A few weeks ago, I sat down with the managing director of Ogilvy Atlanta, Mickey Nall, for lunch, and my life goals changed.
The day began with his talk at The John Koten Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted annually at The University of Alabama by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Afterward, UA’s public relations student leaders were invited to a lunch with the man of the hour.
Nall is a firm and straightforward speaker, filled with love for his field and high expectations for future leaders. His sound bites could scare a lion, but the passion behind his every word offers hope for potential colleagues. He is a leader I hope to grow to be one day.
Nall spoke about leadership, storytelling, and passion. He enticed us with stories of his path to Ogilvy and his time at the firm. He gave just a glimpse of the life we all are about to venture into, and we were allowed to ask as many questions as we wanted.
Below, I’ve listed some of the key points he made. Some of his advice may scare you, but odds are you’ll want to handwrite him a thank-you note later.
1. If you want a job, stand out.
“Unless you have three internships and are in grad school, you probably won’t get our internship,” Nall said, explaining that Ogilvy receives 153 applications for every one internship position. “You’ll have to network harder than you ever thought in order to get out in our business.”
2. Get involved.
Did I just scare you with the “three internships” comment? Don’t worry. Nall considers serious organization involvement as an internship. PRSSA, PRCA, and even getting into PRSA after college will increase your chances of employment.
“Three-fourths of you will not be able to find a job right out of college,” Nall said about the inevitable fact of job searching. “You have to use your involvement and get connected.”
3. Make your résumé pop.
Obviously, experience should be highlighted, but the only résumés that will get in front of Nall are those without error, show true skill, and are specific to the job and firm.
“You should make a résumé for every new job for which you apply,” Nall said. Point blank, if it is obvious your résumé is generic and used for every application, no one hiring will want it. Side note: Nall said color should be minor and keywords of the company’s values should be major on your résumé.
4. Be a "storyteller" or a "truth teller."
You should love public relations and all that you can do with it.
“Do not just do this because you couldn’t get into business school,” Nall said. “Do it because you have a passion for PR.”
Nall described a “storyteller,” one of David Ogilvy’s favorite descriptors, as the “truth tellers” of our industry. “You have to be an employee that will help tell your brand’s story. You have to want authentic stories as well as know how to get them out.”
Nall gave the example that he would rather hire a gamer with passion in his or her eyes than a public relations major who just wanted to avoid math.
5. Use that wiggle room.
“There is a lot of wiggle room, fun to be had, and power of public relations out there,” Nall said. “Look outside of corporate and agency. There are plenty of places that need PR work that you’d never expect, like a nonprofit.”
6. Take advantage of the "four big opportunities."
Nall said there are “four big opportunities” in public relations right now: “An opportunity to focus on your own reputation, create your own content, become a ‘storyteller,’ and an opportunity for employees to become advocates."
Know what companies you admire and set your goals through that. Take these opportunities on, and you will be ahead of the game.
7. The interview is not all about you.
“When it comes to conversation, remember that this is a business,” Nall said. “Tell me what you can bring to benefit me, but don’t talk about yourself too much. Create a conversation; I want to know that I can work with you.”
If this article doesn’t make you want to work harder than you ever knew possible, I’m not sure what will. Speaking with Nall was a joy, and I imagine working with him would be even better.
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Students, print this list and keep it with you. Then go the extra step. Don’t let anything be an excuse that stands in the way of success.
Myreete Wolford is a senior at The University of Alabama studying public relations and communications. She is also an editor for Platform Magazine, the school's student-run public relations publication.