Roy Reid is a leading authority on public relations and marketing with extensive experience in healthcare. He works with business leaders and organizations as a counselor, strategist, and coach to grow, maintain, and protect their interests. He is Executive Director for Business Communications at the University of Central Florida College of Business. He is formally a partner with Consensus Communications and Director of Corporate Communications at Florida Hospital. He has worked with leading brands including Walt Disney World Resorts, Wal-Mart and Burger King Corporation to name a few.
Did you ever set out to become an authority or did it happen organically?
Roy learned early that if you put in the work, good things will come. He credits his mentors for keeping him grounded over the years as he’s found success. Roy states that Orlando is rich with opportunities for people to get involved with things that matter. Taking on jobs that can make an impact builds more than a career but also a legacy. Roy credits those moments for him to be identified as a difference maker by his peers in the years practicing public relations.
What do you say to the person who is considering changing careers but is on the fence because of a fear of failure.
“Failure is life’s greatest learning laboratory. My greatest failures are when I’ve learned the most and probably achieved the most.”
He continues that fear of failure should not be an inhibitor for any decision that you make. It’s best that you accept failure as a reality because it’s going to happen in life no matter the approach. A strong support system can be critical in helping you overcome your fear and accomplish your goals.
If you’re considering a career in communications, you need to have a love for writing and be able to check your ego at the door. Roy explains that public relations is the business of promoting others.
“It’s our job to make [the organization/client] the center of what we do.”
When did you decide to pursue a career in public relations?
Roy fell in love with this kind of work upon being elected student body president at the University of Central Florida.
“The lesson I found was that only through effective communication could we advance and do the things that we set out to do.”
His one campaign promise was to establish a student union on campus. That involved mounting a campaign to gain support from the university administration and ultimately request state funding. It didn’t happen simply because he wanted it to; it required enlisting the help of other people and groups to see it through the end. Years later that building would come to be because of the work Roy started.
That experience demonstrated what that career choice would be about.
You built your body of work performing PR for the healthcare industry. Perhaps a beat writer in the medical field is thinking about taking that experience to a public relations career. Talk about the intricacies of PR in the healthcare industry.
Roy explains that often when working in healthcare, you’re dealing with people in their most challenging and, sometimes, worst moments. So it’s important that there’s a consciousness of knowing how best to communicate and bringing a sensitivity to the needs of the people involved.
From the outside looking in, healthcare is complex. There’s the government angle, the employer side of it, the treatment component, etc. so there are a lot of things to consider. Therefore, the job requires patience and an understanding that what will become routine for you (medical procedures, hospital and program funding, etc.) is still largely going to be foreign to those on the outside. To take what is overwhelming and make it simple to understand is a big responsibility.
If a health reporter wants to take their experience to the PR world, Roy recommends reaching out to public relations professionals who work for the healthcare system and ask to meet with them. Ask what it is that they do because there are various roles in a hospital’s PR department from promoting a service line to community relations to responding to media inquiries.
To those individuals without a background in public relations, speak to them on leveraging their inherent experience and skill set to transition into a career in PR.
“The asset that any of us in communications have is our experience.”
Roy recalls the interview he was on for his first PR job in healthcare and the hiring manager asking why he should be considered despite not having healthcare experience. Roy explained the job required communications expertise but he could learn the healthcare side along the way. After getting the job, he found another mentor who performed public relations at a sister hospital. From time to time, they would meet and Roy would learn from her.
Bring what you have to the table, he says. While he had experience doing PR for the public school system as well as at an agency (which, Roy believes, is a great place to get your start because you will do it all), he still had the humility to understand having a mentor with this transition would help a great deal.
A common thread in your story is you never stop asking for guidance.
We have to do that, Roy insists. To this day, he makes it an effort to maintain relationships with just about everyone he’s worked with and considers himself a student of the game.
One of Roy’s other passions is martial arts. Despite being recognized as fourth degree black belt, he shows up in class ready to learn. In fact, he says it’s not uncommon to learn from someone with a lower-color belt.
