By: Maraika Lumholdt
Paul Hendley, a current Director at ABI Marketing Public Relations, had an interesting start in PR. As someone who fell into the field rather unexpectedly, but has nonetheless secured a long career in various PR firms, he has a wealth of knowledge to share with future PR professionals.
ML: You had an untraditional start in PR- tell me about that.
PH: Well, I got both my Bachelor’s and Master’s in German, actually and was working for a Swiss-German hotel group at the time. I saw a job posting, at ABI, asking for German as a skill, and that waspretty much the premise for my application. I also saw that it required writing, which I’ve always liked.
Since you sort of “fell into” PR, what did you originally want to do with your skill set?
I always wanted to work for the UN. I’ve always been really interested in international affairs, and still am.
What was your first position at ABI?
I worked as an Assistant Account Executive, which I think it pretty typical for entry-level PR. It was in a B2B capacity.
Did you find it hard to break into the PR industry?
Not really. Granted, this was some time ago, but I had administrative experience and my German, which were all I needed at the time to start learning on the job. Sometimes I wish I started sooner, but I think the fact that I was educated in different areas has given me an interesting perspective. Being well-rounded is a good thing.
What skills do you think are invaluable for careers in PR?
Writing, general communications, being able to work with people and explain things. Actually, in my interview with ABI, the President asked me to sell him a story, basically pitch an idea on the spot. That was nerve-wracking but a good introduction into the PR world!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s more rhetorical, but it was related to PR. My boss was the one who gave it to me- “Are you going to walk away from the business?” He meant that when you try to sell a program to a client, try to get business, you don’t just walk away if you have a lack of success, you have to keep trying. Sometimes you have to compromise but don’t walk away from the business.
On that note, is there any advice you’d give to college students who are looking to get into PR?
I think for any college student, my advice is to study abroad. An international perspective will never hurt you. I’ve found it’s helped me a lot in my career. Also- write whenever you can. The school paper, or a blog, or whatever. That will always help you!