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On this month’s PR Profile, we got to learn about the inner workings of Christin Yates of Yates Communications. Christin Yates is a freelance PR professional, writer, and reporter for clients ranging from national publications to local outlets. Since 2007, Yates Communications has serviced numerous clients including The University of Memphis and The Daily Memphian, in strategic public relations, copywriting, and marketing efforts. Based out of the Memphis area and with nearly a decade of freelance experience under her belt, Christin helps clients in various industries, from health care to higher education, maximize their messaging and communications.
We asked Christin 10 questions about her career and routines, her view on the changes in PR, and how she balances it all. This is what she had to say:
What made you get into the PR industry?
I started my undergraduate career on a full scholarship for classical piano and voice. After realizing that teaching wasn’t for me, my vocal coach suggested I conduct an independent study to learn about other careers within music. That semester-long project led me to music business. However, Murray State University didn’t have a music business program. So, as part of the independent study, I proposed a music business curriculum for Murray State, which they implemented two years later. I decided to major in public relations and minor in classical voice to try to merge those two skill sets together for a future career in music business. After my undergraduate career, I stayed at Murray State on a full scholarship to earn my M.S. in mass communications. During my graduate studies, I created a marketing/PR plan to launch the music business degree that I created. While I did not end up going into music business, I knew PR was where I wanted to be. The rest is history.
What does a day in your life look like?
I’m a freelance PR professional/journalist, so no two days are alike. I typically begin my day around 6 a.m. That early morning quiet time when no one is calling or e-mailing me is the most productive part of my day. I can get so much writing done between 6-8 a.m. and feel like my day is off and running by the time most people start working. I try to schedule calls between 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and again from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. I use that middle part of the day to take a break for a run, workout, errands, personal appointments, etc.
What is your favorite part about working in PR?
In a non-COVID-19 world, I would say I love my flexibility. I enjoy traveling as much as possible, and my clients hardly know when I’m out of town–I can work from anywhere! I love being able to change up my routine and schedule day by day, depending on what is going on.
What is one of your most memorable career moments?
My first job out of graduate school was working for the largest PR firm in the Southeast U.S. For almost five years, I worked hard to build a reputation for myself, all while navigating through the recession of 2007-2008. By proving value to my team, I was able to not only keep my job during that difficult time, but I was also promoted twice in three years. While there, I eventually led national PR campaigns for an international auto parts manufacturer, all by the age of 26. I left the agency in 2011 to start freelancing. Since then, I have been part of a team that won a PR News Platinum Award for SEO and also part of a team that won a Silver Addy Award. As a freelance professional, I was proud to be able to be a part of those wins. I’m also constantly receiving referrals from past and current clients and have not had to search for work in my nearly 10 years of freelancing. I think that’s a testament to my work, my reputation and how I take my freelancing career seriously.
What types of companies do you work with?
I’m the PR officer for a health care device manufacturer, and that contract takes up about half of my time. I’m also a freelance reporter for the Daily Memphian as well as write for the Greater Memphis Chamber, the University of Memphis and more. I also do one-off projects for a number of clients. Needless to say, I like to stay busy!
How do you prove the value of PR to your clients or executives?
For some clients, I provide month-end reports of tasks I accomplished as well as a list of placements and stories I was able to generate during the month. For other clients, they feel the value of my efforts when reporters reach out to them to do stories on press releases that I’ve provided for their websites or that they have pitched to the media. Since PR is hard to quantify, I am always on top of social engagement increases, placements and stories in the press to show that my PR efforts are gaining traction for the client among their customers and constituents.
What are your must-have tools for your day-to-day tasks?
I live and die by Google sheets to keep everything organized by client, project, etc. Other than that, it’s my Macbook, Airpod Pros and lots of coffee!
What are some of the trends you saw take shape this year?
PR is ever-evolving, and that’s one thing I love about the industry. Social channels are always changing algorithms, and new platforms are constantly popping up. I’ve also witnessed first-hand the gradual shift from print to online journalism and am proud to be a reporter for a non-profit, online-only media source in Memphis called the Daily Memphian. It’s comprised of local-only journalists and is sustained by a low, monthly subscription fee and donations. Watching its subscription numbers soar since its inception in late 2018 as well as how other cities have followed suit with similar concepts has been interesting to watch, to say the least.
How do you see PR and marketing changing in the next 10 years?
One thing I see changing, especially given the current economic climate, is influencer marketing. Many people have made lucrative careers on platforms like ShopStyle, LikeToKnowIt, RewardStyle and others. As consumers will likely pull back spending, these influencers will have to be strategic in how to continue to monetize their platforms. Similarly, I think the FTC will continue to strengthen guidelines to make these influencers more transparent. Similarly, I see print journalism to continue to decline, and online subscription new sources continue to increase in popularity. What we knew as traditional PR in 2010 looks completely different today and will evolve drastically over the next 10 years.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new PR professional, what would it be?
Be willing to put in the long hours (and likely low pay) early on in your career – they will pay off in the long run. Also, gain experience on both the client and the agency sides, if possible, to give you a well-rounded perspective. And finally, have a mentor(s) to lean on for advice and guidance. Be a constant learner of the industry and stay on your toes as far as new technologies and trends.
Love Christin Yates’ insight into her work as a freelance journalist and PR professional? Want to learn more? Hear from other great journalists on the Coffee with a Journalist podcast. Each week, we sit down to talk with journalists from the world’s leading publications to gain insight into their storytelling processes, their predictions for the future of journalism, and everything in between! Listen in and subscribe to stay up to date on the latest episode releases!