I had the pleasure of interviewing Ann Ragan Kearns, Senior Account Executive at ITPR who focuses on luxury travel, hospitality and lifestyle accounts.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I always knew I wanted to have a career in Communications and working with people. To be completely honest, it all started when I was applying to colleges and had to declare an intended major. My father, who came from the Business world, suggested Public Relations as he knew I wanted to work in the Communications field and thought it would be a good fit for me. As a high school senior, I checked off PR as my intended major on all of my applications, not even fully knowing what it was! I am lucky that I actually did fall in love with PR through my studies. I majored in Public Relations and Advertising at Penn State University and continued on to receive my Master’s in Communications from Boston College and had numerous PR internships throughout my college and post- grad career. I started off in sports PR, dabbled in non- profit PR and fashion PR before landing into the role I am in today in travel, hospitality and luxury lifestyle Public Relations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Definitely the experiences that I have had since working in the industry. One of the coolest moments for me this year was when our client Champagne POMMERY launched their La Chapelle Gordonne rosé. We had a lovely dinner at Le Bernadin where Chef Eric Ripert prepared a 7 course tasting menu with the rosé. The dinner took place in February when there was still snow on the ground so definitely not what people typically think of as “rosé season.” Since some editors work months in advance on their stories, it’s not unusual to have Christmas and holiday events in June and July.
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 fist started out and was working as an assistant, sometimes I was handed tasks that weren’t so glamourous. To this day I can still recite some of my former bosses’ coffee orders, or their favorite salad combinations. One day I was picking up lunch for one of my former bosses and accidentally picked up the wrong soy sauce for her sushi. When I got back to the office she made it very clear that I made a mistake, and in front of our whole staff. That was a huge eye-opening experience for me. I vowed to never make any future employee that work for me or with me feel that way. I also learned not to stress the small stuff, in the grand scheme of things, that was a tiny mistake and should not be worth dwelling on.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
I currently work for a boutique agency so new business is a huge part of scaling your business to profitability. A lot of networking and research goes into new business relationships, meetings and proposals. This process of on-boarding new business does vary, it can range from a few weeks to even a few years, it’s all about when the timing is right.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Champagne POMMERY will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their POP! Mini champagne in 2019. It has been really exciting planning events and activations for this, it’s an awesome project that involves a lot of creativity.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Network, intern and research! I got my first job in PR from networking. Go to as many events as you can, you never know who you will meet. Interning is a great way to get hands-on PR experience, complete as many internships as you can so you can get a feel of what industry is right for you and what you have a passion for. Also, PR is a demanding career. It is not your typical 9–5 job and you really do have to be on call for anything that may happen.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Attend as many events as you can- you never know who you will meet. Also, when you make new contacts, create a meaningful relationship with them. Grab a coffee or a bite to eat with them so you can put a face to a name and not just an email address in your mailbox.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I was fortunate to attend Ann Shoket’s book launch of “The Big Life.” Ann was previously the Editor in Chief of Seventeen magazine. “The Big Life” focuses on millennial women and their desire and to “want it all”. it is a great read for those trying to balance their career, personal and professional relationships to create life full of meaning and passion.
I also love “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero and “Girl Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis, they both are about how to stop doubting yourself and create the most confident, powerful version of you. They really are a feel-good read that’s great for a pick-me-up to remind you how awesome you really are and the true potential you have.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Be kind to everyone. One of my favorite quotes is “Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti.” You can be successful without having to sacrifice your kindness to others. Also, invest in those who invest in you.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
1) I wish that someone would have told me that Public Relations is not your typical 9–5 job and it is a very demanding career. I love the rush from securing placements or executing a successful event for clients but it takes a lot of late nights and early mornings and sacrifice to be a successful publicist.
2) I wish that someone would have told me that PR involves a TON of research that take a lot of time! I spend most of my day in an excel spreadsheet- very glamorous!
3) I would love to have known before I started that a successful career in Public Relations requires creating meaningful relationships. You can read all of the PR books, or take every Communications course but none of that compares to creating meaningful relationships in the industry.
4) I wish someone told me that you will need a lot of passion for the industry in order to succeed. Like every other career, there are ups and downs and sometimes in order to get through the tougher times you really do have to lean on your passion for your career. PR can be SUPER stressful at times, I heard a quote the other day that really struck a chord with me — “We are in PR, not ER.” Although sometimes the stress publicists feel can be enormous, it’s good to step back and re-center yourself.
5) I wish someone would have told me to create a mentor relationship with someone else in the industry. It does not have to be a coworker, but someone to turn to for different questions you may have or to pick their brain to see how they would handle a situation.