874. A Day in the Life: What's It Really Like to Be a Public Relations Professional?
Alexis Davis Smith
“I love solving problems and finding solutions to challenges. That is what excites me the most, and I think that’s what clients appreciate the most about us. They know that we’re not going to do anything that doesn’t make strategic sense and they also know that we’re going to be clear with them on when it doesn’t, and we make it more strategic. What is the best solution? We don’t believe in doing gimmicky things for the sake of being gimmicky and creative….unless the client wants that. If the client wants that, and that’s their objective, okay. We want to make sure that it is really supporting and driving both their business objectives as well as their communications objectives.”
Alexis Davis Smith is the president and CEO of PRecise Communications, an award-winning marketing communications firm. With more than 20 years of experience and a reputation as a trusted communications strategist, Alexis is a leader in Atlanta’s public relations industry and a national voice for multicultural marketing. She is responsible for creating breakthrough, strategic communications programs for major consumer brands, including Coca-Cola, Toyota and Pfizer. A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native and proud graduate of Florida A&M University, Alexis has a passion for women and giving back to the next generation of public relations professionals and entrepreneurs.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“It’s funny because I thought I wanted to study to be a child psychologist, but my mom said, ‘Alexis, you can’t do that, you’ll cry every day. You’ll want to take these kids home.’ I realized she was right. When it came time to declare my major, I went to the journalism school and I spoke with the Dean and he asked me why I wanted to change majors. I said I realized that I really love writing. I wanted the opportunity to express that, to continue growing those skills. I also wanted to marry journalism with business because I had always been fascinated by the business world from a young age. Additionally, entrepreneurism runs in my family, so I thought that would be a good marriage between the two. I changed my choice of a major that day and got into the school of journalism with a focus on public relations.”
The Most Powerful Lessons and Experiences?
1. My mother is a former journalist who transitioned into a public relations professional in the second half of her career. As a little girl, I sat in on interviews when I really didn’t even understand what was happening. But I saw her asking celebrities and business people questions and then going back home and sitting at a typewriter to actually write those stories. Later as I got older and fell in love with the English language and writing and communicating verbally, she recognized that I had inherited that talent from her.
2. While I was a student at Florida A&M I interned every single summer break. I did an internship at a newspaper and TV station in Philadelphia, and a boutique public relations firm also in Philadelphia and then in Tallahassee with the United Way, then the phone company. My big break came when I got an internship with Ketchum Public Relations here in Atlanta, one of the top 10 PR firms in the world. I believe I got that internship because I had the previous ones under my belt. They felt that I was more prepared than the other applicants. And I was one of two people out of dozens that applied that was selected.
3. Working at a PR agency is like the bootcamp for PR. If you work at a PR agency and survive and thrive, you can do anything in the PR industry because you learn to juggle a lot of balls at once: having two to three supervisors, two to three different teams that you’re on, and six to 10 clients. You must deliver on time, manage your time well, manage budgets wisely and be absolutely attentive to each client’s unique needs and wants.
4. Being at a global agency like a Ketchum I got to learn about different industries: the airline industry via Delta, the educational system with Sylvan Learning, then Simmons Beauty Rest mattresses and other top brands. You quickly learn a lot getting on the phone and pitching media and understanding that they’re not going to like every story you present to them. You learn about rejection and not taking things personally and to develop a thick skin. It was all such a great training ground for me.
5. There’s a lot of young people that are entering the field of public relations that still do not have a clue what it is that we really do. It’s really important to understand that public relations is a field that offers a lot of variety because there are so many industries that you can go into: from fashion to the film business and countless others. If you’re interested in business, you can join a company as a part of their corporate communications department. If you like giving back to the world, you can join a nonprofit and be their public relations director. I think it’s important for young people to study what the field is, and to recognize that there’s a big difference between the publicist you see on TV versus real public relations professionals.
Connecting With Alexis Davis Smith
Instagram: @precisecommatl and @preciselyalexis
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