As part of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations’ Fellowship for Educator’s Program, I’m spending two weeks at Home Depot’s corporate communication office and have the pleasure of working with several smart and accomplished communication professionals.
This interview series kicks off with Matt Harrigan, Manager, Corporate Communications & Public Relations, The Home Depot.
Describe your job responsibilities.
Primarily, I work with Steve Holmes on issues and crisis management.
Another component of my job involves raising awareness about human resource programs, including job and benefit opportunities and our veteran workforce initiative. One of the biggest HR projects is the spring hiring campaign. This past spring, we hired about 80,000 people nationwide. Finding great talent gets competitive, so it was important to communicate information about that initiative to potential hires and to make sure the media and the public knew about the benefits of working at Home Depot.
Tell me about your career path.
I majored in English and minored in art at Georgetown. I always wanted to be a writer, so I took a few journalism and writing courses there and they were great. While minoring in art, I took graphic design and photography classes, which have also been very useful to my public relations career.
I played baseball in college and have always loved the game, so I interned with a major league team and eventually worked for them as well as another professional team. I got enough experience to know that I wanted to pursue a media-related career, so I started working toward a master’s in journalism at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.
While in graduate school, I took a journalism boot camp class that was intense but great. It inspired me to write articles for the university newspaper and intern at the local newspaper. Once I started that job, I was hooked and took on more and more responsibility as I worked through school.
I also interned with Sports Illustrated Kids. The experience led to a full-time job upon graduation. The magazine is part of the larger magazine but targeted to a younger audience.
After that, I spent about a year working as a web mobile producer before coming to Home Depot in the spring of 2013.
Discuss the importance of writing in your career.
Writing is my number one. I always knew I wanted to write. As went through college, I thought about how I wanted to use my skills and what I wanted to write about. I started in baseball but found that I needed a more creative platform. So I went back to school to become the best writer I could be. Once I started as a journalist, I enjoyed the work, but I missed being part of a team. I decided to get into corporate communications so that I could work on creative campaigns with teams.
What role does social media play in your job?
We get thousands of posts on our social media pages every day. We have a customer care team that responds to some of these posts, but we try to keep an eye on them as well. We use several social media monitoring tools to see what customers are saying about our stores and our brand.
What role does research play in your job?
Reactively, I do research every single day. Issues can be really technical. I have to be the pro when I talk to reporters. Research gets me there.
You successfully turned two internships into full-time positions. What advice to do you have for students who want to do the same?
Learn the Associated Press Stylebook. If you can write well and in AP style, you’ll be a tremendous asset to your supervisor. Expect to spend a lot of time on the job. Be professional, respectful, and thorough and in all that you do.
Be up for anything and willing to learn. But also be resourceful and ask meaningful and appropriate questions. There’s a very thin line between asking enough questions and asking too many questions. Make sure you’ve done your homework and don’t ask questions that you could answer yourself with a little research.
What advice do you have for students who want a career in corporate public relations?
I tried several jobs after graduation. I learned what I liked and what I didn’t like and shaped my career path accordingly. So I’d recommend the same. Get a variety of internships and jobs and find out what you are good at and what you most enjoy.