One of the several enlightening sessions I attended at the 2017 PRSSA National Conference was called “Behind the PR Stunt: Creativity in PR Jobs You Didn’t Know Existed.” This gem of a session featured speaker Michael DiSalvo, Vice President of Healthcare at Ogilvy, one of the nation’s leading PR agencies. When you think of healthcare PR and the people who work in it, you may not immediately visualize or associate traits like creative, charismatic, or humorous. Michael DiSalvo was just that. In a session with a meaningful message at its heart, delivered through comical and relatable packaging, I left feeling both amused and well-educated.
DiSalvo began the session by relaying to the audience his background as a then unemployed college graduate. He later stumbled across the field of healthcare PR, thanks to an old gig as a writer for a pregnancy centered publication, and has remained in healthcare ever since. I appreciated DiSalvo’s willingness to share his bumpy road to success as it was both refreshing and reassuring to see a real-life example of someone who did not have a perfectly defined career trajectory throughout college or a job lined up right after graduation, but still ended up tremendously successful.
Transitioning to the core message of the session, DiSalvo laid out a series of important takeaways and pieces of advice. Some that stood out to me in particular include:
- “Good” PR is about connecting people to information, “bad” PR is about being showy and dishonest.
- Specialized PR differs by subject, skillset, and audience
- Your role is determined by your expertise
- Expertise starts with your own interests
- Think about what you love, see who’s doing that, then pursue jobs, philanthropy, and hobbies in those areas.
What I understood of these highlighted points was that you can fulfill your sense of creativity in areas of PR outside of what is perceived to be the most creative. At the core of all good PR is simply connecting people to information. The fulfillment part is rather defined by being able to work within your expertise. To find your expertise, figure out what subjects you are knowledgeable on, what skills you have, and what audiences you best understand. For example, you may know a lot about science, be a skilled writer, and relate well to millennial populations. This will help outline in what way you connect what people to what information best. Moreover, expertise begins with your own interests. You’re probably most knowledgeable, most skilled, and most connected to the audiences of things that interest you. So, take the time to think about what you love, research people who are doing what you love, and to look for opportunities in those areas. When you find work you’re interested in and an expert in –whether it’s entertainment PR or financial PR –the creativity will follow.