Savvy Communicator: Q&A with Heather Whaling
Let’s dive in!
Q: Why did you start a career in PR?
A: I loved politics, so my career actually began in public affairs, working on issues management, grassroots communication and political campaigns. (Little known fact: I managed the campaign for the youngest woman ever elected to Toledo City Council!)
There’s no deadline quite like Election Day. I learned early on that it doesn’t matter how many media placements you secure or how much buzz you generate – if it doesn’t translate into votes, then you lose. I apply that mentality every day as I work with clients to think through the strategy behind what we’re doing, ensuring that it actually leads to the desired outcomes.
Q: What is one of the most rewarding experiences in your career and/or a favorite campaign?
A: Two parts to this answer, one related to building a company, and one related to client work:
I have a strict “no jerks” policy at Geben, so we’re pretty fortunate to work with people and companies that we genuinely like and respect. Launching a company was a major milestone for me, but that was just the beginning. My goal is to build a firm that companies want to work with and people want to work for. Three years in, I think we’re off to a pretty good start!
On the client front, I’m very proud of our team’s work, so it’s hard to pick one favorite. Generally, I love seeing our clients recognized for disrupting the status quo, like when Zaarly was named one of Fast Company’s most innovative web companies, or when Madison Electric Products received the industry’s “Best of the Best” communications award, or when the Columbus Marathon’s social media was named a PR Daily Award finalist right alongside Major League Baseball and other much larger organizations.
Q: What are some best practices?
A: In our office, we focus on innovating best practices. By adding a layer of technology, we can update tried-and-true PR best practices to do an even better job for clients. This approach is applicable in everything we do, including pitching media or bloggers, establishing tradeshow visibility, or building and managing online communities.
I also like to look outside our clients’ industries to find inspiration and creative ideas. You never know where you’ll find something to remix and sample (like a DJ!)
Q: What keeps you in the field of PR?
A: Our office motto is “Bring on the Crazy.” There’s never a dull day, but we’re also presented with an amazing opportunity, as we’re literally working with companies trying to change the economy and their industries. It’s exciting to help Zaarly introduce mobile commerce to the masses. It’s inspiring to work with Startup Weekend, an organization that teaches people all over the world how to be entrepreneurs. Even our non-startup/tech clients are reshaping their industries. It’s energizing to be surrounded by people who disrupting the status quo and focused on solving problems and creating new ways for business to get done.
Q: Where do you see PR in five years?
A: Things are changing so fast – it’s virtually impossible to make realistic predictions. That said, I know that there will always be a place for smart, effective communication. The scope, titles and specific details will evolve, but PR will continue to fill a much-needed role.
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