Welcome to my blog series "10 Questions With". It consists of weekly interviews with practitioners from the PR, Marketing and Advertising industry. My goal is to talk to experts, who have interesting opinions and can give valuable advice to young people, who are pursuing careers in those sectors.
Today's interview is with Iliyana Stareva, authour of Inbound PR and Global Partner Program Manager at HubSpot.
Q1: What was your first ever job?
I was 16 when I got a summer job as a waitress in a cafe in my hometown in Bulgaria. When I think about it, that experience helped me in two ways: learn how to work with clients and learn the value of making money yourself. My first proper career job was as a Social Media intern during the summer after my second year at university in Germany. Social media was just beginning to become important for business and it was great to dig into its possibilities for clients at an early age of about 21.
Q2: How did you fall into PR?
After I graduated from high school in Bulgaria, I went to study a double degree in International Business in Germany and then in the UK. I picked International Business because I knew I would get exposure to various areas such as Finance, Marketing, Accounting and more and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I discovered that Marketing was what I enjoyed the most during my first year and that was the time when experts and businesses were trying to figure out social media and public relations as the discipline best suited to own it. I began following prominent names such as Brian Solis and David Meerman Scott on twitter and reading their books. I became very passionate about PR and decided that that's the career I want to pursue so every decision I made and action I took during the next few years of my studies brought me closer to the career choice I had made.
Q3: What’s the most annoying industry buzzword?
Guru - I really don't like this word.
Q4: What campaign or work have you most enjoyed being part of?
My job at the moment is different than my past in PR. My work is about making change happen and figuring out how to execute on major internal initiatives across the globe to drive growth to our Partner Program. This involves a lot of stakeholder management, getting buy-in and generally designing execution plans. Picking up a problem and then figuring out all the pieces of the puzzle to solve it and execute against it is what gets me up in the morning excited about the work that I do. And when you see the success of an initiative you have identified, planned and executed against, there's no better motivator than to go and do it again.
Q5: Job hunting on social media – yes or no?
Definitely! If you have a strong social media presence and even better, a blog that you use to share your knowledge and opinions, you'll have a better chance of getting a job, especially if you want to work in PR. People will notice you. That's what happened to me. My current employer HubSpot, found me on LinkedIn because I had a strong profile and then they dug into my blog which impressed them so they reached out and in essence, brought me from Germany to Ireland to join them.
Q6: What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the PR industry since working within it?
How hard it is to reinvent it. PR often seems stuck with old norms, rules and ways of doing the work. PR missed the mark with owning social media and still seems to be struggling with the adoption of all digital. That's the reason why I wrote a book hoping to re-energise the industry to start thinking about the bigger picture of driving business growth.
Q7: What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made in your career?
I've made many mistakes over the course of my career but as a young, intelligent woman surrounded by experienced male colleagues I'm still learning to speak up and to feel confident to share my opinions in the moment instead of shying away thinking they are not important.
Q8: In your opinion, is having a PR degree still beneficial for getting into the industry?
It is but I don't think it's necessary. I studied International Business where I never specialised in PR and the only exposure to PR I got was very generic during my Marketing modules. You can do any job as long as you are passionate about it because passion will make you take additional steps to cover the educational or professional gaps you may have in order to achieve your career goal.
Q9: After the success of your book "Inbound PR”, are you planning a second book?
Writing a book has been my goal since the age of 21 when I read all Brian Solis' books at the time. I said to myself then that I will soon publish a book of my own. Having done it now at the age of 28, Inbound PR is not going to be my only book. I am the type of a person that gets inspired by sharing my learning with the world - that's why I write a regular blog and that's why I wrote Inbound PR. As I continue growing my career and developing new skills and knowledge, I plan to write more books in the future. I have an idea at the moment that I need to flesh out better and experiment with on my blog to get my reader's feedback as I did with Inbound PR.
Q10: What advice would you give to your 18-years-old self?
Go explore and try as many things as possible to find out what you enjoy and discover your passion. The earlier you do this, the happier and the more accomplished you will feel.