Around The Way Girl: Jasmine Willett

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“I want to let them know, ‘Hey, I’m serious about what I do.’” Based on how far her career has gone for 24-year-old Jasmine Willett, her work says just that. BUSINESS. This young Jamaican girl from the West Side of Chicago has a set goal for life and is not playing any games when it comes to achieving it. With a degree in Journalism integrated with Public Relations as well as a minor in Black Studies from Northern Illinois University,  Jasmine has managed to land an awesome corporate job as a publicist in healthcare, as well as her own side hustle in sports, fashion, and other areas of PR. She’s already made high power clients throughout Chicago and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. She shared with us her story as well as advice for life as a PR girl. In our best Yeezy voice, “WHO GON STOP HER HUUUH?”

Tell us about where you work.

I currently work for a new healthcare company in Chicago. It’s a company with a new model of bettering the healthcare of older adults.

What does a day in the life of a PR girl in the corporate world look like?

A typical day is definitely a lot of phone calls, a lot of pitching, a lot of setting up events, a lot of meetings and a lot of conference calls…Oh, and a lot of coffee!

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Why go corporate and not independent?

That’s such a good question. That’s actually my next route. I really wanted to get the corporate feel of PR before going into the next route of having my own startup company. I want to be able to say I worked under someone and worked for a startup company–because it is a startup company. The three founders are all Harvard graduates and every day we are all learning together. So I really want to be able to say, I was at that place, so once I am the CEO of my own company I’ll be able to relate to my employees and everyone else that I am working with on a better level. And then of course there’s more structure in corporate and I kind of like that structure.

How has your past experiences helped you achieve this position?

I’ve worked in different areas of public relations. I’ve worked in sports with NFL players and NBA players. I’ve worked in non-profit and youth organizations. I’ve worked with the Chicago White Sox, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Cadillac, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Wade Sports Academy etc.- I’ve worked in so many different areas and I can say they all tie in together. At the end of the day, the mission is the same. There’s a saying that, “If you can survive in healthcare PR, you can survive in any PR,” and I strongly support that. I really do think that’s true.

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Many people think that PR is just all socializing and fun events. What are the challenges behind PR that people don’t know about, especially as a woman in the industry?

Looking cute and drinking Starbucks…[laughs] I’m kidding! One of the challenges would be getting people to understand what public relations is. It’s such a new topic although it’s been around for so long. Some people will even argue that it’s been around, you know, Before Christ! And I would agree depending on the topic. I hate to say it, but [PR] is such a popular trend right now that it’s only a matter of trying to weed out the people who are really serious, passionate and eager to learn and know the history of it. That is one of the biggest challenges.

Being a woman in PR, I guess more from the sports end, I can say it can get complicated because sometimes it takes a longer time to establish that respect, especially with men. I actually worked as a sports reporter before and I think that experience helped me a lot because I was working with NCAA Division 1 football players and basketball players and a few professional athletes as well. I had to let them know hey, I’m serious about what I do, without saying it because at that point you will lose credibility if you say it [laughs]. To me it’s all about presentation, like the way I dress. I wouldn’t go into a meeting or do a report or interview someone wearing things that would take away from my work or what I’m there for. So really, to sum up everything: presentation. Your presentation should definitely be on point because you get treated based on how you look.

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How do you not get distracted working with all those fine athletes?

You know what, sometimes it can get interesting [laughs]. I have had my share of Male Crush Mondays (MCM).  But no, when it comes to work I definitely want people to respect me for what I do. I always want people to respect me for what I am passionate about. I never want to lose that because of anything personal. I have a lot of friends who play professional sports or just work in that industry, and they give me a lot of good advice. Like I said, I want to be respected for what I do, nothing more, nothing less.

As you said before, people don’t really understand PR. Not only that, they don’t understand how payment works. Can you explain how you get paid? Have you ever had the usual can you hook me up with the family discount love price?

ABSOLUTELY! Of course from a corporate standpoint it’s salary, but for freelance PR there’s a fee. So what I do is include so many different services and offer a flat fee for all of the services. Sometimes people get publicists confused for managers or agents, thinking that we work off of percentages. I can’t speak for other publicists, but from how I was taught and what I saw from my mentors, it’s pretty much a flat fee.

