Publicist Rockstars: Hollie Boodram of Otter Public Relations On The Five Things You Need To Have A Highly Successful Career in The PR Industry
YOU have to create news out of nothing sometimes. Some brands may not have any crazy news stories which is a good thing, but it’s your job to MAKE news by coming up with creative angles that may not always be there. If you represent a singer and they have a song coming out that’s easy to promote because they have something new happening, they can talk about and relate to the audience with but if you represent a small company with a consistent product, leveraging current events, pop culture and the story of the brand is how you create creative angles. Also in corporate comms, developing brand campaigns and utilizing partnerships is also a way to create news then involving the media in those campaigns/events makes news out of nothing.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry I had the pleasure of interviewing Hollie Boodram.
Hollie Boodram is a publicist at Otter Public Relations working with an array of industries spanning from business to lifestyle. Her clients have been seen in top tier tech publications, the TODAY Show site, iHeart Radio, Entrepreneur and more. She prides herself on building a trusting relationship with her clients and constantly evolves communication goals to support their evolving brand.
Previously, Boodram has worked in professional sports and corporate communications. She has a passion for sports and fitness as she was a professional cheerleader for the Canadian Football League. She has a BA in English and Communications and Post Graduate in Public Relations and Media Technology. She considers herself a foodie and loves to travel.
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 was always attracted to a career in communications. When I was young I loved pop culture and reading fashion magazines. I saw myself as a journalist or a broadcaster on an entertainment show. In school English was always a strong suit of mine, I loved to write and give presentations, I think the theatrics of English was really what captivated me. As I got older and started to plan my future I was introduced to corporate communications and Public Relations, I was drawn to the business aspect of PR, you’re not only a communicator but a businessperson making decisions and using strategy that can affect entire brands and in part culture. I look at my home NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, their communications director came up with a campaign around the term “We the North”, that’s it a simple phrase, and now that phrase has taken on a life of it’s own and has been repurposed throughout different teams and mediums, all from one simple message. Being able to affect culture in that way and change or influence the way people think through storytelling and powerful messages is why I do what I do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
My first major client worked in an industry I knew literally nothing about. I felt like a fish out of water and that I wasn’t going to see any success on my first actual account. I put in extra hours into educating myself on her industry, reading articles, watching YouTube videos, listening to Podcasts, really any form of media that could simply explain to me what she does and how to understand such an intricate field for someone who is traditionally a creative not as formulaic as her industry requires. Through working with the client, getting to know her, building trust and trying different tactics, I am now someone of an expert in PR in her designated industry and have gotten her top tier media coverage and a viral campaign.
I’d say this is interesting because sometimes when we begin our careers we pigeon hold ourselves into certain verticals of knowledge or expertise, but I wanted so badly to do right by this client and help her reach her brand goals it took me elevating my own knowledge and stepping outside of the box I put myself in.
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?
I come from a very academic background and when I first started getting that ‘academic writing’ out of my system was definitely a learning curve. Journalists really just look at the subject line of a pitch then skim it once opened so writing paragraphs of content is not getting any clear message across and realistically no one is reading that. When I was in school I remember doing everything possible to increase the word count on my essays, and now as a PR professional the goal is to make every word have a purpose and be as concise as possible. So there was a mindset shift I had to learn quickly.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
With Otter PR I focus on media relations, so for all my clients I do a decent amount of media monitoring and am constantly strategizing to grow their brand. With a clients growing brand requires a shift in strategy to target stakeholders in a different way, and possibly target different stakeholders while effectively representing that growth. It is exciting seeing a clients brand expand or their platform grow knowing you had a hand in it, it’s one of the more rewarding parts of the job.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Public Relations is all about relationships. You could be the best writer in the world but if you don’t foster client and journalist relationships your pitches won’t be quality or go very far.
- Build relationships with notable media. Having contacts at media pertinent to your clients where you can easily email or call them for a story or where they reach out to you for client contact is what sets you apart.
- Short and sweet. Pitches and even articles need to be short, clear and concise. It gets the message across and will have an increased likelihood of a response/ engagement.
