by Holly Kitten, photo courtesy Amanda Robinson
When Amanda Robinson graduated with a public relations degree in August 2010, all she knew was she wanted to live in Colorado.
And she did. For a little while anyway.
After interning with the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs for six months, Robinson was offered a job with USA Gymnastics in Indianapolis, Ind. So, off she went.
Then, in April this year, Robinson moved to New York City after accepting a job with Edelman — the public relations powerhouse and Adweek’s PR Agency of the Year.
Needless to say, Robinson has come a long way in a short amount of time, and it surprises nobody more than Robinson herself. “I remember filling out a survey before graduation and having no clue where I was going or what I was doing,” she said, “There’s no way I could’ve plotted out this career path in advance.”
Climbing the ladder was not all easy, though. Robinson said she felt the pressure of graduation because she was running out of options in her search for a Colorado job.
“Everyone tells you ‘It’s all about who you know,’” she said. “but at 22 years old and fresh out of college, I didn’t really know anyone.”
Or so she thought, until she spoke with Mass Communications Dean Jerry Hudson about her situation. She explained how she knew she was pursuing the right field of work, being in public relations, but just wasn’t sure of where to go from there. He responded that he knew a man named “Bob” in Colorado, and that Bob knew a lot of people. Hudson gave Robinson “Bob’s” phone number, so she could contact the man for some advice.
Not knowing much about who Bob was or who he worked for, Robinson made the call in hopes of a job lead. What she heard on the other end of the line surprised her.
“The operator said, ‘U.S. Olympic Committee,’” she said, “and I almost hung up, thinking I had the wrong phone number.”
But, the number was the right one. Bob Condron, was then director for media and public relations for the U.S. Olympic Committee. Condron suggested Robinson apply for an internship position with the organization, which she did. By January 2011, Robinson was settled in Colorado Springs, and she began her job as a communications intern.
Robinson’s work ethic was quickly put to the test though when two of her fellow employees were let go, and another quit. She said a lot of their work was placed in her lap.
“I really had to up my game and prove to the rest of the staff that I could handle it,” Robinson said. “I knew I had to show them that I was going to do the best I could with the resources I had.”
Condron said at the U.S. Olympic Committee, the staff counts on the interns to be part of the working team, and he was impressed with the way Robinson performed under the stress of the extra demands placed upon her.
“She just jumped into that situation,” he said, “and did it well, and did it quietly.”
Robinson said she continued to work hard, and by May, she began looking for another job, knowing her internship time frame was coming to an end. Once again, Condron approached her and advised she apply for a position with USA Gymnastics.
Five interviews later, Robinson was hired as the new media relations coordinator, where she acted as the liaison among the media and the coaches and athletes with USA Gymnastics. She said her job was unique in the fact that she was able to build relationships with the gymnasts, many of whom would travel to London to represent the country during the 2012 Olympic Games.
“Not many people can flip open a magazine or turn on the TV and point out an athlete they know personally,” she said. “Knowing I’ve been part of these athletes’ lives during some of the most crucial moments of their careers in leading up to the games is more than I could ever ask for.”
Working with the athletes during competitions and in the mixed zones was always a great experience, Robinson said, but some of her favorite memories were interacting with them outside the gym.
She can remember having one such adventure with Jordyn Wieber, member of the gold medal-winning US Women’s Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Wieber was a finalist for the AAU Sullivan Award, and Robinson accompanied the athlete to New York for the ceremony.
While they were there, Robinson set up an interview for Wieber with the Today Show’s Ann Curry. Afterward, the Today Show scheduled a hair styling session for Wieber, along with a manicure and pedicure, for the award banquet that evening.
While Wieber had her nails done, Robinson made sure things were ready at the hotel for a press conference about Wieber’s nomination for the award. Suddenly, with only 15 minutes left until the press conference was scheduled to begin, Robinson realized one thing that was not ready: Wieber.
Robinson ran to the salon where Wieber was still enjoying a pedicure. She grabbed Wieber and told the world-class gymnast they were going to have to run the eight blocks back to the hotel in order to make the press conference on time.
So, off into the streets of Manhattan they ran – Robinson with her heels in hand, and Wieber still in her pedicure flip-flops.
“We just laughed the whole time,” Robinson said. “And just thinking that I was running down the street with a potential Olympian – even though I was stressed at the time – I knew I would look back on that and laugh. That was pretty cool.”
Robinson built relationships with more than just the athletes though. She also networked with top-tier media outlets, sports directors, editors and reporters, and made an extra effort to stay in contact with a select few.
Robinson said she considers those connections to be her “back-pocket” contacts because she knows the media are people she can keep in contact with, no matter where she goes in her career.
“Having a few names and numbers that you know you can depend on makes all the difference in the world in public relations,” Robinson said. “Whether you are in a bind or just want to bounce a few story ideas around, it’s nice to know you have people that will pick up your call.”
Robinson refers to Hudson and Condron as being two of those people.
Making connections like that was a big reason she scored her new job with Edelman, Robinson said. She was in New York for an event, and someone she had worked with in the past suggested she meet with a professional in the PR industry while she was in the city. So, with an hour to spare in her schedule, she met on the rooftop of the Edelman building with the woman who would soon become her boss.
The woman took all of 20 minutes to contact Robinson to ask if she could return the following day for an interview – and without hesitation – Robinson made sure she was there. And the following week, after one interview, Robinson was offered an account executive position at MATTER, Edelman’s Sports and Entertainment Marketing Department.
“If you get the chance to make it in New York,” she said, “you have to take it – it’s the ticket to the PR big leagues. And if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
As a Texas Tech University alumnus, past employer, and current friend of Robinson, Condron said he was thrilled for Robinson’s achievements.
“That is just awesome,” he said. “Here’s a Texas Tech girl going to New York City. I love the sound of that. She’s going to be great.”
Through Edelman, Robinson will still get to work with the Olympic movement, as well as the NFL, PGA, NASCAR, and the New York City Marathon, just to name a few.
Lee Johnson, the vice president of marketing at USA Gymnastics, said he will miss Robinson, but he cannot help but be excited for her.
“For her to be able to come here and do a great job and to be able to move on and go do something like she’s doing in New York City speaks volumes about the kind of work ethic she has, and the kind of person she is. It will be great for her career.”
From Colorado to New York, Robinson has made many connections, but she said none of them would have been possible without the first connections she made in the Texas Tech College of Mass Communications.
Whether it is a professor, colleague, classmate or friend, Robinson said she knows there always will be someone from the College of Mass Communications to support her.
“It’s building the relationships with people that you know will have your back no matter what,” she said. “It matters in the long run.”
After all, had she not talked to Dean Hudson about finding a job in Colorado, Robinson said she would be nowhere near New York now.
“None of that would have ever happened,” she said. “My path was formed just by the small decisions that I didn’t realize that were that big, but those decisions end up being huge.” mc
Holly Kitten is a senior journalism major from Lubbock, Texas.