Authority Magazine: The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro

September 6, 2023

ROAM Founder and Principal Kat Eller Murray recently discussed the importance of media relations for business growth with Michelle Tennant Nicholson of Authority Magazine. Full text of the article is below.


Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.

As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kat Eller Murray.

Kat is a public relations professional with experience in corporate and technology communications. Since founding ROAM Communications in 2013, Kat has supported more than 50 companies with their communications programs — ranging from product launches and funding announcements to ongoing communications strategies and support. She has led nearly a dozen funding announcements, supported two clients through acquisitions with publicly traded companies, and assisted four publicly traded companies with their communications strategies and ongoing programs. Prior to ROAM, Kat worked as a manager of global communications and public affairs at Google, where she managed product launches and communications strategy for Google Apps and Google+. She also served as a senior account executive at Fleishman-Hillard International Communications in San Francisco, where she provided communications support to national and global technology companies of all sizes.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Funny enough, it started with a lemonade stand. When my siblings and I were young (I was 10), we did what most kids do on a hot summer day and set up a lemonade stand. We made $26.27 and ended up donating it to the local homeless shelter. One thing led to another, and The Lemon-Aid Project — a citywide lemonade stand benefiting charity — was born. In order to promote the initiative, I wrote my first press release (at 10 years old) and was interviewed quite a bit by the press. Then, when I was in high school, I wrote for the local paper.

By experiencing both sides of the media — being the interviewer and the interviewee — I became even more intrigued by the ecosystem and how news stories came to be. A mentor of mine that I met through Lemon-Aid suggested that I go into PR. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time but I secured an internship, and the rest is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I’ve actually learned a lot about myself since starting ROAM in 2013. I was always the person who enjoyed the steady paycheck and had been lucky enough to experience both agency and in-house roles. I had never thought about starting my own consulting practice or running my own business. But I made the leap with the support and encouragement of my now-husband and have been able to keep things moving for a decade now. I wrote about it in more reflective detail in a blog post celebrating the milestone here.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

This is what I love most about what I do — I get to meet new people, learn about new companies and industries on a regular basis. My current focus has shifted more into comms related to the responsible use of artificial intelligence (keyword: responsible). I’ve also been lucky enough to work on several amazing fundraising announcements, despite the current market conditions.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Despite running ROAM for the last 10 years (just celebrated a decade in mid-July!), I feel like I am still learning new things about leading and managing a business every day. There are a plethora of traits that come into play, but the three that stand out the most to me are:

  • Courage — If you don’t take that first step, how do you know if you’ll fall, walk, run or fly? I am grateful for an incredibly supportive partner who made the suggestion (and the nudge) to start ROAM in the first place. That first step is key but then you need to keep making additional steps, putting one foot in front of the other each day, knowing that if you don’t, no one else will. As an introvert (funny, given my profession) it can be difficult but it is important to have the courage everyday to believe in myself and believe in what we are doing at ROAM and with our clients to keep things going.
  • Reliability/Dependability — I make to-do lists for my to-do lists because I never want the ball to drop when it’s in my court. I want clients to know when I say I’ll do something, it will get done and it will get done well. When I promise something to my colleagues, they know it will happen. As a mom to 3 young children, my punctuality isn’t always as great which is difficult for me to deal with, but with the increased amount of flakiness, disingenuous “I’ll call yous” and overcommitment in the world today, I want to make sure the people around me, know they can count on me.
  • Honesty — This one can be tough for some as many people say that they want feedback and honest conversations but when given the truth, they can’t swallow it. As a PR professional that people pay for advice on communications strategy, it is my job to be honest and set expectations accordingly.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?

PR has evolved over the years, so it really has taken on different forms and additional skills. The nuts and bolts of PR are media relations, speaking and awards, thought leadership, and overall communications strategy. But sometimes PR can also overlap with social media, marketing, internal communications, and other functions, as well as possibly including community relations, government and public affairs, and crisis communications, depending on the industry and situations at hand.

Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?

It really depends on the person, honestly. I’ve seen really great communications professionals who went to school for PR, even earning masters or PhDs in some cases, and then I’ve seen amazing communicators who learned in the field. (I personally learned in the field.)

Regardless of what your major is in school, reading comprehension and solid writing skills are critical components of a successful communications career. One of my mentors early on in my career hosted writing workshops and told us, “in order to write well, read well” so make sure to read a wide range of writing styles and find people you trust to read your work.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

Networking is something I’ve had to work hard on as I’m an introvert. But I’ve learned the importance of networking, not just for me personally and professionally, but also for those around me. As I meet new people, I will file away their strengths and needs, and if I know someone else who has similar interests or can help fill a void, I’ll make the connection. The big thing is that not every connection needs to be beneficial to you. Think about the larger picture, the bigger ecosystem.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Referrals within my network have been the best source of leads and conversions for long-standing clients. Having previous or current clients make introductions is a huge compliment.

The big thing is to make sure people know you are out there and available for work. People can get heads down in their own work that they may forget that you might be able to help. Set up regular coffees, lunches, and check-ins with other people in the industry. You never know where the next opportunity might come from!

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why.

  • Find a strength and develop your practice around it. Are you best at media relations? Writing? Social media? Identify your sweet spot and make sure that is the center of your work so you can truly be an expert for your clients.
  • Build and maintain strong relationships with media. The first thing most potential clients ask is who my best reporter relationships are with. These relationships are critical to our profession and are at the core of all overall communications strategies.
  • Avoid burning bridges. You never know when someone will get promoted or change jobs, and the last thing you need is to lose a client because of something that was done early on in your career on a whim.
  • Keep learning. This is the best part of the PR profession. Choose clients that are not only in your direct wheelhouse but also those in areas or industries that you are really interested in, so you can dig deeper. Your passion will shine through as you develop pitches and strategies.
  • Surround yourself with brilliant people. I actually prefer to NOT be the smartest person in the room, as I get to learn from others (see above point). By hiring and working with intelligent people, you grow your skillsets too.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I’m grateful to already be on this journey, and I’m hoping it becomes a movement. As I mentioned earlier in the conversation, I started a non-profit The Lemon-Aid Project when I was 10 and re-launched it in 2019 as a formal 501c3. It has always held a special spot in my heart, and now with 3 young children of my own, I see the impact that an organization like this has on our youth. They are told YES, they CAN do something and that they can make a difference. They are given confidence and the tools they need to be entrepreneurs and good, active citizens in their communities.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

About the Interviewer: Inspired by the father of PR, Edward Bernays (who was also Sigmund Freud’s nephew), Michelle Tennant Nicholson researches marketing, mental injury, and what it takes for optimal human development. An award-winning writer and publicist, she’s seen PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. Michelle co-founded

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