PR Pro: Deirdre Breakenridge

Deirdre Breakenridge is an author, a speaker, and the CEO of Pure Performance Communications, which is located in Marlboro, New Jersey. Choosing Deirdre for an interview was an easy choice for me, not only because she is a an accomplished veteran in the PR industry, but because when I was reading my PR textbook for school and I came across her name, I knew that I wanted to contact her and brag to the rest of my class that I actually spoke to someone that we read about. Mission accomplished! But before I bore you to death with personal achievements, let’s go the Q&A with Deirdre.

 

1. Do you think that any of the interests you had as a child carried over into what you chose to do professionally? If so, what were they? 

My earliest memory of writing a “book” goes back to 4th grade.  My favorite teacher, Mrs. Seitel, worked with us to create little hard cover storybooks.  My story was about a little girl who found a secret garden and her incredible adventure.  I was so proud of my story. I also loved creating the illustrations and designing my own book cover. Looking back, I guess you could say my interest in writing was strong and determined at an early age. Now that I press my memory, I always loved to write short stories and essays through grammar and middle school.  And, I may have been the only kid who liked those little blue books to complete essays in 8th grade and throughout high school.  The writing definitely started when I was young and it wasn’t until I won a WOR Radio essay contest in high school that really solidified my passion. Today, I’m very happy to have chosen a profession that allows me to write. It was actually in the early years of my career that I remember talking to one of my agency’s clients who was an author.  I was in complete awe of his financial business book that we were promoting.  I remember he said to me, “Maybe one day you’ll write a book too.”  I followed my heart and made my dream come true.  I believe that interests start early and if you develop and cultivate your passion, then the sky is the limit!

2. Where do you see the PR industry heading in 5 years from now? In other words, which aspects of PR will remain constant as we head into the future?

I recently wrote a post about PR as we head toward 2015.  I’m hoping that some major changes take place before five years.  There are certain aspects of PR that will remain the same. For example, we will always uphold ethics and our integrity. Measurement will continue to be an important part of a PR program as professionals are becoming more accountable.  PR will manage and handle communications on behalf of an organization and we will always nurture and leverage the great relationships that we build for our organizations.  However, a few of the new practices I would love to see moving forward include: PR will be more integrated with marketing, advertising and customer service.  As brands focus on earned, paid, owned and sponsored media in their media mix, this will further promote the integration.  PR will be an important component of social customer relationship management, as we become even more involved in customer facing issues, especially as they pertain to marketing, sales, service and support. PR will continue to collaborate with customers to help create and empower advocates.  PR professionals will focus on communications strategy with a permanent seat at the strategy table. We’ll help to break down the silos and to work cross functionally with other areas of our companies.  New strategies in monitoring, measurement, innovative communication, relationship building, reputation management and crisis management will give PR a direct path to the CEO.  Lastly, PR professionals will focus more on the natural fusing of communication and technology. The PR person’s daily role will include technology in communications and it will not be someone else’s job. These are a few ways in which PR  will change over the next few years.

3. If you could help guide college students toward a career in the PR industry, what advice would you give them? 

I can definitely offer guidance, but passion should always dictate how you plan and prepare for your career, whether it’s PR or any other industry.  The best advice would be to network with professionals and educators to learn about real world PR as you go through your college years.  Today, students have the incredible opportunity to participate in Twitter discussions, join professional PR groups on LinkedIn and meet like-minded passionate people in Facebook groups and on blogs.  We didn’t have this kind of opportunity when I went to college.  Plan your time well so you can work hard in your classes and get involved in online discussions and networking to further your learning.  It’s also great to find a mentor who will support your efforts, give you advice on the business of communications and answer your questions.  Having a mentor will provide you with additional insights, career direction and help you to pursue your goals and to follow your dreams!

4. If you could choose any client to work with, who would it be and why? 

This is such a difficult question because it’s a challenge to select just one. I would say that the one client I would like to work with would be Apple.  I’m a huge Apple fan ever since I switched to a Mac, after many years of being a “PC.” I am forever thankful for how Apple has made an impact on me professionally, creating a much smarter work experience. I’m also amazed at the innovation and intelligence that we see from Apple (and of course what we saw from the late Steve Jobs). Working with Apple on their marketing communications would be an incredible experience.  Visiting their headquarters, meeting their team and being a part of such a strong culture would definitely be one of the outstanding highlights in my career.

5. What is one thing about yourself that would surprise other people? 

Like most bloggers, I’m pretty much an open book and wear my heart on my sleeve. However, I think the one thing that would surprise people about me is that I have a second passion, which led to the creation of another company.  I rode horses for about 10 years when I was younger and showed in equestrian events every month until I was about 17 years old.  I spent countless hours volunteering at the county stable and even teaching lessons to beginners.  When I met my husband, he shared the same passion and had owned horses for years before we met.  We decided to set up an online service that helped shippers to find haulers, so horse lovers would find good transport options.  Little did we know that our company would also be shipping goats, sheep and pigs across the country.  It’s just one of those things that you just wouldn’t know about me.

(You can follow Deirdre on Twitter @dbreakenridge, and you can read her blog at http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/)
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