Q&A with COM Alum and MSL Chief of Staff Sam Howe

Sam Howe is a Boston University College of Communication alumnus, who currently serves as Chief of Staff of MSL Boston’s senior leadership team and leads its new business-development program. In this role, he provides strategic communication and talent management counsel across the agency’s North American network to current and prospective clients in aviation, healthcare, professional services, and technology sectors.

Here, he tells us about his time at COM, his path to his current role, and more about his career.

Paige Hill: How would you describe your experience at COM?

Sam Howe: There was a lot of flexibility and it was really, really practical. I found that how COM was structured allowed me to have internships pretty much every year. I had an internship at FleishmanHillard in my junior year and got hired from that, so I had a job after I graduated.  We were given tactical guidance in class so we could go out and test what we were being taught.

How lucky was I to have great mentors in COM, like Professor Downes, Professor Quigley, [and] Professor Supa?

I felt that I had all of these people in my corner–professors who had real-world experience.  

PH: That’s great. What would you say was the most influential aspect of your BU experience?

SH: Definitely the quality of faculty! Just the idea that everything we learned and the resources available were so focused on what to know and do to get a job.

PH: Can you talk about your career up to this point?

SH: So, I had three pivotal internships while I was at BU. These internships were like an introduction to what public relations really was. I loved the idea that behind the headlines, there’s this whole community that’s really behind it all. It made me look at what I consumed differently and made me want to be on the inside.

My internship at FleishmanHillard was my big shot. It was what I really wanted to do. From the internship into when I got extended employment to be hired full time, I was working in tech, with brands like AT&T, Visa, and JetBlue. It was a lot of media relations, corporate reputation management, and some social management. I was completing [the] final stages of [my] education while already in the world.

Now at MSL, I manage new-business development, as well as U.S. crisis and issues. I work with aviation, professional services, and technology. It’s a mix of operations and client side.

PH: What would you say are the most surprising aspects of a PR career?

SH: The most surprising aspect is that the truth has stayed the same, no matter how complicated tactics have become. There has been a merging of disciplines, but clients don’t really care about the division. They just want to solve the problem. Especially as things get faster, there’s no substitute for authentic relationships. At the end of day, the best story always wins.

PH: That’s definitely true. Can you describe what your day to day looks like as a PR professional?  

SH: There really is no typical day to day. But I always set aside an hour for project management, either the morning or the night before. This hour is integral for me to get centered, [to] figure out my priorities and how to schedule out my day.

I have lots of travel because nothing replaces face-to-face meetings and conversations. A good PR person is always going to have to be comfortable with face-to-face interactions.

Every day has a lot of brainstorms and meetings—tons of emails! It is nonstop, but the details are what change every day.

PH: Great. One last question: What do you wish you had known about PR careers/the “real world” before graduating, and what advice do you have for students?

SH: Simplify it. Simplify the process, because there is no substitute for really good work.

At the end of the day, there are so many things to worry about with jobs. Even once you’ve secured the job, then you start to worry, “Are people going to like me?”

My advice is: Don’t consider fears. Be fearless. Focus on the work, and always put in your best effort, whether the work is simple or challenging. Everything associated with you should be your best work, and you should be proud of it. As you master simple assignments, you will be given more complex assignments. Don’t get caught up in the noise. Everything, and every job, has pros and cons to it.

Another piece of advice is to be very careful and very deliberate in picking your spot to share your opinion. Give yourself a really early voice. Don’t be afraid to share what you think, but be very careful in how you go about sharing your ideas. And once you share your idea, have the courage to stand by it.

 

 

Paige Hill, Staff Writer

Paige Hill is a sophomore in the College of Communication studying public relations with a minor in political science. She loves working in the Community Service Center and tutoring at the Intergenerational Literacy Program in Chelsea. Ultimately, Paige hopes to combine her passions for education and communications to pursue a career in nonprofit PR.

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