Today I sat down with a partner of The PRIME Factory, Stephanie Smith, and asked her a couple of questions about how she got where she is today. She shared some of her experiences and I’m here to tell a small part of her story. Her life motto came from some unintended advice in a random girl’s email signature:“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,” –John Templeton.

“It’s about reminding people to be generous and think about what others may be going through. It’s about realizing that not everyone will do things the way you do it or at the speed or quality that’d like them to do them. Sometimes things like that just don’t matter. It takes more energy to pick a fight with someone than politely or nicely getting over it.” It’s a lesson Stephanie thinks a lot of people need to learn.

Stephanie studied communication as an undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral student. She received her masters from Northwestern University, which has a top-ranked communication program, and her Ph.D. from The University of Arizona. When she began her masters at Northwestern University, she was working a full-time job at InterCall as the Marketing Coordinator and Assistant Marketing Manager. She enjoyed the program at Northwestern because it complimented her ongoing professional experience and allowed her to practice communication in a profession, rather than focus on the theoretical study of communication.

The mixed experiences of working at another agency, doing freelance work, her entry-level marketing job, and working with students are what prepared her the most for her job at The PRIME Factory. Some of these experiences included client acquisition, maintaining client relationships, writing editorial calendars, constructing social media plans, pitching client stories to the press and doing research that clients needed like focus groups and surveys. She’s also worked with a diverse group of people such as several nonprofits, a hospital, a copper mine, the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, and others that helped her learn that each client has very different needs. “When you find the right place, then it’s obvious how everything leads you there,” stated Stephanie. She explained it was really a culmination of all of her experience that prepared her for partnership at The PRIME Factory.

Justin, the Managing Partner of The PRIME Factory, and Stephanie were friends before she became a partner at PRIME. In many instances, they’d find themselves talking about public relations and agency work, but not realizing what it would lead to in the future. The more they got to know each another, they began to recognize that they had common interests that are complementary to one another’s unique experiences. When Justin proposed the idea to Stephanie to come work at PRIME, she found it a really easy choice to make. She saw the potential of PRIME, as well as what she could bring to the table that balanced all of Justin’s skills, and builds upon her existing expertise while allowing her to broaden her professional network with PRIME.

A typical day with Stephanie starts with getting up without an alarm. She’s been naturally waking up between 7 and 7:30 every day for over five years. It’s the number one thing that starts her day and maybe the most important. “It’s about giving yourself the grace to wake up naturally so you’ll be much happier throughout the day,” said Stephanie. The next step is to take a few minutes in the morning to think about her day and get her head in the right place. The way she does this is by using a book called The Five Minute Journal. “It makes you write down things that you’re grateful for and what you want to accomplish each day.” From then on, she goes to one of her three offices – The PRIME Factory, Virginia Tech, or her home office. She keeps busy with meetings with different people whether they are clients for The PRIME Factory or students and colleagues at Virginia Tech. Stephanie’s main focus, however, is writing. From writing emails and blog posts, to press releases and PR and social media plans, Stephanie never stops writing. The PRIME Factory and their clients greatly benefit from Stephanie’s writing skills.

Stephanie explained one pet peeve that all people in the public relations industry can relate to, which is how people often mistake public relations for advertising or marketing. While they do work hand-in-hand, she points out how it can be difficult to explain to a client that work is getting done for them even though they aren’t paying for placement. Her favorite part of public relations, nonetheless, is getting to know the clients and helping them reach their goals and solve their problems.

In ten years, Stephanie hopes that PRIME has multiple offices and is a leading lifestyle agency that helps brands of all sizes grow. She hopes that PRIME can continue establishing relationships with businesses and help businesses maintain their status within the area while helping PRIME grow in the process. She personally hopes that she is still engaging with students and maintaining a good work/life balance. She also hopes that teaching and working in this industry will still excite her.

During this interview, I learned that if Stephanie was a crayon, she’d be a pink one; if she could swap places with someone for a day, it’d be with Kate Middleton; and if she could knock one thing off her bucket list, it would be to go to a beach in South Africa that’s inhabited by penguins. Not only did I discover fun facts about Stephanie, but I learned that she is passionate about preparing her students to get jobs by helping bridge the gap between what happens in the classroom and what happens in the workplace, and through all of her past involvement, she has become the successful public relations professional she is today.

By: Jenna Davis, Public Relations Intern