This week, The COMmunicator was able to speak with Monique Kelley (’03), Senior Vice President of Healthcare at Weber Shandwick in Boston. Vivacious and insightful, Kelley discussed her time as a COM student, and the challenges and advantages of working in the healthcare sector, and shared advice for students and recent grads.
As part of the Boston University track team, Kelley led an active lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating. Her passion for nutrition almost led to an academic focus in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Services. However, Kelley found her way to the College of Communication through another passion: writing.
Her most memorable classes were with notable COM professors Steve Quigley and Dr. Edward Downes, both of whom are still shaping BU COM minds today. “Their classes stuck out to me because they were classes that taught you real world practice in PR,” she reminisced. These classes drove her to apply for internships in the field, and she managed to secure four public relations internships during her college career. Like so many others in this industry, she landed a job through positive relationships with colleagues. “Never underestimate the power of networking,” she urges. One month after graduating, Kelley packed her bags and headed for the world’s public relations metropolis, New York City, where she worked as the Vice President for Weber Shandwick.
Describing the thrill of working in New York City, Kelley made it clear that her PR beginnings were filled with fast-paced, cutthroat experiences. Working in agency environments allowed her to quickly move through the ranks. In the winter of 2015, she returned to Boston to take her current job as the Senior Vice President of the Health Department at Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global PR firms.
Kelley has spent the majority of her PR experience working in agencies. “I like the variety that an agency brings,” she said, though she adds that she cannot speak on in-house environments. “It keeps me fresh, it keeps me able to work on a variety of different things, and continue to have that best-practice mentality.” When consulting clients, Kelley feels more valuable providing an outside perspective.
In a public relations sector as specific and complicated as healthcare, Kelley notes that thorough understanding of the industry is the biggest challenge of her position, although healthcare jargon and addressing multiple audiences are also difficulties. “If you’re in this industry working with clients, they expect you to understand [those terms], and not just from a general perspective, but from their therapeutic category perspective,” she said. She adds that creative yet highly structured communicators are a great fit for healthcare PR roles.
Kelley loves working in the healthcare realm, and says that being knowledgeable on a subject that can significantly impact someone’s life—whether a family member, friend, colleague, or stranger—is an irreplaceable life skill. “It’s something so practical and extremely helpful,” she explains.
When asked where she sees herself in ten years and beyond, Kelley eagerly professed her dream of opening a cupcake shop. “You should be working toward the opportunity to do something fun and crazy and creative in your life,” she said. But until then, this distinguished COM alum is dedicated to giving back to emerging PR professionals. She believes the mentoring process may be more rewarding for her than for the students. “The stimulus you get at work is great, [but I] get more passion and more of an excitement through guest-lecturing, or giving informational interviews to other students.” Kelley makes herself readily available to the COM community for such mentoring.
Before the conversation ended, Monique Kelley shared one thing she wished she had known when entering the workforce: attitude is everything. Recent graduates should practice expectation management and understand that having to do some of the grunt work is commonplace in every entry-level position. She adds, “Be patient with yourself and don’t be frustrated, and eventually all of your great work will be able to be put to good use.”
Marisa Bingham, Staff Writer
Marisa Bingham is a senior in COM concentrating in public relations with a CAS minor in sociology. Marisa spent last semester frolicking the Irish countryside when she participated in the Dublin Internship Program. In her free time, Marisa can be found eating a Rhett’s bagel or in Studio East, where she plays good girl-turned-drug dealer Lauren on butv10’s soap opera, Bay State.