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Ryal Curtis: Account Executive for MMI Associates, Inc., in Raleigh, NC

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For Ryal Curtis, public relations seemed like the perfect platform from which to express his passion for interacting with people on a daily basis and thriving on demands for accountability in important situations. It didn't hurt that a number of his relatives had established successful careers in the industry. His aunt runs her own PR firm in Lansing, Michigan, called The Rossman Group.

Curtis is an account executive for MMI Associates, Inc., a full-service marketing and public relations firm located in Raleigh, North Carolina. He juggles 12 different accounts, and his clients range from a bank, a law firm, and a golf course to an architectural firm, a telecom company, and a professional real estate firm.

"As an account executive, I am responsible for a wide range of duties, including developing and implementing public relations campaigns, planning events, pitching stories to local, national, and international media, as well as coordinating media relations. In truth, if it involves my client, I am probably involved in one way or another," said Curtis.

"I am, without a doubt, a writer turned PR professional," said Curtis. "After graduating with an English degree from Michigan State University, I found myself at the traditional English-major crossroads: teacher, journalist, or 'other.' It was after choosing 'other' that my options opened up to a career in public relations. I did my research not only on what I excelled at and what opportunities matched that set of skills but also who I was and what type of life I really wanted. No matter how you shape it, PR is a lifestyle."

After completing an internship at a marketing firm in Raleigh, Curtis made it a point to visit as many firms as possible. In speaking with everyone from CEOs to HR representatives, he was able to get a firm grip on the culture and goals of each organization. At the end of the day, MMI had the most to offer in terms of growth—both for him as a professional and for the organization as a whole.

"The pace of public relations is unlike anything I have ever experienced," said Curtis. "Your ability to download and comprehend vital information is key to becoming successful in PR. More important, though, is your ability to translate that information into a successful PR strategy for the client, who, at the end of the day, is always your primary concern."

"I also have the opportunity to work among the most amazing team of PR professionals. Each of us brings such a unique personality to the office, unalike in countless ways. However, we all share one goal: the quality of our work. If that goes well, so too does the quality of our company."

For Curtis, the daily challenges, while difficult, are what make the industry so enjoyable.

"Truth be told, if you do not handle stress, difficult personalities, or deadlines very well, you probably are not fit for a professional career in public relations," said Curtis.

Some of the emotional highlights of his career to date have been placing articles in outlets such as The New York Times, MORE magazine, and Inc. magazine, preparing award-winning nomination letters, and coordinating numerous successful events for clients.

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. Music, traveling, writing, reading, and staying active.
Q. What CD was most recently in your CD player?
A. Dave Matthews Band, Live at Fenway Park.
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. Rolling Stone.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. Toss up between LOST, Sports Center, and Entourage.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. My parents.

According to Curtis, understanding the media remains the largest issue facing the profession today. This involves not only understanding its beats, trends, and audiences but also the way it likes to be fed.

"Too often, PR professionals pick up the phone and pitch blindfolded, unaware of a reporter's personal style. You cannot overstate the importance of first impressions in this industry. One unprepared pitch could permanently cost you an essential media relationship," said Curtis.

Over the course of his career, Curtis has seen many established PR firms endanger themselves in attempts to appear larger on the outside and completely qualified on the inside.

Curtis explained, "Too often, we see firms in our industry attempting to expand almost overnight, offering a full gamut of 'expert' services. For example, in 2006, a company would be an industry-leading public relations firm, and only a year later, that very same firm would now claim to represent an industry-leading public relations firm and marketing firm and advertising firm and website-design firm, and, well, you see the picture."

"Expanding your expertise does not happen overnight, let alone [in] a single calendar year. Until fully capable, firms should embrace their single great service instead of grabbing onto a claim for a number of simply good services."

When asked if he would do anything differently if he could "do it all over again," Curtis said that he would not worry so much while working his way through the job search.

"It is almost a rite-of-passage to claw your way to the top and find a job you love. Looking back, though, the experience undoubtedly made me stronger and more appreciative of my current situation," he said.

His advice for those eyeing careers in public relations is to embrace the journey of learning things they do not yet know or understand.

"PR is an education that is best taught in boardrooms and meetings rather than classrooms or books. That is not to say that education cannot play a vital role in providing the fundamental tools needed to succeed in PR. However, you will need the street smarts to truly succeed in this industry," said Curtis.
On the net:MMI Associates, Inc.

Raleigh, NC,_North_Carolina

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