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Women in PR & Digital Marketing: International Women’s Day

March 7, 2022

International Women’s Day is recognized across the globe on March 8. It’s a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and break the bias that charges gender inequality. Let’s stand together to empower women and girls to step into their careers with their heads held high, knowing with firm conviction that they can make a difference, lead change, break barriers and impact the world.

From the desks of our leading women with deep expertise in consumer PR, Content and Digital Marketing, we’re sharing our stories to encourage and celebrate women in the industry. To those who work alongside us, we support you. To those who inspire us, we thank you. To those who strive to join us, we welcome you - today and every day.  

Caroline Callaway, President

 

How did you get into PR: 

Once I reached Calculus III in college, I wised up and realized math was not the career track I was really passionate about. I was searching for my ‘what’s next,’ and a classmate and good friend suggested I apply for an internship at a local PR firm where she had a contact and would refer me. She said I would love it, and she was right. More than 20 years later, there is nothing else I would rather be doing, and no one else I would rather be doing this job with, than the team here at Bolt PR, part of the Millwright Holdings team of agencies.

 

Favorite part of the industry: 

The people! PR is such a unique industry where those who find success are some of the most creative and brilliant minds, who are well-versed across a wide range of industries, entrepreneurial, extremely driven and competitive, confident enough to hear a lot of ‘no’s’ and still love what they do, empathetic leaders and managers, and are exceptional storytellers who create riveting headlines with seemingly little effort. It’s an interesting, dynamic, thrilling mix of traits and I find myself inspired and learning from them every day. 

 

Advice for women entering the industry: 

Rising tides lift all boats. If you find yourself being told this is a cutthroat industry and you’re constantly competing to reach the next level (as this is what I was told), then find a new tribe. Be of service to others (colleagues, clients, media), be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work, contribute even when you’re not asked, ask questions to understand and constantly seek solutions, and choose to find the positive in every situation. In reality, you’re only competing with yourself to grow and learn in your career, and attitude and mindset are big factors in your success.

 

Lydia Hoye, Managing Director

 

How did you get into PR:

Totally by accident. I was studying to be a psychologist (specializing in psychology in business) when I was introduced to two guys, one ex Freuds and the other ex Jackie Cooper PR, who were setting up a PR agency. I interned for them and loved creating stories for a brand and seeing spreads in national newspapers that I’d created. I loved meeting journalists, finding solutions to client challenges and I grew fond of the camaraderie of late nights, faxing releases, glitzy celebrity events and the VERY sharp learning curves of agency life. I could carve out my role and aim for the stars, so I was totally hooked.    

 

Favorite part of the industry:

Creative comms that stop you in your tracks - seeing a fresh idea and thinking ‘I wish I’d come up with that’. 

 

Advice for women entering the industry:

The three pieces of advice I often share are:

 

Champion your agency or in-house PR function without being asked (especially sharing on LinkedIn with your own opinion!) and Involve yourself in the industry you are part of - get involved in anything that moves you, DE&I, sustainability, best practice, and again, have an opinion. 

 

Come to a brainstorm with ideas and don’t be afraid to share them. Take some time to look at trends and take a look at what people are saying on social to build some thought starters around what people are really bothered about so you can input into the brainstorm from a position of insight.

 

When starting out, ask questions - don’t take things at face value e.g  if you are being briefed and you don’t understand, ask for clarification. The people who have traveled fastest in their careers, whom I’ve worked with, were always curious and asked loads of questions.   

 

Sara Ryan, PR Director

 

How did you get into PR: 

Growing up, I always wanted to be an architect, but after a few setbacks in life, I chose to pursue a degree in communications. After graduating from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I found myself at a crossroads between journalism and public relations and decided to dive headfirst into the world of agency life. With a passion for health and wellness, as well as hospitality, I first landed at a boutique agency focusing on consumer lifestyle, and soon after transitioned into food and beverage, and later into the tech space, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Favorite part of the industry: 

When it comes to PR, I enjoy the fact that every day is different, but the most important component for me is undoubtedly the storytelling. I enjoy showcasing what my clients are passionate about… seeing their brand narrative shine through makes it all worth it.

 

Advice for women entering the industry:

Dare to be innovative – in this profession, it is critical to be brave and strive to stand out amongst the clutter. Plus, you never know where your pitch will take you.

 

Nicole Gist, PR Manager

 

How did you get into PR: 

I somehow knew PR was a natural fit for my skills before I even really knew what PR was. After graduating from Florida State University with a degree in PR, I dove head first into the world of strategic communications, media relations, event planning and reputation management, supporting iconic hotel brands and travel destinations for the first few years of my career. The fun of being able to blend my professional and personal passions made me that much more confident I had found the right industry to thrive in.

 

Favorite part of the industry: 

My favorite part of the industry is being a storyteller. We get to share amazing stories that have a real impact, both on a micro and macro level, and it’s so fun to watch that impact unfold!

