An Interview with Publicist Amanda Virgillito
Public Relations is one of those things a lot of people misunderstand. PR, marketing, social media - is there a difference? I'm so glad you asked! Yes, there is a difference. I have many a well-meaning friend who think I do PR. Social media and PR are different jobs, which is why I was thrilled when I finally landed a publicist for this series.
Do you like good food? Do you eat out a lot in Nashville? Well, then you've probably eaten at one of the many restaurants today's bitch does PR for. Like all "fun" jobs, it looks fun because the bulk of the work is behind the scenes. I've seen Amanda in action and her hustle is #real. Meet today's bitch, Amanda Virgillito!
What do you do and what is the name of your business?
I own Squeaky Wheel Public Relations, and I am a publicist for local restaurants and food/drink brands in Nashville. Public relations means different things to different people, but I view myself as a conduit between my clients and the media, and ultimately the public. PR boils down to strong relationships, strategy, and timing.
When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?
I went to MTSU and majored in news editorial journalism, but I was not cut out to be a reporter. I shifted gears to nonprofit arts and bugged the kind folks at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center until they gave me a job. I worked in their education and outreach department for a year, and then moved over to the communications team. I didn’t know how well suited I was for this gig until I landed in the role. I don’t really believe in fate, but finding this career makes a good case for ‘meant to be.’ I never took a single PR class.
I knew it was what I wanted to do when I found myself willingly dreaming up ideas for work outside of work hours. I’ve worked for a nonprofit, a small hospitality-focused PR agency, and now my own company, and I’ve never considered doing anything but PR.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?
If you make a mistake, own it, fix it, and move on.
Also, make a point to send handwritten thank you notes.
Specific to my career: you have to make peace with never being in the spotlight. Publicists work behind the scenes.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work
There is a list of humbling moments I could share, but as I previously mentioned “own it, fix it, and move on.” I’m still learning not to dwell. I can easily fall into a place of self-inflicted guilt for mistakes, but that’s neither healthy nor productive.
I have to be connected to and passionate about my clients, otherwise I’m doing dishonest work. It’s all about chemistry. It’s like dating in a way. I’m a one-woman show and I work with locally owned businesses, so we have to hit it off. I know I can do the work, but am I excited about the work? I need to be. “Don’t hire a vegetarian to rep your BBQ restaurant,” is something I say to every potential client.
What would you do with 2 more hours a day?
Can they be in the middle of the day? If so, I’d get in a proper work out, take a long shower, and indulge in a midday nap.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?
I don’t know how to answer this one. I own a company, I have a roster of clients I am passionate about, and I have a flexible schedule that allows me to take time with my kids. I’m incredibly fortunate and privileged. However, I’ve certainly made choices that have consequences.
What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?
Every client I have has come to me through recommendations from members of the media, colleagues, or other clients. That floors me and makes me pretty proud.
Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?
I wake up and pick up my phone. If you say you don’t do the same you’re lying. But my necessary morning ritual is coffee. I invested in an electric milk frother that turns a basic brewed cup of coffee into something luxurious. When it’s not hot outside, I sit on my covered porch and savor that cup. I’m an early riser and it’s my quiet time before I wake up the kids and the hustle begins.
How do you decompress at night?
I can’t rest until I’ve made my daily list. Handwritten ‘to do’ lists are the way I stay sane. By the end of the day my list is scribbled on, wrinkled and messy, so I transfer the things that didn’t get done onto a fresh page and add the new tasks. I use colorful markers and crisp, white paper. I sleep well knowing my list is ready for the next day. Also, I catch up on Twitter.
What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?
A good cry. Crying is like farting. Hold it in and you’ll be full of discomfort. Let it out in private and you’ll feel much better. After I cry there’s clarity.
What does self care look like in your life?
Mental health days. A former boss taught me that ‘sick days’ can and should be for both mind and body, so occasionally I take a day to reset.
More frequently, I bake. My life tends to resemble ingredients in a blender or spaghetti thrown at the wall, so I take great comfort in the exactness of baking. It requires focus and I forget about everything for a little while. Plus, at the end there’s the reward of dessert. I love dessert so damn much.
Sleep is crucial.
Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?
My mom was both parents. She worked two jobs. She simultaneously provided and taught me to provide for myself. I moved out and was essentially financially independent at 17. She has always said she raised her kids to be able to live without her but never want to, and she succeeded. We talk every day. I run most decisions by her but they’re ultimately my decisions.
Every boss I’ve had in my career is a woman. It is immensely inspiring to work for smart, motivated women who empower their employees. Kathleen O’Brien started out at TPAC as the public relations manager, which was the job I held there, and she’s now president and CEO. She also took the time to meet with me when I was a college senior. I realize now that she didn’t have time to do that, but she did it anyway.
My immediate supervisor at TPAC, Lori Ward, thrived in a communications career and as a single mom. I’m in that role now, and it’s no easy feat. She taught me that compassion matters in the workplace. She gave me the freedom to make my own choices; even when she saw a mistake coming, she let me make it and learn from it.
Susan Andrews founded The Andrews Agency more than 20 years ago and she’s a force. I learned a great deal from her professionally and personally, though I’m still working on achieving her level of confidence.
Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?
Currently, I can’t get enough of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I tend to be unimpressed by comedy, but that quirky, smart writing leaves me gasping for breath from laughing. I think Titus Andromedon deserves his own show. I never regret watching CBS Sunday Morning. I also never regret watching Real Housewives of New York City. Don’t @ me.
My favorite snack? Tortilla chips and most any dip. Cheese dip, salsa, bean dip, plain sour cream, guacamole, and any dip that uses cream cheese as a base. Those layered dips? The best. Oh! Rotel dip. Who doesn’t love dip? Now this is stuck in my head.
All photos courtesy of Amanda Virgillito