From Education Reporter to PR Pro::Test Drive My Job Chandra Hayslett
Hayslett Media Consulting
Mopwater: Describe your path to PR. How did you wind up in this field? CH: After spending 11 years as a daily newspaper reporter covering education, my paper [the New Jersey Star Ledger] offered a pretty lucrative buyout. With newspapers laying off reporters and closing, I saw the writing on the wall and took the money and ran! But before I left, I called my contacts and sources to let them know I was leaving and I was available for freelance work. About a month after I left the paper, a former contact called to inform me that his non-profit agency was looking for someone to do public relations work and Hayslett Media Consulting was born.
Mopwater: Describe a pivotal moment in your career. Did you have a mentor or internship that really solidified your interest in this field or helped you hone in on a specific focus area? CH: I accidentally fell into journalism and the same thing happened with public relations. I didn’t leave the paper to start a PR firm, but accidentally fell into it. But it was a natural transition from journalism to PR because of my extensive knowledge of how the media works.
Mopwater: Describe a typical workday including your work hours. What do you do all day? Describe your office setting and workplace. CH: I work from home for now. It’s a love-hate relationship because some days, I work very odd hours. I may be writing a press release at 10 p.m., after starting my day at 8 a.m. My average day ranges from interviewing subjects to write press releases for clients, pitching the releases and following up with the media. I also spend part of my day improving my marketing skills. I’ve never taken a marketing class, but public relations and marketing go hand-in-hand and some of my clients have more marketing than PR needs.
Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks? CH: Even though my firm has a 95 percent media-placement rating, I don’t enjoy pitching stories. I remember as a reporter getting those dreaded calls from folks in PR trying to get me to write about their story or non-story. Now, I’m on the other side of the fence, but the difference is that I know exactly what the media is looking for. But sometimes the client wants you to write a release about something that’s not newsworthy. It’s hard to pitch those releases.
Mopwater: How do you handle this conundrum? CH: When faced with pitching a story that’s not really a story, I always tell the client that the media will probably not be interested in picking up the release. But I try to look for ways to spice up the release. One of my clients’ job was to promote new businesses in town, but the largest paper in NJ didn’t cover grand openings or ground-breakings. So I would look for something that made the story news – is this the first bookstore opening in town? Is it a gym operating in an art studio? [I would try to find] something to make it more than just a grand opening. I was never told not to write the release because the story wasn’t newsworthy [because] most of my clients have a news and events section on their websites, so they would just post the press release on their website.
Mopwater: Who are some of your clients, and what kind of projects do you take on for these clients? CH: I have five clients and they are either non-profits or small businesses. They range from Main Street Highland Park to Middlesex County College to BKW Solutions Group. With each of these clients, I provide media and marketing consulting and PR work.
Mopwater: Describe a recent project where you produced results of which you’re really proud. CH: In December, I wrote all of the copy for Middlesex County College’s Annual Report. My last five years as a reporter were spent covering education, which I really enjoyed. This project allowed me to write about a topic that I’m passionate about. I have a good relationship with Middlesex County College and believe I will continue to work on their annual reports in the years to come.
Mopwater: What aspect of the industry are you most excited about? CH: Definitely, social networking! Between Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn, marketing opportunities are endless.
Mopwater: If you could work on any dream project of your choosing, what would it be? I love fashion and would love to attract some fashion designers or boutique owners for clients.
Mopwater: What if anything would you have done differently in your career up to this point and what advice would you give someone who is trying to break into your field? CH: A year in, I still don’t have a website. It’s a tool that is desperately needed. Advice for someone trying to break into PR: get a website sooner than later and network, network, network.