How to get a job as a tech startup publicist

Gretel Going is a co-founder and hiring manager at Channel V Media.

Tech startups are one of the hottest scenes in business right now, and doing public relations for them is one way to ride the wave. Gretel Going is a co-founder and hiring manager at Channel V Media, a tech PR firm that’s headquartered in Chelsea. The company currently employs six publicists who promote everything from mobile apps to startup launches. Publicists typically work daytime hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and often have to attend evening events, Going said. Starting salary is about $35,000, and that can grow to about $150,000 as a CEO of a firm, she added. We got the scoop from Going on how to get into her field of PR.

What are the degree requirements for this position?

A lot of people come in with PR degrees, and for us we’re not really interested in that. We like people who are analytical thinkers, we like philosophy majors, liberal arts majors, we like math majors. Anyone who can solve a problem and has been trained in school to work through problems. We like English majors, [the job entails] a lot of writing and shaping a narrative. We have to make a story that doesn’t seem like it would be relevant to a normal consumer something that they [see and go], “Wow, that’s a part of my everyday life.”

What kind of work experience do people need?

Because we’re small and we have a really nice working environment, we kind of like the people who have gone to a bigger agency and a bigger brand and realize, “Oh, I want to be in a place where I can do a little bit of everything.” We prefer two years of experience, it doesn’t have to be in PR, but we like work experience. We like when journalists apply, [they] have been getting tips for years. They know how a story gets made. We like people who know how to sell.

What personality traits does a qualified person possess?

We like people who are driven from within, like they get a lot of satisfaction from doing a really good job. If you need us to pat you on the back every time you get a press hit, it’s like, [but] that’s [your job]. People who can kind of talk to anybody.

Who picks tech over other kinds of PR?

Being genuinely interested in technology is a good pre-requisite, but those who do best are curious, open to new ideas and up for a challenge. It can be hard to publicize something like software, for instance; so, it becomes your job to figure out what its value is to audiences and what story will resonate with them. Of course, not all tech PR is for obscure products or brands, and the skills that you need to be successful in PR in general can translate across different types of PR. It’s really just a matter of where your interests lie, and how and where you want to apply those skills.

For the application process, what goes into a good cover letter?

Usually it’s less about what they say and it’s more about the tone. If people come to us and are pretty conversational and it’s relaxed, we can see how that would translate over to pitching to a reporter. We have people where we know that they looked at our website and they know what we do. They’re relaxed, which tells us they have a certain sense of confidence, and they put a narrative that includes us and them in it. If it’s clearly a template and it could go to any company, we usually dismiss that.

Does the person have to offer any ideas?

We actually give assignments, we get a sense of their experience that tells us what you did at your last job, what kind of tasks they’ve taken on. But we’ll give them an assignment from a client we’re working on. We’ll [say], “Write the pitch you would send out.” We need to see how they would approach something.

What tasks are they responsible for at the job?

We work with companies that might not have news, they want publicity and press coverage but they’re not launching something new. So there’s a lot of coming up with new angles. How do you get someone covered when they have no new news? We ghost write articles for our clients, for the CEOs and CMOs at our companies showing off their expertise or a lot of outlook pieces [for] mostly trade publications. We do a lot of pitching. We love when someone can get on the phone and pitch. We do research to find the right contacts.

How important to you is someone’s social media presence?

I look at people’s social media. If their Facebook is locked down then I have no opinion on that. If someone’s doing something that’s embarrassing and it’s public, that would give me pause. I don’t like someone who’s sitting and doing it all day, but I love when people are active and can incorporate it at work, because it makes sense [in PR].

Would it matter to you if someone was fired at their last job?

It depends on why they were fired, and not everyone’s honest. You can kind of tell when someone has some weird blip on their resume or they’re not giving their last boss as a reference. If it was a weird reason, like they couldn’t get along with people, that would be a major red flag. But if they got laid off because the company wasn’t bringing in the money, that would be different.

Do you have any general tips for recent grads who are looking for jobs?

One thing that’s good to do is to try and start at a slightly larger PR firm because you want someone who can train you. You want someone that has time to show you the construction of a good pitch and the theory behind it and let you learn on the job. So go somewhere that has dedicated training and can give you mentorship and do that for a year or two.

AMNY Newsletter

Eat it. Drink it. Do it. Tackle the city, with our help.