PR Pros: Morgan Wolfe Of Next PR On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro

An Interview With Kristen Shea


Curiosity is essential. I know I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating. Curiosity fuels innovation. PR people have to be curious and ask questions so they can deliver creative PR strategies that achieve their clients’ goals. One of my favorite things is when a client says we’re asking great questions.

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 Morgan Wolfe, specialist at Next PR.

Morgan is a public relations pro passionate about storytelling and sharing clients’ news with the media. She specializes in connecting the dots between companies and big-picture industry trends through creative campaign implementation.

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?

My journey began in graphic design. I worked day and night producing designs on deadline until, one day, I realized I had so much more to offer. Great design and branding are important, but so is great brand communications. I noticed there was often a disconnect between the two. For some brands, their visual elements didn’t convey the same message as their outreach on social media, in the news and on their website. I decided I wanted a career that addressed all these elements and still leveraged my talents, so I joined the world of public relations.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I work at our headquarters in Colorado Springs (COS). My first year at Next PR, I cold-pitched another local COS company, Altia, graphical user interface software company, on our PR services. In my email, I asked the VP of Marketing if he’d like to grab a beer sometime. He responded, suggesting we could grab coffee instead. I was a little embarrassed, but I guess my email got his attention!

Altia is still a client almost four years later. We’ve done some incredible work for them, driving national brand awareness and helping them lock down partnerships with some of the top automotive brands.

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 day, I ate wasabi-flavored almonds with lunch right before I had to give a virtual presentation to a client. As I was speaking during the presentation, my throat began to feel itchy and irritated. My eyes started watering badly, and I was coughing violently.

The client was alarmed and asked if I was ok. I had to tell the entire team on the call that I ate wasabi-flavored almonds right before and must have gotten something stuck in my throat. It was the most embarrassing moment. So, the lesson I learned that day: Never eat wasabi-flavored almonds ahead of a presentation! Better yet, never eat anything spicy ahead of a presentation!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently managing all the social media channels — including the CEO’s personal channels — for a fast-growing company in the cryptocurrency space. It has been so fun to learn about a new industry and see the types of content followers engage with the most. In the last six weeks, we have increased LinkedIn followers by 88% and Twitter followers by 33%. I’m excited to keep the momentum going!

Internally, I’ve also been working on a fun project to assess our firm’s knowledge of Google Analytics, a vital tool for showing the ROI of our efforts.

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?

I’ve always been naturally curious with a desire to learn. I ask a lot of questions and spend a lot of time researching new tools, new PR strategies and actions other brands are taking to see success. If you’re curious, you’re always learning, and it gives you an edge both in your career and with your clients.

When I started at our agency, I was solely a member of our social media team. That was my role on all client accounts, but I remember feeling so curious about every other service our agency offers — media relations, crisis comms, analyst relations, advertising, speaking and awards and so much more. I began bugging my manager weekly, asking her if I could learn more about another service, and it worked. Eventually, I was staffed to handle media relations on accounts, then social advertising, then influencer relations and so on. Now, I’m a fully integrated employee, and almost every member of our firm is, too.

I’m also creative and love to push the boundaries of how things are typically done, or problem solve in a new way. Often in PR, we have to develop out-of-the-box campaign ideas that have never been done before to help our clients meet their business goals. We’re constantly reinventing the wheel to help our clients see success.

One of the most fun and creative campaign ideas I worked with my team to develop was for a client that sold hand-decorated cookies as well as DIY cookie-decorating kits to major retailers such as Costco, Target and Starbucks. The campaign was for Pride Month and a portion of the cookie sales would go to a nonprofit organization supporting the LGBTQIA community. My team came up with a whole line of pride cookies (rainbows, flags, inclusive words, etc.), and identified a handful of social media influencers and organizations in the LGBTQIA community to partner with. We also curated a list of reporters who cover stories for Pride Month, including product roundup lists. My favorite part of brainstorming that campaign was seeing how so many different PR elements could come together to make a big splash for a great cause.

PR is a fast-paced industry. I learned early on that I have to put in the time and energy to really see results. I work hard every single day — not just some days.

On one of my very first media relations accounts, I remember sending out a pitch for my client and not hearing anything back from reporters. I didn’t understand. I thought my pitch was interesting, and I knew there was a story to be told. I asked one of our directors for insight, and I remember her saying, “How many reporters did you pitch? Did you tailor your pitch toward the stories they typically like to cover? How many times have you followed up?”

I quickly realized the “hustle” that was required to see success. Reporters receive hundreds of emails a day. How was my pitch going to stand out in their inbox? I learned that day it takes more than an email. It takes research, personalization and persistence to get results.

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?

PR today is an integration of multiple functions including traditional media relations, crisis communications, public affairs, social media management and internal relations. In the best strategies, these all work together to drive traction on multiple fronts.

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?

You can’t go wrong studying public relations or one of its sister degrees like communications, journalism, business or marketing. All of these will teach you the skills and attributes needed to be successful, including how PR impacts the business. Strong writing and communication, the ability to tell stories, business and marketing strategy are all important skills to master.

One of the best learning tools for me was a great internship. One summer during my college years, I interned with a commercial plumbing company, assisting with their marketing and advertising. I got a chance to go to a news studio and help design a TV commercial for the company’s 100th anniversary.

