😃Today I woke up with a smile on my face simply because it's a new day, new week, new opportunities and of course a new blog post. Today I got the opportunity to interview the one and only Paula Gruben, the senior PR writer from Meropa Communications. I must really say that I am very pleased and motivated by her career story.
1. Explain what your career field entails.
I am a corporate storyteller; a specialist writer working in the public relations industry. I use the power of plain language to help increase a brand or business’s profile and visibility and communicate their value and purpose to all stakeholders. Without industry jargon and sloganeering, I help to establish company leaders as thought leaders, or companies as leaders in their industry; showcasing the brand’s heritage, the business’s expertise, and the legacy they want to leave.
Sharing authentic, engaging stories about how a company has impacted the lives of staff, customers, communities, and society at large is an incredibly effective way to garner positive public sentiment, and build trust. Corporate storytelling runs the gamut from social media posts and press releases, to editorials (profile feature articles, thought leadership, op-eds), advertorials, blog posts, web copy, brochures, newsletters, company magazines, executive biographies, keynote speeches, presentations, as well as internal communications. No two days are the same. No two clients are the same.
2. How did you get to where you are career-wise? What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
I didn’t start my writing career in the PR industry. I actually cut my teeth on magazine feature writing and newspaper journalism. Prior to that, I worked for two of South Africa’s biggest media companies in research and marketing. I also started and ran a successful blog for several years (before being a blogger or social influencer was even a thing!). And I self-published my first book, for which I did all my own production (copy editing, cover design, interior layout and design, proofreading, ebook conversion, printing, and distribution), as well as marketing and PR (website design, social media, media interviews, and speaking engagements). So, by the time I entered PR, I had a really good understanding of the machinations of the industry and was able to apply all of the knowledge and skills I had acquired over the years to my current role, either directly or indirectly.
Making the transition from feature writing and journalism to ghostwriting in the PR space was a little challenging, I won’t lie. Seeing a CEO or MD or some another senior executive’s byline on a piece you have conceptualised and researched and written and watching them take full credit for what is essentially your words and ideas can be tough! But that’s the nature of the PR writing beast. You have to be prepared to check your ego at the door in order to let your client shine. That is what they’re paying you for after all.
Also, seeing a piece you spent hours, days, sometimes weeks crafting get shelved, or achieve less coverage than you had expected, can be pretty demotivating. But you’ve just got to keep on keeping on. I’ve learned that nothing is ever a waste of time. You can always revisit and repurpose that material at some point down the line.
3. How would you advise someone interested in your choice of career?
Being a corporate storyteller is a specialised field of writing. It goes without saying you need to be a highly competent and versatile wordsmith; creative, detail-oriented, and deadline-driven, with strong copy editing, proofreading, and desk and field research skills. In my opinion, a lot of this stuff cannot be taught. It has to be learned. Which basically entails months and years of on-the-job practice. Honing your craft one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time.
I think the beauty of writing as a career is that it doesn’t have an expiry date and, like a fine wine, your writing only improves with time. English as a lingua franca means that quality writing is an internationally sought-after skill, especially for clients with a global presence. And thanks to technology, more and more companies are offering remote (work from home) opportunities for full-time, salaried writers.
If you are a professional writer, you need to have a centralised web presence, somewhere for you to build your online portfolio and showcase your growing expertise. My website (www.paulagruben.com) is the nucleus of my personal brand. Like I said, I created it from scratch when I published my book, and now the Writer page (also the landing page) serves as my online portfolio. If you don’t have your own website, there are several portfolio platforms, specifically for writers, from which to choose. You could also create a portfolio (business) page on Facebook, or a publicly accessible portfolio board on Pinterest.
You can follow Paula on Social media: