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Communications alumni discuss public relations career options

Katie Zach ’04 and Leanne High ’07 visited campus to talk about their past experiences and current roles working in the public relations field, giving students insight into the professional world. 

Elon University alumni Katie Zach ’04 (left) and Leanne High ’07 visited campus on March 1 to participate in the “Career Insights: PR Agencies vs. In-House” panel discussion.

​The School of Communications Career Office hosted a March 1 expert panel, inviting Elon University alumni Katie Zach ’04 and Leanne High ’07 to discuss career paths in the public relations industry.

The event, titled “Career Insights: PR Agencies vs. In-House,” tackled several topics, including what aspiring PR professionals should look for in a first job, what employers want in an interview candidate, the need for strong writing skills and, of course, the major differences between agency and in-house roles, and pros and cons attached to each.

A photo gallery from the panel discussion is available on the School of Communications’ Flickr page.

Currently, High serves as an associate director for APCO Worldwide, a global public affairs and strategic communications consultancy, and Zach works as a director of public relations for Red Ventures, a technology-driven digital marketing and sales company based in Charlotte.

Additionally, the two alumni have experience working on either side of the industry, which provided students first-person perspective on the challenges and perks of each path.

For young PR professionals, both High and Zach touted the opportunities available at agencies, where there are more resources, more clients and more challenges. That said, Zach noted that the pace in such positions can be frantic and the hours long.

“It’s trial by fire, and you learn a little bit about everything,” Zach said, describing the benefits of an agency position. “You can be moved across different accounts, two, three, six months at a time. It’s fast paced and you get a lot of the basics down. It’s a chance to see what you like and where you fit in.”

During the panel, Zach highlighted the major differences between agency and in-house positions.

​“There are perks to both,” added High. “At an agency, there are a lot more resources and you have a lot more people doing different tasks that you can learn from. In-house, you can really grow into your position. You can really focus in on what that company is all about and what you want to achieve.”

In this stage of her career, Zach has enjoyed transitioning in-house, serving as Red Ventures’ first director of public relations. Being the first person in the role has granted her the freedom to build the position in a way she feels best suits the company and its interests. A status quo doesn’t exist.

“There is no road map,” she said. “I’m responsible for setting our communications strategy and agenda. I have to figure out what we do and what we don’t do, and be confident in that decision. Working in-house is a lot like having one client at a time. I focus solely on Red Ventures and our needs.”

This was the Career Office’s second employer panel of the spring 2016 semester. Kaitlyn Curtis, human resources specialist for G&S Business Communications, and Ray Goodrich, marketing and communications director for Foothills Brewery, visited campus on Feb. 10 to discuss “How to Conduct a Successful Job Search.”

A third event, titled “San Francisco: Relocating After Graduation,” is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13. This virtual panel will feature Kevin Beach ’13, principal – chief customer officer at SAP, and Sarah Gottfried ’08, senior experience designer at OpenTable. It will be held at 7 p.m. in McEwen 213.

Tommy Kopetskie,
3/3/2016 9:05 AM