Emerging Voices: Taylor Shelnutt

TShelnutt

Taylor Shelnutt is a Senior Account Executive at FleishmanHillard in Dallas, Texas. She has experience in media relations, influencer programs and corporate communications across the food, consumer, CSR, technology and nonprofit sectors.

Please summarize your professional career and its high and low points. (How did you work your way up the ladder? What have you learned along the way? What factors most contributed to your success?)

After college, I completed a 3-month fellowship at Ketchum in Chicago and learned SO much. The first few months of your career are the most foundational, as you learn the basic skills of our industry and what happens behind the scenes in order to produce effective results on the front end. I then took a job at FleishmanHillard in Dallas as an Account Executive and grew pretty quickly. I jumped on opportunities, raised my hand to help wherever possible and learned as much as I could, as quickly as I could. I worked hard! But I also had to learn to fail and I had to learn to ask for help sometimes. It’s okay to go through seasons in your career where you feel like you’re excelling and engaged, and other seasons where you feel more stagnant and routine. You can’t stay on the mountains or in the valleys forever, though. You have to learn how to stabilize so you don’t burn out. The factors that have contributed the most to my success are finding champions who empower, mentor and push me, and taking initiative to seek out opportunities that fall within my passions and skills. No one is going to do it for you. You have to proactively seek out those opportunities!

According to The Holmes Report, women make up about 70% of the PR workforce, but they only hold about 30% of the top positions in the industry. Why do you think there is a shortage of women leaders in PR? What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

I actually have a lot of hope for the future of women in PR. I see strong, powerful women in my company every day and they are empowered to lead – they do an amazing job! Women are finding their sweet spots, becoming excellent managers of home and work life, and having more grace for themselves. And I expect to see more and more women in positions of leadership over the next few years.

What can organizations (and the industry as a whole) do to prepare women for top leadership positions? What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in leadership?

To me, it’s pretty simple – provide them with the same preparation as men who are looking to lead. It’s all about opportunity. Give women the opportunity to learn, to grow, to be challenged and to exceed expectations. And let men and women lead equally as they use their gifts, skills and talents in their areas of expertise.

As a role model for women, what advice do you have for women interested in a career in public relations?

It’s a FUN, dynamic and fast-paced field. You learn a lot, you grow personally and professionally in a very short amount of time, and you are exposed to a variety of important life skills, including time/people management, crisis mitigation, strategy and planning, interpersonal communication and more. Raise your hand and be open to the ways you can grow, and you will be surprised by how far and how fast you climb!

What are the three ways you inspire and encourage teamwork among your team?

  1. Assign each team member with a distinct, important responsibility that they can lead and own.
  2. Trust each team member to carry their weight and check in to offer support.
  3. Empower each team member with encouragement and elevated responsibilities over time.

How did you manage the transition from the classroom to the boardroom? What was the biggest shock or surprise during that transition about the profession?

Most of the learning truly takes place on the job. Internships in college definitely helped prepare me for the “real world,” but there’s so much more to learn when you’re in meetings with people who have worked in the industry for decades and are SMART. I think the biggest shock/transition was how much I still didn’t know, but yet how fun and engaging our industry is. You catch on quickly!

What’s something you wish you had learned in college but didn’t? What do you do to be an eternal student? 

I wish I had practiced a daily habit/routine of quickly and thoroughly consuming the news, trends, etc. and following media and influencers. Our role in PR is to be an expert on this, but it takes work, time and effort to stay current while also managing daily tasks and workloads. I strive to be an eternal student by learning from my managers and their experiences, the way they interact with teams and clients, and how they lead communicate and product results.

With the myriad of industry changes, what inspires you to stay motivated and encouraged?

PR is a wild ride! You have to hang on through the ups and downs, and know that there will always be ebbs and flows. That’s what keeps it interesting!

 

The Plank Center created the Millennials in PR series for rising public relations professionals to detail their experiences and share messages of counsel with students and other professionals.

Published: March 25, 2019