lives. I love that the work we do to educate people on potential new treatment options or give them access to materials that help them better understand their or their loved ones condition can actually make and impact and a difference. It’s also satisfying that my days aren’t the same, and my client’s each present a different challenge. It means you never get bored!
What is challenging about what you do?
Finding balance. There are times when I am working on more than a handful of accounts and am trying to be creative and solve problems or meet goals for each one of them with a different strategy. It is hard not to get frustrated with yourself when a campaign or project doesn’t turn out exactly as you hoped – but you get the chance to bounce back and change course.
What advice would you give to a college student or anyone who wants to start a career in public relations?
I am one of only a few people who actually had the chance to study public relations, most of the entry level candidates we see have a variety of backgrounds and that’s something we love. When we are looking for new people to join our team, we want someone who is a team player, enjoys learning and has a creative spark. If PR interests you, you should reach out to someone and learn more about their job and most agencies have internships that run year round. Get your foot in the door early. We’ve hired a former intern more than once.
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