Connect with Shannon Donohue on LinkedIn
Job: Sports and Entertainment Publicist, Berk Communications
Location: New York, New York
Shannon and I were connected through Halle, a YoPro we interviewed earlier in 2020. The two met in college and although are many miles away, have stayed in touch. Find out how Shannon has taken her constant drive to create a successful career as a Sports & Entertainment publicist, which although creates a 365 day, 24/7 schedule, keeps her motivated and moving.
Is this PR role your first job out of school?
Yes, it is. I've been here for almost two and a half years now, which is crazy. I graduated in May 2017 but didn't start this job until October of 2017.
What did you do in that time period between graduation and work?
I'm sure it’s similar to how many people feel before graduation, with this mounting pressure of wanting to graduate with a job. All of my girlfriends' jobs lined up and mine didn't, which was incredibly frustrating because I had a really great internship and work experience. Something I like to tell people in the same position as I was in is just not to rush it. After looking for positions all throughout senior year, I decided to find something fun but could still make me some money after graduating. I decided to take a break from searching that summer and worked at a summer camp. I’m glad I took a while because I knew that I was going to be working for the rest of my life and I didn't want to rush into something. Honestly, it's probably one of the best things I've ever done. Everyone I know who jumped into jobs right out of college have since left. It's not the standard for everyone but I just think that you can afford to be picky. I really encourage people to shop around and know your value.
What does your day-to-day look like as a publicist?
I do personal and brand publicity. On the personal side, I represent athletes and personalities. Anything that you see on the news, in the newspaper, in a magazine: that's basically a publicist’s job. We also do crisis PR. I always like to say that while restaurants and businesses close, people are always on, so our job never stops. My days typically consist of reaching out to editors and reporters, creating media lists, writing press materials, and hoping to showcase my athletes on and off the field or court, whatever it may be. You may have a client who's an incredible basketball player on the court but is also into cooking. My job is to make the public know who these people are inside and outside of their sports, and help grow their fan base in other areas of their life. We have a client who is a 2019 Pro Bowler for the Ravens but is also a big advocate for animal adoption. One of our goals was to get him on Animal Planet so we could let the public see that side of him.
There are a lot of pros to this job. You get to do so many cool things, but it can also be exhausting. I was working all weekend, so I'm just excited to go to bed by 10 PM tonight. It is really incredible to work with these world-class athletes and go to industry events, but it can definitely be stressful at times.
What has been a hardship for you as a young professional?
On a micro level, my schedule is really tough. Saturday nights are when most games are and that's when the rest of the world is enjoying their downtime when they're out of work. As I mentioned earlier, publicity is very much is very a 365, 24/7, type of job. Over holidays or on vacations, I may need to work and still be “on”. This can be tough for my friends and family to understand. I love my job so I think it's all worth it, but you have to remind yourself why you do it.
There are also obstacles in any field that you have clients. You might not agree on the best strategy for someone or a brand, but at the end of the day, you have to cater to your client's needs. By listening to your clients' wants, needs, and ideas, you definitely have to widen your mind and creativity to get the best results.
Has age played a negative or positive role in your career?
In this field, there are a lot of young people, so I don’t think age plays a negative role as much as gender does. There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to women in sports. I really look up to a lot of female NFL, MLB, and NBA agents, and they are typically the ones who get criticized by fans and others who don't understand how brilliant these women are and who may suggest certain things to get their way to the top. That’s just not the case. There's always going to be a need for respect for women in the workforce and while I think this industry has gotten better, I don't think we’re 100% there yet.
What motivates you?
I always want to outdo myself and I'm always shooting for whatever the highest standard is in my industry. I want to get a rookie in GQ. I want that New York Times feature interview story with one of our basketball players. To me, I'm always shooting as high as I can. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, but at least I tried and did my best. A lot of times it does, and I think you can surprise yourself. Being able to have the constant want to get better plays into what motivates me.
What is it like to be a young professional in your industry?
It’s not easy being in your 20s, and being a young professional anywhere, you're still navigating what being an adult is. Those lines aren't defined that well, but it's different for everyone. Some people still have their parents supporting them and others don't have any help whatsoever. Being in New York, you see different people from so many different backgrounds living this “young professional” life in vastly different ways. It's hard. New York is my favorite city. I was raised here, and I know that it's expensive, it's crowded, it can be smelly. But it also has so many opportunities that I really don't think there’s a better place to be, at least not in my industry. Being a young professional is like anything else in life: it's a challenge. Navigating being an adult and a young professional while simultaneously wanting to grow your career and continue to foster your friendships and your relationships, is tough. But I love it.
What is something you wish you would have known before getting into this career?
I always encourage people to talk to as many people as you can, and it doesn't matter if they can get you a job or not. Just take all of that knowledge and run with it. I talked to so many people when I was looking for a job right before I graduated college that I've never spoken to again, but I find it invaluable how much I learned from them. One of the biggest agencies in LA has an agent training program where they start you in the mailroom. I think that’s so great because I don't think you can be the best at your craft if you haven't done all the small things first. It’s a hard industry to get into, so start by talking to as many people as you can.
Any last-minute words of advice?
Finding a support system is one of the best things that you can do when you're navigating this life, after college and into your early working years. Some people don't have that tight-knit family, which I'm so lucky to have. I lean a lot on my parents, my boyfriend, and my friends, but you can find many different people to create a support system. There are many days when I'm either having a bad day at work or a bad personal day, and just knowing I can reach out to those few people is so helpful. It's all about the journey. Just having people to lean on and to reach out to and to ask questions and bounce ideas off of is so important.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- Shoot as high as you can; if it doesn't work out, you'll make it
- Talk to as many people as you can in an industry you're interested in
- Have the constant drive to get better
- Find your support system
Check it out: Berk Communications