Edelman’s Arielle Patrick on Public Relations During COVID-19

Arielle Patrick
Arielle Patrick, senior vice president, transaction director, Financial Communications and Capital Markets, Edelman

At just 30 years old, Arielle Patrick has achieved career heights of which many who are much older still dream. Born and raised in New York City, Patrick is the senior vice president and transaction director of Financial Communications and Capital Markets at Edelman, the world’s largest communications and marketing consulting firm by revenue. The Princeton University alumna and angel investor previously was vice president of Corporate Crisis and Issues Management at Weber Shandwick, another blue-chip communications firm. Marie Claire magazine has called her “the real life Olivia Pope,” referring to the fictional character played by Kerry Washington in the political drama television series Scandal. The character is based partly on Judy Smith, CEO of the crisis management firm Smith & Company, who Patrick credits with really paving the way for how people view the public relations profession as more than PR and a consulting function.

In one of a series of TNJ interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick gives insights about her work, giving back, success factors and how she continues to function professionally despite the pandemic.

TNJ: How does what you do differ from what many perceive public relations to be?

Patrick: Because of the way that the world works, there’s really no such thing as a traditional “publicist” anymore. Now, trust in companies matters. