The Swing of Things brings a fresh insight from professionals and experts around the world within the Public Relations industry.
For the April edition, we had a chat with Kathleen Reid, Managing Director at Switchboard Public Relations. Kathleen leads a team of consultants with expertise in communications strategy, crisis management, copywriting, media relations, event management and more. She has been proud to serve a collection of clients ranging from technology, impact, and development. Notable clients include emerging leaders (CHIMP, the BC Tech Association, Accelerate Okanagan) in addition to well-established publicly-traded companies (such as DeWalt and Teck).
Switchboard Public Relations
What skill(s) do you think are crucial to working in PR/communications?
One of the challenges of finding PR talent – and of succeeding in this field – is that a lot of the skills a great PR person needs aren’t really teachable. They aren’t things you can learn in a PR/communications program. Adaptability is huge. I think anyone who’s expecting a job that’s reliably 9 to 5 or where you can count on what your day’s going to look like isn’t a good fit for this field. You have to be able to roll with the punches, because there are a lot of them. For people like me, that’s exciting. For others, it’s overwhelming. Attention to detail is another one. Double checking doesn’t cut it. You have to triple check, because those little details can make or break a campaign or an event. A “can do” attitude would be another. When those unexpected developments happen that throw all your plans off kilter, being able to come up with new solutions and just start hustling – that’s imperative. If you have those qualities – because not everyone does – you might just be made for PR. In which case, call me!
What do you see as the future direction of the industry?
PR has changed so much, even in the course of my career, and I think we can plan on that continuing, maybe forever. We as a profession have to continue to adapt to what the world needs. Technology has obviously been a big disruptor, as it has for many fields. It affects everything from crisis management – for instance one of the issues we may be called on to manage is a cyber security or data breach. And obviously the media landscape is more fractured than ever before, and the traditional media is not even close to our sole or even primary source of information. So as much as media relations is still a large part of what we do, we also have new job functions, like digital content production. And making sure that we’re telling authentic stories, because it’s a noisy world out there, and audiences are discerning and they have extremely low tolerance for bullshit. So the perception of PR people being spin doctors? That doesn’t work anymore. Except maybe in politics. The spin machine seems to be alive and well there.
Tell us about your initial introduction to Public Relations.
I hadn’t really planned on a career in PR. I was doing my undergrad at UBC in Political Science and Economics. I always thought I would go into policy, government or law. But one summer I accepted an internship at National Public Relations, and I absolutely loved it. I loved – and still love – how PR is so diverse. No two days are ever the same, and there can be a large component of policy, government relations and economics to it. You become an expert in the field in which your clients operate, so you’re constantly learning new things. After I finished my degree, I worked in house for a while – for Teck – and then decided to break away and start my own agency. That’s allowed me to focus on the sectors and industries that really appeal to me – tech and the social impact sector in particular.
Thank you for chatting with us, Kathleen!
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