Meet Rachel Faulkner, Director of Public Relations at Genesys
Job Title: Director of Public Relations
Degree Path: Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication (with specialization in public relations)
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
Current City: Indianapolis, IN
What led you to your getting into tech and this occupation? What was your first job in tech?
I always loved writing. Naturally, I thought journalism was a natural fit for me. During the summer before my freshman year of college, I was lucky enough to have my first internship with the Indianapolis Business Journal. It was an incredible opportunity at such an early point in my education, which left me with a very important lesson: the newsroom wasn’t for me. However, I recognized I still loved the industry, which is how I found public relations. It was the next obvious career choice for me because it allows you to apply skills like writing, communicating and strategic thinking to many different situations and for many kinds of industry’s and initiatives. My first taste in tech was while working with a local PR agency about five years after college, where I managed accounts for a few tech customers. These were some of my favorite customers for reasons I didn’t quite understand yet, and it would be some time before I made the tech sector my home.
What has been your career path so far?
My career path has been marked with experiences across diverse sectors, such as politics, associations, nonprofits, community development, biopharma and technology. The bulk of my experiences have been leading communications and marketing efforts in-house for small to mid-sized organizations based in Indiana. In addition to my stint at a PR agency, I also worked as an independent consultant for nearly 4 years when I needed more flexibility in my life to care for my young son. I was recruited to the tech sector for a full-time role nearly three years ago when I was hired to support North American PR for Interactive Intelligence. Approximately six months later, Interactive Intelligence was acquired by San Francisco Bay area-based Genesys, which is where I remain. Today, I lead global PR for Genesys, a 5,000+ person company with 50 offices and 11,000 customers around the world.
When you think of a day in your life, what are the main work activities you do or responsibilities you have?
My team sets the strategic brand positioning and messaging corporate initiatives, campaigns and media opportunities. I manage PR agencies in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific; and lead the development of all corporate communications assets, such as press release, articles, executive communications and media responses.
Our days are very fast-paced, and priorities are constantly shifting. The bulk of my time is spent interfacing with our PR agencies, writing/editing and coordinating media opportunities. I also liaise regularly with subject matter experts about technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics to name a few. We also lead research initiatives for media relations projects.
Help us picture your work environment.
Genesys is flexible and modern. There are open collaboration areas, workstations and private working spaces. Since I spend so much time writing and on video conferences with colleagues all over the world, the bulk of my working time is lived in my office at my desk. I also work from home a couple times a week on average with my two dogs lounging at my feet when I need to have my head down and stay focused.
What do you love about the work you do?
I value the culture of the tech industry as a whole, including Genesys. It’s full of people with brilliant and creative minds who work hard, but don’t take things too seriously. We have busy times like any other company, but employees are given the flexibility and encouragement to find the balance that works for them. I love that I am encouraged to keep growing in my craft and pushing for a higher degree of excellence for our department. As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about their local community throughout their career, I find it incredibly interesting to broaden my point of view with the global perspective by leading international PR, working with people from every background you can imagine and even traveling to a few different countries this year for business.
Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy this occupation?
First, baseline skills for PR include being a great writer, a strategic thinker, an avid reader of news and a natural at connecting with people. You need to be a curious, flexible, tolerant of change, open to always learning and improving your skills. In tech PR, I also find you should be a passionate consumer of technology – it makes you more convincing as a writer.
Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for a person in your job to be proficient in?
You need to be a fantastic writer and communicator.
From a day to day operational perspective, you must know the Microsoft Office Suite, our media monitoring tool (Trendkite), press release distribution system (PR Newswire) and our website CMS (WordPress).
In tech PR specifically, you should have a basic understanding of things like the cloud, data privacy, chatbots, customer experience platforms, artificial intelligence, workforce management and engagement, analytics, natural language understanding and host of other technical topics that frequently come into play.
Which soft skills (aka general business skills or employability skills) are particularly important for a person in this occupation to be proficient in?
Time management, multi-tasking, collaboration, adaptability, great attention to detail, desire of self-improvement, driver of activities, aggressive
From your experience with new grads applying for and beginning jobs in this occupation, are they missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back? Please describe.
Well-rounded communications skills are fundamental – this means how they speak, how they present themselves and how they write. We want to see confidence in all respects.
Writing is consistently the biggest challenge for new hires in PR. There is always a BIG learning curve for new grads writing for B2B tech companies. You have to learn the brand voice, the products, the industry vernacular, and the applicable underlying technologies. This is what I can teach.
What’s more difficult, is to teach someone how to write if they don’t already come with this skill. We are looking for a solid handle on basic grammar, sentence construction, tense and AP style. To push that further, we also want strategic thinking skills. For instance, how do they approach breaking down a complex message and ready it for public consumption? Is the material well-organized and introduced in a logical manner? Is it clear and easy to digest?
Can I teach this stuff? Sure, but if I can’t see evidence of this skill in writing samples and tests that I give during the hiring process, I’ll pass and move to the next candidate. Will I consider someone who has shown a baseline foundation but hasn’t perfected the craft? Absolutely.
Which resources, people, books, websites, etc. would you recommend to those who want to learn more or advance their skills in this occupation?
- Be a constant consumer of news – local, national, global, business and tech publications, podcasts, etc. (such as The New York Times, Economist, Wired, Information Week, Inc., TechCrunch, etc.)
- Become of a member of PRSA.
- Join a writing group – whether for fiction or professional – allowing other writers to critique your work WILL make you a better writer. Throw out the ego and listen to the feedback. Like anything else, you get better with effort.
- Read press releases and executive blogs from others. I constantly review other companies’ announcements to learn new ways to approach topics or even to evolve my own writing style. Or even just reading them to find the flaws will help you avoid them in your own writing.
What encouragement or advice would you offer to others considering this occupation or wanting to stand out amongst others?
Really get to know yourself. Look for roles that lean into your strengths and give you an opportunity to improve upon your weaknesses under someone that can help you become better.
Don’t do it if you don’t love it.
Always work to become a better writer/communicator.
When looking for a job, understand that culture fit is as important as the job description when it comes to day to day happiness.