Four years ago, I was a Virginia Tech graduate (and former PRSSA member) with a public relations degree in hand, hoping to relocate and claim a spot for myself in Charlotte’s public relations industry. After six weeks of job searching, I succeeded and found myself in a city full of opportunity, ambition and creativity.
I’m currently a young professional living on the outskirts of Uptown Charlotte. I work at a strategic marketing agency where I juggle a variety of communication tasks, one of which is public relations. Every morning I open my MacBook, log in to Facebook and browse Mashable. Probably similar to your Facebook feed, I follow local news stations, businesses and personalities. Here are the stories I see most often – kudos to their fantastic public relations teams:
Restaurants and Retail – Charlotteans are always looking for the most unique menu, the richest craft beer and the latest innovative workout. We love to eat at food trucks, drink beer after yoga and dine on rooftops. SouthPark Mall and Concord Mills are two of the top tourist attractions in the Carolinas. Johnson & Wales University, found in Uptown Charlotte, has played a significant role in turning out chefs who are opening restaurants at a record pace.
Sports – Charlotte is the proud home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and numerous race teams, the Carolina Panthers (NFL) the Charlotte Hornets (NBA), three minor league teams and multiple college sports teams.
Finance – Thanks to the Bank of America corporate headquarters and Wells Fargo’s major presence here, stories of finance and economics flood Charlotte’s media market.
Energy – Aside from being known for its colorfully lit skyscraper in Uptown Charlotte, Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States.
My advice for breaking into the public relations industry in Charlotte is pretty straightforward: get involved. Whether it’s with local non-profits, alumni groups, local churches (we have a lot of them), the YMCA of Greater Charlotte (which boasts five of the largest branches in the U.S.) or professional organizations, building relationships will be your strongest currency once you move to the Charlotte market.
If you aren’t sure where to start, visit a PRSA Charlotte luncheon or other networking event. With approximately 300 members, the PRSA Charlotte Chapter (www.prsacharlotte.org) is one of the Southeast District’s largest and most active Chapters.
Once you start to build your network, utilize it. Even from afar, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or introductions. In this fast-paced industry, an email or a phone call is a suitable way to start a conversation. Pursue opportunities to learn and lead. If you join an organization and only show up once or twice, you may be forgotten. But if you commit to volunteer or assume a leadership role, you’ll likely be remembered. Regardless of where you stand in your career – from recent graduate to seasoned professional – building genuine relationships will help you find your place in Charlotte’s public relations community.
The culture in Charlotte has always exhibited a “pro-business” spirit that is very welcoming to newcomers. We encourage fresh ideas and welcome new faces. The people of Charlotte create the vibrant culture that makes young professionals feel at home. Before a formal introduction, we smile. After the initial handshake, we hug. Hope to see you in Charlotte in the near future!
Are you looking for internships in the Charlotte area or elsewhere? Check out the PRSSA Internship Center for opportunities!
Hannah Wilson is an account executive at Spark Strategic Ideas. As a leader on the account management team, she oversees the daily marketing activities of various clients. Hannah graduated with a B.A. in communication with a concentration in public relations from Virginia Tech. She is the chair of the PRSA Charlotte New Professionals Committee. Connect with Hannah on Twitter @hannahlouell, through her LinkedIn page or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.