- It’s not all like Scandal. I definitely used to watch Scandal and glamorized what PR is about. Sure, if you work in Public Affairs and are a political fixer I’m sure there are some similarities, but traditional PR is a little less scandalous. Crisis comms is known to be rather stressful so it’s not a bad thing.
- YOU have to create news out of nothing sometimes. Some brands may not have any crazy news stories which is a good thing, but it’s your job to MAKE news by coming up with creative angles that may not always be there. If you represent a singer and they have a song coming out that’s easy to promote because they have something new happening, they can talk about and relate to the audience with but if you represent a small company with a consistent product, leveraging current events, pop culture and the story of the brand is how you create creative angles. Also in corporate comms, developing brand campaigns and utilizing partnerships is also a way to create news then involving the media in those campaigns/events makes news out of nothing.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
I used to be terrified of networking, the idea of putting yourself out there and talking to strangers can be daunting. Except someone once told me anyone you network with will feel the reward of your success once you get there. Meaning, knowing you helped someone achieve their goals can be incredibly rewarding so if you’re the person being helped the person you’ve networked with will gain a sense of pride knowing they attributed to your success. Not to mention later in your career that relationship could be mutually beneficial.
A tip would be LinkedIn all the way. Think about your dream position or the next step up from your current position, find someone on LinkedIn who has that role and reach out. It’s as simple as “Hi my name is____, this is what I do, I saw you do xyz and I was hoping we could connect so I could possibly learn more about what your role and how you got there.” The worst that’ll happen is they won’t reply but in my experience that almost never happens unless they don’t check LinkedIn often or have an influx of messages. I’ve had many networking conversations and I learn something from each, whether it’s a new skill to develop, a new person I should connect with or changing industry trends I need to keep up with.
Also many industries offer networking events, I would try and attend either digitally or in person depending where you live and what’s offered. If you’re nervous about a big event bring a friend, but make sure to approach those you want to connect with on your own.
I got my current job by networking. One of the founders of my company was someone I know through connections so I reached out just to ask about Otter PR and how he got into PR himself, after a really great networking chat he mentioned they were hiring and so I joined the application process. After a few interviews I got the job and here I am.
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?
Every PR firm is different and every publicist has their own tactics for lead gen. The media relations software’s honestly work great in my opinion and are utilized industry wide. I find the best feedback is through media software’s such as Cision, MuckRack or Meltwater there are others but those are the popular ones.
Using any newswire for press releases is a good way to find contacts as well or just researching the type of contact you need, finding articles they’ve written then using some internet investigation to find their contact is old school but effective.
Say you have a very specific type of business piece you want to publish on behalf of a client, Google that subhead under Google News then find a few articles you like, look at the author and usually on the news site you can find the editors/departments email or even the journalists.
Part of what we do is relationship building, once you’ve developed a quality professional relationship with a journalist they know you’re reliable and will reach out to you for content sometimes or you can email and offer a story and they’ll publish. So outside of finding leads, nurturing leads is more important for long term relationships.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg is about women in business. I find it to be overall inspiring and teaches me as a woman to believe in myself and my skills it also encourages you to foster the opportunities that come your way. PR is a field that has just as many men as women so I do find opportunities equal, but it’s still inspiring and motivational.
In terms of PR, NPR is a popular one, it’s interesting to listen to the case studies and see the spin many publicists have done to change or curate the messaging of a story. I don’t deal with a lot of crisis comms but the case studies in NPR show you how strategic you have to be to spin a story and deal with issues management. Educating yourself on other case studies also helps your creativity in general.
In PR our job is to be creative, so keeping up to date with current events, pop culture, reading fiction, can help our pitches and writing in different ways.
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 have a passion for educational equity for children especially those who may not have grown up with the best influences or in marginalized areas. When I worked with the NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins I was able to create initiatives that addressed social issues using hockey as a platform to do so and I found that our biggest impacts were always with children. In the US schools are municipally funded so based on the area a child lives their education could be impacted as a result of lack of access to learning resources. Influencing a movement or campaign to broaden equity of education for children and access to extra curriculars which has been sociologically and psychologically linked to confidence and child development is something I’d take pride in.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.