Another summer I interned with a PR and marketing firm called Momentum in Colorado Springs. My main project was to help promote a new neighborhood development in the Springs called Banning Lewis Ranch. We promoted all the events and summer concerts in the park and the new schools in the area to help increase enrollment.

During the school year, I worked for our university’s Food Science Institute, managing its social media channels. Each of these experiences taught me important skills that you don’t always learn in a classroom.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

Never turn down an opportunity to meet with a client or prospective client face to face, whether for a meeting or just for lunch. These are pivotal, trust-building moments that can take your relationship to the next level. Plus, with everyone working remotely these days, it’s nice to see each other in person.

It gets dismissed a lot, but small talk matters. We don’t often get opportunities to connect with clients, especially now that remote work is so common. Take five minutes at the top of your calls to ask clients about their weekend or how their week is going. Over time, both you and your client will grow more comfortable, which will help you work better together moving forward.

Leverage social media. The workplace is fully digital now. More employees work remotely, on their own hours, from all over the world. But don’t let that stop you from making connections with prospective clients. Social media is a great way to identify people you want to network with and to share engaging content. Focus on quality over quantity when it comes to posting or messaging. Avoid the hard sell. Instead, be conversational. Be relatable. Speak to others the same way you would if you were sitting in front of them. People want to have authentic conversations both online and in person.

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?

Social media advertising is extremely valuable. Our firm takes advantage of LinkedIn because it has such a wide range of targeting capabilities to filter leads by company, industry, job title, seniority level, interests, etc. It’s a great resource.

Word of mouth is powerful, too. A lot of our business leads come from client referrals, which is something we’re proud of at Next PR. It truly means a lot when clients see and understand the value of our work and then tell others in their network about us.

Google ads have become a great opportunity for us. Although they’re more expensive, they have helped us land some of our highest-paying clients. Google has a massive reach, and one of the biggest differentiators between Google ads and other forms of advertising is that it’s targeting an audience with intent. THEY are plugging search terms into Google because THEY want business help. We just have to make sure our keywords fit their search.

Finally, you can’t forget about in-person interactions. With offices in five nationwide locations (San Francisco, Denver, Colorado Springs, Chicago and Philadelphia) we’re everywhere our clients need us and surrounded by companies doing really cool work in their industries. When a new company moves into the neighborhood, our staff shows some neighborly love by walking over, introducing our team and sometimes even sharing a gift. These small touchpoints have helped us turn a neighbor into a client on many occasions, which always makes meetings more fun.

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.

Strong writing is a must. If you don’t like to write, PR is not for you. We are constantly writing, every single day, creating media pitches, social media posts, press releases and contributed articles. And our writing needs to be perfect. One poorly placed typo in a client’s press release or social media post could cost you the client. Everything you produce has to be polished and up-to-date on AP Style and inclusive language. At Next PR, we have an extensive editing and feedback program where our written materials go through several reviews before being submitted to the client or any media outlets. That attention to detail shows in the quality of our materials.

Confidence is key. I like to think of confidence as mental fitness. You don’t have to know or be good at everything, but you do need to trust yourself and what you do know to make smart decisions. The great thing about confidence is that it’s contagious — when others see you working confidently, they become more confident as well. It has a ripple effect and can really motivate your team. One of the most difficult things in PR is to push back against a client when you know something they want to do is wrong or will not have the desired effect. It can be awkward, especially if it’s something they’re excited or passionate about, but it’s essential that you speak up and give them the best advice. It’s what they’re paying you for, and you don’t want to say “yes” to something you know won’t work or may even put them at risk.

Curiosity is essential. I know I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating. Curiosity fuels innovation. PR people have to be curious and ask questions so they can deliver creative PR strategies that achieve their clients’ goals. One of my favorite things is when a client says we’re asking great questions.

Resilience is also important. This can be a tough business, and you have to get comfortable with rejection. For example, when you’re pitching reporters, they won’t all think your client’s story is interesting or they may not have time to cover it. Sometimes they don’t reply at all. And that’s OK. You can’t dwell on it or get discouraged. You move on and find a better fit.

Analytics and reporting skills have recently become even more valuable. One of the biggest reasons companies ditch their PR firm is because they don’t see the ROI. Our job is to demonstrate how PR is contributing to clients’ larger business goals in order to show results and justify the investment. There are a lot of great reporting tools out there to help do that, so it’s important that you learn to use them. For example, the majority of our firm is Google Analytics certified. With this, we can show clients the exact brand value and audience reach we’ve delivered through a campaign or media placement — and that’s powerful.

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. :-)

I would start my own social media channel that only shares positive news in the world. So much of what we read on social media is negative, and it has a snowball effect — the negativity only creates more negativity. I would build a channel where people can share things that make them smile: little wins, big wins, a good deed, an act of kindness witnessed by someone else, social impact initiatives from companies and organizations. These are the stories that fuel people and make them feel good, and we could really use more of that in the world.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.



Kristen Shea, President of Tribe Builder Media
Authority Magazine

Kristen Shea is a publicist and the President of Tribe Builder Media, an award-winning boutique PR firm.