Entry #19, December 2, 2010
Article from HBCU Digest:
Aerial Ellis is a fast-rising personality in the public relations industry, having lent her marketing and publicity expertise to non-profit, entertainment and fashion entities around the nation. The alumnae of Tennessee State University and Chief PR Consultant for Urbane Imagery recently took time to discuss PR in a changing media society, tips to building business, and how her HBCU experience helped to shape her professional career.
1. With media rapidly changing, what is the new role of the PR practitioner?
The top priority for public relations professionals has always been to identify and influence a target audience’s perception of clients and their brands. That aspect is pretty constant. But as the importance of social media continues to rise, PR practitioners have had to take on a new identity. And, contrary to what is seen on reality TV or heard throughout certain industries, the role of a PR practitioner is not as simple as merely calling yourself a “publicist” for the purpose of getting media coverage and planning parties. There is a level of awareness and expertise that a practitioner must maintain, especially now with the urgency of media becoming more multi-dimensional.
We once tracked a client or company’s media coverage in a national magazine to determine their influence and and reputation. We now have to add blogs and online media to the mix, which in itself involves a completely different pitch element and more complex monitoring strategy, to the job of the practitioner. The changes in media have allowed us to re-image the PR practitioner’s approach to developing and delivering content that engages customers/consumers and ultimately puts a clients/companies at better positions as brands. Although media looked as if it was on the decline in some aspects, it is more of an evolution. It’s a very exciting time because never before have communicators (PR practitioners) had so many opportunities to create and deliver their messages in such a multitude of ways that can have an impact a variety of media and consumer groups.
2. Talk about your journey to becoming an entrepreneur. What advice to do you have for professional in college or recently graduating trying to make this step?
Being an entrepreneur is not an easy journey. It’s stressful and often lonely, however it’s very rewarding. I knew as a child that I wanted to become an entrepreneur and even went into business for myself as a teen. By college, I was convinced that I needed to seriously pursue my entrepreneur goals in order to fulfill those early desires. There is no right way to becoming an entrepreneur. I know that there are lots of books and blogs about how to start a business but sometimes it can all be intimidating.
Often times we discover our talents in a specific area then realize we are not quite ready to actually handle the day-to-day today operations of a business. That’s a knack that you have cultivate just as you would your craft. I advise students and young professionals to research the trade of their interest very deeply before making the leap into starting a business in that particular industry. It all starts with a passion. Your passion will keep you committed. Once you identify what you’re most passionate about, you can then determine that best way to make a profit from it.
3. How did Tennessee State prepare you for your career? What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned there?
Attending Tennessee State gave me the confidence and the creativity I needed to explore my career path. The communications department fostered a very “entrepreneurial” environment in a sense in that most of students had independent projects going on outside of the classroom. I practically launched my company from a project I did in college. While I was a student, there were only two public relations courses available. Needless to say, I took both of them. I was hungry and wanted to learn as much as could. My professors saw my drive and encouraged me. That slight disadvantage of not having an abundance in resources or a wide network available to students interested in PR created the most valuable lesson for me in learning that sometimes you have to create your own lane, develop your own opportunities and support your own vision.
4. Describe the media and PR culture in Nashville. How rewarding is it, and as a practitioner working across many areas, is it a good training ground for individuals looking to break in?
Nashville is a mid-sized market for both media and PR so its a great place to begin a career in the field. Its also an awesome place for entrepreneurs and small business owners. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to have started my PR career because each opportunity I gained in my earlier years working in the field even as a student was filled with both nurturing and challenging experiences. The professional media and PR organizations are very active and supportive of fellow professionals. The networking opportunities are very engaging and people tend to truly value the relationships they build. I would advise young professionals to consider the city as a place to break into their careers and then perhaps set their sights on larger markets. Otherwise, you really have the chance to conquer the best of what Nashville has to offer – as with any other city.
5. What are some of your future plans?
Future business plans include expanding the current national client base into international projects and developing additional partnerships with brands and companies. I will also be co-producing a pilot for a television series and releasing a sports PR e-book aimed at helping to guide the careers of young professional athletes.