VocaLady Magazine came across Her Communications Network via tumblr and was pleased to see how closely its mission aligned with our own. According to the HCN website, they are “a first-of-its-kind multi-platform network that bridges the gap between interest and entry-level communications for young women. We serve as a professional catalyst for the ambitious woman who aspires to be a communications professional and is open to public relations, journalism, media relations, social media professionals hopefuls, alike.” Such a network would be absolutely beneficial to all professional women, particularly those involved in communications, such as our readers.
We reached out to the HCN’s founder, Danyelle Carter, for an interview:
Danyelle Carter is a senior at Spelman College, an all-women’s historically Black college in Atlanta, GA. She was born in Freeport, Bahamas, but has lived in Miami, Florida most of her life. She is a rising political strategist and advocate for women and girls, working on projects, campaigns, and initiatives that center on empowerment and issues that affect women and girls. This past summer she interned as a corporate communications and public relations intern at Univision Communications Inc., the no.1 media company serving Hispanic America.
Why did you decide to start Her Communications Network?
Out of love for the communications industry, but mostly frustration, I attend an institution that doesn’t offer communications, which I knew, but I chose the school because it has an amazing Women’s Research and Resource center. The faculty and staff of the Center has been the center of my success and my cheerleader. One day, I thought to myself—it would be so nice to have this in my professional life someday, and so my dream was to build a network for girls and women to not only share scholarship and internship opportunities, but a hub of other girls cheering one another on while navigating their way into a fast-pace and ever-evolving industry.
I remember reaching out to people I looked up to, alumnae and others who graciously gave me their business card and said I could call on them for anything. Well, I did, many times and to be honest, it was disheartening when no one ever responded to my emails and voicemails. After awhile, I realized that in PR, we’re super busy professionals, and before you know it—the press release you had to write gets lost and you begin to work harder on your work and building relationships with true mentors. I decided to build a network where girls confided in one another about their frustrations, sought help with building a media credential guide or helped one another with the completion of her media tracker. All of these instances were real, I’ve tracked changes, had phone calls with girls on making the most at a PRSSA conference. I love being able to reach back as I climb—to pull another girl up, to cheer her on.
What are some goals from HCN’s mission?
Our mission is to be a super-cheerleader to all women aspiring to enter communications, journalism and industries alike. I want to uplift young women when they have doubts about first entry-level job, advise them when dealing with a tough assignment and encourage them. What’s better than 500 girls with virtual pom-poms writing in all caps and a dozen exclamation points how you’re F-I-E-R-C-E, Fierce and can achieve anything at hand.
Tell us your experiences with starting up the network. What have been the challenges and rewards?
The biggest challenge was finding people to help edit the context for the website, and going the journey alone. There were days I fought with myself because I would feel like this network wasn’t needed, but then decided that if I built it, members would come, and they did. Slowly our numbers began to climb, and every time it reached another 500, my insecurities faded. The rewards are those we cheer on, them telling us that they successfully set up their website, went after and internship and got it, and the best—landing their first entry level PR job. That’s when we’re summersaulting and cartwheeling in out GroupMe over one another. The win for them—that’s the best reward.
Tell us why you think PR is important and why you think it’s important to encourage young women in that field?
I think it’s important to encourage women in any field, but sometimes I feel like people don’t take PR seriously so they don’t take the time out to ask “Hey, I know you didn’t receive any hits on your last press release, and that can feel heavy—is there anything you want to talk about? Maybe write out some new strategies and tactics?” I want young women to know that it doesn’t mean you didn’t put in the work, but that sometimes we don’t get the hits we want. In PR/Comms we put in so much work–we get up early and don’t sleep. Our entire profession is built on shining light on companies, brands and projects, so sometimes it’s nice to have shined on us. PR/Comms can be a thankless job, but with HCN, young women are reminded that they are needed and appreciated.
What do you think is one of the biggest challenges faced by young professional women today?
Our reputation because of other people who perform some of our tactics and brand themselves as publicists. For example, I had an individual hand me her business card and it said publicist, but when we talked about her experiences, she told me that she passed out 500 fliers once and hosted an event. I was floored because she had no idea what a media kit or boilerplate was but had identified herself as a publicist. This discredits PR professionals and the industry. Passing out fliers and hosting an event can be seen as a tactic, but not as an indicator of a publicist. It’s shaping messages; it’s connecting with media, and garnering coverage for example. With HCN, that’s why we encourage building a portfolio and showing work samples of what you’ve written to help distinguish that communications is a full-time job that requires communication, research, and writing skills at the minimum.
What’s some advice you have for young women seeking a career in PR?
- Interest/hopefuls: Be willing to learn as fast as possible through books, apps and practice.
- Beginners: Be willing to take accountability for when you make mistakes and apologize for them.
- Entry-level: Don’t expect corporations to give you thing—and learn the traditional ways of doing things, but also show the company you’re not disposable by showing them new ways to do things.
Tell us how your network helps (or plans to help) women in PR.
Right now, we’re an online platform and provide the best resources from experts on how to make it in communications, public relations and journalism. In the next year, we plan to have monthly interactive boot camps that not only hands out a list of resources, but have them practice calling reporters, elevator pitches and handling a crisis.
Where do you hope to see yourself and HCN in 5 years?
In five years, I hope to be watching the girls I cheered on receive national and international awards from PRSA and PR Week. I hope to get emails from them telling me to share internship opportunities from their companies. I want HCN to be the best pipeline for young women entering communications.
Anything else to add?
We’re seeking executive board members and those interested in sustaining and reshaping the organization to take it to the next level should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on social media, @HerCommNetwork.