Catherine Llamido is an account associate at BRG Communications, a public relations firm in Old Town Alexandria where she specializes in media relations on behalf of client initiatives. When she’s not at the office, the foodie can be found checking out the DMV area’s diverse restaurant scene or breaking a sweat at the gym when she’s not taking on side projects or helping to manage WWPR’s social media channels.
WWPR’s Melinda Tolliver chatted with Catherine about how she got involved with public relations, her social media experience, and the advice she’d give her early professional self.
What made you decide to pursue a career in public relations?
I honestly wanted to become a journalist. It started in elementary school when I was on the school news team as one of the anchors. Then it evolved in high school where I wrote for the school paper. I also went to journalism camp through Washington Post’s Young Journalist Club and loved everything about it. I had a love for storytelling and writing in general, but writing articles didn’t seem fulfilling enough for me. With a decline in print magazines and newspaper, I felt like I couldn’t have a secure future in journalism.
That’s when I took a communication’s class during my freshman year and my college professor talked about this whole world of public relations. I didn’t really know what it was until I took that class. He explained that PR professionals work with the media and the stakeholders to shape and persuade the audience and brand a company’s message. Essentially as a PR professional, I can still do what I love doing—I’m just telling the story in a different way. Once sophomore year came around, I started exploring different facets of PR and communications through internships and never looked back.
How would you describe your current role in an elevator pitch?
Every day is not alike! As an account associate at BRG Communications, I support the team with a lot of day-to-day account activities: from pitching to media about client’s latest campaigns to developing and writing communications materials. It’s a lot of moving pieces and I’m toggling different clients throughout the day. For instance, I recently attended one of our client’s annual conference meetings. My team and I handled everything media-related, from executing the press briefing conferences to coordinating doctor interviews with trade media and writing late breaking press releases. It’s very fun because I got to dissect science-based clinical trial studies and write them all over for the everyday consumer reader–it’s so nerdy of me to say, but I loved it!
What professional experience do you feel you’ve learned the most from in your career?
As far as working in an agency, I have learned to meet deadlines. Previously, I was working at the National Parent Teacher Association as their digital communications specialist, so working in-house was a totally different environment. I didn’t bill by a project or by a client. My duties were social media based and focused on everything related to the PTA. But at BRG, I do that for all my clients and more! I am exposed to different programs, products and brands. It’s a fast-paced setting, so working in an agency has helped me be more proactive on time management.
Do you have any side projects you’re current engaged in?
I love PR and social media so much that I do it outside of work, too. It’s awesome and really inspiring when people reach out to me for expert advice and ask me to audit their social media pages or help develop a digital strategy. I also provide tips about how to promote their brand socially and pitch to journalists when they’re ready to start doing media outreach.
I also started selling notepad planners a few years ago and offered them to my clients when helping them develop their editorial calendars and schedules. I am an addict for planners, so that’s when I decided to design my own and sell them!
Yes, I’ve seen a few of the planners on your website and they are very cute!
You’re also currently on WWPR’s Digital Strategy Committee. What kinds of tasks do you handle on the committee?
I joined WWPR two years ago because I wanted to do more things in social media, and be exposed to a community and a network that would help me stay in trend with the PR field. It was the Marketing and Communications Committee then, but my main duty is to develop social media content. There’s a team of us on the Committee, so we collaborate and create content for all of WWPR’s social media pages.
One of the things I initiated back in 2015 was the Instagram takeovers, which I really enjoyed doing! People in our committee thought that WWPR’s Instagram could be more engaging, so I did a lot of cool, experimental things such as pop-up videos and graphics. I also designed some of the social collateral for the Woman of the Year Award and Emerging Leaders Awards events.
Are there any specific strategies you use on WWPR’s social channels or your own that you would recommend for others trying to grow their platform or trying to get their name out there?
- Create valuable, branded content – You know your brand’s voice and audience more than anyone, so develop content that is transparent and true to it.
- Contribute to online platforms – If you are trying to gain exposure for your brand (or yourself), then take advantage of bylining a blog post or article. Establish your role as an industry expert and build your credibility as one.
- Complete your LinkedIn profile – Believe it or not, many professional workers overlook LinkedIn. Don’t be that person, create one and network!
- Engage! – Social media is all about engagement. It is important to connect with your community. Instead of just “liking” someone’s post, try commenting instead. Interact with your followers by posting a variety of different posts like a quote of the day, write a prompt as your photo’s caption, or post photo of a giveaway item.
What’s your favorite thing about the District?
I love that D.C. has a culturally diverse foodie scene: I love that we can party and sip mimosas with brunch, and there’s a lot of cool ramen spots. I also have this thing for vegan restaurants despite not being a vegan myself, but I will eat everything. My current favorite is Eat Fare Well on H St–they have the best polenta fries ever. That’s what I love about the District, it has an awesome foodie scene.
Favorite place to go for a coffee run and what’s your order?
I stopped drinking coffee after college, so now all I drink are teas. When I go to Starbucks, I get the green tea latte, but I customize it with almond milk. It’s my favorite thing. If I want to be fancy, sometimes I’ll add a shot of peppermint to my drink–it’s a weird combo, I know.
What kinds of things do you do after work or on the weekend to help you feel like a well-rounded person?
I love going to the gym. It keeps me sane and balanced from a long work day. After a workout I feel so great–endorphins are pumping, I just feel amazing. Friends help me stay sane, too, and I like going out to eat and finding new restaurants in DC area.
What outfit combo do you consider to be your power suit?
I like to dress in very neutral, simple colors, so for me it’s the heels that make my outfit pop and makes me feel confident. You know how people wear statement necklaces? That’s shoes for me. I love heels, I don’t even like wearing flats!
What are three can’t-live-without items for your bag?
I always keep hand sanitizer, my planner, and I always have my portable charger/USB because my phone will die like crazy since I’m always on my phone for social media or email.
Finally, what advice do you wish you could give your early professional self?
My advice would be to just go for it and take that leap of faith. I remember having internships just for the sake of it, but I feel like you won’t know what you’ll like or dislike if you don’t try it yourself. You have to create that path for yourself by taking risks.
Article by Melinda Tolliver, a digital communications specialist who has worked in a variety of settings throughout her career. She loves the thrill of stringing together powerful, eloquent messages in under 140 characters, and creating thoughtful visuals to go with it. Her current position is with the Association of American Law Schools as a digitally-focused communications coordinator. Follow her tweets and ‘grams at @mmptolliver.