PR Pros: Ashley Graham Of The Conscious Publicist On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
An Interview With Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Passion for supporting others — As a public relations pro, you often work to promote and support the interests of others. It’s essential to have a genuine passion for helping others and a desire to impact the world positively.
Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ashley Graham.
Ashley Graham is the founder of The Conscious Publicist, a public relations firm that helps purpose-driven brands share their stories and methodologies with the world. Graham has always had a passion for writing, communication, and storytelling, and after working at traditional PR agencies and in in-house director roles, she wanted to do something more meaningful with her career. In 2016, Graham decided to start her entrepreneurial journey that focused on helping conscious brands share their messages of mindful leadership, social impact, and purpose. The Conscious Publicist has since become a leading PR firm in the industry, helping its clients share their stories in an authentic, engaging, and impactful way to succeed in today’s competitive media landscape. Graham is known for her authentic and transparent communication approach and ability to connect with people from all walks of life. In addition to running The Conscious Publicist, Graham is also a writer and speaker and frequently contributes to various publications, podcasts, and blogs, advocating for purpose-driven brands and a way of living, all through the transformative power of storytelling.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always believed in the power of ideas and their ability to inspire action and change. This belief led me to my career in public relations and media relations, where I can use my skills and expertise to advocate for a more conscious and mindful approach to communication. As a leader in this field, my team and I are committed to bringing authenticity and awareness to our work and helping our clients share their stories and messages with the world. Through education, strategy, and a focus on authentic storytelling, we can inspire meaningful change and transformation in the lives of others. Our clients are courageous individuals and organizations dedicated to embracing new beginnings and finding opportunities for growth and expansion, even in the face of adversity. By sharing their experiences through storytelling in the media, we hope to create a positive ripple effect and inspire others to find their path to transformation and growth.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
The Conscious Publicist is my second business venture, and it has the potential for significant growth based on my experience in my previous business. However, I recognize that success cannot be achieved alone. Therefore, I have consciously sought and collaborated with experts who bring a range of skills, expertise, and experience to the table. This realization has allowed me to watch the brand and business come to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the outset. I am excited to continue exploring the potential of this venture alongside my partners. Overall, embracing a collaborative approach and seeking out the support of others has been vital in driving business growth and success. I am excited to see what the future holds.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One common mistake that many PR professionals make, including myself, is not proofreading written communications carefully. Grammar and punctuation are essential in PR and media relations, as they help to convey professionalism and credibility. In the past, I have made minor grammatical errors in pitches and newsletters that I have sent out for my agency or organization and clients. While these mistakes may seem insignificant, they can still be embarrassing and impact your credibility. These mistakes reminded me of the importance of slowing down to take the time to proofread all written communications carefully to avoid these types of errors while not letting them discourage me from continuing to improve my skills and grow as a PR professional.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
One of the most exciting projects we are currently working on is launching our podcast, The Conscious Publicist Podcast. This podcast is a space where we explore the intersection of public relations, thought leadership, business, and entrepreneurship, all through the lens of being a conscious human being. We will explore the habits, thoughts, strategies, and modalities that have helped leaders overcome limiting beliefs, comparison, and self-doubt, to become the thought leaders they were meant to be.
In addition to the podcast, we are launching our executive contributors program for The Conscious Publicist as a media platform. This program will include contributing articles, executive thought leadership interviews, and opportunities to be highlighted in stories on our platform.
We are also excited to announce the launch of our PR VIP Intensive sessions, which will provide a lot of value to clients who want to manage and execute their PR and media relations campaigns. These sessions will cover everything from crafting media releases to building relationships with journalists and are designed to help clients succeed in getting their message out to the world. Overall, we are committed to helping our clients share their stories and announcements with the world, and these exciting projects and offers are just a few of the ways we hope to do so.
Stay tuned for more updates on these projects and offerings as they become available!
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The three character traits that have contributed most to my success are:
- Passion for creating my own life and reality.
- A desire to support global initiatives.
These traits also guide how I support my clients at The Conscious Publicist. My passion for self-development and learning from all experiences helps me find my voice and provides growth opportunities for others, which aligns with our philosophy and mission at the organization. Transformation comes from within, and that self-reflection and introspection can lead to a more conscious and transformed version of ourselves and our vision for the future. Our external experiences reflect our inner vision and voice, and through my journey of self-reflection, I have learned lessons that have changed my perspective on transformation. These lessons then support how we craft our methodologies with our clients and the messages and stories they want to share.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?
First things first, Public relations (PR) is the management and shaping of the image and reputation of an individual, brand, or organization. It involves building mutually beneficial relationships with various stakeholders, including the media, employees, shareholders, clients, and the general public. PR professionals use multiple methods and strategies to manage the connection between an organization and its stakeholders and to influence public perception of the organization. Several forms of notable PR include media relations, internal communications, crisis management, content marketing, social media, influencer relations, event planning, and corporate social responsibility. PR aims to improve a client’s or organization’s reputation and perception and build and maintain positive relationships with key supporters to contribute to its long-term success.
The most notable forms of PR are:
- Media Relations: This involves building relationships with journalists and media outlets to secure coverage, earned media, and publicity for a client or organization.
- Internal Communications: This refers to the communication and messaging shared within an organization, such as employee newsletters or internal announcements, that can positively shape the organization’s culture.
- Crisis Management: This involves developing and implementing strategies to mitigate negative impact and damage control in the event of a crisis or emergency. Crisis management effectively addresses and mitigates the effects of adverse events or situations that could damage an organization’s reputation.
- Content Marketing: This involved creating and publishing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience to ultimately drive long-term engagement.
