Interview with Arik Hanson, Principal at ACH Communications

For the latest addition to my Interview Series, we have Arik Hanson, Principal at ACH Communications. Arik has working in communications for some time and offers his perspective on topics like the differences between in-house and agency roles, keeping up to speed with relevant information as well as the skill sets that are becoming increasingly important for PR professionals.

1. You’ve been working in the communications industry for over 10 years, what has been the most memorable highlight during your career?

Without a doubt, starting my own business almost three years ago. It’s been the most exciting, rewarding and challenging job of my life (I mean, other than parenting).

2. With experience in both agency and in-house roles, what can you tell us about the similarities and differences between the two?

Agencies definitely seem to attract a certain kind of person. You have to be OK with a lot of ambiguity. You have to love solving problems creatively. And, you have to love juggling about 14,531 things at once. You’ll get that on the corporate side from time to time, but it’s not quite the same.

On the corporate side, things are usually just a bit more buttoned up. Conservative. You usually can’t go around the office singing tunes at the top of your lungs at a corporation–at an agency, that behavior is encouraged And, where creativity and seniority matter a bit more on the agency side, MBAs and titles seem to hold more weight on the corporate side (just my opinion based on my experiences). Both have strengths and weaknesses–just a matter of what you’re looking for from a job/experience.

3. Did you enjoy one more than the other?

I enjoyed both for different reasons, but I think I’m an agency guy at heart. I think that’s why I like running my own business so much. Much of what I do on a daily basis is similar to what I’d be doing if I were a director/VP at an agency right now. It’s not all that different.

4. Currently the communications industry is evolving at such a rapid pace with different social networks and publishing platforms available. How do you keep up with the emerging technologies and figuring out which one will be relevant to your profession?

I don’t really. And, don’t let anyone fool you–no one really does. Not if they’re doing their day jobs well. But, there are ways I try to stay one step ahead of my clients (and competition). Speed to information is so critical, so I have tools and processes to get through a lot of content each day, in a very short amount of time. I also do a lot of research for my clients–so that helps keep me abreast of the latest happenings and trends.

5. In 2009 you started ACH Communications, what made you decide to strike it out on your own?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial edge to me. And I’ve always wanted to start my own business–I just never had the unique skill set. Back in 2009, I was a little ahead of the curve in terms of social media marketing and an understanding of that space. And, I have a fairly expansive network here in the Twin Cities. Coupled with my entrepreneurial drive, I thought now was as good as time as any to give it a shot.

I got lucky with a few early clients and things just snowballed from there. What I’ve learned in my 16-plus years in this business is a lot of your success is about luck and timing. Now, I like to think I had a lot to do with that, but prior to 2009 I had my share of less than optimal work experiences and positions where I felt a bit frustrated at times. So, timing was just on my side this time.

6. You’re also the founder of Help a PR Pro Out (#HAPPO); what was the motivation behind launching the initiative?

Think back a few years ago–the job market was a lot rougher than it is now (and some would argue it’s still not that great). Valerie Simon (my co-founder) and I just wanted to help people–plain and simple. We were tired of saying “I’ll do anything to help” to our friends who were out of work–and then never following through. So, we took a stand. Three years later, HAPPO’s still going strong.

7. What skills do you think will become increasingly more important for PR professionals?

Interesting–I’m presenting on this exact topic to the Puget Sound PRSA chapter in mid-June. A few key skills come to mind: advertising copywriting (social ads), programming skills, video editing/production skills and mobile. Of course, traditional skills like writing, relationship-building and project management aren’t going anywhere–we’re just expected to do more now.

8. And lastly, what advice would you give to a PR student looking to develop a long and successful career?

Nurture and feed your network every day. You don’t understand at a young age how important relationships are to everything you do in your professional career–but I’m here to tell you that they matter. A LOT. Feed that network every day and you will be AMAZED at the results.

***To get in touch with Arik say hi on Twitter @arikhanson***