Congratulations to IES Abroad Senior Communications Manager Abby Baric for being named one of Publicity Club of Chicago's 30 Under 30, a prestigious award that's designed to recognize the young rock stars of the public relations industry.
Since joining IES Abroad in 2016, Abby has contributed to the company's success not only by garnering it more public relations exposure, but also by playing an integral role in the launching and managing of IES Abroad's annual Study Abroad Film Festival (which has won eight national marketing awards since its inception, including a Sliver Trumpet from the Publicity Club of Chicago).
Abby and the other honorees were presented with their awards at the 60th Annual Golden Trumpet Awards on Thursday, June 6th, at the Palmer House Hilton, a ceremony that was attended by more than 300 guests.
As an alum of IES Abroad London, Abby traces the beginning of her public relations career back to the internship she got through IES Abroad at the Royal Academy of Arts while studying abroad. That internship set her on a path that had her returning to London after graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to obtain a Master of Arts in Public Relations from the London College of Communications at the University of the Arts London. She would go on to live in London for several more years, gaining the professional expertise that she now brings to her role at IES Abroad.
We caught up with Abby to talk about the award, her internship experience with IES Abroad, and advice for future professionals. Read on the see what she had to say.
IES Abroad: Congrats on your award! What does receiving it mean to you?
Abby Baric (AB): I think any working professional in the first 10 years of their career is just trying to garner as much experience as possible, to soak up all the learning curves so they can build their career and make an impact. When I reflect on the past decade of my own career, I see a lot of clunky, challenging learning curves and a handful of wins (which were also clunky and challenging). Through all of that, to still be recognized as a young public relations leader is, quite frankly, reassuring. It shows that perfection isn’t award-winning, but growth is—and that’s incredibly powerful.
Receiving this award really can’t be an individual win, though, as I’ve been so lucky to have exceptional parents, mentors, friends, and colleagues who have led me to this point. I wouldn’t be able to do my job well—or at all, for that matter—without the support, creativity, and dedication of our entire Marketing team at IES Abroad. Our team amazes me every single day, and because they excel and care, it motivates me to do my best work. They’re rock stars, all of them.
IES Abroad: How did your experience studying and interning abroad with IES Abroad in London impact your life and career?
AB: Though it may sound cliché, it changed my life in ways I never thought possible. To this day I look back on that experience and think how incredibly fortunate I was to have had that opportunity. I believe that working for IES Abroad is a way of paying it forward by helping ensure that as many students as possible have the same opportunity.
I fell in love with London—the people, the city, the culture, the museums, the tea, all of it! It made me realize that the world is way bigger and greater than the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign or my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. I also fell in love with a particular someone, who is now my husband. That’s a whole different, longer story for another day.
I was very lucky to have also secured a part-time internship through IES Abroad at the Royal Academy of Arts’ (RA) press office. This is where my career trajectory completely shifted. I left the first day of that internship determined to have a career in public relations. Something inside me knew that was what I was supposed to do.
My study abroad experience had such a phenomenal impact on me that I returned after graduating college to obtain my Master of Arts in Public Relations. When I arrived back, I emailed my old manager from the RA, and she kindly guided me in finding an internship during my graduate studies and even met up for lunch to get me reacquainted with the city. I stayed in London for five more years, and I now visit the city at least once a year because I have such good friends and family who I'm connected with there. I consider it to be my second home.
IES Abroad: What are some valuable lessons you learned through your career so far that you would share with those who are interested in public relations?
AB: I was kind of all over the place in terms of what “type” of public relations I wanted to pursue. Was I more agency or in-house? Was I consumer or corporate, crisis or internal communications? The beauty of public relations is that it spans so many different sectors, and it encompasses far more than media relations. (Nowadays, with the rise of branded content and social media, traditional media plays a completely different role than it did even 10 years ago.) I thought I had to decide my path from day one, but I didn’t.
I’ve come to realize that the more public relations experience you have across different sectors, the better. Also, public relations welcomes those who are able to adapt and change with the times because media, social media, and technology in general are always changing, so you and the industry need to as well.
If you’re starting out, don’t worry if you don’t land your dream job right out of the gate. Grab your first job by the horns and see where that journey takes you. Also, public relations is an industry that encourages networking, so find a buddy to go to events with and build relationships for your career. Your future self will thank you!
IES Abroad: What advice would you give students to help them maximize their study abroad and internship experiences?
AB: Make friends with the locals and get out of your room!
Connecting with people who know the city well means you will see a side of that location that would have taken you years to get to know otherwise. Try to do as much sightseeing as possible, too. Even when you’re studying, try a new coffee shop or library—you won’t regret making the effort.
Also, try to stay in your host city on the weekends. I dedicated a few weekends to seeing other places, but I was really glad to spend time in London because the city has so much to offer.
As for maximizing your internship, ask as many questions as possible and connect with your colleagues as much as possible. Be sure to keep in touch with your internship connections when you leave because that internship will be the fundamental building block for developing your international professional network. You should also document your learnings and accomplishments throughout your internship so you can communicate those experiences in a clear and relevant way to future employers. Last but not least, ask for feedback. This not only helps you to grow, but it may also help you better navigate cultural differences.
IES Abroad: What’s the best career advice you ever received?
AB: “So what if you mess up?”
I never thought the Managing Director of a very successful public relations firm in London would say that to me, but she did, and it completely changed my perspective on how I worked and defined success. I realize now that it’s not about getting it right the first time, but it’s how you adapt and come up with solutions when things don't go to plan that makes you stronger. It’s not just the one moment in time that you "messed up" or "got it right" that defines you or your career, it’s the journey.