Liz Cies is the public relations specialist at Aweber, the email marketing tool used by over 120,000 small businesses around the world. Connect with her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lizcies


What do you do for a living?lizcies

I’m the public relations specialist at AWeber, the email marketing tool used by over 120,000 small businesses around the world.

How would you describe what you do?

I find creative ways to get AWeber in front of our target audiences, and also foster positive experiences with customers and influencers. This includes evaluating and improving existing communication channels, as well as exploring new avenues for outreach.

What does your work entail?

My role includes getting AWeber mentioned in news articles, writing press releases, planning events, collaborating with the marketing team on product launches, overseeing our social media outreach, identifying strong customer stories, monitoring the media, and building relationships with folks who can help introduce AWeber to new audiences.

Effective PR touches every business function, so these responsibilities require me to collaborate with many departments and roles within AWeber, including customer solutions, engineering, management, business development, and recruiting.

What’s a typical work week like?

My work day is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., unless I’m managing an evening event, and I try to occasionally attend networking events in the evening.

One thing I enjoy about PR is how no day or week is the same. If an event is coming up, I’ll spend time promoting it online and coordinating logistics; if we’re approaching a major announcement, I’ll research potential media outlets and prepare the press release and pitches in advance.

My day-to-day constant is email: no matter the project, I’m always corresponding with internal and external folks!

How did you get started?

After graduating from college, I knew I wanted to work in business communication. This was at the very beginning of the economic recession when companies were cutting their marketing budgets, so I struggled to find an entry-level position. Eager to get my foot in the door anywhere, I accepted an unpaid internship with a PR agency, which eventually led to a position with one of the agency’s clients.

What do you like about what you do?

Being analytical, I love the strategy side of PR: looking at a business problem holistically and determining what you want to achieve, who you want to reach, what action you want them to take, and – most importantly – how you’ll go about facilitating that.

What do you dislike?

As many in the industry can attest, it’s challenging to explain my job to someone unfamiliar with PR. It plays a larger role than specific functions (example: writing, tweeting, researching, etc.) so it’s hard to summarize that in concrete, understandable terms. I do find it ironic that the greatest challenge for strategic communicators is conveying what exactly we do!

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I’m a full-time team member at AWeber. Unless you do consulting or freelance work, most PR jobs are salaried positions.

How much do people in your field make?

Income can depend on industry, agency vs. corporate, region, and – of course – level of experience. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) offers salary snapshots, which is a good place to start in determining your worth. One great aspect of PR is the unlimited growth potential, with many experienced professionals reaching senior executive positions.

How much money do you make starting out?

Again, this varies based on a wide range of factors, but PRSA’s research can provide clarity in determining salary for entry-level positions.

What education or skills are needed to do this?

A bachelor’s degree is required by most employers. Although many schools offer degrees in PR, I believe the most adept practitioners are ones with diverse educational experiences. PR requires you to quickly size up an industry, company or situation, so natural curiosity and eagerness to learn are imperative.

One of the best things an aspiring pro can do is pursue internships while in college. This will provide training in day-to-day operations (such as building a media list, pitching, creating client reports, etc.) and also help build a network for finding jobs in the future.

What is most challenging about what you do?

It’s easy for businesses to get excited about PR and imagine their announcement on the front page of the New York Times… when really it’s more appropriate for the business section of the local paper. Although it’s inspiring to dream big and shoot for the moon, it’s also challenging to manage expectations among team members to prevent disappointment later on. Comprehensive research at the start of a project helps tremendously with this, along with regular communication along the way.

What is most rewarding?

Nothing quite matches the feeling of a big media win!

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Network, network, network. Try to meet as many professionals as possible; set up informational interviews, take someone out to coffee, ask about their industry, and learn as much as you can.

Also, never underestimate the power of a thank you note. If someone shares their time or advice with you, always express your appreciation afterwards.

How much time off do you get/take?

I’ve been fortunate to work for companies with generous vacation packages, and it seems like business culture is moving toward supporting positive work-life balance. Unfortunately PR never takes a break, so I’ve found myself occasionally addressing issues on holiday weekends or while on vacation – it’s just part of the job!

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

Many people assume all PR pros are bubbly extroverts, and that’s simply not true! I’m a textbook introvert, and while PR frequently places me outside my comfort zone (which has helped me grow as a person), my introvert qualities have been a strong asset in my success. PR requires a great deal of analysis, thinking and observation – areas in which many introverts thrive.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

More of the same – just bigger! I truly enjoy working in PR, and look forward to bigger challenges, projects, responsibilities and teams as my career progresses.

What else would you like people to know about what you do?

The Public Relations Society of America has been a valuable part of my career development, and I encourage any aspiring PR pro to join. Watch the webinars, read the publications and get involved in your local chapter – the small investment will be worth it.