Don’t hide behind email or the Internet. Yes, these are great modes of communication for clients and reporters but your job is about real relationships and nothing can replace human interaction when it comes to building real relationships. Get to know people at events, meet your clients in person.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kara Silverman. Kara is Acast’s first Global Head of Communications and Marketing. In her role she is responsible for building the global marketing team, managing the company brand, developing internal and external communications, and expanding marketing efforts. Kara has been working in the public relations and communications field for the last 13+ years. She graduated from THE Ohio State University where she studied geography and religion. Her career has covered everything from fashion, public affairs, and politics to consumer packaged goods, adtech, and semiconductors. Prior to Acast Kara was the second employee at Small Girls PR where she scaled the company’s operations and built out the technology communications practice. She is also the founder of creative agency Extra Crunchy where she worked on the first ever facebook telethon Love-a-thon, a hackathon series promoting gender equality Hack’n Jill, edits jobs curation site TechPRJobs.com, and the email plugin Just Not Sorry. She lives on the LES with her partner Mike and ridiculously adorable rescue pup Rugby.
Thank you so much for your time. I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
That’s a great question! Turns out I was born to be a communicator. I had no idea growing up, but as an adult I learned that a number of my extended family members worked in PR/marketing/communications just like me. It was a weird moment to feel almost destined for this life. Also, in college, I had a lot of advocacy, governmental, and public policy internships that involved writing, being a spokesperson, and thinking strategically about communicating with different groups of people to deliver a message. All of that experience set me up to become a publicist/communicator professionally.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
My current company Acast is Swedish and launched in the US a few years ago. Since we work so globally with media companies and podcast creators all over the world, some of my favorite experiences have been bringing that global perspective to the US. For example, earlier this year we announced our relationship with the BBC, one of the oldest broadcasters in the world. I love that the BBC is working with startups like my company to stay relevant and evolve. Announcing our work together was one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do in my role as Global Head of Marketing and Communications at Acast.
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?
When I was first started as a publicist, fax machines and the Bacon’s media directories were still part of everyday life. Now you know how old I am!! I moved to NYC to take a job at a PR firm that took on a lot of pro bono work for nonprofits. We were organizing a press conference for a healthcare nonprofit that heavily featured one of their ambulances. To host the press conference, we took over a very busy street in NYC and shut it down to park the ambulance and invited every broadcast media outlet and local photographer and journalist who might be interested. On the day of the press conference, not a single media outlet showed up. The client was standing there ready to go and no one came. My team saved the day by bringing our own video camera and telling the client we would make a video and send that out to TV instead. The client ended up super happy to get a chance to practice and we did get some coverage in the end. I learned so many important lessons about working with media and managing clients that day!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
In addition to running and building my global marketing team, I also run a website called techprjobs.com where I am working to help tech publicists find great new career opportunities and help agencies and brands looking for new team members find qualified candidates quickly. I am also an advisor working with Mile Square Labs, a global revenue agency focused on growing late seed to series-funded technology companies.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
There are so many things I would say to young publicists. Here are 3:
- Don’t hide behind email or the internet. Yes, these are great modes of communication for clients and reporters but your job is about real relationships and nothing can replace human interaction when it comes to building real relationships. Get to know people at events, meet your clients in person.
- Journalists are people too! Yes, you are pitching them a specific story, but remember they are people with interests and goals and other deadlines. Treat journalists with respect by getting to know them and learning what they like. Tailor your outreach to be relevant to them. This will have huge payoff as you grow in your career.
- Have no fear. Being a publicist is about having a point of view. Whether it’s an angle for a story pitch or a recommendation for a client strategy, believe in yourself and your point of view.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
- Don’t network! What I mean by that is don’t treat business relationships a transactional. Be as authentic in your work friendships and connections as you are with your personal friends. If you are just “networking” for the sake of getting ahead, your contacts will feel that and be less likely to help you.
- Never “pick my brain”. If you have a question for someone or want to talk to someone about something they do, be respectful of their time. Tell them you only need 30 minutes, come prepared with questions you want to ask or know about. Don’t put all the work on the person you’ve just asked to talk to you, come ready yourself.
- Lead with value. When I meet someone that I want to get to know or build a relationship with for work or for life, I will offer them something that is value add to their world. An invitation to an event they would like, forwarding an article about something we talked about to expand their knowledge, an introduction to someone who can help them with something. By starting with a value add, I am showing that I care about their needs and not just what they can do for me and hopefully establishing a longer term relationship with that person.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I am a podcast publicist by trade so here are some I love. The Dave Chang Show, How I Built This, Startup Podcast, Bad with Money with Gaby Dunn, Fresh Air, Jobblogues, and How To Be Awesome At Your Job.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t work all the time. I used to think the way I showed my commitment to a job was by working 24/7. Instead, I just burned out super fast.
- It’s ok to say “No” to a client. When I started my career, I treated PR like a game of improv, always saying “Yes, and…” to clients. If a client is really invested in PR they will be looking to you to say no to them when needed and truly advise them on what to do.
- Build your own brand outside of your company/job. Often in NYC it’s easy to think we are where we work or what we do. BUT, when you leave your job what comes with you is just yourself. Learning to build my own identity and brand separate from my company was super important.
- Don’t pick your job based on money. Early in my career I would evaluate jobs down the decimal point of salary levels. $5K here, $7K there. BUT every time I made a decision based on the dollar amount of an offer or opportunity, it never worked out for me. Money isn’t the only thing that matters, it’s not even really the most important.
- Own your wins. You are your own best advocate and cheerleader. Waiting for a boss or client or colleague to pat you on the back and say “great job on the placement” or “good work on that strategy” is a waste of time. Know your own worth and celebrate yourself.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.