Molly Mitchell, Communications Associate, Scott Circle

Molly Mitchell, Communications Associate, Scott Circle

Molly is a communications associate at Scott Circle and member of WWPR

Laura Gross is the founder and principal of Scott Circle, a firm specializing in strategic communications and event management. Laura leads the communications side of the business where she oversees strategic planning and program management for clients. This year Scott Circle celebrates its 10th anniversary, and has come a long way since 2006 when Laura started the business by consulting out of her apartment on Scott Circle (hence the name). Originally from Georgia, she is now a proud Washingtonian who lives in Chevy Chase with her husband and twin daughters. In her free time you can catch Laura at the park with her kids, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack or getting her nails done at Varnish Lane.

WWPR’s Molly Mitchell sat down with Laura (who is also Molly’s boss!) to ask about the lessons she’s learned along the way in the PR world, what to do when you make a mistake on the job and the essentials that are always in her purse.

MM: How did you get started in the industry?

LG: It’s just something that I’ve always done! When I was in college I remember a professor going through the different types of journalism – broadcast, print, radio – but how PR incorporated all of them. Being the news junkie that I am, it just made perfect sense to me that I would major in public relations and set out to be a part of that world.

MM: What qualities does a person need to possess to be successful in this field?

Laura Gross, Founder & Principal, Scott Circle

Laura Gross, Founder & Principal, Scott Circle

LG: Someone who can think quickly and keep the big picture in mind. How are you positioning the company or nonprofit for the future? One answer can make a world of difference when it comes to growth or fundraising or more downloads for your app. Also, customer service is crucial. Responding quickly to people, especially reporters, so you’re always a resource for them. Referrals and reputation are everything in this city.

MM: What advice would you give about making mistakes at work?

LG: You learn from it and you don’t do it again. Recognize that you made a mistake. All your boss wants is ‘I’m sorry I made that mistake, it won’t happen again and I learned to do X next time.’ That’s it. They don’t expect their employees to know everything – that’s impossible! I don’t know everything. But you need to be willing to take feedback constructively and that can be difficult.

MM: Going off that what advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?

LG: When I was younger I would get all bent out of shape if I made a mistake, replaying it over and over in my head. It’s hard to take criticism – even when it’s constructive. And the only reason someone is even bothering to point out you made a misstep is because they want to help you be a better PR professional, a better leader. If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t even bother. Just take a deep breath and remember it’s not the end of the world. That person has probably already moved on and forgotten about it.

MM: How do you measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign?

LG: There’s the actual analytics. How many clicks did a story get? How many Facebook likes? How many re-tweets? That we can track. But we can also measure when an article featuring your company appeared in US News – did the client see an uptick in website traffic the following week? And then there’s also general feedback. Are people telling you ‘Oh I’ve seen you’ve gotten great press coverage’? I think word of mouth is a fantastic tool.

MM: How do you persuade a client to change their mind on a bad idea if it’s something that they’re really committed to?

LG: Of course we always listen to what our clients want but if we think that an idea or way to reach a milestone may be slightly misguided, we lay out an alternative situation for them that we think will better meet their goals.

MM: What are some of the biggest stereotypes about the PR business?

LG: I once met someone during a cocktail hour at an event. We started talking about college and I mentioned I had majored in PR. He said, ‘Oh what did they teach you, how to take people out for drinks?’ Poor guy he got stuck with the wrong person! I said, ‘That’s not what it is at all and it’s too bad that you think that.’ Some people have this idea that PR is ‘just getting the word out’ but it’s bigger than that. It’s positioning people a certain way, it’s pitching people a certain way, it’s thinking of a client in a unique way so that they get traction not just in the media but online so there’s a fresh buzz about them. I think people often just don’t understand the amount of work that goes into PR.

MM: What is your biggest accomplishment so far in this industry?

LG: Growing Scott Circle organically. We have gotten new clients entirely through referrals, I’ve never done advertising or anything like that. When we get new clients it’s based off the great work we do!

MM: What are the three essentials you always have on hand in your purse?

LG: My wallet, lipstick and business cards.

MM: Your go-to Starbuck’s order?

LG: A grande skinny latte.

MM: What are your favorite spots in the District?

LG: If it’s nice outside I love to take my kids to the park especially the “zip-line playground” (Beauvoir School), Al Aqua 2 on the Hill for dinner to celebrate special occasions and when I have the time I really enjoy treating myself by getting my nails done at Varnish Lane.

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Follow Laura and Molly on Twitter: @lgross and @mollyemitchell