“We Never Retire”—The Secrets to a Successful Life in Communications

Last week, I had the honor of dining with Mary Henige after listening to her speak in my PR writing class and before I heard her speak again at my PRSSA meeting.  This polished and powerful woman hails from Detroit, where she is currently the Director of Social Media & Digital Communications at General Motors.  For over two decades, Mary has been blazing trails through a variety of communications-related positions at GM (which, as a side note, has been rated as one of the best places to work).

Fortunately for us at Marquette, part of Mary’s simple success formula is helping others.  “Always give back,” she told both our class and our PRSSA chapter.  As a result, Mary makes sure to do what she can to help budding PR professionals like us succeed in today’s communications environment.

Speaking of her simple success formula,

  • Be prepared:  This is the second guest speaker to have emphasized the importance of preparedness.  As we all know, “expect the unexpected” is a phrase that anyone in the communications field needs to embrace.  Stay on top of your toes, and be able to adapt to anything.  We were just discussing this at my internship just last week!  One girl mentioned that she had once participated in an interview where the company inquired about her thoughts on zombies.  We can only imagine that this was asked in an attempt to both test her creativity and her ability to ad-lib.  After all, no one plans on being asked about zombies (I think?).

  • Show up:  Whenever Mary made a point, she attached a famous quote with it.  The quote for this one was by far my favorite: “80% of success is showing up”—Woody Allen.  How great is that?  It certainly is true, though.  Eventually, if one continually shows up at meetings and events, they are bound to get noticed.  Simply continuing to be present implies a certain amount of responsibility and dedication.  Showing up can lead from anything like great networking to a future career!
  • Get involved:  Similar to showing up, getting involved can seriously boost one’s reputation.  Not only will it reveal one’s passion for their work, it provides more opportunities for “showing up” and obtaining leadership positions!
  • Work hard:  Mary truly emphasized the importance of working hard.  First of all, no one likes a slacker!  Secondly, working hard encompasses everything a PR professional should strive to be.  It covers all the little things.  The phrase “work hard” means be professional at all times.  It means pay attention to detail.  It means expand your network.  It means follow up with people.  “Work hard” also means be self-directed.  In sum, “work hard” epitomizes everything about working in the communications field.  Do it all, and do it well.
  • Keep learning:  Things are always changing in our world.  Social media takes on new trends, the public develops new opinions, people begin to learn differently, technology upgrades, celebrities appear in the news, and politics continue to make waves.  For these reasons (and many more!), we need to keep learning.  PR professionals need to keep digesting new information every day.  This applies to everyone, whether they are in school, whether they just graduated, or whether they have been at their job for 20+ years.  Re-invent yourself as time goes on.  What can you add to your repertoire?  Learn, learn, learn!
  • Help others:  The reason I am able to write this post is because Mary graciously donated her time and knowledge to our class and community for a couple days.  Mary emphasized that we all blessed with the knowledge and the skills to go somewhere with our lives.  However, none of us would be where we are today without the help of a variety of people.  It is our duty to continue that chain of donating our services to the community.  Quite simply, it is the right thing to do.

See?  That is all it takes to conquer the communications industry.  Take it from a pro like Mary!


Thanks again to Mary Henige for speaking to our class and PRSSA chapter!

5 thoughts on ““We Never Retire”—The Secrets to a Successful Life in Communications

  1. I really love how Mary Henige referred to Woody Allen’s famous quotation as well. In a world full of technology that allows us to simply not show up, it’s important to stress that one’s presence will surely get noticed by the right people at the right time… and in person.

  2. I really love how your voice is so prominent in your blogs. I can just hear you talking as I read. I also really enjoyed how thorough you were in this post. It was a good way to recap the stuff she covered.

  3. Mary Henige was a great guest speaker. I think you covered just about everything she had to say. I must say that I hope the girl that you mentioned who was asked about zombies was ready for that curveball. It seems that you are right with your statement that there is a very consistent message from each of the speakers we get to listen to and that is to expect the unexpected. There are other elements as well, but I’m glad you made the fact of being prepared at the top of the list. Good job.

  4. I really like how you included her simple success formula. It is so important that we are constantly prepared for what comes at us in the PR world. Expect the unexpected is extremely relevant to our everyday lives and especially within the social media/PR business side. Great blog!

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