Alumna and BuzzFeed’s First-ever Publicist Returns to Campus

Alumna and BuzzFeed’s First-ever Publicist Returns to Campus

Two years ago, Ashley McCollum ’09 was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. The magazine credited McCollum with “positioning BuzzFeed as an internationally recognized brand.” 

That same year, McCollum was one of only 18 who walked away with Adweek’s Changing the Game Awards. The award recognizes “the women who are making bold moves and reinventing the rules of marketing.”

Over Homecoming weekend, McCollum returned to campus to present and share “13 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Media.”   

“Don’t be a jerk” and other tips

McCollum told stories and offered practical tips, too, like using social media as a networking tool.

She was also candid with the students, letting them know that “nice people finish first, so don’t be a jerk.”

“I think that no matter what industry you’re in, or no matter what you do, or how powerful you become, how you treat people is all they really remember,” McCollum said. “And so, be nice to them.”

Many college students concern themselves with how much money they’ll make in their careers. McCollum addressed this too. 

She passed along advice one of her friends told her: “The size of your first paycheck has nothing to do with the size of your last paycheck.”

“What you do in your first 10 years of your career is really what’s going to set you up for the future,” McCollum told the students. “And that’s really networking and learning.”

From PC to NYC

McCollum shared the story of how she got into the media industry and what she did her first few years. When she was a PC student, McCollum flew to New York City to visit a friend and classmate, Janna Cone ’09, who was interning at Vera Wang.

McCollum had one goal in mind: to land an internship with The Today Show. She went to a live taping of the show and held up a cardboard cutout saying, “This Southern Belle wants to be NBC’s summer intern.” 

Her plan worked. The executive producer of “Today” spotted McCollum’s sign and chatted with her. McCollum was prepared and had a cover letter on hand, complete with the day’s date on it.

After she graduated, McCollum landed a position in NBC’s prestigious Page Program. Halfway through the program, she took a full-time position with the marketing and communications team for NBC News.

Making Her Mark in Digital Media

McCollum stayed at NBC for three years before accepting an offer from an up-and-coming media company called BuzzFeed. 

McCollum became BuzzFeed’s first publicist in 2012, only three years after graduating from PC. She was among the first 50 employees at BuzzFeed.

McCollum worked at BuzzFeed for nearly eight years, including her time as general manager of Tasty, an experimental BuzzFeed brand known for its cooking videos. 

On the Edmunds Hall stage, McCollum shared stories from BuzzFeed and Tasty, like the time she helped film a music video for the rap group The Migos. 

Tips for the World of Work

Other tips she offered were ones the students could scribble down to remember when they graduate:

  • Your network is your net worth.
  • Follow up with people. 
  • The mobile internet has obliterated work-life balance. 
  • You don’t have to pick a lane today. You’ll work for 40 more years! 
  • Your most marketable skill will be speed and the ability to adapt. 
  • You will make a really embarrassing mistake at work. Own it. Move on. Recover. 

And some tips were ones that students could use now, like “Your health and wellness is at the center of your happiness: personally, professionally, physically.”

“Do what you love”

McCollum also advised students to choose a career they love after they graduate from PC. 

“Not everybody loves their work,” McCollum said. “But if you can, and if you work hard and you care, then I do think you should try to do what you love. The worst job is the one that you feel obligated to do.”

McCollum cautioned students not to choose careers because of what their parents or friends want them to do. 

“Those are the jobs you’re not going to be any good at,” she said.

“Doing what you love is more important than ever because we do spend so much time giving ourselves to our work. And so, actually loving it, is important.”

Visit Campus

Are you ready to visit the campus where Ashley McCollum realized that anything’s possible when you dream bigger? Check out Visit PC to see how you can schedule your visit. We’d love to see you!