Julie Wohlberg: Director of Communications for Fotolia, LLC

Former film and music writer Julie Wohlberg commuted from Pennsylvania to Manhattan several times each week to complete her film and album reviews, celebrity profiles, and concert reports. These days, she works out of her home for two Web 2.0 technology companies as Director of Communications for Fotolia, LLC.

Her daily routine—if there is such a thing—involves managing everything from public-relations outreach to promotional events within the company, writing press releases, building press lists, working on business development, and developing professional partnerships.

Wohlberg was a journalist for six years, and during the course of her career, she got to know a lot of publicists working "on the other side" with whom she communicated to get information for the stories she wrote. So how did she make the transition?

"I spoke with them a little bit about their job, and it seemed like a very similar enterprise," said Wohlberg. "It involved a lot of writing, a lot of creativity, and it was a good opportunity to take the passion that I had for writing and sort of make it into a more stable job instead of working nights and weekends all the time."

While PR offered a stable job and steadier income, it was still very closely tied to Wohlberg's journalism roots.

"I started out in PR working for a firm in Manhattan. I actually live in Pennsylvania, so I was commuting about two hours each way each day, and it got to be a pretty long run. My commute would be up to six to eight hours a day, so I would end up working an extra full day just sitting on a bus not really working. I made the decision that I was going to resign from that position and look for other opportunities. The gentleman who is my current employer was a former client of the firm, and when he found out I was leaving, he suggested that I join him and come on board to work for him full-time," she explained.

One of the unique benefits of her position at Fotolia is the opportunity she has to work with people from all over the world.

"I've learned a lot about foreign cultures working for an international company," said Wohlberg. "You learn a lot about how things work in the United States and what's appropriate for press outreach. As soon as you start reaching out to reporters in different countries, you find out that there are certain things that are acceptable in the United States that are not acceptable in other countries. It has been a very interesting cultural experience; I've learned quite a bit from my coworkers and colleagues about foreign cultures."

"For example, whenever I do press outreach in the United States, I was always told that it's best if you are addressing someone for the first time—especially by email—you refer to them by their first name," she continued. "It's more personal; people tend to pick up on [it] when they see their first name in an email. Their eye goes instantly to that word, and it makes them read on a little more. I found out that that is very inappropriate in European cultures—luckily before I actually sent out any emails! In European cultures, you must address somebody formally. You cannot address them by their first name until they give you permission to do so."

"I also found out that [with] unsolicited emails—in Germany, in particular, and several other countries in Europe—the spam laws come into play, and you have to be very careful about what unsolicited email you send to people because you could be fined very heavily. Even an email to reporters is considered spam, and spamming is a serious crime in Europe," Wohlberg added.

Ultimate responsibility is one of the challenges Wohlberg said she faces in her position.

"When you reach the senior level, there is nobody else that you can turn to; if there's a problem, you're the person who has to fix it," she said. "There's no going to the VP of the company or the president of the company and saying, 'I need help with this' or 'Can you show me how to do this?'—particularly working with a Web 2.0 company."

Wohlberg said that when she first accepted her current position, everyone she knew told her how lucky she was to be working from home. However, the challenge of managing a home office may not be for everyone.

"Working from home is a big challenge for anybody. Unless you treat it very carefully, which I have made a very big effort to do, you tend to fall into this [trap of] rolling out of bed before you're supposed to be on the computer and walking around in pajamas all day. I had several courses with very good journalism professors who taught us about that with respect to freelance writing—you never put a computer in the same room where you have a bed, you never put a television in your office. You have to have a separate work space," said Wohlberg.

Above-average time-management skills are imperative when you are working from home, she added. "You get up in the morning and shower and get ready as if you were leaving to go to an office. It's very tempting when you're at homevif you have some housework that has to get done—it's very tempting to step away from your computer. Make a very conscientious effort to treat this as if you were being paid hourly, whether you're salaried or not. Respect the fact that there are eight hours in the workday."

Working for an international company means dealing with people who are about to log off for the day when you are just logging on.

Q. What do you like to do for fun?
A. Attending films—anything with Johnny Depp. It depends what sort of mood I'm in. A good drama is always good; intellectual comedy is also something I would consider—not so much the slapstick comedy. I have an interest in photography. My father brought me into a passion for photography at a very young age...he always taught me to carry a camera with me and, whenever possible, take as many pictures as you can. It's lucky that I work for a photography-related website. Writing is also another passion, and luckily, I am able to incorporate that into my work, as well. I have an English springer spaniel who is my spoiled little baby. I spend time with family and friends doing as many things as possible.
Q. What CD was most recently in your CD player?
A. The Beatles' White Album.
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. LIFE magazine—"70 Years of Extraordinary Photography."
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. Grey's Anatomy right now, but it kind of varies by season.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. My mother and my father, of course, always taught me to do things the right way. They've always led by example, and they've always certainly been there for me.

"You find yourself keeping unusual hours," said Wohlberg. "There have been times when I have been doing campaigns with people from Australia or New Zealand, so I've been on the computer at midnight [or] 1:00 in the morning dealing with questions and answers over the phone and over email. There's no representative in Australia; if I'm not available to do it, nobody will be able to."

An additional asset that Wohlberg possesses is her fluency in Spanish. "I'm half Cuban, so that's a language I learned the same time as English. Otherwise, I speak a little bit of broken French and a little bit of broken German but nothing where I would be able to hold a conversation with somebody who really had a hard time with English," said Wohlberg.

"I've been very fortunate. Most of the people I've worked with speak English, but I have had a few clients who have had some questions and there has been a little bit of a struggle to translate. Luckily, I have some pretty good text translators that I have been able to depend on if there is an email that comes in that I need to translate. Most of the people that I work with and that I've dealt with speak enough English where I don't have a problem communicating with them."

One piece of advice that Wohlberg offers to anyone learning the ropes in public relations is to take the time to speak to someone who has been in journalism and find out what his or her world is all about.

"When you work on the other side of the coin, you know what works and what doesn't work in public relations," said Wohlberg. "I've received more press releases than I can count and could tell you which ones caught my attention and why, from the little chochkies that people send out to the big press packages with the CDs with the images. You sort of get an idea of what caught your attention and why."

Furthermore, asking someone with a journalism background for advice can provide you with firsthand lessons in how to deal with journalists. "I can't tell you how many times I had a publicist say, 'Oh, I'll get this to you in 20 minutes,' knowing that you're on deadline and waiting for an image or a quote for a story, and they never get back to you," said Wohlberg. "Then it's your job to explain to your editor, 'Well, I was waiting for the publicist.' It becomes your problem. You learn to keep your word and be respectful of deadlines [and] mindful of when people are on deadlines; you don't bother them on the phone," she continued.

"I think it takes a certain personality to be successful in public relations," said Wohlberg. "You certainly have to be outgoing and not afraid to try things. I actually worked with some people when they first started out in public relations [who] were very shy about getting on the phone with reporters; that was one of the things that they were really nervous about."

"People don't like doing the dialing and having people tell them that they're busy or snap at them or hang up on them. You certainly have to have a thick skin because you're dealing with reporters who are on deadline. Sometimes they will hang up the phone on you or tell you they're not interested or tell you that it's not a good time and remind you that they told you that before. You certainly have to be able to brush it off and keep going."
On the net:Fotolia, LLC

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