Professional Interview-Brandi Wigley

April 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm (Assignments) (, , , )

I’m fortunate enough to be interning at a place with so many talented individuals I thought I might try doing a series of sit-down interviews with the marketing team at the Atlanta History Center because of the diversity of their PR education, personal background and internship experience.

To start the series I have decided to first interview my boss Brandi Wigley. Mrs. Wigley is the Community Initiatives Manager with the Atlanta History Center and Margaret Mitchell House.

The opportunity to sit down with my boss never arose until this assignment was presented. I’m glad that I was able to talk with her more about the different ways I see her perform her job. Here are some questions Brandi answered during our chat:

What’s a typical week like?

No week is ever typical for me, which I love.  I have never been one to like a monotonous schedule.

Last week I setup meetings with several different hotels in the area.  I met with some last week and will meet with others this week.  These meetings served and introductions to their staff to the offerings we have on our campus.  I also wanted to build relationships with them so that we are on the forefront on their minds when visitors come and stay with them.

I serve as the main link to the “outside world” for the AHC and MMH – building relationships and working as a facilitator.   Most partnerships are waged by me.  These partnerships can include hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, travel organizations, and other cultural institutions in the area.

I am the main contact for festivals and community events.  Last week I secured a sponsorship for the Decatur Book Festival.  I have to logistically plan for any presence we might have there. 

Last week I also received the contract for the Midtown Festival of the Arts – which we are also a sponsor.  I have begun coordinating with all of the departments for logistical priorities that will take place during the festival including planning the Children’s Literary Component of the Festival, Free Admission for all attendees, Docents that will lead the tours, planning for the Cultural Arts Kids Section of the festival, Security, and Special Events.  A ton goes into the planning for these types of events.  It is my job to make sure that the event goes smoothly.

Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.

There are two projects that I would like to highlight.

One being “Atlanta’s Gone with the Wind Tour.”  This tour has been me and my partners’ “baby.”  We have been working on the planning process of this tour since conception.  The tour allows groups to purchase a packaged tour which includes tickets to Road to Tara Museum, Stately Oaks Plantation, Gone With the Wind City tour of Jonesboro, Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta History Center, Atlanta Cyclorama and Mary Mac’s Tea Room.  This tour is the largest Gone With the Wind tour that has ever been put together.  It has required a lot of planning with the other organizations, and a ton of promotion.  We have gotten International attention and the State has been very supportive of this endeavor – helping us to spread the word about the tour.  We just know that it is going to be a huge success in the group tour market.

The second one I would like to highlight is one that is currently going on.  I have worked closely with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Atlanta to do a huge promotion, reaching out to ALL locations in Atlanta. It’s in conjunction with our new exhibition, Let Your Motto Be RESISTANCE: African American Portraits. 

I have worked with all of the clubs to get them “activity sheets” which encourages the kids to draw a picture of themselves and write “their motto for life.”  All entries will receive “One free child’s admission” and the winner of the contest will receive a free summer camp at the Atlanta History Center as well as a family membership. 

It’s exciting to get the kids involved and give them a chance to experience the exhibits in a different way. 

What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?

I read blogs, attend industry meetings – and ask my interns what they are learning in classes.

What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?

I wish I would have known more about the importance of networking.  If I had known how far networking would take me, I would have begun collecting business cards in college.

How important is writing in your career?

EXTREMELY important.  Knowing how to write (and write well) makes such a difference in my career. From media to relationship building, writing is the main link that tells people what you have to offer.

What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?

  1. Every organization is different.  Don’t be set in your ways.  Learn how the organization works and then be flexible.
  2. NETWORK as much as possible
  3. Its okay not to know everything.  Ask questions.

Did your education prepare you for working in PR? How?

Yes, very much so I would say.  My education taught me how to build mutually beneficial relationships.  It taught me the importance of a company’s reputation.  It taught me how to interact with media… and as much as I hated doing them – media contact lists have served me well. 

A great deal of my role here at the Atlanta History Center has to do with relationship building and presence in the community – from public speaking, PR Writing, PUBS, to event management… all of these classes have served me well.

You started your career in hotels, how did you make the switch to non-profits especially museums?

If you had asked me high school or college if I thought I would ever work in a museum, specifically a history museum – I probably would have laughed at you… and so would my teachers.

I actually did my internship with the Cobb County Convention and Visitors Bureau and immediately I knew that I liked the travel and tourism industry.  I was lucky enough to land a job at a local hotel as Director of Sales.

While I was there, I learned even more about the tourism industry.  I became involved with the Regional Tourism Association, the Atlanta Metro Travel Association (AMTA) and began networking with other tourism organizations.  I met my future colleague with the Atlanta History Center, Sean at one of the networking events and the rest is history (pun intended).

What are the similarities and differences of community initiatives and public relations?

Public Relations is all about building mutually beneficial relationships while maintaining the reputation of the organization through communication.  This is exactly what I do. 

What are some things that you wish people knew or understood about community initiatives or public relations?

Many people don’t understand what I do as Community Initiatives Manager.  They think I push flyers or just attend festivals.  While I do distribute collateral and do attend festivals, I also wear many other hats – I promote every department, serving as a sort of “walking talking billboard” for the History Center.  I am involved with special events, education, historic houses… It requires me to think in broader terms.  I have TONS going on at all times.  Our department has several different “plates spinning in the air” at once. 

This isn’t a job that I am ever going to become rich off of, but its definitely rewarding.

Brandi Wigley and Miss Piggy from the exhibit Jim Henson's Fantastic World


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