By Amy Svoboda
University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Carrie Malek-Madani will return to her position as communications coordinator at the Lied Center for Performing Arts with a new title under her belt: mother.
Malek-Madani is enjoying maternity leave with her newborn daughter, Eleanor, but in February the new mom will resume the position she has held for more than three years.
Malek-Madani is swapping her daily tasks of writing press releases, pitching to reporters, responding to patron inquiries and formatting mass Lied emails for changing diapers and a demanding around-the-clock bottle feeding schedule. Both are daunting tasks, but Malek-Madani has a much longer history in public relations than in parenting.
After graduation from the University of Colorado, her first job was a paid internship at SSPR, a public relations firm based in Chicago with satellite offices all around the country. The internship developed into a full-time job, where Malek-Madani represented companies as renowned as Patagonia and Groupon, but working with for-profit companies was not what she had envisioned for herself.
Working with a non-profit like the Lied Center is “the perfect fit” for Malek-Madani. It is close to her home state of South Dakota, plus the performing arts are something Malek-Madani has always adored. She grew up singing, dancing and playing musical instruments.
“My position at the Lied Center provides a perfect marriage between my personal interests and my professional skill set,” she said.
Working for a non-profit has its drawbacks too, like the limited resources because of a strict budget and tight time constraints. She says the Lied could benefit from more time to evaluate the products it is producing, but that is not always possible in such a busy industry.
“We are rarely afforded time to debrief,” Malek-Madani said.
The communications coordinator is working on her master’s degree from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln just down the street from the Lied Center.
She has a brief history with journalism, having worked for several small newspapers while in college. Now she focuses on building relationships with reporters who could earn the Lied Center future media coverage.
Malek-Madani says that developing relationships with reporters, other non-profit and arts organizations, artists and management teams is the most important skill required for her job.
“I think a lot of communicators don’t understand what powerful skills making a first impression, connecting with people and being kind, likable, positive and memorable are,” she said.
Editing plays a vital role in Malek-Madani’s career too. She regularly edits content for playbills, promotional materials, fundraising materials and articles about the Lied Center. She also proofreads all communication to donors, whose generosity helps run the non-profit. She even reviews important emails that Lied Center executives want a second opinion on.
“Always, always, always get a second pair of eyes on everything,” she said. “It is easy to miss the same mistakes over and over when you are close to a project.”
As for the evolution of the communication field, Malek-Madani says she has noticed drastic changes already in her relatively short career. She believes there are going to be increased expectations for PR professionals to have journalism skills because of editorial and writing staffs decreases. She said numerous media outlets have asked her to cover the Lied Center for them because they are short-staffed, even asking for help with photography and videography.
“Media outlets may not have the manpower to cover an event but will gladly accept and publish our materials, provided they are editorial quality,” Malek-Madani said.
When asked if editing really does matter, she eagerly exclaimed that “it’s everything,” adding that it greatly shapes the way the public views the Lied Center.
“I am hypercritical of organizations that don’t take the time and care to perfect their donor and marketing materials. It’s not difficult, it just takes time and attention to detail.”
Malek-Madani compares PR to being a new mother, saying both are around-the-clock jobs. She admits that she often put her career before personal time with family and friends, but hopes that baby Eleanor will help balances out her priorities.
“I hope to be an excellent example for Eleanor of someone who can simultaneously manage a rewarding career, marriage and motherhood.”