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Krista Conlin: Setting the Standard for Women in PR

Posted At: October 10, 2011 12:21 PM
by Alexandra Reichenbach

From pursuing a career in finance to ultimately owning a public relations firm, Krista Conlin has become a renowned businesswoman. Her success is represented through her nominations and finalist positions in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business — an awards ceremony that recognizes exemplary women in the professional world.

Conlin, a native of Birmingham, Ala., began her education at The University of Alabama where she earned an undergraduate degree in finance.

“I’ve always been a numbers person,” Conlin said. “I always thought I would have a career in finance.” Little did she know her professional career would take a drastic turn; numbers would not play a role in her career like she thought they would.

Instead of jumping directly into the professional world, Conlin moved to Europe immediately following college. Her future still seemed unclear and it was the perfect time for her to drop everything and experience the world. After a few years of traveling, Conlin returned to the states and applied for graduate school at The University of Miami.

“The diversity overseas was very refreshing,” Conlin said. “Miami was my top choice because I loved the idea of a multicultural school where I could continue to experience that diverse culture.”

Graduate school marked the beginning of Conlin’s flourishing career in the public relations field. Rather than continuing down the path of finance, she chose to earn her master’s degree in communication.

“I had it engrained in me,” Conlin said, when asked why she chose to attend graduate school. “But it definitely depends on the person. From my experience, I believe it is beneficial to work in your chosen field for a year or two before applying.”

In her opinion, the professional experience is a great way to better understand the curriculum. Experiences in a professional atmosphere versus an educational atmosphere serve as two very different ways of learning the industry. Conlin believes it is worthwhile to recognize the professional side before attempting to master the educational side.

Conlin’s initial public relations job was at a local store in Miami, The Orange Clothing Company. This position provided an eye-opening experience working in public relations. After a few years, Conlin began to miss the Southern lifestyle so she moved to Atlanta before ultimately returning to her birthplace, Birmingham, Ala. It wasn’t until she returned to her hometown that she began to make a name for herself professionally.

Conlin began her career in the Birmingham area at the Wilbanks Agency, “Alabama’s leading public relations and marketing agency.” Entering this agency, she was the director of public relations, where client communication and relationship building were her key responsibilities.

“In my opinion, the definition of public relations is sustaining relationships,” Conlin said. “Everything around you is based on relationships you build.”

While working at Wilbanks, the importance of relationship building became more apparent. Knowing how to sustain relationships requires a unique set of skills. Unlike other professions, such as accounting and finance where the basic skills are taught, the key set of skills in public relations are mastered through experiences with other people.

Maree Jones, the public relations and social media coordinator at Conlin’s public relations agency, KC Projects, has had the privilege to get to know Conlin on a day-to-day basis.

“She is full of energy, a great communicator and expects great things from the people she places around her,” Jones said. While working for Conlin, Jones has realized her personality traits have had a large part in her accomplishments.

Her energetic and personable attitude ultimately led to a critical promotion at Wilbanks, making her the vice president of business operations. It was when she held this position that she was nominated twice for the Stevie Awards for Successful Women in Business.

The Stevie Awards were created to honor organizations and business people around the world. The event began in 2002 with The American Business Awards and the Stevie Awards for Women in Business quickly followed in 2004. Serving as the world’s premier awards for women executives and entrepreneurs, receiving a nomination and ultimately becoming a finalist in the event was a huge accomplishment for Conlin.

“It was a big deal,” Conlin said. “I loved the woman angle of the event. I believe it is important to recognize women in the professional world because they constantly have an uphill battle.”

The awards given at the Stevie Awards are on a category-specific basis. In Conlin’s case, she was a finalist in receiving the Best Executive for Successful Businesses up to 100 Employees award. This award strongly exemplifies her accomplishments while working with Wilbanks.

After over a decade, Conlin’s career took an unexpected turn. In March of 2011, she started her own public relations agency, KC Projects.

“Actually implementing my own business has been one of my greatest achievements in life,” Conlin said. “I am very proud of the long-term relationships I’ve sustained; without them I would not have been able to make this major step in my life.”

The relationships Conlin formed over the years, both professional and personal, serve as the reasons for her success. The way she has repeatedly shown value and dedication to her clients has set her apart from other women in business.

Conlin leaves us with an important rule she has followed throughout her life: “Do today what others only think of trying to do tomorrow.”

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