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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Q & A with a PR Professional: Lena Michaud

Q & A with a PR Professional: Lena Michaud
In order to gain a more complete understanding of the public relations industry, it’s important to expose yourself to a number of different work settings. These settings may include corporate, agency, non-profit, or other non-traditional workplaces. I recently had the opportunity to chat about life in corporate communications with Lena Michaud, a senior communications manager at Target Corporation in Minneapolis.

SVN: Can you tell me a little bit about how you ended up where you are today?

LM: I actually got started in the field kind of by accident­­­­. I went to Northwestern University in Chicago, and my first job out of college was not in public relations. I did some non-profit work and learned a great deal about public affairs and got an introduction to the PR world in that way. Eventually I moved to the agency side, and I’ve worked for a number of agencies in B2B, consumer, public affairs, and everything in between. I joined Target on the media relations side, and today I’m responsible for both internal and external communications. I’ve been at Target for seven years now, and I think all of the experiences I’ve had have helped me succeed in my current position.

SVN: What’s your favorite part about your job? What about your least favorite part?

LM: I hate to sound cheesy but I don’t know if there’s anything about my job that I honestly don’t like. I’ve been at Target for over seven years, and I don’t think I’ve ever had that ‘Sunday night dread,’ if that makes sense. I love being a spokesperson, and I love to figure out ways for us to best deliver our message. Whether it’s speechwriting, internal employee communication, media relations…I really do enjoy it all.

SVN: What three words would you use to describe corporate public relations?

LM: First and foremost, variety. People may think that you can only get variety in an agency setting, but I find that there’s a great deal of it in my job. I also think corporate PR is developmental. There are huge benefits to having worked in a setting such as this one. Finally, I would say that corporate communications is courageous. It’s essentially our job to help senior leadership understand the importance of communication, which can be extremely difficult at times.

SVN: Walk me through a typical day in your life at Target.

LM: I think the most important thing I do each day involves scanning the external environment, and it’s something that is important across all industries and all settings. It’s important for us to be aware of what’s going on out there, and leadership needs to be prepared to act on it. In general, I have so many main priorities. I think each day it’s just a matter of focusing on the ones that will deliver the most value for the company at the end of the day. I try to balance my short term and long term priorities, and each day really is very different from the next.

SVN: Speaking of day-to-day activities, what role, if any, does social media play in your day? How do you think this new way of thinking will impact the industry as a whole?

LM: You know, I think it’s one of those things that is changing so fast, it can be hard to stay on top of it. Honestly, it’s still a work in progress for us. We’re still strategizing the best way to take advantage of that medium. I think it’s important to be out there quickly, and using an authentic voice. Those are two things that can be extremely difficult to achieve, and everyone is struggling with that right now.

SVN: Finally, what advice would you give to recent graduates and young professionals interested in a career in this field? What do you know now that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your career?

LM: All I can say is network, network, network. That is my biggest piece of advice. I cannot stress enough how important it is to build those relationships, both professionally and personally. You never know how those connections are going to come in handy. Everyone is really just one to two degrees of separation from everyone else, and building your network is one of the best things you can do to continue to grow.

Sarah Van Nevel recently graduated from the University of Minnesota and works at a public relations agency in the Twin Cities.