#ThrowbackThursday with Paula Shugart

Editor’s note: This is part of our monthly #ThrowbackThursday series, which features a prominent, successful PR pro taking a look back and sharing tips from his/her days as a new pro.

Miss Universe President Paula Shugart has made her way from San Diego, to Athens, Ohio, to Los Angeles and eventually found her way to New York City. How does one build a successful career and a solid group of connections while hopping coast to coast?Paula Shugart Headshot

We dug into some of the best advice from Paula for new professionals looking to make a splash and build their network:

Question 1: What was the best piece of advice you received from a mentor as a young professional?

The one thing that has always always stuck in my head was from a woman producer that hired me in 1986 for her show. She was great to work with, so I wanted her advice. She told me, “you can’t do anything for me, but always pay it forward. There’s going to be an opportunity in your life when you’re going to be able to help others. When that opportunity comes up, you’ve got to pay it forward.” That piece of advice has really stuck with me and it’s why I started the internship program with Miss Universe.

Question 2: When moving across country or to a new city, how did you build relationships in an unknown environment?

I moved around so much as a kid since my father was in the Navy that I think it was in my DNA of having to get used to a new place and meet new people. When I went back to LA after attending school at Ohio University, I really just had to suck it up and be fearless. I was panicked moving back since I was so focused on getting a job, but I reached out to my few connections I had from Ohio University. When it came down to it though, I was going door-to-door at the studio lots and just trying to get in and meet people – even though I was scared to death!

I made it a point to put myself out there to meet people and that’s how I got my first job. I took a receptionist position working with Kevin Bright just to get my foot in the door – little did I know he would go on to produce “Friends”! This was a starting point, and from there I started making more connections through friends of friends and building my network within the entertainment industry.

Question 3: What are some of the best methods of keeping in touch with connections?

There’s a lot of people I lost contact with over the years, but I’ve tried to keep in touch via social media, especially friends who are my age on Facebook! I can think of one friend who I started out in the industry with 30 years ago and hadn’t seen since then, but we re-connected on Facebook and it was just like the 30 years had never gone by!

Since I work closely with the intern program at Miss Universe, I love hearing from our past interns. It could be as simple as an email saying hello and sharing what’s going on in their life. I can think of one of our first interns who reached out to me about moving to LA and looking for work.  She was about living the same experience I did in the early eighties, and I was able to make some connections for her in the city. It all goes back to the woman 30 years ago telling me to pay it forward.

Question 4: What advice would you give to today’s young professionals?

Really be fearless. Take the risk or take the challenge – what’s the worst that’s going to happen? Step outside your comfort zone and really push yourself; I could not have been more uncomfortable stepping into this position with Miss Universe. You’re never going to regret the things you attempted or the things you did, but you will regret an opportunity you didn’t take.

More about Paula:

With more  than 30 years of experience in the television industry, Paula M. Shugart has been a driving force in entertainment television production for domestic and international audiences. As president of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO), and producer of the MISS UNIVERSE®, MISS USA®, and MISS TEEN USA® pageants, Paula oversees all business transactions and is responsible for the production of the live, worldwide telecasts each year. She is also a mentor and role model to the company’s three title holders as they travel the globe as spokeswomen for several charitable alliances on behalf of MUO.

Balancing a Full-Time Career and Freelance Work

Balancing a Full-Time Career and Freelance Work For marketing and communications professionals, the opportunity to freelance on the side of full-time careers is growing.

In 2014, a study showed that more than one in three workers in America were freelancing, a statistic that confirms the ever-growing demand of freelancers in our constantly changing workforce.

Although the demand for freelancers is expanding, many people still can’t trust the instability of the freelance world as their primary income source.

That’s why professionals, especially new professionals, are working full-time careers, while juggling part-time freelance work on the side. Learning to manage both is tough, but people are making it happen, and you can to.


If you’re going to juggle a full-time career on top of a part-time one, organization isn’t just encouraged – it’s critical.

Find what works best for you and helps you stay on top of all your deliverables. For some people, it’s using an agenda. For others it may be their cell phone or computer calendar, or to-do lists and sticky notes.

