Practical Advice from the Diary of a ‘PR Girl’

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By Becca Hary

After graduating from college, I packed my Volkswagen and drove straight from South Bend to Chicago. I was ready to conquer the world, not just the Windy City. That drive to my new apartment in Wrigleyville was more than 20 years ago.

While life and work can be a roller coaster, I’ve learned to embrace the highs and learn from the lows through the support and advice from many wonderful mentors, teachers and friends along the way. Working in communications, especially media relations, is exciting and as a bonafide “PR girl,” I have always loved the churn of the 24/7 news cycle. From establishing roots by working in an agency and later to navigating within communications departments for several Chicago-area Fortune 500 companies, there have been many valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way.

This list represents the 10 commandments that have been meaningful throughout my career and helped me raise the bar to deliver brand-impacting communications.

  1. Believe in the power of failure. No one wants to fail, but we have to be open to taking risks and accepting new challenges, which will bring more opportunities. Mistakes are another way to learn and will teach you the most. This is a hard one to realize in the moment, but this is how we learn and get better.
  2. Don’t be afraid to do the unexpected. That nervousness you feel means you’re growing and can lead to something wonderful.
  3. Never stop learning. Take a class, read a book or a blog and stay current. Knowledge is power and will give you confidence and set you apart. Communications has changed immensely with advances in technology and the changing media landscape. It’s important to keep up to date on the latest and greatest.
  4. Embrace change. While change can be scary, you will find tremendous growth in what comes next and you will learn something new to help broaden your skillset. Early on in my career, I transitioned to media relations, which was relatively unknown to me at the time. This leap of faith paid off in dividends, as I was able to cut my teeth by learning from some of the best in the news business.
  5. Teamwork makes the dream work. Besides the fact that this rhymes, is easy to remember, and is the key takeaway from a good movie, everyone should practice this regardless of their level within the company. Collaboration is king.
  6. Surround yourself with people who make you better. Listen to different ideas, perspectives and be open to feedback. Diversity of thought will be your best friend to help inform your future decisions.
  7. Listen more than you talk. Nobody learns anything by hearing themselves speak. Thank you for this one Sir Richard Branson.
  8. Network to achieve your net worth. Developing personal relationships inside and outside your organization is important and will stimulate your intellectual curiosity, help you acquire new skills, inspire ideas and create meaningful connections.
  9. Be humble. When I played competitive tennis, we were taught to win with grace, lose with humility and do both with dignity. From the court to the conference room, you can apply any outside skills you’ve acquired to the workplace.
  10. Mentor and be mentored. There’s a great scene in the movie Jerry McGuire, where Cuba Gooding Jr. refers to Tom Cruise as his “Ambassador of Quant.” To me, this means you have fulfilled your life and career. Find yourself an “Ambassador of Quant” who will advocate for you, give you honest feedback, and be your thought partner. And remember, pay it forward for someone else to help them along their communications journey.

While there is no secret formula for winning in the workplace, if you love what you do, it will come through in your personality and demeanor and ultimately lead to a successful and rewarding career.

 Becca Hary is a communications professional and resides in Wheaton, Ill. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana and a Master’s Degree in Marketing from Loyola University in Chicago. Becca has worked for a Chicago ad agency and in corporate communications for several Fortune 500 companies, including Sears, McDonald’s and currently, Ingredion. 

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