With over 25 years of experience in public relations, corporate communications, and marketing communications, it’s safe to say that Cheryl Gale has found her calling. While the communications sector wasn’t always where Gale thought she would land, her experience has not only led her to start her own agency, March Communications, but also allowed her the ability to mentor the next generation of communications professionals.
Christopher Kattak: What do you do at March Communications? What is your role?
Cheryl Gale: March Communications is technically my agency. I founded it 16 years ago with my partner, Martin Jones. Martin is the CEO, I am the President, and we are both the co-founders. Being President means that I oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency. I oversee client services, new business, human resources, and just general running of the agency. It’s a lot of work, but I have a fantastic team that supports me, and it’s something that I’ve been doing for 15 years – although that’s evolved. When we first started, we were an agency of three people, and now we’re an agency of 30 with two offices. There are a lot of differences in running an agency that’s much smaller compared to an agency that’s smaller to mid-sized.
What is your role at Boston University? What classes do you teach?
I’m currently an adjunct professor. I teach media relations, which is a master’s level course. My relationship with BU goes back a few years to when I started to do some guest lecture speaking with Amy Shanler. I expressed interest in doing more guest lectures, and then at some point, I was pretty keen to see if being an adjunct was something that would work for me. Amy came to me over the summer and suggested that I think about it more, and then she told me that there might be an opening at BU. I knew at this point I could only teach one course. Even just teaching this one course has been taxing on my time, between running an agency and teaching, but I love it.
I find teaching incredibly fulfilling, but also challenging because it’s so different from what I do in my day to day. I’ve also had to think differently, use different technology, and have different types of conversations. It’s interesting for someone like me, who’s been doing pretty much the same thing for 30 years in their career, to be challenged with something like this. I love it, and I think everyone should challenge themselves like that all the time.
Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
I went to Northeastern University. In my junior year of high school, I took an accounting course, and I think I may have done okay in it. Then I also took a summer job right before my senior year working for my dad. [I was] doing accounts payable and accounts receivable, and I thought ‘I’ll be an accounting major.’ And I was, for two years, and I was miserable. I thank the opportunity that I had through Northeastern to be in a co-op for changing my major, because I did two co-ops. Both during tax season. It was awful, and everyone I worked with said, ‘this is so not you, your personality, or anything.’
I think it was the beginning of my sophomore year at Northeastern, I took an elective communications course, communication theory, and I loved it. The professor who taught it said, ‘You should be in the communications school. This is so you. I think this is what you were meant to do.’ Not only did she help me change course and go into the communications school, but she also helped me secure my first internship at the Weber Group, which is known today as Weber Shandwick.
What were some of your past jobs?
I started with Weber in 1992, right out of Northeastern. In 1995, they were opening up an office in London, and they had a VP going to open up the office, but they needed someone more junior to go there and do the work. I went to London, and I worked for Weber in London for almost two years. Then I was recruited to set up the tech division at Band and Brown, another PR agency in London. They ended up giving us the startup capital so that we could launch March Communications here in the U.S. in exchange for a percentage of ownership in the agency. We bought them out completely a couple of years later so that we had 100% ownership because we wanted to give ownership to our employees.
What led you where you are today?
My professor at Northeastern telling me that she thought I would do really well in broadcast [helped lead me here]. She said she could see me as someone who would either work in a radio or TV station and perhaps even someone who’s on air. That led me to really dive into what a communications degree would look like, and then what a communications career would look like. And then getting that internship at Weber really allowed me to hone in on PR in particular.
Setting up my own agency came from a personal need to find a way to have flexibility as a woman in my career that did not exist back then. That flexibility did not exist in an agency. You needed to be able to work 50 to 60 hours a week and take care of your family. I saw how hard and exhausting it was, and I thought, ‘I want to move back to the States, set up my own agency, make my own rules, and be able to have the flexibility as a mom so that I can be there for my children.’ I set up March with that in mind. That’s always been the real basic foundation at March, to give everyone that flexibility, but especially women.
What advice do you have for students pursuing careers in PR?
I feel very strongly about at least interviewing at agencies and seeing if it could be for you. It’s very difficult to transition from in-house to agency, depending on the role that you had in-house. Do as many informational meetings and interviews as you can. It’s so helpful to just learn from other people and make connections.
Second, think about how you want to be treated. Early in your career, think about the type of employee, boss, and mentor that you want to be, and just live by that. I think having empathy is incredibly important, and treating everybody with compassion and kindness no matter what.
Christopher Kattak, Staff Writer
Originally from New Jersey, Christopher Kattak is a first-year master’s student studying public relations at Boston University. Before attending BU, Christopher received his Bachelor of Arts in communication from Sacred Heart University, where he gained corporate communication experience. Christopher began playing ice hockey when he was four years old and continues to have a passion for the sport. Christopher is excited to be a writer for The COMunicator.