How a public relations director worked her way up

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Tiffany Eckelberg’s currently The Muse’s Director of PR & Communications, a role she loves. However, she didn’t follow the traditional path. In fact, she took the sort of journey that only makes sense in hindsight. After growing up in an environment that celebrated people who studied to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and the like, she thought she was interested in accounting.

But—the first twist—she didn’t go right into that field after graduating college. Rather, she worked as an associate at Tokyo’s Louis Vuitton’s corporate headquarters. And then left after that to pursue a master’s in accounting because it felt like a smart, practical choice after working in fashion in Japan.

Sure, she could do the math, but the work didn’t excite her. “It’s obvious to me now, but I wasn’t passionate about being an auditor. And I believe you will be successful if you’re doing something you love.”

In her heart of hearts, Eckelberg wanted to be telling stories. That’s what PR is to her: storytelling. It’s not “about spin”—it’s about “telling a story, tapping real humans.” And that’s why after pursuing an advanced degree in accounting, she decided to leave the field behind and get an entry-level PR role.

For a fresh perspective on public relations and what kind of person stands to succeed in the field, keep reading.

What Was Your First PR Job Like?

My first true PR job was for a tech PR agency in San Francisco. Glamorous? Not so much. But I learned more practical knowledge in my first six months on the job than in my entire college career. In PR, you’re expected to be in the know, have a sense for what’s trending, and be up to date with what your client’s competitors are doing. So I would get into the office early and read the news every morning.

Those first few months on the job are crucial and you can really impress the people you work with by understanding and identifying relevant business trends that impact your clients. Having that knowledge makes it easier to proactively solve issues and identify opportunities to pitch them to journalists.

How Did That Work Prepare for a Senior-Level PR Position?

In the early days, I did a lot of support work—research, writing (and re-writing), crafting pitches, getting to know journalists, and attending almost every networking event that came across my desk.

Now, my day-to-day involves high-level strategy, promoting and protecting our brand image, working with our founders and executive team to develop company-wide messaging, and lots of writing and editing. Working at a PR agency (where I was servicing five to eight clients at one time) taught me how to juggle, and as a result, prepared me to take on more responsibility.

As I became increasingly proficient in my role, mastering those core elements of PR prepared me to take ownership of things like product launches, media relations strategies, and even coaching and preparing executives for press interviews.

How Did You End Up at The Muse?

I saw a job posting for a Director of PR & Communications, so I reached out to the talent acquisition specialist on LinkedIn, summarizing my background and my interest in the role, and she got back to me right away. I had a phone interview that same week, met with about six people across the team, gave a final presentation, and started two weeks after that final meeting.

What Do You Think Makes Someone Successful in the PR Industry?

  • Being Adaptable and Able to Multitask
    In PR, your inbox is a constant stream of requests and you’re always juggling multiple deadlines.
  • Seeing the Big Picture
    It’s about telling an authentic story that resonates with the heart of consumers.
  • Being a Good Writer
    I do a lot of writing: pitching and communicating with reporters, capturing company’s voice and “musifying” marketing collateral, presentations, strategy docs, etc; writing executive bylines and blog posts, developing internal communications/company-wide announcements and memos.
  • Being Proactive and Persistent
    A lot of my job is making things happen, whether it’s reaching out to different teams to get the information I need or being persistent with a reporter to get that story published.

Think you’ve got what it takes to make it in PR? “You don’t have to major in public relations to be successful at it,” Eckelberg, herself a marketing major, says.

The “key” she explains is “to be confident and sell it (PR is about pitching, after all).” According to Eckelberg, if you can manage to “be positive, enthusiastic, and eager to learn, you’ll be well on your way to being a successful PR pro.”


By The Muse
The Muse
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