Matt Coolidge came to Bateman Group a couple of months ago with a love for PR, travel and Thai food. He brings not only a unique and devoted work ethic to the team, but also a sense of humor that is guaranteed to turn any frown upside down (a turn of phrase guaranteed to generate an eye roll given his dry sense of humor). As an account manager, Matt is a very busy man but we were curious to know more. He took the time this week to sit down and talk about his story.
How did you become interested in PR?
I went to college in Washington, D.C. with the intention of getting into politics. But, after spending four years there, I learned that I actually wanted nothing to do with politics. I had worked at a small lobbying firm in D.C. that focused on incredibly progressive, feel-good industries like coal and insecticides. It was tough because when I graduated college, the economic climate was pretty bad; while I enjoyed lobbying in theory, I was less than enthused with the areas I was working on and it still wasn’t a full time position to boot. So, I made the incredibly responsible decision to move out to San Francisco with a friend on a whim. There weren’t a whole lot of lobbying jobs available, but, since PR and lobbying have some similarities, I was able to catch on as an intern at a local PR firm. And the rest is history.
What made you chose Bateman Group? What’s your impression of the company thus far?
Bateman has a tendency to make unconventional hires, which I think lends to more creativity in overall approach — not to mention an extremely intelligent office lacking groupthink mentality. That’s one — the other is the fact that it’s a boutique agency with an extremely low churn rate in terms of both client roster and employees; it’s a great business model, and you have easy access to the most senior levels of management. Basically, your voice is always going to be heard, and it’s the antithesis of the overly bureaucratic model you tend to find at larger agencies which is just plain awful and doesn’t help with career development at all.
Tell me about what you do at Bateman Group. What is your favorite part about working in PR?
I work closely with the account teams and help to bridge the gap between our internal teams and clients. Sometimes it can feel like you’re the middle man because it’s a job of making sure that everyone stays happy and on the same page in terms of the larger account strategy. I really love my job because I have the privilege of working at a great agency with incredibly talented people. That always makes a big difference. Working with such an intelligent, motivated group really drives everybody to do their best work and push beyond their perceived comfort zones. One of the best parts of working in PR is the relationships you make and the people you meet along the way. So it’s great to have the opportunity to work with this group.
What do you like best about living in NYC?
You’d be surprised how nice everybody is on the subway at rush hour every morning. You can strike up a conversation about anything and everything… Kidding! It’s a nightmare, as you’d expect (shout out to the F train!). Really though, I love living in New York. It’s got an energy about it that’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever visited – but I really miss the burritos at the taco trucks in San Francisco. There’s never a huge line and they’re cheap as hell.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about travel, learning new languages and meeting new people. I speak Arabic and my goal is to keep working at it until I’m totally fluent. My major in college was Middle Eastern studies, so I still read all of these super geeky and obscure foreign affairs blogs. I’ve also gotten into rock climbing recently; I guess you’d call that one a budding passion.
What is the best dish you can cook?
I really like to cook Thai food. I make a delicious Khao soi, which is like a curry-based noodle soup with chicken. I always find myself perusing the stalls at random Thai markets in Brooklyn looking for good ingredients—much to the bemusement of all of the little old ladies that are there.
What countries have you traveled to?
Before I started at Bateman Group, I spent six months traveling around China, Southeast Asia and India. It was a great time that yielded many stories (including plenty of notable bouts with food poisoning). I’ve also spent time in the Middle East, Europe and Central America. I want to plan my next big trip around Ethiopia; I’ve always wanted to go there for some reason.
What advice can you offer to aspiring PR professionals?
Be creative and don’t initially marry your goals to pursuing a career in PR. Some of the most successful people in PR come from really eclectic backgrounds. Having lots of different skillsets can really help you stand out in PR. If you’re a smart person that can write, be creative and think outside the box, it’s definitely a career avenue to consider – it doesn’t matter if you weren’t a comms major. You should also find a mentor as early in your career as possible, and work to identify and pursue goals with him or her. Avoid tying yourself entirely to one industry early in your career. Work on developing a broad expertise and seeing what sticks. Also, learn to bill by the hour. By the way, that’ll be six hundred and seventy-two dollars…