Whatever helps you remember and stay on top of everything is going to be crucial to the balancing act needed for being a full-time professional and freelancer.


Your full-time career should never suffer when pursuing freelance opportunities; after all, this is where the bulk of your income probably comes from.

Learn to prioritize your day or week. When you’re in your full-time job, you should only be focusing on your full-time job. By prioritizing your work and day at your career, you’ll be able to stay on top of what’s expected from you and not fall behind.

Once you fall behind in your full-time job, you may find yourself staying late and working overtime, which will in turn trickle down to how you are going to meet the deliverables of your side freelance projects.

Prioritize your entire day from start to finish. What needs to be done as soon as possible, and what can wait?

Work-Life Balance

When balancing a career and freelance work, it’s easy to lose site of having any outside life at all.

You may feel that outside of work you’re actually working more, and you have no room for fun. But you need to overcome this habit.

Don’t cancel your workout because you need to work late. Learn to prioritize and organize your tasks and projects so you can work around your workout or night out.

When you keep the fun stuff in your life, you’ll see better work, increased productivity, and you’ll be much happier, which is really the most important thing.


Being a freelancer on top of working full-time takes dedication to your industry and career, and to yourself and your clients/employers.

If you don’t have the motivation to get stuff done, stay on top of your deliverables, and do work outside of your 9-5 job (sometimes on weekends), then balancing both these career paths may not be for you.

There will be times you just want a day off, times you just want to lock yourself in your room and unplug from the world, but dedication and perseverance is what will get you through those overworked slumps.

Create Boundaries

To avoid wanting to lock yourself away from the world, set boundaries for yourself. When freelancers first start out, and start to land their initial clients and jobs, it’s exciting, and it may be hard to learn when to say no.

But saying no to someone doesn’t mean you are burning a bridge, and most people will appreciate your honesty. Know your limits, and know what you’re capable of.

If you already feel like you have too much to do, and you pull all nighters to get work done, you’ve probably taken on too much.

Balancing freelance work and a full-time career isn’t for everyone. It does take a certain type of person who can manage both of these career paths at once.

To learn if this is for you, test the waters by taking on one freelance client at a time, and slowly build up to more if you can manage.

Do you have any tips for balancing a full-time job and freelance work? Share below!

Lauren MarinighLauren Marinigh is a graduate of Sheridan College, with a diploma in Advertising, and certificate in Corporate Communications. She currently works as a Social Media and Content Creation Coordinator, for a large non-profit in Toronto, and as a freelance social media consultant and writer. Find her on Twitter, or visit her industry blog.

Nine tricks to make networking easy

9 tricks to make networking easyNetworking: the necessary evil of the professional world.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys going to networking events and trying to make meaningful contacts in a room full of strangers. The degree of dread often depends on our individual personality type.

As an introvert, networking is one of my least favorite things on Earth. I like people with whom I share a common interest or two, but I detest the small talk and uncomfortable nature of networking.

It’s draining, anxiety-inducing and sometimes quite painful, but it’s necessary, so it’s worth finding ways to make it work for you.

1. Start by building your network where you’re comfortable.

The best way I’ve found to get your feet wet in networking is to start somewhere you’re already at ease. For me, that was Twitter.

That may sound like a huge cop-out, but by engaging in Twitter chats, I’ve been able to chat with bunches of like-minded professionals I would have never gotten to meet otherwise.

Believe it or not, there are more introverts in PR than you’d think.

2. Build a reputation that precedes you.

The hardest part about networking for introverts isn’t meeting new people but having to introduce and talk about ourselves to new people.

Building a reputation for yourself before you have to go out and meet everyone is a great way to skip the awkward part.

Create a website to showcase your work and your talents, volunteer for a cause that you enjoy and do something that you love. Create a brand for yourself and let it lead the way. (Click to Tweet!)

3. Be consistent.

We all know how important it is to craft your message to fit your audience, but it’s also equally as important to be consistent.

Networking isn’t much different than reaching your audience.

Whatever parts of yourself you choose to share when networking, keep consistent in what you say and do. It’ll be easy to practice and remember what to say when you meet new people.

