Employee Highlight: Marissa Smith

Read our Q&A with Hirons’ business development coordinator Marissa Smith.

Marissa Smith-Kenny

How did you become interested in advertising/PR/media/public affairs/marketing? How did you break into the industry and land your first job?
My freshman year of college, I was looking for a way to combine my writing skills with my interest in marketing and started taking courses in public relations. My passion for that industry and for positively impacting my community helped shape my career.

During my sophomore year, I began pursuing internship opportunities with nonprofit organizations, putting my newly developed PR skills to use and learning more about the ways different organizations conduct their communications processes.

At the start of my senior year, I began an internship in the communications management department here at Hirons and had the opportunity to present a few of my ideas to the management team. Although I now work in a different department, my initiative in presenting those ideas played a big part in getting this new position.

What would you consider the specializations/most important tools of the trade?
One of the key things I have learned throughout my experiences in PR is that you must always be aware of who you’re speaking to. There are a lot of general communications tactics that appeal to a lot of people, but each audience and organization has particular nuances that determine how appealing your messages are to them. Having that awareness in mind is helpful in all aspects of the job, whether it’s leading internal meetings or presenting concepts to clients.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in the industry?
As a newcomer to the agency setting, I cannot stress enough the importance of time management. I generally consider myself to be an organized person, but this industry forces you to have a lot of projects happening at once. You need to know the status of everything on your to-do list and which items need to be completed by when. For me, that means lots of to-do lists and spreadsheets.

Along with that, you have to learn how to balance your professional and personal lives. I think especially for young professionals, it’s easy to fall into a routine of constantly monitoring your emails and having work at the forefront of your mind. While having a great work ethic is important, burnout is real! Be sure you set boundaries early on and take care of yourself.

Do you have any interesting hobbies/second jobs/bits of information that make you pop as an individual?
My current situation is unique because I am working full time at Hirons but I am still in college. I feel like my feet are standing in very separate worlds right now – to the point that I’m both a member of PRSSA (for students) and PRSA (for professionals). I am not sure what I’m going to do with all the free time I’ll have after graduation in May!

When and where do you have your best ideas?
I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid and for years I would come up with my most creative story ideas swinging in the backyard. I don’t currently have a backyard or a swing, so I do a lot of work from the balcony of my apartment or with the window open.

What has been the most exciting project/campaign that you’ve worked on at Hirons?
My role as business development coordinator has included promoting our Rural Reach program, which is a specialization we have that really hits home for me. I am from a rural area in east-central Indiana and I have firsthand experience of the unique challenges that come with communicating and engaging rural audiences. I am very excited to see this program continue to expand and to help it do so in 2019.

Why is effective advertising/PR so important for the growth and success of organizations?
You can have a great business plan, a solid mission statement, a wonderful product or service, etc.,  but these things will not do your organization any good if no one knows about your organization or the work you’re doing. I am particularly passionate about optimizing communications efforts for local nonprofits that target underserved populations because a lack of awareness of their services can be detrimental to the audiences they want to serve. 

What’s one important tip you would share with anyone looking to go into the agency world?
Agency structure and business processes are completely different animals from other public relations sectors that I’ve experienced. While everyone still wears a lot proverbial hats just like in an in-house communications team, agency life is a lot more collaborative. Be prepared to have to rely heavily on your co-workers – and learn how to not be afraid to follow up with your teammates in order to meet deadlines.

What is the most meaningful part of your job?
As business development coordinator, my department is in charge of procuring new clients and thus new revenue for the agency. That might sound like a lot of pressure, but we have a great team here and we all work together to produce the best work possible. The position means a lot to me. Even as a young professional, I am able to play a critical role in the company’s proceedings, and I know my insights matter to my fellow Hirons team members.