- Social Media: This involves using social media platforms to promote a client or organization, engage with loyal audiences and followers, and manage online reputation.
- Influencer Relations: This involves building relationships with influential individuals or organizations with large, loyal audiences to promote a client or brand.
- Event Planning: This involves planning and organizing events such as campaign launches, press conferences, or trade shows to promote a client or organization.
- Corporate Social Responsibility: This involves promoting and highlighting a client’s or organization’s socially responsible efforts.
Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?
It can be tough to answer this question because, as someone with a degree in PR, marketing, and business management, many self-taught programs can teach you more current and innovative methods for the industry today without traditional schooling. Young professionals can take several self-taught courses and programs to learn about PR, communications, and journalism. Additionally, some professionals can coach, train, and mentor young professionals in the industry through a more interactive and collaborative curriculum. It’s important to note that this industry values social and interactive skills more than adherence to textbooks. Therefore, if I had to advise a young professional considering a career in PR, communications, and journalism, I would say for them to do their research and find a learning method that resonates with them and an individual or organization that fully supports their learning approach while allowing them to nurture their strengths and interests.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Absolutely! Here are three of my main top tips for great networking:
- Be intentional about who you want to connect with: Intentionality is vital in every facet of life and business. However, I have discovered that being intentional with online and offline networking is essential. My tip is to consider what you want to achieve through networking and who can best support you. Intentionality will help you attract people who share the same interests, values, and goals as you do. When you connect with those with similar interests, values, and goals, there are alignments to explore in many avenues, not just one.
- Focus on quality connections over quantity: It’s better to have a few strong, meaningful connections than many unintentional ones. Spend time building relationships with people who genuinely want to support you and those you want to genuinely support in return.
- Network to solely connect with aligned people and communities, not to meet specific expectations: Don’t approach networking to gain something specific, like a client or an achievement. Instead, focus on building genuine relationships with good people with similar interests, values, and goals, as mentioned above. These relationships will be more rewarding and could often lead to unexpected opportunities.
- Be curious about your connections: Approach networking with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Ask your connections questions about their life, career, or their journey. You never know what similarities you may have. They could lead to new opportunities that may arise due to your curiosity. Being curious about your connections allows you to broaden your network and learn from people with different experiences and perspectives. By asking questions and listening actively, you can gain valuable insights and new ideas to help you grow personally and professionally.
Remember that networking is about building solid and meaningful relationships. Take the time to get to know people and learn about their interests, experiences, goals, and simply what lights them up. Offer help, advice, or support when you can while being open to receiving the same support in return. By building quality connections with good people, you’ll be able to create a strong network of support and resources. Be genuinely interested in the people you meet, and take the time to get to know them.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
One effective way to generate high-quality leads is to leverage your existing client relationships and use them as referral partners. Strong relationships are crucial to success in the PR industry, and having clients willing to refer new business to you can be highly beneficial. Additionally, building mutually beneficial relationships with media partners can open up new business opportunities and potentially lead to PR opportunities for your company. By cultivating solid connections and nurturing these relationships, you can create a steady stream of qualified leads for your business.
Another strategy is to pursue PR and earned media opportunities for your business and your clients. Earned media can help you gain exposure to new audiences interested in your services and establish your business as an expert in your field. Building strong relationships and taking advantage of opportunities for visibility can effectively generate good, qualified leads for your business. This is where PR and media relations experts such as those found in this series can support you!
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why.
Certainly! Here are my thoughts on the five things you need to create a highly successful career as a public relations pro:
- Integrity — Maintaining integrity is essential in the public relations industry, as you often represent clients or organizations to the public. It’s vital to be honest and transparent in your communications and to act in a way that is consistent with your values and beliefs.
- Organizational awareness — Awareness of the internal and external factors that impact an organization is crucial for a public relations pro. Organizational awareness includes understanding the company’s goals and objectives and keeping track of industry trends and competitors.
- Verbal and nonverbal communication skills — Excellent communication skills are a must-have for a public relations pro. You need to convey information effectively to various audiences through various mediums, including writing, speaking, and social media. It’s also essential to read and interpret nonverbal cues and body language, as this can help you gauge the effectiveness of your communication.
- Drive, determination, and motivation to succeed — Public relations can be challenging, and it takes a lot of hard work and determination to succeed. It would help if you were motivated to achieve your goals and willing to put in the effort to make them a reality.
- Passion for supporting others — As a public relations pro, you often work to promote and support the interests of others. It’s essential to have a genuine passion for helping others and a desire to impact the world positively.
Overall, these five qualities will help you build a strong foundation for a successful career in public relations.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I had the opportunity to start or support a movement, the movement would focus on improving the processes contributing to waste and the overproduction of unnecessary goods. Our consumer-driven society often prioritizes convenience and profit over sustainability and the long-term health of our planet. As a result, we see an abundance of products produced that contribute to environmental harm and fill our landfills. It is important to reevaluate our priorities and find ways to reduce unnecessary production and waste. My support could involve the following:
- Adopting more awareness around sustainable manufacturing practices.
- Promoting reusable and biodegradable materials as a consumer and a business.
- Encouraging consumers to make more mindful and responsible purchasing decisions.
By implementing more efficient and environmentally-conscious practices, we can reduce the negative impact on our planet and create a more sustainable future for generations to come.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
About the Interviewer: Inspired by the father of PR, Edward Bernays (who was also Sigmund Freud’s nephew), Michelle Tennant Nicholson researches marketing, mental injury, and what it takes for optimal human development. An award-winning writer and publicist, she’s seen PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. Michelle co-founded WasabiPublicity.com.