Spotlight on 2021 Rising Star Awardee Hannah Robinson

This year’s Rising Star Hannah Robinson is an account executive at The Hodges Partnership. She previously worked as the media relations coordinator at James Madison University, where she graduated. In addition to her public relations skills, she is already a seasoned voice artist and admits to a special talent for memorizing song lyrics. She loves telling clients’ varied stories and gets her news fix from NPR, the Post and Vox. In her free time, you can find her writing poetry, obsessing over tiny homes on YouTube, exploring the great outdoors with family and friends or channeling her inner Bilbo Baggins.

What does receiving the Rising Star award mean to you?

I feel shocked, humbled and incredibly blessed to be receiving this award. At 25, I’m often the youngest person in the professional settings I frequent, which gives me a heightened sense of just how much I have to learn in this industry. However, when I think of this award, I think of endless possibilities. To me, the term ‘rising’ alludes to an object (or person) moving forward with lots of speed and momentum. And, on the good days, that’s what my career path feels like. This award reminds me that although I have so much farther to travel, I’m heading in the right direction. And that is so affirming.

How did you decide to get involved in the public relations industry?

The public relations world quite literally fell into my lap. Like most new graduates, I was applying for so many jobs and just hoping that one company or institution saw something in me worth betting on. When I got a job offer from my alma mater (James Madison University) to handle the public relations for The College of Arts and Letters and The College of Education, I was unsure. However, when I graduated, I promised myself that I’d be completely open to whatever opportunities lay ahead and I stayed true to that commitment when the offer came. I may not have always known that I wanted to do public relations, but I did always know that I had a passion for powerful storytelling and a desire to advocate for those who couldn’t advocate for themselves. And the rest is history…

Do you have a highlight when you think of your career thus far?

As a PR professional, I wear A LOT of hats. But first and foremost, I’m a writer. So, it’s only natural that I’m at my happiest when I get to help my clients tell their stories.  The Children’s Hospital Foundation—the philanthropic arm of Children’s Hospital of Richmond—is one of those clients and I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with two mothers who met in the PICU when their daughters were preemies. Through all the trials and tribulations they faced, the mothers stuck by one another with a fierce kind of devotion that truly inspired me. I felt incredibly honored that they trusted me with their story and after all the writing was done, I had the opportunity to meet with them in person for a photoshoot that would go on to be the cover of the hospital’s magazine. I swear my heart grew three sizes that day.

You started a new job at the beginning of the pandemic. What advice do you have for other young professionals on working in a virtual environment?

With unprecedented times come unprecedented emotions. Honoring what feelings arise, no matter what they look like, has allowed me to transition into this new chapter of my life with more ease and positivity. The more I’ve allowed myself to sit with the uncomfortable aspects of the virtual world, the more I’ve viewed my mistakes as growth. I remind myself that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and that collectively, we are all experiencing the uncertainties of this “new normal.” The key is to welcome these feelings with curiosity rather than fear. Another important lesson I’ve learned from starting a new job during a global pandemic is the importance of leaning on your team for support. At Hodges, I’m lucky to call an incredibly capable, talented and kind group of humans my coworkers. Starting a new job in a virtual world requires you to step outside of your comfort zone and ask for help when you need it. Unlike in an office setting where everyone is in one place, working remotely can feel isolating if you don’t prioritize social interaction. Setting up Zoom check-in calls with your coworkers is a great way to bond virtually and make sure you don’t fall behind. Whether it’s a quick Teams chat or a much-needed rant in slack, your coworkers are a resource, and it’s up to you to use them.

What general advice would you share with young professionals on working in PR?

Jump in headfirst! There are so many aspects of public relations that can be daunting to young professionals and seasoned experts. I’ve learned that the key is to not dwell on the things you don’t know and instead lean on your natural strengths to sharpen the areas you aren’t as confident in. Lastly, always stay humble and never take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day, everyone is just trying their best and as long as you remain patient and willing to learn, you’ll fit right in.