4. Set goals and a time limit.

It’s unrealistic to expect to make 50 new connections and spend three hours at a networking event when you get anxious chatting with five strangers.

Give yourself a time limit that you’re comfortable with and a reasonable number of connections to make in that time to start with. If you stay longer because you’re enjoying yourself and make more connections, that’s great!

5. Prepare.

Do whatever you can to make yourself feel confident. Whether it’s practicing and perfecting your personal elevator pitch, planning out your power outfit or reaching out to attendees prior to the event, do whatever will make you feel most comfortable and confident to prepare yourself for the event at hand.

6. Bring an extrovert friend.

Everyone has at least one extrovert friend who has no problem chatting up a room full of new people and becoming friends with them all.

Bring him or her with you! Feed off of his/her energy and get yourself in the right mindset to meet new people. You don’t have to stick by your friend’s side for the whole event, but it’s a great way to get yourself started.

7. Take breaks.

Breaks and moments to recharge are essential for introverts. Just because you’re at a networking event doesn’t mean you should abandon your needs.

Find a quiet corner, step outside or sneak into the restroom for a quick break. Refreshing yourself and refocusing your energy are essential to keeping you going at any event.

8. Focus on compliments, not cards.

Too often at networking events, people focus on just introductions and getting others’ cards.

The purpose of these events is to make meaningful connections; it’s not a race to see who can come home with the most business cards.

Make yourself memorable by making compliments. Whether you admire an acquaintance’s style, work or attitude, let them know, but only if you’re sincere.

9. Plan your own events.

Maybe the setup of the networking events you’ve been to hasn’t worked for you. Then perhaps you should host your own event!

Volunteer for your PRSA chapter’s events committee or work with your alma mater’s alumni organization to plan events for members.

Being in charge of the event may put you at ease while attending because you already know what to expect and attendees will already know who you are if you’ve been vocal while planning the event.

Have you found a particular trick or tip that helps to make networking a bit more bearable for you? Share it with us!

Robyn Rudish-LaningRobyn Rudish-Laning is a graduate of Duquesne University, with a bachelor’s in Public Relations, a master’s in Media Arts and Technology, and currently works as a PR Associate with Pretty Living PR, a boutique firm based in Pittsburgh. Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter or read her PR-focused blog.

Six Ways to Set Yourself Up for Long-Term PR Success

Six Ways to Set Yourself Up for Long-Term PR SuccessAs a recent college graduate, I’ve learned what it takes to become a public relations professional.

Not only has my undergraduate career helped me learn the fundamental principles of the industry, but so have the opportunities I’ve taken along the way.

And, through this journey, I found the following attributes are beneficial for anyone looking to be successful in the PR industry.

1. Brand You

Start branding yourself early. Make sure not only your resume, cover letter and business cards are cohesive, but be aware of how you’re portraying yourself on social media.

Employers will go to all lengths to figure out exactly who you really are and what you put out there for people to see.

2. Professional Portfolio

Don’t just rely on your resume to tell employers about your accomplishments. Get creative. Think outside the box and find other ways to display your work.

Nothing’s wrong with the traditional printed documents in a leather binder, but is this really what employers want to see?

Kick it up a notch and wow them. Personally, I use Wix.com as a platform for illustrating my work, but there are so many different platforms you can choose from, so find the one that fits you best.

3. Networking

This is a huge part of any career you are pursuing. Knowing someone on the inside of a company or agency is almost as important as having a perfect resume.

Networking is not a hard skill to learn, but you must be willing to go out and meet people. You never know who you might meet or who someone you already have contact with might know.

And, while you’re networking, don’t be afraid to sell yourself.

We’ve all heard about the “elevator pitch”, but do you have one prepared? If not, figure yours out and give it to everyone you meet, even if they don’t have a job to offer. Relationships can to lead to jobs.

4. Find Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Admitting your strengths and weaknesses is hard to do, especially if it’s in a work setting. I always thought I knew my strengths and weaknesses, but after referencing ‘Strengths Finder 2.0’, I had a more in-depth viewpoint of myself.

If you’re trying to succeed in the PR industry, or just trying to better yourself, I’d definitely recommend this book.

