Name: Kaitlin Bitting
Title: Vice President, Public Relations
Company: allen & gerritsen
Q: Can you briefly describe what you do?
A: I’m the Vice President of Public Relations at allen & gerritsen. It’s tough to describe what I do in any given day because it’s always different, and it all depends on the needs of the client. Drafting press releases, developing marketing strategies, pitching ideas, and communicating with the media are all things that I do often. My role is to tell stories, and tell them in a way that is compelling or brings a unique prospective. Essentially, my overarching goal is to get the client’s name, brand, or business in the news and out to the public.
Q: What motivated you to go into public relations?
A: I actually wound up in public relations through trial and error. I went to University of Richmond and majored in rhetoric and communication studies, where I learned about all aspects of communication, from interpersonal communication to the history of the field. After leaving school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was interested in advertising, marketing, and public relations, but at that point I didn’t really know the difference. My first position was at the University of Pennsylvania Health System in the marketing department. Through my interactions there, I realized that public relations was something towards which I gravitated. As a result, I decided to focus my next move specifically on PR. I utilized my college’s alumni career database to find alums in the public relations field and connected with a woman working at Hunter Public Relations in New York City. I interviewed there and got a job, and I stayed at Hunter for about 4 years. That was my entrée into public relations; I loved it and I’ve been in the industry ever since.
Q: Your agency was recently acquired. How has your position – and your role at the firm – evolved since that acquisition?
A: The acquisition of Neiman by allen & gerritsen was unique. Public relations was one of the core practices that allen & gerritsen was interested in building, and that was one of Neiman’s strengths, The leaders of both firms were interested in creating something truly cohesive, so over the course of more than a year, they studied the structure, clients, and culture of both firms to ensure a good fit. In June 2013, allen & gerritsen acquired Neiman, and we’re still going strong. It’s great to be a part of a company that has such a diversity of services and is able to handle everything from advertising and social media, to full marketing campaigns.
My position evolved the most by having a role in helping my fellow allen & gerritsen employees in Boston to understand how they can bring public relations into their work, help clients understand its benefits, and ultimately amplify their clients’ business. A big part of my role is promoting the great work of allen & gerritsen’s other departments, like a&g Labs, which experiments with technology as a means of creating unique consumer engagement opportunities. One recent example was when Beats by Dre contacted us, wanting to do something cool for the holidays. That something ended up being a Christmas tree made of 238 Beats Pills, installed at their flagship store in SoHo. When #BeatsHoliday was tweeted, all of the Pills on the tree lit up, and when it was tagged on Instagram, the tagged photo was displayed on one of the tablets mounted on the tree.
Q: Can you share the thing you like the most about your position, or your field in general?
A: The thing I like most about public relations is figuring out the most compelling story a project/brand/person has to tell, working through that story, and coming out with a press release, pitch, blog post, or other piece that brings that story to life. I really enjoy the storytelling aspect
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give a young professional looking to transition into your line of work?
When you are looking for a job, it can be difficult to stand out on paper, which is why networking is so key. Employers obviously look at experience and internships, but personality is hugely important. It’s crucial to be able to show your personality and carry on a conversation because that’s a vital part of what I do. I think about candidates I’ve interviewed in the past and if they’re comfortable, if we’re able to make a connection, and especially if they’ve researched the company, they tend to stand out. Plenty of candidates don’t do their homework about the company or about our recent campaigns. When candidates are able to speak intelligently about the agency, it definitely sets them apart. So my piece of advice would be to do your homework. Get to know the company or specific person with whom you’re interviewing.
Q: YPN has a professional development bookshelf. Is there a book that you’re currently reading or have read in the past that you would recommend?
A: I enjoyed Contagious by Jonah Berger. It’s all about how ideas catch on: what makes some things go viral versus what doesn’t. The word “viral” gets thrown around a lot in my industry, so it’s cool to read about some of the aspects of a project or campaign that has done just that, and to understand why. While luck ultimately plays a huge role, the book addresses the ways you can tip the scales in your favor to make an idea catch on.
Q: What has been your favorite YPN event? Why? What did you find valuable?
A: The Success in the City event at the Pyramid Club last year. Having leaders from different industries in the Philadelphia communities speak about what they see as important to young professionals was very valuable, especially because of the diversity of industries and communities they represented.