If you work in PR, you might dream of someday heading up a media relations team at a huge company. But what’s the gig really like—and what does it take to get there?
Last week, I sat down with Joe Christinat, who joined NASDAQ OMX as Vice President of Media Relations in May 2011. Prior to NASDAQ, Joe worked on the communications teams at Thomson Reuters and Citigroup and now manages a team of seven to promote the NASDAQ brand and advise key executives on short- and long-term communications strategies.
Surprisingly, Joe didn’t start his career in PR. In fact, he credits much of his success to his experience in journalism—studying at Southern Connecticut State University under professors who spent decades at Connecticut’s best daily papers and the area’s broadcast stations and working as a reporter for Thomson trade publications. But, as it turns out, that was the perfect lead-in to PR: “When I decided to transition into public relations, I knew what a well-crafted pitch looked like, and I knew how to work with journos on deadline,” he explains.
If you’ve ever wanted to climb the PR ladder, read on for a quick peek into Joe’s life at the top.
First off, give us a snapshot of your day.
I am responsible for a team of seven and for managing external communications for our executives and business units, which focus on technology, trading, public listings (IPOs), indexes, and data.
Aside from incoming media inquiries, which can come in at a high rate, the PR team spends much of its time working on activities related to these businesses as they align to NASDAQ’s overall strategy. That includes drafting press releases, monitoring NASDAQ in the news and on social media, meeting with key executives about upcoming PR opportunities, and networking and pitching journalists and bloggers. On any day, any of us can be found doing any of these things, which is what I find exciting about PR—it’s certainly not boring.
What’s one thing about being a PR professional that people outside of the industry would be surprised to learn?
Truthfully, it’s the amount of information we need to know or be able to easily access at any given time about our company. If a journalist calls and is on deadline, especially in a fast-paced industry like the financial industry, we need to be able to answer quickly—and correctly! For us, it could be anything from line items in an earnings statement to our high-level growth and destination strategy. So, whenever I begin a new job, I spent a ton of time digging deep into the company.
We also maintain records of our correspondence with all key journalists, whether on the record or background chats. It is helpful to have easy access to previous conversations.
What’s your favorite media monitoring service and media database?
Media Intelligence, a NASDAQ OMX product (of course!).
And while there are many great media database products, I still think it is essential to have your own contact list, too. A media database is great if you’re looking for a reporter who covers a certain subject or you’re looking to introduce yourself to a journalist you haven’t worked with before. But the journos I work with on a day-to-day basis are those that I’ve spent time years and years building relationships with—and would therefore be on my personal contact list.
Do you have a PR muse? If so, who?
I’m not sure if I have a muse, per say. Instead, I try to look for PR opportunities by reading everything I can find on the industry I work in. I also spend time focusing on the tendencies of many of the reporters I work with, as a way to hopefully predict a thesis they may develop in the future. I do have a mentor, though: Shannon Bell, head of corporate communications at Citigroup.
What three skill sets do you think budding PR professionals must possess to be successful in the industry?
- The ability to write clearly and succinctly
- A firm grasp of social media—how it can be used and why it has to be managed
- The ability to manage one’s time and multitask
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a career in PR?
Find a small group of peers in the PR world, and make an effort to see one another regularly. You’ll learn from one another’s experiences, share journalist tips and relationships, and, when the going gets tough, be able to commiserate with them. Off the record, of course!