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Member Spotlight: Matt Kothe

Education: B.A. in Political Science, Minor in English; University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Employment: Corporate Communications Specialist, PerfectServe

Why did you choose public relations as a career?
This is an interesting question for me, because public relations wasn’t part of my future plans when I graduated from college. I worked at a law firm for about a year and a half before deciding I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and then I got the brilliant idea to be a (terrible) car salesman, which lasted all of two miserable months. I sold half of a car in total.

After hanging up my salesman shoes, I decided to double down on my biggest strength, which was writing. A friend helped me find a role in corporate communications at Scripps Networks Interactive, and over the next four years or so, I worked in both internal and external communications roles. The transition to external communications was unanticipated but came at a great time, and even though I didn’t study PR or communications in college, the head of our department was self-taught and gave me the confidence that I could be successful trying something new. My manager was also incredibly smart and trusting, and her unflappable demeanor rubbed off on the way I approached my job.

That was about three years ago, and in that time I’ve really come to enjoy the varied work that comes with being in the public relations arena. Focusing on my current role, I love being able to tell the world about the great work my company’s customers are doing with our product, which includes everything from tackling the opioid crisis to streamlining the delivery of critical lab tests. Finding interesting and effective ways to share these stories is extremely rewarding!

Why are you a member of PRSA?
I joined PRSA right at the beginning of my foray into public relations, and aside from the obvious networking benefits, it really helped me get over my imposter syndrome. I quickly got involved with a chapter committee and joined the board soon thereafter. I initially wondered what a pleb like me had to offer to a bunch of seasoned professionals, but these opportunities helped to reinforce that my basic instincts are pretty solid and applicable to the field. Though it probably goes without saying, it’s also never a bad thing to soak up tips and lessons from your peers as much as possible.

What advice would you give to new professionals?
If you’re afraid of something because you’ve never done it before, find a way to do it (or help somebody else do it). We all remember what it’s like to be new and inexperienced, and though it’s easy to let self-doubt prevail, you just have to accept that part of learning is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you can find a role with a manager who carves out space for you to try new things, ask questions and make mistakes, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your knowledge grows.

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