Christian Stellakis, Director at The Herald Group, discusses with Katy Colón from D S Simon Media and Isis Simpson-Mersha from Ragan Communications about how working in politics led to his career in public affairs. Stellakis walks through the process he uses when planning a client campaign and shares how stepping out of his comfort zone led to professional growth.
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Katy: I’m Katy Colon. I’m the client service and marketing associate here at the D S Simon Media.
Isis: I’m Isis Simpson- Mersha conference producer and reporter at Ragan. Today we’re here with Christian. We’re so excited for you to be joining us today.
Christian: Absolutely. Pleasure to be here.
Isis: Yeah. So can you tell us a little bit about your background and just your career journey thus far?
Christian: Yeah, absolutely. And my career experience has been a little bit all over the map. So I started my first real job as a door knocker for a political campaign in New York 22. From there, I worked my way through a number of different campaigns, running field work until I ultimately had the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C., where I conducted research for the National Republican Congressional Committee. I was able to jump into my career in public affairs. I got started at a boutique public affairs comm shop where I really got the opportunity to cut my teeth, learning the ropes of PR and kind of developing my craft as a writer.
And then from there it was a pretty natural transition to where I currently work at the Herald Group, working my way from an account manager to a director where I am now. I currently oversee public affairs campaigns for a number of clients across America’s heavily regulated industries, and I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing.
Katy: Yeah, that’s awesome. Just to hear about all the exciting opportunities you got throughout your journey thus far. I wanted to know when you are brainstorming a campaign for a client, how do you find the right angle?
Christian: I think that there are two things that I would recommend, they are always start by asking questions and thinking strategically. So what you really want to do is you want to understand your client’s vision, and that starts by asking essentially what they want. And this could vary wildly from client to client. Maybe one client wants to get noticed by the media while the other one wants to influence public policy. And you’re going to have to adjust your approach based on the client’s individual needs.
So after that, it helps to determine what for them success looks like. And that means getting specific in terms of defining goals. But once you have those goals defined, you can start determining strategy, which means asking questions like Which audiences do you think is best to talk to and what do you want to say to those particular audiences? And only after you have that foundation in place do you want to begin asking tactical questions, things like What’s the right angle for the job at hand? It starts with understanding your client’s vision, setting goals, implementing strategy, and then executing tactically.
Isis: Christian we’ve might have talked about this prior, but what are the challenges and benefits of being an introvert?
Christian: Yes, this is a great question. And I can say that because I’m an introvert myself and I very much understand what it’s like in a largely extroverted dominated field like public relations. Perhaps it’d be easiest to start with the challenges because they might be a little bit more obvious. I can speak from experience. Things like meetings and speaking engagements are going to push you outside of your comfort zone. That’s just kind of the nature of the beast as an introvert, and that’s really not something that we as people can change.
So it’s going to be incumbent upon you as a professional to develop the sorts of strategies that allow you to adapt to situations even when you’re trained. But I think that there’s a flip side to that coin, and that’s really where the benefit comes in, because it’s when we’re outside of our comfort zones where the sort of professional growth happens. And for us as introverts, that’s an opportunity to push us outside of our comfort zone and then develop those skills in which extroverts might not even have that sort of opportunity.
Katy: Yeah, absolutely. And I think something key that you mentioned there is just when you’re outside of your comfort zone and in the professional environment, you learn how to grow and how to mold yourself within your career. What is some valuable information that you know now that you didn’t know going into your current role?
Christian: Yeah, I think when I started in my current role, I thought that specialization was the only way to be successful. You know, you get really good at one niche thing and that’s how you find success. That can be the case. But in communications it certainly isn’t the only way to be successful. In fact, my mentor recently encouraged me to cultivate my skillset across a range of expertise, and I think that that was a really good piece of advice.
And it rings true. You know, communicators, we need to be flexible and adaptable, and that’s sort of what generalists are, sort of the glue that hold together communication strategies and even the firms themselves. So I would say, you know, don’t shy away from being a generalist. It’s underrated for sure.
Isis: Given that Reagan’s communications theme this year is Meet the moment, how will you rise to the occasion over the next few months in your career journey?
I think that for me, meeting the moment means being intentional with developing and improving my skill set. You know, that means setting aside time each week for dedicated learning. There are so many great resources out there and a tremendous amount of fantastic teachers willing to just impart that information on you. There’s essentially a wealth of knowledge out there for me to take it, and it’s up to me as a professional who wants to be the best that I can be, to develop my skill set.
Because if you’re not learning, then what’s the point?
Katy: Yeah, definitely. Learning is absolutely vital to grow, said Christian. Thank you so much for your insight and for chatting with us today.
Isis: Thank you, Christian.
Christian: Thank you.