From Canadian Politico to Award-Winning DC Communicator :: Test Drive My Job Tara Chantal Silver

Tara Chantal Silver, Washington, DC

CEO and Founder – Silver Strategy

Blog: YourGoodIdeaFairy

@SilverStrategy

Winner2011 Washington Women in PR Emerging Leader

Mopwater: Describe Your Path to PR.

TCS: Coming out of college, I was interested in politics and foreign relations. I was always curious about how nation-states interacted and communicated with one another on the world stage. Quickly I realized how much of that translated into understanding perceptions, communication methods, and strategic alliances between them. Nation-states became people and ideas. I was always very good at understanding relationships, targeting, and creating win-win solutions.

What I do now has the same core principle as politics and foreign relations. Instead, however, I found something that I could do on a grass roots level to make an impact in a tangible way. Something that I’ve always understood is people. Interacting with individuals, finding common ground, connecting with a vast array of people, seeing things from other’s points of view, being a marketer and connecting them have always been natural abilities of mine, and I learned to embrace that. Every job I’ve done (political, policy, nonprofit), had communications at the core. It took connecting those dots to make my current career path happen.

Being from Montreal, I was originally involved in Canadian politics, but always had a large worldview. I attended three universities in three countries in three years and had an internship in DC with Senator Moynihan along the way. I came to the conclusion that Washington was the nucleus of where things got decided and I wanted to be in an environment where I could help make things happen.

Mopwater: Describe a pivotal moment in your career.

TCS: Before I founded SilverStrategy I worked at a well-known public affairs shop as Vice President and Director of Communications.  It was a boutique firm, and thus enabled me to learn how things worked from the inside at various levels, as well as teaching me how to take a holistic approach to my clients.  I had a boss that was especially good at establishing strategic relationships, and taught me that through long-term thinking and coalition building there is unlimited opportunity for growth and exposure.  I learned how to bring people together and how to enable clients to get attention and build the buzz that they’re seeking.  The firm not only taught me a lot about how to hone in on my skill set, but also gave me the confidence to venture out on my own.

Mopwater: Describe your workplace and workday. What do you do all day? Where do you work?

TCS: What I love about what I do (and why I’m doing it) is that answering a question like this is difficult because no day is the same!  My clients are diverse (political, corporate, entertainment, nonprofit), which gives me the opportunity to use all sides of my brain.  The work is creative, challenging and academic and depends completely on the day and needs/goals of the client.  I have access to a great office space, but I often decide how I’m going to work that day based on what I have on tap.  Whether it be a traditional office space, coffee shop, restaurant, or home office, I decide based on how I feel that space will inspire me on a given day.

Mopwater: What is your favorite thing about this role? Do you think you’ll be in this position in 5 year?

TCS: My favorite thing about this job is that it can be whatever I want it to be. I am my own boss and create my own schedule, which sometimes means working harder than ever before, but I love that and have ownership over it. That also means I can do things like work from the road and have certain other freedoms that I couldn’t have as an employee of a traditional firm. The other thing I love is being productive, and in this job you really get to see the fruits of your labor. When you do something to help a client, you see the results, and it’s a very satisfying feeling to know that something you did or the advice you gave created an opportunity for them. The common denominator between all of my diverse clients is that they all want to elevate their value in the market place, and I’m the gal that helps them get there. It’s a rewarding feeling.

What I love most about the industry are the people I get to work with. I’m in communications for a reason—I like to work with people. It’s part of the job. I really enjoy meeting/learning/understanding people and I enjoy helping them get where they want to be.

I love working to help clients grow their concept from a strategic communications plan to implementation. A great client for me would be a large corporation that wants to build up a social responsibility platform. I’d love to help create a platform for them to do so and then implement it. I’m extremely fortunate, in that I’ve been able to work with the clients I once dreamed of having.

Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks?

TCS: My favorite part about this business is, Strategy.  It’s figuring out with the client, what the issues and goals are and then coming up with the right plan of action for it.  Entrepreneurship is all about disruption, seeing/understanding a problem, and seeking how to solve and present it in the best way possible.  The same goes for this field as well, which explains my passion for start-ups and entrepreneurship and co-founding DC Entrepreneurship Week, an initiative program that helps to foster economic growth and encourage entrepreneurship within the business community in DC.

Mopwater: Who are some of your company’s clients? What do you do for those clients?

TCS: The types of clients that I take on vary widely across industries, ie. non-profits, government agencies, issue-based organizations, arts and entertainment spaces, and start-ups. Examples are as vast as DC Lottery to a Space X Executive to the Producer’s Guild of America to the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Similarly, the size of my role in client projects can range depending on needs of the clients. As a full-service PR firm, SilverStrategy has a large number of capabilities that can be tailored to each client, including: strategic communications and planning, media consulting and training, business development and management, coalition and partnership building, event planning, image branding, and social media management.

Mopwater: What advice would you give someone who is trying to break into the field?

TCS: My advice is to come in open to learn as much as possible from whomever you can. If you’re young and looking to break into the industry, intern as much as you can, work on building a database, and making connections. Find out what your passion and area of focus is. The field is all about being well received by others and having the personality to be able to navigate through the community. Frankly, it’s about what kind of an asset you are to people and how good you are at what you do; so learn your craft.

As an entrepreneur starting a business, you have to self-teach and learn a lot as you go.

Mopwater: What would you have done differently?

TCS: There are a lot of things I would have done differently with the knowledge I have now after four and a half years of business. For me it was learning when to draw that line and say no. I’m a yes person and I like to make things happen. Luckily I’m in the right field for that.

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