It’ was a busy week and a lot has been going on in the public relations industry, but Jade Williams, Publicist at HGTV, found time to allow me to pick her brain. Describing herself as calm natured, I wondered how she handled the demanding and interactive field of public relations at such a young age. As I got to know her, I realized that as long as you have a set plan, organize your thoughts and take small trips to escape the crazy life of NYC, it is definitely possible.
The world of public relations is a busy field all in itself. Is the communications department at HGTV reflective of this industry standard?
My experience at HGTV has been a very exciting and rewarding experience. While I assist in managing over 50 network talent on a daily basis, I have a strong support team both in New York City and the headquarters in Knoxville, TN. Each day I have the pleasure of communicating with the talent you see on television directly and getting HGTV exposure in the press (good press of course). Whether it’s our annual Wine and Design event, a broadcast appearance, satellite media tour or writing a press release– I am involved from start to finish and have learned so much thus far.
You received a B.A. in English from Spelman College, but what made you want to get into the public relations industry? Especially since there is no communications program at your Alma mater?
After attending The Academy of Allied Health and Science, a medical career academy high school, I realized that my true passions were not Science and Math but rather English. I was always one to entertain, plan organized activities for friends and family, and was always approachable and open. Towards my junior and senior years of high school I spoke to numerous professionals in the media industry since I decided something in communications would interest me based on my passions. From the diverse conversations, I got a grasp of what was really out there and declared that I would explore the world of public relations. Since Spelman was my number one choice of colleges, I quickly made the English degree work for me by doing my best to excel in my writing and critical thinking skills; which are both valued in the media industry. After my first semester, I went to every information session regarding public relations, joined organizations such as NABJ and PRSA, took media classes at Clark Atlanta University and interned in various communication departments throughout the summer and during the school year including Edelman, Cox Enterprises, CNN, American Red Cross and Fortune.
From interning at Fortune Magazine and The American Red Cross to working at Edelman and HGTV, you have tapped into various areas of public relations. Do you enjoy the agency aspect more than corporate or vice versa?
Very good question. Most of my work experiences have been in corporate PR, so that is where I developed my foundation and perception of how PR works. I actually did not intern at an agency until after I graduated from college. While there are valuable skills one can learn at an agency such as multi-tasking, representing a variety of clients at one time, crisis and social media management —it is best to try it out and see if it works for you. Agency experience is valued highly in the pr realm, so it’s an area I would highly recommend getting experience in. Being at HGTV is a surreal experience. I get so much direct experience and exposure which results in me developing a stronger foundation, which is needed and appreciated at the junior level of a career.
What has been the greatest take-away from working at HGTV thus far? Is it what you expected going into the position?
It is definitely not what I expected, but in December I will be going into my second year and can honestly say I LOVE my job. I wake up every morning and enjoy going to work (except when I have to wake up at 5 am) for a morning segment that our talent is featured on, but I love all the HGTV folks so it’s still a pleasurable morning! What makes this job different from most is that I have a true support system where they want me to grow within the company and get the most out of my experience. I am presently the youngest member of my department but I have learned that age is nothing but a number. Greatest take-aways are to ask for help when you need it, do not be timid amongst high level executives and always look for ways to make a process more efficient. At work when a job is well done, you are praised and when something is done incorrectly you are taught the proper way and you grow from the experience. The office is a family and everyone wants the best for each other.
You’ve had such a successful journey thus far, but where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years I see myself completing graduate school, furthering my education so that I am well learned in the newest advancements in the industry. I also hope to start a non-profit for young females interested in PR so they can have access to a spectrum of people in the industry, have a mentor, and develop the skills necessary to survive.
This Spelman alumnae definitely took advantage of the lessons that are to be learned while attending the institution. Jade Williams’ confidence, articulation, knowledge of culture and overall well-rounded personality makes her a great example of a Spelman woman. Planning to ultimately be SVP of Marketing/Communications for a major corporation by 35, Jade understands that in order to get to there, she has to continuously surround herself with individuals that can mentor her. She strives to provide herself with building blocks to be the best and hone in on her leadership skills to eventually and confidently lead a team.