The key to success is being open to learning at all times in all walks of life, especially public relations.
“[Public relations professionals] are as good as the last thing we did for somebody.”
Roy continues that the objective in front of us is the most important thing and if we’ve never confronted it before, then we need to find somebody that has.
In your experience, do you find PR professionals coming from other industries being more prevalent now than in the past? Why do you think that is?
“There’s never been, in the history of humankind, a better time to be in communications.”
Roy attributes that statement to the field currently being so incredibly vast and interesting. There are people in the industry who never imagined they’d be doing communications work. But there’s a demand that crosses so many more sectors of business and industry. And the clock isn’t stopping.
When he would provide media training to an executive 10 years ago, Roy would be preparing him/her for one specific type of interaction with a reporter. But today, that executive could be captured on video at any point in time because everyone is carrying a camera in their pocket. That’s why it’s important that executives today have to be informed and trained on an ongoing basis.
This one example explains the need for new breeds of public relations professionals and why the industry is always evolving. Roy likes the fact that people from alternative disciplines are finding themselves in communications because everyone wins.
The line has been blurred between PR and the news media because, in essence, every organization is a news outlet thanks to social media and brand journalism.
“I think that if somebody discounts the communications field, they’re missing out on a variety of ways to experience business and life in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.”
What makes an ideal hire? What are those qualities that every aspiring PR pro should have whether they’ve been doing this job for 5-10 years or they’re jumping over from the journalism industry, for example?
First and foremost, Roy is looking for someone with the right attitude. That requires the proper perspective on integrity, work ethic and the role that is required.
“Your attitude is really the only thing during the course of any day that you have control over.”
Having that mindset is the foundation for any good hire. From a delivery standpoint, writing is the key.
“If you’re not equipped to write, you’re not going to succeed in the work that we do.”
Finally, when it comes to the job he’s interviewing for, it comes down to an applicant’s experience.
“I always want somebody that can really effectively tell the story that makes them the best candidate.”
The approach is also important as it can make a positive first impression. Every great hire in Roy’s career was someone who made the right approach and followed that up with the right attitude, experience and ability to effectively tell that story.
You said if you’re not a skilled writer, you’re not going to succeed. What does it mean exactly to be a good writer?
First and foremost, you have to have a command of the language, Roy says. You have to be good with grammar and with crafting a story. And that has to translate across multiple executions: letters, emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, press releases, etc.
Additionally, being a professional means you’re a good writer and communicator all the time. As Roy describes it, it requires “eyes for excellence.”
And know your limitations. Roy knows he’s a strong writer. But he understands the importance of an editor and a second opinion. Those extra set of eyes can look at the writing and objectively examine the details and identify “the big picture.”
Roy also recommends taking time to read as a means to improve your writing. He enjoys fiction and believes storytellers are paid to draw pictures with their words. That’s an important skill to develop because professionals are required to do that more in business writing.
Don’t limit your reading to just business and self-help because you’re limiting your exposure to creative ways to express yourself in the written form.
“We’re not communicating to and for ourselves.”
Roy says it’s easy for PR professionals to fall into that trap, so we have to always be mindful.
What is public relations to you?
“Public relations is the strategic communications to influence behavior.”
It’s an integral component of a business and has to be woven in throughout. Its ultimate aim is a behavioral outcome. We, as PR professionals, want people to believe a certain thing, understand a certain thing, and be ready to advocate for a certain thing. The result contributes to multiple business streams including position in the marketplace, marketing, community relations and more.
You talked earlier about making the right first impression. Can you explain in more detail what that means?
If you’re at an event, for example, and trying to work the room and find a particular job, Roy explains you should be very much about the following: listening and being sensitive to the conversation; not being overbearing; providing information as it’s asked; and being mindful to the nature of the event.
When making the pitch via your resume, cover letter, portfolio, LinkedIn profile, etc., understand each element is a part of your story. Remember that each carries a different function in that story.
