Communications director says there is no ‘golden gateway’ to success
By Moira Delaney
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Although Kailtin Ahart didn’t study journalism, her successful career was fostered by passion.
Today she works as the communications director at Marian High School, an all-girl’s private school in Omaha.
In a phone interview with Ahart, she explained her pathway to success and the skills she’s needed to get there.
Ahart attended the University of Nebraska Omaha, where she studied political science and Spanish. Her original plan to attend law school was averted when she was offered a job working for the non-profit A Partnership 4 Kids.
By writing grants and letters, she improved her written communication skills. “The most difficult part of grant writing was making sure the outcomes were measurable and detailed,” she said.
When a job opened up at her alma mater, Ahart jumped at the opportunity.
Today at Marian, Ahart is responsible for all written communication on the school’s website and its recruitment efforts. She writes press releases for local media outlets, monthly emails to alumni, parents’ newsletters and a yearly magazine for alumni.
The Marian Magazine is her biggest project. For this publication, she edits the work of other contributors and collaborates with other editors in rounds of drafts. To her, a strong headline and first sentence in a story is the key to success.
“The headline is the hook,” she said, “but the first sentence is the reel.”
Editing her work to perfection is essential because of its high visibility. The other day, Ahart said she saw the word special misspelled in a high-profile ad.
“This embarrassing and costly mistake could have been fixed by simply looking over your work,” she said.
Ahart uses AP style when writing the Marian Magazine and all the content on the website because “it’s the only style to clearly get information out in a direct way.”
Working at a school that made an impact in her life helps Ahart successfully carry out the mission and values of Marian. “You need passion behind your everyday job or else it’s just a job that won’t benefit you.”
Public relations is constantly changing and there is no set path to a successful career. Today, PR is focused on getting a story out in a precise and consistent manner. Instead of going to reporters with story ideas, Ahart creates her own content on the website to present to readers directly.
Ahart credits her strong analytical and proactive thinking to her days studying law in her political science classes. Even though she did not have the traditional background in journalism that many PR people, she strengthened her communication skills and learned from her mistakes.
“Resilience is key,” she said.
Having a thick skin and the ability to accept criticism is essential in this field.
“No one is perfect; however, it’s how you recover from those mistakes that matters more than the mistake itself.”