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Do you have to bring work home with you?

I do. What’s so funny about that is some of my colleagues here at the corporate company always say, “How do you pretty much work two full time jobs? Do you work [the other] on weekends?” And I’m like, “No. 24/7.” It’s all 24/7. I actually have two cellphones, [laughing] which is funny to me. They’re both always ringing off the hook. It’s kind of my balance between my personal life and work life.

 How do you have time for a social life?

[sighs] It gets tricky when it comes to relationships and things like that. Lately I’ve been putting time aside saying, hey this is the time I’m going to spend with my family, and go to my brother’s football games, take my niece somewhere or hang out with my mom. It gets really complicated. I’ve missed so many events because I had to do this, go here or meet with this person and missed a lot of family events because of [work]. They understand. It’s kind of the life I signed up for.

Since this is the age of startup companies, freelance and independent businesses do you consider going corporate is almost like selling out?

[laughs] No, I don’t. I think there is so much structure in corporate that you can really learn from. I know this is gonna sound really… interesting but, to me it’s kind of like, let me work for someone else and I learn from them and their mistakes so that I can better myself.

Since PR is a new industry to some, how supportive were your parents when you decided on this field?

Honestly, at first, it was like, you need to study something that will get you a for sure job after school. So I actually started out as a psychology major because for some reason I wanted to be a marriage counselor. Although of course in psychology you need a Ph.D. to get a really good job. That major was still satisfying to my parents but I got to a point where I said, you know what, this is not for me, and I studied journalism and I can’t say I would go back and do anything else. I love journalism. I love everything about Public Relations. I love figuring out problems. I just love it. I can’t express how passionate I am about it.

Is this what you imagined yourself doing at this age?

I’m gonna say no because once I decided I didn’t want to be a psychologist I knew I wanted to study journalism and public relations and I was set on going to law school for sports law because I wanted to become a [sports] agent, which I still do. Right now I’m debating going back to school because that is still a dream of mine.

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Where would you like to see your future career?

I definitely want my own [PR] firm. That’s number one. I want a boutique firm with sports, fashion and entertainment. That’s definitely the short-term goal.

What advice would you give to girls who want to pursue a career in sports PR?

Two things: one, go beyond the classrooms. Get internships, find mentors, do events, build relationships with sports agencies. Contact people and be like, Hey! Do you need any help with press releases etc.? Sometimes the work you’ll be doing will be free, and that will be okay because you’ll gain so many contacts and meet so many people from that. It’s all about trust. You know? They’ll say, Oh my God, she did this and that for me and we didn’t pay her. She’s just eager to learn. That’s how you build on your contacts. Definitely go beyond the classroom.

The second thing, again, is presentation. Don’t flirt. Carry yourself the way you want to be treated in [the workplace]. That’s one of the biggest things I can stress. I tell my mentees all the time. They’ll approach you based on your presentation. If you come to meetings with your cleavage showing and things like that, that is where their attention is going. If you come in nicely dressed and covered, then they have no choice but to listen to what you have to say.

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If you could go back, what advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

When I’m doing my eyebrows make sure to take off all of the concealer so that it’s not too…[laughs] no I’m just kidding! Hmmm…let’s see, Jas at 20…Why is this question so hard?!

You know what, I would tell myself to choose a better circle with people that are like-minded because a lot of those folks I hung out with at 20-years-old, they’re not adding anything positive for me. Most of them are not even my friends anymore and they are on different paths of life. I’m not benefiting from them, my career isn’t, my social life isn’t, my spiritual life isn’t. Nothing in my life has excelled from those relationships. I still have people of course that I’ve been friends with for years and years and years, but for my junior year of college I should have just chose a better crowd.

Lastly, what is your favorite thing about Chicago?

Two things: the food of course and the skyline at night. I just think it looks so sexy, I love it.


Jasmine’s website is on the works and is coming soon! In the meantime you can follow her moves and check out her events as well as funny and meaningful inspirational advice @j_publicity. If you have any serious business inquiries you can contact her via e-mail at jwillettpr@gmail.com.

XO,

Rebecca

{Know an Around The Way Girl we need to to get in touch with? Let us know in the comment section below!}

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