In the cover letter, it’s important to be succinct and consider it “the highlight reel.” But don’t miss the opportunity in the cover letter to acknowledge the person in the company that you’re reaching out to. It makes a difference for them if they think that you’ve done any research. By mentioning one to three issues that is going to be important to the decision-maker, you can have the chance to make an indelible impact.
For the resume, all professionals think of them differently. As it relates to the public relations profession, Roy says it starts with showcasing your writing ability. Put cogent thoughts together in a narrative form versus what could be presented in a bulleted list. Roy credits a mentor of his, Roger Pynn, for that advice.
Roy says that strategy provides an additional layer to his overall story. He further explains that the idea is to cross off as many objections as possible for that busy hiring manager so that by the time the both of you are sitting across a table, the better off you’ll be.
“And for goodness sake, give me your references up front.”
If Roy is to see five references on a resume, chances are he knows them. He has both hired candidates and been a reference for candidates on a phone call or two.
“‘Do you know so-and-so? (Yeah.) Would you hire them? (Absolutely.) Thanks.’ Hang up. Job offered.”
Do yourself a favor and provide references from the start because it can be that impactful. The idea that including the line “references upon request” as a means to make the hiring manager call you to get them is the wrong one. PR professionals, by their nature, are busy. Make their life easier, and yours in effect.
“Give me all the evidence I need to make the right verdict on whether or not you should come in and talk to me.”
It’s clear talking to you that in the process of applying for that job, you’re performing public relations for yourself.
Roy relates to students groups that as they’re working toward graduation, they should be conducting their very first PR campaign. That entails getting your name out there; telling your story effectively; and providing that value proposition of who and what you are so that a hiring manager can make a decision to put you to work. That might not be hard to come up with those things, but sometimes it can be difficult to execute.
“Never, ever overlook somebody’s willingness to sit down and talk with you.”
When speaking to those student groups, Roy projects a couple action items:
- Connect, follow and befriend him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, respectively
- It’s all about growing our network
- Reach out to me via phone or email to chat
- It’s disheartening that only one or two students will take him up on that, but he sees it happen with professionals as well
“We let ourselves get caught up in being busy and we don’t think about the relationships and prioritize them at times to know that it’s only through those that we achieve the things that we’re going to achieve. It’s only through those that we get the breaks.”
Roy says he’s rarely had to apply for a job in a cold-call fashion in his 25+ years. He’s usually received a phone call asking if he’s interested in something or a colleague recommends this job is perfect for him, he should chase it and he/she would be happy to make the connection. It’s because of investing in other people; it’s not him, per se.
“It’s because of the relationships that are fostered along the way that those opportunities open up for any of us. And great relationships will always be the shortcut to finding that next opportunity or job or client.”
Roy believes most PR professionals will respond positively when asked to do something like an informational interview, for example. At some point in their career, they needed that meeting and conversation. It’s not lost on them.
But to reflect back on the fear of failure, it’s natural to fear rejection. Salespeople have to hear “no” countless times before that right “yes,” but it’s the process that works every time.
No matter whether they’re seasoned vets or rookies, people become enamored with accreditations. When someone starting out asks if they should get accredited, what do you say?
Roy enjoyed the process of obtaining his APR and CPRC certifications. Even though it’s not required, he believes it’s one of the best exercises you will ever do in this profession.
Roy believes that while the accreditation in and of itself has value, the greater value is an intrinsic one. Namely it’s the experience that you as a practitioner go through, the people you interact with and the sessions that are provided, as well as a chance to revisit the basics.
Are there any books you can recommend?
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
- Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
Just as you would cold call a journalist, make a pitch to an aspiring public relations professional and explain why PR is the career for him/her.
“There are few professions that I’ve seen that have as much opportunity to make positive change and impact in people and organizations.”
This is a profession that resides within movements, industry and public service, Roy says. Whether you want to work in community service and non-profit, politics, business, etc., if you’re a great communicator who understands how to use the tools, execute effectively and write well, then you will be valuable.