Vice President of Public Relations, Hearst Magazines
Posted on: February 8, 2012 | Go to profile
With a philosophy that women should support other women in the professional world, Jessica oversees PR efforts for the magazine division of Hearst Corporation, which includes 19 consumer magazines in the US such as Cosmopolitan; O, The Oprah Magazine and Redbook, and 200 internationally. She also manages the company’s digital, brand development and integrated media group, and co-authored the career guide, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I originally wanted to be a magazine writer and, in college, interned for YM magazine and started freelancing for several magazines. Upon graduation, I looked for a job as an editorial assistant but couldn’t find one so, after two months of interviewing, I decided to take my experience having also interned in PR and combine it with my interest in magazines. I landed a job at a magazine publicity firm and, while I continued to freelance write for years, I loved PR and it became my career path.
Q: How much time do you spend on networking versus focusing on the internal affairs of your business (such as management, strategy, ideation etc)?
A: Networking is an integral part of any PR person’s job. We’re only as good as our connections so I spend as much time as possible cultivating relationships, not only with the media but also with other interesting people. As I have a busy job, I would say that I focus a lot of time and energy while in the office on managing my team, juggling projects, developing communications strategies and coming up with big ideas. As a result, I’m not out lunching at (New York media hotspot) Michael’s every day. However, I try to make sure I’m not always just sitting behind a desk doing my work – it’s necessary to be out and about and have face-to-face meetings.
Q: Can you share a story of how networking led to a great success?
A: A couple of examples and lessons from them: One, when a new media beat reporter started at The New York Times a couple of years ago, I learned that he went to my college so I immediately sent him a note and ended it with “Go Blue!”, University of Michigan’s cheer. He wrote back right away and we forged an immediate connection, which has led to a great working relationship and several stories about my company. Doing a little extra research to find common interests or threads with people pays off. Second, I believe in doing informational interviews, even if there isn’t a job available. About a year ago, a colleague asked me to meet with a woman who was in PR and looking for her next opportunity. We had coffee and hit it off but I didn’t have anything open for her at the time. A few months ago, I added a senior level position on my staff, came across her resume, which I had held onto, and called her. She was thrilled to interview for the job — and she’s now my executive director!
ON Career Transitions
Q: Many people become discontent with their current career yet are too afraid or reluctant to make a change. What’s your best advice for women in this situation?
A: There’s no doubt that change and fear of the unknown can be daunting, particularly if you’re not miserable in your current work situation. However, if you don’t take risks and push yourself to continue to learn and grow in your career, it might stall out. My advice: Talk to as many people as you can, expand your network of connections even when you’re not looking to make a change so that when you are, you don’t have to start from scratch or only contact people when you most need help.
Q: Who has been your greatest mentor(s)?
A: I’d have to say my mother. She has had a number of different careers over the years – from French teacher to image consultant, from HR pro to artist – and has done all of them well. She has always encouraged me, supported me and believed in my abilities. Some of the things she’s taught me, such as “The worst someone can say is no,” “When in doubt, don’t” and “If it’s meant to be, it will happen,” have helped guide me in my personal and professional decisions. I hope I can be as great a cheerleader and guide to my own daughter as she grows up!
ON Starting Out
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: I’m so passionate about giving career advice to others, particularly young people, that I wrote a book about it! Some key tips:
Do your research. Don’t ever go into a job interview without having looked up the company, it’s key executives, mission and recent news. It’s as simple as going on the company’s website, setting up a Google alert and/or following their brand on Twitter. Coming prepared with good questions and knowledge of the company, it’s competition and industry will impress your interviewer.
Be willing to do whatever it takes. I recently interviewed a new college grad who told me that she didn’t want to get anyone coffee in her first job. Obviously, that display of entitlement completely turned me off and she didn’t get the position (by the way, I’m a vice president and I still get my own coffee!). We’re in a very tough job market and a viable candidate for an entry-level job will show a willingness – and an enthusiasm – to get the job done, no matter how big or small the task.
Talk to everyone you can. Whether you have no idea what you want to do as a career or you’ve known what you’ve wanted to do since you were twelve, get out there and chat with people in the working world to get information and insight that will help you with your future. Most people like to talk about themselves and offer up advice to those just starting out so track down alumni, friends of friends, even those you don’t know but admire through social media (i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter) and try to get a meeting or phone call with them. Be respectful of their time and make it convenient for them.
ON Time Management
Q: Online calendars, emailing ourselves, post-it notes… I’m still struggling to find the best way to manage my time and to do list? What’s your method?
A: I use a combination of Outlook Calendar and Notes on my iPhone and iPad and physically writing to-do lists in a notebook or pad. Sometimes actually writing it down helps me remember it better. I haven’t given up on paper yet – I even still have my rolodexes!
Q: What are you most passionate about, and how do you incorporate it into your career or everyday life?
A: I love working with creative people and am passionate about working with others to come up with great ideas – I have been lucky enough to do both throughout my career. I also love to laugh and believe that having a sense of humor comes in very handy both professionally and personally.
ON Giving Back
Q: What cause(s) have you chosen to support and why does it resonate with you?
A: The two causes I support are the Lymphoma Research Foundation and Cycle for Survival. LRF because I lost my stepmother 11 years ago from lymphoma and Cycle because it was started by my high school friend Jen Goodman Linn and her husband to raise money for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. Jen passed away this summer after battling sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, for 7 years. A smart, tough, upbeat, energetic marketing executive who had worked at such companies as Ann Taylor and Nickelodeon, Jen continues to be an inspiration to me and millions of others every day. I will ride in her memory this February so please support me at <cycleforsurvival.org>!
Q: What’s your best buy ever?
A: I bought a gorgeous green Hogan bag in Italy years ago. I saw it in Venice but the store was closed so I tracked it down at the Hogan store in Florence. It was still expensive but a lot less than it would have been here and I’ve never seen anyone else with that bag. The color, a sort of kelly green, makes me happy.
Q: If you were to write a book, what would it be about? Or share what your book is about.
A: I co-authored a book that came out in January 2011 called Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Hired, Noticed and Rewarded at Work along with Meryl Weinsaft Cooper. It’s been such a rewarding experience – both the writing process and the subsequent speaking engagements and interviews. Our goal was to help people find ways to stand out positively in their careers by leveraging classic PR tools and techniques.