Behind the Headlines With Sara Ghazaii
Sara Ghazaii, vice president, director of communications at the PR Council, says understanding digital is one the most important responsibilities of a communication professional today.
In this interview, Sara shares her thoughts on the evolution of the communication industry, her experiences working in public relations and her advice on how to become a better communication professional.
How did you get your start in PR? What was the biggest lesson you learned from your first position?
I started a part-time position at Z100 entering my junior year of college, working for the marketing and promotions department. In a matter of weeks I fell in love with this industry, and I found myself working as many hours as possible because I just couldn’t get enough!
Biggest lesson – Listen to those around you, and take note of your bosses, colleagues, mentors, etc. I’m a very “full-steam ahead” type of girl – and I learned that sometimes it’s more important to listen, absorb and adapt to what’s going on around you. It will make you a better person and a better colleague.
What are you most looking forward to in your new position as vice president, director of communications at the PR Council?
Having the opportunity to work on public relations strategies for the entire industry is something I’m most looking forward to. I strongly believe in the good of PR and how it can affect a company or brand reputation.
I’ll be able to build out programs that will help move the public relations industry forward and work with the brightest minds in the business. I couldn’t be more excited.
What do you like most about working in PR? What do you like least?
What I like most… It’s a tie between building relationships with your clients, agency partners, reporters, etc. and seeing an idea that was thrown together during a brainstorm come full circle. When you take a moment to yourself and realize every early morning, late night and countless mishap was all worth it.
What I like the least is that not everyone knows or understands what PR is — I swear I get compared to Olivia Pope all the time!
What has been the proudest moment of your career?
When I completed my first press trip, I was 22 and at my first agency job out of college. I was three months in as an Account Coordinator and was told I had to accompany 12 journalists to Thailand, and we were leaving in two weeks.
I had no idea what I was supposed to do, or what to expect during a trip with journalists…so after a 22-hour flight and a 12-hour time difference, we had finally arrived – and let me tell you, it was the greatest experience of my life.
I met people who will be my friends forever and made memories that I will never forget. I learned an entirely new culture, witnessed beautiful traditions and I realized that no matter what was thrown at me, I could handle it.
What is the biggest way digital has changed communication? What are you doing differently today that you didn’t do five years ago? Ten years ago?
The media world has been evolving, and so has PR. Most people have moved to reading their news on online publications, blogs, etc. It’s quick and sufficient, and accessing it online gives people the power to read different outlets reporting on the same story in a matter of minutes.
In addition, social media campaigns are very real — people can communicate with customer service departments all over the world with only 140 characters, faster than they can drive to a store and handle it in person.
People are spending more and more time on their phones so communication needs to switch focus to mobile apps and streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. Digital is ingrained into everything we do — right now, understanding it and using it to our benefit is the most important thing a communication professional can learn.
How do you envision the future of PR?
The PR industry will continue to transform and adapt as the media industry will — PR platforms will continue to evolve based on industry trends, technology innovation and digital platforms. It’s our job to understand how best to reach your target audience the right way — using the tools that you use regularly to communicate.
However, traditional public relations is two-way dialogue, and this is something that communication professionals do every single day. That core philosophy will not go away — the means of getting that information to your audience is what will change.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in PR?
Find someone in this industry that you respect, and learn as much as you can from them. I have a few mentors that are, and always will be, a huge part of my success. And always, always trust your gut.
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…an ESPN anchor or a wedding planner.
2. My hobbies outside of work include…traveling, going to any sports games, hiking…I absolutely love the beach. And of course seeing my family and friends!
3. My favorite social media platform is…Twitter.
4. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…Derek Jeter or Ellen…I can’t decide!
5. My biggest pet peeve is…incompetency.
6. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…coffee.
Image via Sara Ghazaii
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