 

Advice for women entering the industry: 

Dive in head first - you’ll learn that much more, that much faster by digging in right away! 

 

Michelle Lenhart, PR Manager

 

How did you get into PR: 

I stepped into public relations with a bachelor’s degree in PR from the University of Florida and an eager drive to influence brand stories through creative communications and impactful media strategies. I haven’t looked back since.

 

Favorite part of the industry: 

Being able to help make others’ great work well known, and constantly network with new and noteworthy individuals in various industries.

 

Advice for women entering the industry: 

Lead fearlessly, always be willing to learn/expand your horizons, know what you want and confidently go after it – the opportunities in this industry are endless!

 

Matalee Shambley, PR Manager

 

How did you get into PR:

While I was in school at Wake Forest University, I saw the firsthand power of PR and its ability to share the stories of those that otherwise go unheard, while also generating real movement, progress and understanding. After seeing this impact, I knew this was the path for me. 

 

Favorite part of the industry:

Two Things:

 

First, the stories we get to tell and how those stories affect real people and companies. We’ve reunited veterans after decades apart, we’ve sold out products in just days, we’ve changed the course of a business with one story. The impact is endless. 

 

Second, you have to earn every bit of the results. As a former athlete, PR brings out the best for those with a competitive spirit, as you have to earn every story, every relationship and every success, leveraging all of your tools, creativity and just a little bit of luck. When the pieces of the puzzle come together, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. 

 

Advice for women entering the industry:

Be fearless and relentless in all that you do, while also always seeking to understand other perspectives, insights and experiences. 

 

Erinn Scheib, Sr. Content Strategist

 

How did you get into PR/Digital Marketing:

Since the moment I learned to put my freshly sharpened ‘Number 2’ pencil to paper in grade school, I’ve had a love for the written word. Filling a page with lines that transport the mind, educate, inform, impact or persuade is an art I’ve had my eye on since I can remember. Now, to find a career path that aligned with my passion was the turning point I met in college. I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in mass communications and a focus in advertising, and I jumped into the world of digital marketing, communications and PR.

 

Favorite part of the industry:

Creating content that perfectly and accurately expresses a brand’s voice is the sweet spot. Also, what’s so great about content creation is that there’s always space and a hunger for more. Through social, websites, articles, blogs and so on, there’s never a limit to what we get to share for our clients through creative, strategic content.

 

Advice for women entering the industry:

Find your craft and hone it. Seek opportunities to learn, practice and grow to master your skill set. The value in this is endless, and speaking of value… make sure you know yours.

 

Melisha Oakleaf-Wilson, Head of Digital Marketing

 

How did you get into Digital Marketing: 

It’s a long story, because I was on track to becoming a neurosurgeon with a hobby of writing short stories, poetry and novels when a brilliant college professor and advisor (RIP Les Anderson) asked me why I was bothering with medicine when I could get paid to do what I truly love? He told me I didn’t have to be a doctor just because my parents wanted me to be one. The thought had never occurred to me. I was always supposed to be a doctor. This soon led me to journalism, which landed me jobs as a newspaper/sports editor and eventually an Emmy-winning producer for a top-50 news station. When it came time to settle down, get married and have kids, I knew I couldn’t keep working in the news (the stories are so sad and raw sometimes - and scared me as a mother, to be honest). I got a job as Sr. Content Manager for a medium-sized DMO, and the rest (aside from a few toxic work environments) is history. I couldn’t imagine working in any other industry!

 

Favorite part of the industry: 

The best part about working in Digital Marketing for me is having to constantly stay on my toes. The industry itself is fast-paced and always changing. Things that worked for several years can be up-ended by new trends and methods. It forces one to be a serial student, and people like me thrive in that environment. Plus, I love the looks I get when I explain to people why recipes often come with blogs (SEO of course!) or why Facebook serves them ads after they’ve talked about a product (retargeting!)

 

Advice for women entering the industry: 

For women, (and anyone for that matter)- never put up with a toxic work environment. There are companies that actually value your skills and your dedication, and you’re never “stuck” anywhere you don’t want to be. Your skills are your assets and are valuable and you deserve to be paid, respected and valued without a hostile work environment or people who are threatened by you. Find yourself a team that matches your vibe.

 

Casey Pierce Burkinshaw, Head of Social

 

How did you get into Digital Marketing:

By accident, as most careers start. Early on, I once got in trouble for logging into social media on my company laptop – true story! Now I’m logged into social media all day, every day…and I get paid for it.

 

Favorite part of the industry:

No two days are ever the same. I can say with absolute honesty, I am never bored.

 

Advice for women entering the industry:

Take up space. Imposter Syndrome is real; ignore it anyways.

 

 It’s an honor to share insight and advice from our PR and Digital Marketing leaders, and we are committed to supporting all women in pursuit of their goals, both personally and professionally. Happy International Women’s Day from our team to yours!

 

#BreakTheBias

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