Matthew Curtis: Advice from Real World PR Experience

By: Courtney Coonrod

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For our last meeting of the semester, Matthew Curtis spoke to us about his experiences in the world of public relations and offered advice for our future careers. Matthew is currently the director of government relations for HomeAway, homes that can be rented when on vacation, moving to another house, or for whatever other reason that a temporary house is needed. Mostly elaborating on his past careers, Matthew expressed what it takes to be qualified for the PR world.

As the communication director for two mayors in Austin, Matthew had to do whatever he could to make the mayors look good in order to get clear messages out to citizens. While Mayor Leffingwell was in office, the economy was faced with a crisis: Hurricane Katrina. The relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina called for a lot of PR attention as 10,000 guests had to reside in the convention center. For instance, every convention going to the convention center had to be cancelled, public safety people needed help, and the convention center needed to be turned into a place for housing people. While there were also multiple people housed and recognized as honored guests in the heart of Austin, recruiting them for job openings became an ordeal. Because of his strong effort in creating stability for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and roles he played for the governors, Matthew received the “Austinite of the Year” award in 2011.

The PR firm Tate Austin, now recognized as Hahn Public Communications, was looking for people to help grow their business at the same time Matthew was looking to work for them. Tate Austin made it clear that they did not need talking points or press releases; they needed someone who could contribute to their firm as well as expand it. Matthew uses his experience with Tate Austin to show us that working with a PR firm is either about securing business spaces or growing them. “Having someone who can write and be innovative is good, but it is essential to have ideas of how to make a company grow and bring in more income.” Curtis said.

Matthew goes on to inform us that the role of the PR professional has expanded and it is constantly changing. The PR skills that we are learning can benefit us for other careers, such as business development, investor relations and so on. Relationship building is key because it can be beneficial when trying to meet someone or looking for a certain job. Matthew calls it relationship building rather than networking because it is all about long-term relationships, not just trying to achieve something for the short-term. “There is nothing bigger than making a campaign because that is where you make the majority of your connections.” Curtis said.

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