Gritty Pretty PR: Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre Sullivan is the principal and co-founder of Gritty Pretty PR, a NYC based company that combines online marketing  and social media with traditional PR strategies.  Sullivan  is a Social Media & Editorial strategist whose career has been  focused on creating, building,  & launching innovative and compelling online experiences.  She is an  expert  in branding and content development and has created the  “voice” for many companies and labels through branded blogs, social media, and marketing promotions.  On April 20th in NYC, Sullivan will be moderating the first fashion panel at the world renowned #140 Characters Conference.  She is also the editor and chief of the Gritty Pretty Blog:  and she loves making new Twitter friends:

Describe yourself in 3 words:
Engaging chic geek

What is your life motto?
Ignore the scaffolding, I am a work in progress.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful?
All of my adult life experiences have led up to this moment.  I have had many “careers” from being a sales girl, a designer, a creative director, TV Producer and now I co-founded my own Social Media and PR firm.  All of my experience has helped me to become a very well rounded and knowledgeable professional. You  can say I have been baking for 15 years, and now I am ready for the frosting

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream?
I have put in my time – easily thousands and thousands of hours. I recommend that the entire modern world read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers to see how important it is to put in your “time”.

Describe how difficult the business really is?
You need to be very creative and resourceful because if plan A does not work, you need a plan B. In PR and marketing you can be doing the work, but you need results to show to your client, or guess what,  you won’t get that contract renewed.  You need to learn when to decide something is working or not and come up with a plan B and sometimes a plan C.  If you cannot think fast; marketing, social media, and PR are not for you.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
You need to learn when to push for something and when not too, when to go to battle and when to pack up your guns and call it a day. If you find yourself doing back flips to be heard, and you are not getting results, you are either doing something wrong, or the situation you are in is not for you. Re-assess, then decide a better road to take.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date?
This bit of advice is actually something I had to figure out on my own. You have to be your own mentor; don’t wait for someone to take you under their wing because it may not happen. Ask questions, if you don’t understand something find someone who does.  Read books written by people in your profession, take classes, take the reins and make sure you learn the ropes. In the end, it is really up to the individual to figure it out and create his or her own path- no one is going to do it for you.

What is the piece of advice that you weren’t?
Learning how to ask for your worth. I am finally doing that.

In your mind, is formal training essential?
You will have an easier time if you are formally trained, but nothing beats hands on experience – you need a combination of both. Also, remember that piece of paper you get from a University does hold a lot of weight. I regret never going for an MBA, even though I see myself as more of a creative person – it would have fast tracked my career. However, you have to create your own training, which is what I did (look at my response to question 7- you have to create your own path).

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career?
Work for someone who knows what they are doing and pay attention and LEARN.  Also take on grunt work without complaining; I learned some of my best tricks from actually experiencing every facet that goes into running a company. Pay your dues; it will pay off in the long run, big time and your bosses will adore you.

What kept you going when you felt like giving up?
I had no other choice. I need to support myself, and I was not finding the opportunities I wanted working for someone else anymore. It just felt right. Also failure is not always a bad thing.  I had a start-up that failed, but I learned so much from it, I would not trade that experience for the world. You have to put your ideas to the test and if it succeeds great! If it fails, that is great too. As long as you learn from it- awesome!

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?
No. In reality, I think we make our own luck. My lucky break was actually the result of just doing my job and trying to be my best.  An old colleague remembered that and years later gave me a huge contract, so I could launch my own company. You make your luck- remember that. Show up, do good work and you will be rewarded; it may take years, but you will be rewarded!

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