2016 / Volume 1 / Issue 1

Pu blic Relat ion s

PRACTITIONER
INTERVIEW
HARRISON BALDWIN

Features

JENNIFER SMITH
From
Simon and Schust er Publishing
King.

CRAFTING THE MESSAGE: In fact, this meeting was not
originally set up to talk about Public
Relations, I wanted to meet with her
AN INTERVIEW WITH to talk about publishing, and how to
succeed as a writer. And over the
JENNIFER SMITH course of our conversation it was
clear to me that her job requires her to
be a public relations practitioner
everyday. I decided to interview her
about her public relations duties on
the spot. It was a interesting
By Har r ison Baldwin realization: public relations really is
everywhere.
I asked her if she would consider
herself a public relations practitioner
and she immediately said yes. I had
been thinking for several days about
who I should interview, and the whole
As I sit in my car in a parking lot in finished it before Smith even arrived. time it should have been clear to me.
Brentwood, Tennessee at 8:30 AM I So we began with the interview.
Smith is a Vice President at Howard
am trying to decide whether it is too W HAT IS YOUR JOB TITLE AND
Books - the Nashville division of the
eager and borderline creepy of me to W HAT ARE YOUR PUBLIC
Simon and Schuster Publishing
go ahead and go into The Perch, a RELATIONS RESPONSIBILITIES?
House. She is the director of
local coffee shop, to wait for my 9:00
marketing and publicity. She has been Vice President over Publicity and
meeting with Jennifer Smith, or if I
in charge of the publishing of several Marketing at Simon and Schuster.
should sit in my car for a little while
well known authors, such as Stephen
longer. The aroma of coffee and my I oversee a team of publicists, create
King and Tim Conway. She has also
need for caffeine came over me and I public relations campaigns, book
worked on publicity campaigns for
folded. I went in, ordered a vanilla, launches, and marketing campaigns. I
people such as former President
mocha, macadamia nut latte and am in charge of author-agent relations
Jimmy Carter as well as Stephen

2 Public Relations
I have to look at what is make connections and day. If a firestorm is ASPECTS?
going on in the world pay your dues. You have coming down the The stress. It is a very
right now and decide to be strategic; don't just pipeline then it really stressful job. Also
whether a book will sell, throw a bunch of ideas at throws a kink into the dealing with client
based on what the public the wall and see what whole day. If there is expectations. Just
trends are. I also have to sticks, that completely nothing unusual at all because you come in
be able to communicate ruins your credibility. It about the day then the with a book or a
with the public to make a is about quality over first thing I do is get in campaign you want to
book a best seller. quantity. Be good at and check any emails run, doesn't mean that it
your job. and make any phone
W HERE DO YOU FIT is going to work or
calls I need to make for
IN THE HOW DID YOUR immediately be a best
the day. We have a
ORGANIZATIONAL EDUCATIONAL seller.
strategic planning
STRUCTURE? TO EXPERIENCE
meeting once a week that HOW DO YOU
W HOM DO YOU PREPARE YOU FOR
is very valuable for my DEFINE PUBLIC
REPORT? YOUR CURRENT JOB?
position. Most of my day RELATIONS?
I am the Vice President My job has honestly consists of planning and Helping to craft the
of Publicity and been more about the communication. messages that filter
Marketing. I report to experience. I would say
W HAT ARE YOUR through airwaves,
publisher and the Senior 90% experience. I
FAVORITE ASPECTS magazines, newspapers,
Vice President of double majored in mass
OF THE JOB? really anything that is
Marketing, communications and influencing cultural
Communications, and speech communications I love working with conversations.
Sales. I have a team and had a minor in producers and crafting
under me that is made up English. That was very stories. I love turning on W HAT ARE SOME OF
of six editors, four important at the the T.V. and seeing a THE BIGGEST ISSUES
people in marketing, and beginning, but as time campaign that I worked AND TRENDS THAT
seven publishers. went on it became more on, then I know that it ARE IMPACTING
about the experience. succeeded. If people are YOUR JOB TODAY?
HOW DID YOU GET
talking about what the Politics. I have been
TO YOUR CURRENT
campaign was supposed doing this for years, and
POSITION? W HAT DOES YOUR to get them talking about this is the first time I
I worked my ass off. TYPICAL DAY LOOK then it is a good day. have had to deal with a
Public relations is a LIKE?
W HAT ARE YOUR reality T.V. president and
business of connections. It really depends on the LEAST FAVORITE it is creating a shit show.
You have to work hard,

3 Public Relations
Jennifer Smith - VP of marketing and publicity Jonathan Merkh - Publisher at Howard Books

Howard Books in Nashville, TN

4 Public Relations
The election is the only thing people want to read or talk
about.
- At this point we stopped the interview and talked about
Donald Trump for about half an hour. But I won't reveal
that in fear of any children reading this.
HOW ARE YOU DEALING W ITH THIS?
We are just having to go through business as usual. We are
having to mostly work on our client relations, reassuring
them and keeping their morals up even though the election
is the only thing being talked about. It is a lot more coffee
and wine dates that usual to keep the relationships going.

W HAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU W ISH YOU HAD
KNOW N BEFORE BECOMING A
COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL?
Strategy. I wish I had known that it was all about strategy. I
was taught that in college, but I wish I had really known
how true it was. I wish I had known that it was quality over
quantity. Make sure you do a good job instead of doing as
many jobs as you can. You have to be relational. Don't send
bulk emails that aren't at all personal. Make them
conversational and relational while still being professional.
Be sure to set boundaries. You aren't going to be waking up
to messages at two or three AM. You have to prioritize. In
public relations people are going to want to talk to you
anytime anything goes wrong, you have to be able to
prioritize and let them know that it can wait if you have
bigger things on your plate. Be sure to give yourself a
personal life. This job can easily become your whole life,
be sure to save room for other things in your life as well.
IN
CONCLUSION

M y inter view with Jennifer Smith is one that I will
remember for all of my professional career, whether I
am wor king in a communications j ob or not. Because
as Smith proved to me, I will be doing public
relations no matter what field I find myself in.

Wor king har d and really doing your j ob is impor tant
in any profession, especially one like public relations.

As I , or anyone reading this, moves for war d, it is
impor tant to get to know the r ight people. M ore
impor tantly, get the r ight people to know you.