Agency Life: An Interview with Julie Staadecker

What does it take to climb the ranks at a PR agency? Creativity, perseverance and initiative, according to Julie Staadecker, a vice president in Boston’s consumer practice. Julie got her start in PR straight out of college as an Account Coordinator and never looked back — taking the Boston PR scene by storm and quickly excelling through the ranks to Vice President here at SHIFT. Earlier this year, Julie was even awarded the 2018 Ringer Award at the Publicity Club of New England’s 50th Annual Bell Ringer Awards celebrating model PR practitioners who’ve excelled in the industry. Let’s hear what Julie has to say about her experiences thus far in her career and some of her tips for succeeding in the (sometimes) challenging world of public relations…

You’ve worked in an agency setting throughout your entire PR career — what advice do you have for those in the midst of climbing the ranks or just getting started?

Julie StaadeckerSomeone told me when I got my first PR job, if you can make it in an agency for a year, you can make it in PR. I still believe that’s true! Entry-level positions can be the hardest because you’re adjusting to the real world, and you are the hub for the entire team’s activities, charged with keeping them on track.

The best advice at this stage of your career is to ask a ton of questions, don’t be embarrassed when you don’t know the answer to everything (you’re not supposed to), and don’t complain! Even if your work can seem mundane, every role on the team serves a purpose. The faster you can absorb information and perfect your tasks, the faster you’ll learn and grow.

What is the best career advice you’ve received from a mentor?

In the wise words of my even wiser mentor, plant your own garden! Don’t expect anyone else to bring you flowers.

Now leading the charge on your team, how do you keep time for yourself? Talk a bit about how you keep up a healthy work/life balance as a VP.

I’m a believer that nobody can help you achieve work/life balance, you have to do so for yourself, setting boundaries and prioritizing your time outside of the office. While we all have hectic, busy days in PR – and those of us who work on consumer brands often have evening and weekend work – it doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible to fit your lifestyle around a crazy schedule.

For example, I take a workout class nearly every evening at 5:30. It helps me level set physically and emotionally, and it often resets my viewpoint on issues at work. It also means getting into the office earlier so I can leave on time and sometimes jumping back online afterwards to answer any urgent emails. There isn’t a perfect formula, it’s always a balancing act. Try to have a small list of needs that you aren’t willing to compromise on…and then don’t.

You’ve been successful over your 7 years at SHIFT managing teams across several of our offices across the country. Can you talk about how you built relationships with folks outside of Boston? Tips for cross-teaming and/or inter-office communications?

I love so many of the people from SHIFT’s other offices! In-person time getting to know each other is crucial, so whenever there is an opportunity to pitch new business together, work on an account together, etc, I always take it. When there’s not, phone/video brainstorms and conversations are a great way to build a connection and learn about my colleague’s strengths and expertise.

In general, the key to cross-teaming is to over-communicate. Set clear expectations as a team at the beginning of a program, designate a chain of command and project owners, and check in with each other often on progress and challenges. It’s also important to have a high-level understanding of individuals’ other client needs, so that if someone is busy with another launch/announcement/etc, the rest of the team can carry a little extra weight to ensure that 1. all clients continue to be serviced effectively; 2. the individual isn’t overwhelmed.

How has PR changed since you first joined an agency? Has it?

PR changes constantly, and for many of us in the field, that’s why we love it. The biggest change since I joined SHIFT is around media relations. It was once more straight forward – a strategic email and phone approach and relationship building with key reporters typically worked. Now, you still have to do all those things. But you also have to be extremely creative and typically have data to break through the noise. We often also need to consider less traditional PR and marketing tactics like affiliate marketing, influencer partnerships and more to make an impact.

It’s also been interesting to see many companies, with SHIFT at the forefront, begin to tangibly measure how our work delivers ROI to clients. An ongoing evolution!

Any favorite campaigns or projects you’ve worked on over the years?

The Big Mac ATM! My team took this project from concept phase through execution, which included building, branding and building buzz on a one day-only ATM that distributed different sizes of the iconic McDonald’s Big Mac to consumers to promote the sandwiches. It received regional, national and even international news attention, going viral and trending on Facebook. And, who doesn’t love a Big Mac?


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