I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel Radow, an Account Executive at North 6th Agency (N6A), a PR and social media agency based in New York City, Toronto and Boulder. She assists with managing internal communication and branding strategies, marketing and events initiatives, and media relations for N6A at its New York City headquarters. Prior to joining N6A in 2017, Ariel serviced clients in the beauty industry at strategic marketing, communications and media relations firm HL Group, with previous experience servicing clients across lifestyle, design, entertainment and consumer technology industries. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Print Journalism from Penn State University and currently resides in Manhattan.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me! My career in PR initially started with an interest in journalism. I majored in print journalism at Penn State University and was curious as to what it’d be like writing for a major magazine or newspaper. Soon after declaring my major, I joined Ed 2010, a networking and mentoring organization helping young writers break into the media industry. Through this organization, I had the opportunity to tour the offices of major magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Oprah Magazine and Elle Magazine, learn about the day-to-day of magazine editors and connect with other young aspiring writers. This got me thinking about the other side of the industry — who was behind the brands, people and products that these editors were covering? I then landed a few different internships in PR and realized that placing these brands in the media was something I preferred over writing about them. From that point on, I decided my next move would be a career in PR.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Since starting at N6A, the most interesting thing I’ve witnessed is the incredible impact that positive culture and management has had on my growth — both personally and professionally. Being a young professional in any industry naturally comes with uncertainty, intimidation and confusion. What I’ve learned at N6A is that the power of employee appreciation, reward and mentorship is invaluable to one’s confidence and ability to flourish in and out of the workforce.
As I reflect upon my early days at N6A and my growth since, it’s clear that my work has never gone unnoticed. It’s fascinating to see the transformation that occurs when you are valued and encouraged in the workplace — seeing employers make a personal investment in your career development is priceless. I think that as a young professional, these are the types of traits that really propel you forward in your career by way of guidance in refining your skills, instilling self-confidence and keeping you on a path toward your utmost potential. Seeing how far I’ve come since the beginning is one of the most interesting parts of my time at N6A so far.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first job out of college was an entry-level PR coordinator role on the beauty team at a high-pressure, fast-paced, fashion and beauty-focused agency. A bulk of my role was mailing some of our brands’ highly sought after beauty products to celebrities, influencers and editors. The requests came in quickly, and in the beginning I found it difficult to manage the high volume and immediate deadlines. Between printing shipping labels, making boxes, sorting and packing the products, calling messengers and ensuring everything was going to the right place at the right time, I accidentally shipped a box of several items to the wrong address — a very important box, going to a very important person for an important event! There was nothing funny about it then, but I can look back now and laugh after learning a thing or two about the importance of organization and attention to detail. I learned a major lesson in how to handle work when I’m flustered and trying to juggle several tasks at once. It’s important to just take a step back, hit the reset button and figure out the best way to prioritize. Instead of letting yourself become overwhelmed, remain calm, careful and diligent. Tackle one item at a time with care. You’ll get it all done with a clearer head.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
N6A is approaching its tenth year in business at the start of 2019, so we’re in the midst of planning and re-focusing our efforts toward this next stage of growth. In the internal PR and brand strategy role that I play at N6A, it’s important to consider the many layers of what makes a brand successful and how to best achieve the evolving goals of a rapidly growing business. Currently, our internal team is evaluating those goals as a decade-old agency and determining the best promotion tactics in order to scale to that next level. This entails PR strategy, social media direction, events, marketing and overall brand image refinement.
It’s exciting to witness such rapid growth, and I’m looking forward to starting our tenth year strong with the media presence and brand image required to propel us even further along a positive trajectory. Through finding unique publicity angles and strengthening other aspects of the brand to align with company goals, year 10 will be an exciting one for the agency. I’m grateful to be a part of it!
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
As a young person in PR, I am still navigating my career growth and the industry as a whole. Each day I learn that no experience is a bad experience. I would advise budding PR professionals to take advantage of every learning opportunity that presents itself to you, even if you’re uncertain that it’s the “right” fit for you. The truth is, when we’re just starting out in our careers, we don’t always truly know what we want — even if we think we might. It’s vital to keep an open mind and be willing to take on whatever you can to ensure you’re being exposed to different facets of the industry. These experiences will only help clarify what your true goals are and help you determine how those goals might shape your journey along the way.
