It is okay to admit that when I found out I had to interview a Public Relations professional for my PR Fundamentals course that I was taken over by anxiety? What’s the problem, some of you might ask. After all, I’m the interviewer as opposed to the interviewee in this situation. I’m the one asking the questions, and perhaps that might put most people at ease. But the thing is I’m an introvert, and for this assignment we had to randomly contact a PR professional and ask them nicely for an interview in hopes that they might be willing to help us.
Frankly, I had little clue of where to start looking. So, I typed in Public Relations, Winnipeg into the search bar on linked in and began to survey potential candidates. Sure I could have chosen a PR professional from just about any part of the English speaking world, but going local in this case seemed to me anyway to be the best option. I felt I had a better chance of making contact with someone in Winnipeg, than elsewhere and it would give me the opportunity to conduct a face to face interview. Definitely a skill that I needed to practice.
While searching through the candidates, I happened to discover the profile of Tammy Sawatzky, the Public Relations Coordinator for the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I have an interest in the possibility of working for a non-profit organization, at some point in the future. I also think that working at a gallery or museum would be interesting, so Tammy seemed like a good fit.
It was on a surprisingly warm Tuesday, in early November that I made my way over to the Starbucks, on The University of Winnipeg’s main campus. After connecting we both ordered drinks, hers a hot chocolate and mine a passion tea lemonade and found a table to conduct the interview.
Interviewing Tammy was very helpful. Tammy also has a more introverted personality and I learned a lot about what it’s like being an introvert working in PR or communications in general. So without further ado, here are some of my key takeaways from my interview with Tammy Sawatzky:
1.Be prepared for plans to change
You can plan out your week, but be sure that those plans will likely change. Tammy, like myself prefers to plan ahead. Unfortunately, as she notes: “That’s not the way communications work works.” In PR things can happen last minute, as Tammy explained: “I have to be okay with the variety of things that get thrown at me, the urgent projects that people will bring me, that have just arrived for them or that they’ve totally forgot about.”
2. Being an introvert means certain things are going to be a bit uncomfortable
“Having to call complete strangers can be tough. Having to cold call reporters when you’re pitching a story is tough. It challenges my natural personality.”
But focusing on the end result can make it easier. As Tammy told me: “The reward in the end of getting that story, or getting that coverage makes it worth it.”
3. Relationships are important
This is particularly true if you are working with the media. “It’s not just the organization. It’s not just CTV as a whole or CBC as a whole. It’s being able to call up Rachelle Lagacé or Ismaila Alfa or Terry MacLeod, and say hey we’ve got a really great exhibition and I think it’s going to be a really good fit for you and here are a couple potential story options for you.”
Getting to know the individual reporters is important, Tammy informed me: “Especially the CBC reporters, they’ve been everywhere. A lot of them have experience in the north and given at the WAG such an emphasis on Inuit art and the north, and with our campaign right now, them having that knowledge, they have just a different understanding of the north than a reporter who hasn’t been there. Developing those relationships with the reporters you get to know what their interested in covering, as well and that’s a huge help to you, in terms them covering your stuff.”
I’d like to give a special thank you to my interviewee Tammy Sawatzky, for making time for me in her busy schedule. I really appreciate it. Hopefully next time she’ll let me pay for her hot chocolate.