5. Job Hunting

Finding a job can be stressful, but only if you make it that way. Don’t expect to get your dream job right out of college, it may take a year or more until you finally find exactly what you want to do.

Take this time to figure out what it is exactly you are looking for. If you can’t find a job right away, there’s nothing wrong with taking an internship, even if you already have one under your belt.

Many companies expect their employees to start out as interns before they’re hired as part of the team.

6. Stay Relevant

This doesn’t just mean staying up to date with your social media sites. It’s expanding your horizons by listening to podcasts, participating in Twitter chats, attending luncheons, etc.

Public relations is an evolving industry and the people on the inside are constantly learning. So with these tips in mind, you can better yourself both personally, and as a PR professional.

Jillian Berger HeadshotJillian Berger is an Assistant Account Executive at GlynnDevins an Advertising Agency located in Overland Park, Kansas. Jillian is a member of KCPRSA and a former vice president of UCMPRSSA. Jillian has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from the University of Central Missouri. Connect with Jillian on LinkedIn and Twitter (@JillianBPR)


Three Quick and Easy Ways to Build Your Online Community

Three Quick and Easy Ways to Build Your Online CommunityWe know for the good old- fashioned sales funnel to work, your message needs to have the widest possible reach.

In an online and socially-driven world, that means brands need to pay attention to building their online communities. But, it doesn’t have to be complex or take hours a day.

Here are a few ways to use some common social media tools to get you where you need to be in just minutes.

1. Use Twitter searches.

The Twitter search feature allows you to look for tweets and users talking about a specific topic. Perhaps your company is a car dealership. You can search for the phrase “new car” and peruse the tweets for potential customers. You can narrow the search down to tweets near you, and you can even use the Advanced Search feature to find tweets in a specific zip code or date range.

Once you find your new potential audience, interact! Find those tweets about needing a new car and respond to the user with a link to the latest deals on your website. Encourage them to stop in to your dealership. Follow some of the users.

When a brand interacts with a user on social media, that person feels like he or she is getting special, personal attention. This is essential for creating brand loyalty, and, ultimately, revenue for your organization.

2. Stay on top of trends.

Facebook now displays a list of topics that are trending in its network on every user’s home page.

When you click to expand the topic, you can see more articles on the topic, Facebook posts from individuals named in the stories, what people in your own network are saying about the topic, and a live feed of reactions to the topic from all over the world. Use these trends to create customized social content to draw new users into your online community.

A word of caution: This is only effective if your brand is relevant to the trending topic. If you try to involve your brand in the wrong trend, it could turn into a PR disaster.

For example, if Car Company A is trending because it announced a massive recall, your dealership, which sells vehicles from Car Company B, could post an article about your product’s safety ratings and an offer for an extra 10 percent on a trade-in of a Car Company A car. Your brand and content are totally relevant to the trending topic.

Things start getting a tricky when the trending topics involve politics, tragedy, natural disaster, etc. It is best to avoid linking your content in these sensitive situations. Any content or comments made in bad taste will turn into a PR gaffe.

3. Do an Instagram promotion.

With nearly 300 million monthly active users, brands can’t forget about using Instagram. The visual-only platform is the perfect place to show off products.

Launch a photo contest by creating a hashtag relevant to your brand and encouraging users to send in their own photos that pertain to the topic. Offer a special giveaway for those who engage with your brand through Instagram.

Don’t forget to do your part by interacting with the users and their photos. “Like” some of the photos that are posted and respond to comments as much as possible. Remember that two-way communication is imperative for building an online community. Let the community know you’re listening.

Jennifer MaterkoskiJennifer Materkoski is a graduate of Kent State University with a Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications with a specialization in Public Relations. She has worked as a writer and editor for both newspaper and television and as a member of a non-profit marketing and development team. Materkoski is the owner and principal consultant of a boutique public relations firm, Songbird Public Relations. She is an avid sports fan, a yogi and also owns and operates an online store selling essential oils and natural products. Materkoski resides in Wheeling, West Virginia with her husband and son. Find her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @MrsMaterkoski. She can be reached via email at jen@songbirdpublicrelations.com.