Scripps PRSSA was proud to welcome back recent alumna Alyssa Murtagh. She is an account executive at Edelman Chicago on the financial communications & capital markets teams. Before Edelman, she spent almost a year and a half at Ketchum working on top-tier food clients. Her industry experience is focused in media relations, influencer marketing, event coordination and product and campaign launches.

Alyssa began her journey and undergraduate career at Ohio University in 2015. She served as the VP of Member Relations her junior year and VP of Career Services for PRSSA National Committee from 2018-2019. After graduation, Alyssa found a position as a summer fellow at Ketchum and moved to Chicago, solidifying her obsession with agency life. Last week, she made a switch to Edelman. 

“My biggest advice for college students and post-grads is to expect change in a way that you’ve never felt before. But with that change, you’ll also find growth, resilience and newfound trust in yourself and your abilities” 

  • Alyssa describes these feelings and changes as monumental at first, but they are normal and positive aspects that come with growing up. Expect change during college, and really expect it after. 

Alyssa talks agency life

Usually, we are told the usual agency life narrative of bracing for late nights, working in fast-paced environments, engaging with many clients and finishing last-minute projects. But what goes beyond this superficial description of agency life — what do you really do? 

1. Media. The focus is on MEDIA exposure and awareness of the brand

  • tons of pitching and brainstorming 
  • Use a strategic lens: what’s new for the media so that we gain hits? 
  • Is social covered, and do we have something for print media? 
  • Celebrities are everywhere – A lot of name dropping & collaborations with celebrity personas. 
    • For example, she got to perform a social media audit on Crissy Teigen’s social channels!

2. Celebrities everywhere

3. Stalking competitors: Alyssa says: “A lot of this is peepin’ your enemies, ahem, competitors.

  • Pick up on trends and use these trends as leverage during any pitch to a client. 

4. Reading the news: it’s very important to stay up on the industry trends. Often, entry-level workers share what they read in the news during a meeting.

5. Meeting agendas and notes: You will be expected to take notes and share agendas during team meetings.

6. The most random things: “Ask me about a 900lb. bison statue I had to get to NYC from Atlanta. Yeah.”

General Mills was Alyssa’s biggest client. She worked on seven accounts in total and five of them were General Mills. The others included a vegan brand, the other was hemp. So, she worked mainly on food brands. 

First day on the job, Alyssa was pushed into a project that was in full swing. The main project revolved around the production of a music video that would redefine Fiber One brownies, one of the brands under General Mills. This brand was a struggling, and the decided to go all out with the campaign, and it was a major success! Since the campaign, sales have skyrocketed and the brand has received much-needed exposure.

The video was tied to plastic surgery: it used five of the most promising and relevant celebrity housewives from the “Real Housewives” series as spokeswomen Watch it here! Most importantly, the campaign was a huge win, and the media went crazy about this. A slew of media coverage from food outlets and entertainment outlets ensued, and the song itself became available on Spotify.

One of Alyssa’s favorite parts of agency life is that brands have multiple agency partners. This can mean campaign ideas could come from another agency. This is common, but it is not always the case. Ketchum came up with the housewives campaign at 9 p.m. in a conference room, and everyone who worked on the brand was there. Once they brainstormed their soon-to-be successful campaign, they were given budget and ran with it. Lastly, she mentions these spaces are “super creative,” and describes the experience as a whirlwind, but it was a great experience. 

There are always events centered around a campaign, and this is something that has been impacted by COVID-19. Brands have adapted, but she anticipates campaign events to come back after lockdown. 

Here are other examples of some work Alyssa has been a part of

Now that Alyssa is in her new role, her daily life looks a little different. Instead of food brands, she now works in the corporate/financial communication side in her new position. Her tasks are identical, but her clients are different and fall into any one of these categories:

  • Hedge Funds
  • The Stock Market
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Invetment / Investment Firms
  • CEOs, COOs, CFOs, etc

So, what does she do now?: 

  • Crisis coms comes up a lot, especially when dealing with bankruptcy 
  • It can be any client of Edelman who experiences financial issues, so anyone can become her client
  • While there is usually a big focus on media attention, Alyssa and other account managers are also there to support these brands during any acquisitions or organizational changes within the company 
  • Big investments are big news
  • Working directly with CEOs and COOs, who are often in your inbox every day
  • Wanted a business background and wanted to learn how executives are thinking – it was a career move, as well as a pay raise. It will give her an edge in understanding the business world

Top five questions Alyssa likes to ask a potential employers:

Work for a flexible company – many companies are transitioning to this culture. You work around your own schedule from the comfort of your own home. 

How to prepare for agency life 

  • If you want a job at an agency, hiring usually looks for media experience.
  • Get the most experience you can. Get experience where you deal with media. Any event where you had to speak to journalists is a huge leg up. 

How has your work changed from moving from Ketchum to Edelman? Especially now that you’re working with financial clients?

  • Alyssa can tell a difference between the two. Of course, both are big agencies, and the stereotypes of big agencies are there for both. Edelman seems to move more quickly, and there are people from many different backgrounds. Now, she has to learn new industry terms and trends, so it takes a lot of adapting. 

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