How COVID-19 Changed my Job: A Q&A with Eataly’s Assistant Marketing Manager Maya Vaidya (COM’17)

Working as an assistant marketing manager for Eataly Boston by day and as a media relations professor by night hadn’t always been in Maya Vaidya’s (COM’17) plans. The Florida native had started her career in politics, but during her time at COM, she fell in love with public relations and the hospitality industry. She now retraces her career steps and reflects on the effects the COVID-19  pandemic has had on her field.

Michelle Alberini: Have you always known you wanted a career in public relations, or were you just naturally drawn to strategic communication?

I have always been interested in communication. While growing up, I had so many friends who knew what they wanted to do. I have always felt a little bit lost by not knowing what I wanted my future to look like. I also didn’t know much about public relations and what a wonderful field it was until I started working for Senator Bill Nelson. I now look back and see how that one grounding passion I’ve always had was being able to communicate something artfully in a way that could’ve helped people connect. I think PR is naturally inherent in me, and I’m lucky I [found] this field.

What initially brought you to the College of Communication?

While studying at the University of Florida, I completed internships that allowed me to land a job as a staff assistant for former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. It was an amazing job; it opened my eyes to the world of government and all the possible career paths available to me. That’s when I realized I was craving a more profound knowledge of how communication worked. I decided to apply to public relations programs all around the country, and once BU’s admission letter arrived, it was a no-brainer. I already loved the city of Boston, and I was impressed by how comprehensive [the COM program] looked. I was especially drawn to PRLab’s work and to [how diverse the faculty staff was]. I knew at COM I would’ve found people that could have shown me the right path to follow or could have inspired me to build my own. It just felt right. 

What led you to your current position as assistant marketing manager at Eataly Boston?

I got my first job at Marlo Marketing as an account coordinator for the travel and hospitality team through a client I worked for in PRLab. After holding that position for about eight months, a COM professor [referred me for a position for Eataly Boston].  In 2017, I joined the team as a PR and communication associate, and after two years, I was promoted to my current position. I am now in charge of the communication, social media, and marketing side of Eataly. I like my job, but it’s very hectic work. At Eataly, we have so many different messages, stories, and goals, and being strategic is key to what I do. 

You didn’t begin your journey in the food and hospitality industry, but in politics. What attracted you to this new field?

I am a huge foodie, and when I was little my parents exposed me to different cultures and cuisines. I was never a picky eater, not even as a kid, and I’m fortunate to now have the opportunity to learn about diverse foods and cultures. It’s very thrilling being able to learn something new every day!

Are there any PR skills specific to the food and hospitality industry?

Creativity is an essential skill for PR practitioners working in hospitality. This field allows you to be a more innovative, picturesque, and inventive storyteller. There’s also more creative flexibility than in other industries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily hit the food and hospitality industry. How has your job changed? 

A major skill to have in every PR job, no matter the industry, is flexibility; the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely tested that. We had to change everything – from the way we operated to the way we functioned as a company. The highly sensitive environment we were thrown into also forced us to become more strategic and change how we communicated with our audiences. Eataly’s playful, creative, and fun voice didn’t feel appropriate for a while. We became more concise, informative, and to the point while still conveying a sense of joy and normalcy to our customers.

How has PR changed since the pandemic outbreak? How can PR students best prepare for this shift?

Now more than ever, communicators have to be conscious about who their audiences are. We had to become more vigilant and hyper-sensitive with our messages to ensure we’re not tone-deaf or disrespectful. Also, the PR field has always been about human connections, and the pandemic forced us to go back to the basics of it. After our world got shaken, we had to rebuild the trust we once had with our audiences. 

PR students can best prepare for this shift by cultivating their flexibility. We are in shaky times, and proving you can be a dependable and sound [communicator] can go a long way. Also, maintain a good sense of humor and work-life balance.  Be ready to face every day with a smile, take on challenges as they come and learn from them.

Do you have any advice for students looking to start a career as PR practitioners in the food and beverage/hospitality industry?

Do any and all internships that might be available to you in the field. Learn about the industry and understand if its 24/7 pace fits your personality. Be prepared to work hard (sometimes outside of classic business hours) and show commitment to what you do. It’s a hectic but rewarding field.

Michelle Alberini, Staff Writer

Born and raised in Reggio Emilia, Italy, a small city famous for its wine and cheese, Michelle Alberini is a first-year graduate student in the public relations program at the College of Communication. Prior to BU, Michelle received her bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from Post University. There, she first matured a passion for storytelling and strategic communication, which she’s now excited to advance through her work at The COMmunicator. In her free time, Michelle likes to read (especially Harry Potter), watch true-crime documentaries, and call her family back home.    

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