SOC Ramblers in the Major Leagues, featuring Colin McGauley
Welcome to SOC Ramblers in the Major Leagues, where we highlight various media, marketing, and communications careers in action. Last month, we sat down for an interview with Class of 2016 SOC Alumnus Colin McGauley, Public Relations Coordinator at the Chicago White Sox. Unwrap how McGauley got his start in the industry, the surprises he has navigated, and the experiences that led him to uncover his calling in sports.
It looks like you had extensive internship experience during your time in school. How did your internships at Walker Sands, Zeno Group, and Weber Shandwick prepare you for the kind of work you found yourself doing further into your career?
These internships helped me hone essential business and communications skills – writing for different audiences, growing relationships with internal and external stakeholders and critical media, producing events, delivering compelling storytelling, thinking proactively, and so on. At their core, the agency's experiences were quite similar. However, my clients along the way – which ranged from B2B tech products to consumer-packaged goods to businesses in the hospitality and entertainment industries – presented unique challenges that helped me grow my skillset and gain invaluable insights.
What are some of the things about graduating and entering the working world that surprised you? What did you feel prepared to handle, and what things were tougher to pull through?
In communications, there are no real “right” or “wrong” answers, and most of the time, clients, brands and even colleagues will look to young professionals to blaze a trail or offer insight on what tactics they feel might work best for any given campaign or program. Afterall, PR, social and influencer relations are relatively new industries created to build and engage younger audiences. You can’t be afraid to have a voice, and you can’t be so worried about making mistakes that you lose the creativity needed to do the job well. Feeling the need to be 100% certain about your decision making can be one of the biggest hurdles for young professionals.
Given its connection to the city (and many of the major advertising and public relations firms), Loyola really helped me prepare for this. By learning from professors who work(ed) in the industry, I grew more confident in my writing, ideas and overall understanding of new media. By graduation, the combination of SOC-required classes and internships helped me feel energized about starting my first full-time job.
Can you tell me about the kinds of things you did as an Account Executive with the Motion Agency?
I had such a blast at the Motion Agency, and my favorite work focused on developing campaigns for Simon Property Group locations, restaurants Wrigley BBQ and Truluck’s and everyone’s favorite jousting and sword-fighting knights at Medieval Times. I developed pitches and media lists, wrote press releases and advisories, created influencer programs to engage new audiences and was hands-on executing events across Chicagoland. No two days were ever the same, whether helping announce a new retail location, introducing new barbecue dishes for fans heading to the Bears game, or inviting couples to renew their vows on Valentine’s Day in front of the Queen and her royal court.
In what ways have your Loyola education and previous work experiences prepared you for your current role as Coordinator of Public Relations for the Chicago White Sox?
Internships were a graduation requirement in the School of Communications, so by the end of my senior year, I had already completed two, 16-week programs. I felt that these experiences gave me a leg up on the post-grad applicant pools from schools outside the city and truly helped me gain confidence breaking into the industry. Upon graduating, I interned at a mid-size and a larger, global communications firm before ultimately landing with the Motion Agency. It was there that I developed confidence as a practitioner, began building my Chicago media Rolodex, and started to gain early managerial experience.
My internship work and time at Motion saw a strong focus in media relations and copywriting. I began establishing relationships with local editors, producers, and reporters, while being relied upon for written press materials, creative pitch angles, social copy and in-house publications. I truly believe this portfolio and solid understanding of the media landscape is what positioned me for success at the White Sox.
Do you have any other advice you would like to share with current Loyola School of Communication students who hope to follow in your footsteps?
Be curious and be open to learning. When I started working with the White Sox, it became evident that there’s no set path to a career in professional sports. I’m convinced that statement holds true for any dream job you might have in the communications industry. For example, I learned skills while trying to market a B2B bio-based liquid at Walker Sands that has since been applied to my efforts showing how the White Sox follow through on sustainability initiatives – The point being, you never know what key learnings you can take to your career down the road. Keep an open mind to new professional experiences and how you can apply what you’re learning in each role to your passions away from work. When those two meet, that’s typically the first step in turning a career into a vocation.