With such big names in her past like the Public Relations Society of America’s PR Journal, Burson-Marsteller, and now Fleishman-Hillard, Melanie Ensign does not need to name drop, her resume speaks for itself. This successful BU alum offers advice about how to advance in the communications world and how to make the most of what BU has to offer.
First of all, could you give me a little bit of background about yourself and tell me what brought you to BU for your masters?
I did my undergrad studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) in a broad communication discipline. It provided me with a great foundation in communications research and theory, but I wanted to better understand the business applications for public relations. The education I received at UIC has been an incredible asset to me in my career but the professional application I learned at BU was a critical introduction to the real-world industry of public relations.
I noticed that Don Wright recommended you for this Q&A. I wanted to ask you about working with him because I have him as a professor now and he seems like a great guy.
He’s my favorite person on the planet. I really enjoyed my time working with him. The other thing BU offers is professional relationships. They have connections with top firms all over the world. He is definitely a good connection to have. I graduated from BU four years ago and I still am in contact with him often. His relationship has been very valuable to me.
You guys are going into a field that is all about relationships. What I learned from Don is how to leverage those relationships. The way you approach him is not how you would approach a family member. You learn how to manage those relationships without being that person asking for favors.
That is great advice! I noticed that you worked in quite a few different types of PR, but for the past few years you have worked in technology PR. What drew you to that field?
I believe a fulfilling career in public relations requires a passion for communications and a passion for something else. I’ve been interested in technology for as long as I can remember, stemming back to my childhood when my dad taught me very basic programming for DOS.
The ever-changing landscape of technology in general provides a lot of niche areas where you can specialize and develop new skillsets. I supported clients in several areas of B2B tech, such as software development, cloud computing, and IT networking, before settling into my current position in cyber security. There is something new to learn every day in cyber security and that challenge thrills me and fuels my passion for this work.
Are there any particular projects coming up that you are especially excited about?
I’m excited about the rapid growth and development we’ve seen recently in cyber security. A lot has changed in the last 12 months and businesses are making security a boardroom priority, which makes our work in public relations that much more important. Some of the best minds in the world are addressing these challenges and I get to consult with them on a daily basis. The creativity and innovation in this field continues to amaze me.
It’s awesome that you are so excited about your job. Any future career advice for BU Com students?
I have a lot of advice! Number 1: Be open-minded. There are a lot of opportunities that you can build off of if you’re willing to try something new. Every opportunity could be valuable in exploring new things and expanding your development as a public relations professional.
There’s also an opportunity across the industry to better communicate the value of public relations education, especially when you’re coming from a spectacular program like BU’s. Overall, I believe this is still highly undervalued in our industry, but I’m starting to see a shift among my colleagues and clients in the types of strategic thinking and expertise they expect from interns and entry level hires. Industry leaders are taking note of the value public relations education brings to their organizations and this is good news for BU students. Recognizing the unique training and perspective that you bring to the table as a BU graduate is an important first step in effectively communicating your professional value. You are going to have to be more proactive in communicating how your education contributes to your understanding of public relations as a critical business function as well as your ability to think strategically about getting results for your organization.