This goes hand in hand with being patient, trusting the process and loosening up the rigid path you might have mapped out for yourself. There’s no rush, there are no rules, and plans will always waver — I’m still learning this, and it’s something I must remind myself every day. As a young PR professional, my main priorities are developing my skill-set and ensuring that I’m doing as much as I can to be happy in both my personal and professional life while striving for growth and taking advantage of the abundance of resources available to me. The rest will fall into place as long as I remain eager to learn and determined to succeed.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
I approach networking with the same mindset I apply to my career growth in general, which is keeping an open mind toward new experiences and never doubting that a certain opportunity might be worthwhile. Always remain curious. Be a good listener. Offer advice when asked. Build relationships with people in your industry and with those who you might not deem relevant to your line of work, because you never know how it might impact your mindset, goals and future connections. There’s a lot of wisdom out there, so seek it out!
It’s also important to remember that networking is a two-way street. While it might be natural to focus on what you personally want to get out of a networking situation, understand that having something to offer is equally important — even if it’s simply an ear to listen. While I personally find networking an intimidating part of my job and career development in general, my outlook is based on the simple concept that learning is the most important thing I can do at this point in my career. I aim to absorb what I can from those around me and try my best to ensure others can learn from my experiences as well.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
My favorite podcast is NPR’s “How I Built This,” which interviews the entrepreneurs behind some of my favorite brands on their journeys to success. The interviews demonstrate that many high-profile entrepreneurs have achieved success by taking uncertain opportunities, developing unexpected interests and consistently striving toward growth. It comes down to the fact that success cannot be achieved by remaining stagnant without a hunger for learning. Whether you’re a teacher, lawyer, entrepreneur or publicist, the basic formula to growth and achievement does not differ.
I often think about how many of the inspiring entrepreneurs I’ve heard on “How I Built This” took every opportunity throughout their careers to learn and gain experience — like Steve Madden working in a local shoe store, or Bobbi Brown working as an amateur makeup artist. They started small and leaped to great heights with open minds, drive and passion. I constantly apply this outlook to my career, and it has helped me tremendously in the push to overcome any uncertainty about where I’m headed as a PR professional. Like the entrepreneurs behind the successful brands featured on the podcast, I am committed to taking uncertain opportunities, developing personal interests and striving toward improvement across the board. I can definitely rely on “How I Built This” for constant inspiration and a steady push forward when needed.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Take control of your career: When I was just starting out, I often let others dictate where my career was headed. I seldom asked questions, and always did what I was told with my head down. Sure, some managers might think that these are qualities of a model employee — but what I learned is that to a certain extent, you have to take the power into your own hands. If you’re interested in learning something new, see if you can take on some different responsibilities. If you’re wondering what the day-to-day of your boss entails, ask them for some insight. If you’re looking for clarity around your performance or growth trajectory, schedule a meeting with your supervisor for feedback. You are the only person in charge of your life, so take the lead!
Frustration will happen: The PR industry is tricky, as securing a steady flow of press coverage can be hit or miss. As a PR pro you quickly learn that it’s not always easy to garner media interest, despite how interesting you think the angle you’re offering is or how well-written your pitch is. It takes a lot of practice, research and experience to understand what makes a specific reporter tick and how to best position your news as the news they should be covering. Yet even then, timing and luck play a role too! You will get frustrated, but don’t become discouraged. Remain positive, creative and persistent.
Relationships are key: A few of my PR internships consisted of mundane, administrative work, like building lists with media contacts for my supervisors to pitch. I didn’t understand why my supervisors were emailing a bunch of strangers with news angles — was this what a job in PR entailed? I later learned the importance of building ongoing relationships with those media contacts, and that a good publicist always has their own rolodex of go-to reporters. Take every opportunity to engage with the media in ways that will help strengthen those relationships throughout your career. Creating those lasting connections is mutually beneficial and will continue to play an important role as you grow within the industry.
Don’t be fooled by glamour: What comes to mind when you think of PR? For me, it was fashion magazines, celebrities, notable brands and red carpets. Going into my first job on a beauty PR team I had no idea what to expect, but I envisioned glamour and luxury. On my first day, I was given the task of unpacking several boxes of makeup to restock the beauty closets. My fresh manicure was flawed, along with what was once my vision of PR! This is not to say that there aren’t certain glamorous aspects of the job, because there are — and there are many PR jobs out there that offer that type of experience. However, don’t ever let the fantasy of a job distract you from the behind-the-scenes reality, no matter what kind of job it is. It’s natural to be a little naive when just entering the workforce, but do your research in order to be as prepared and well-informed as possible.
Ask questions: As I continue to grow within my career, I constantly learn the importance of having my voice be heard. I’ve always been somewhat shy and timid, not wanting to create a burden for others with my curiosity or uncertainty — I was the girl who never raised her hand in class. However, the only way to succeed is leveraging that curiosity as a tool to gain the clarity, guidance and knowledge needed in order to do your job to the best of your ability. Don’t be afraid to speak up, because the only way to get what you need to overcome challenges and fulfill your potential is to continue seeking out the answers you need from those who might have them.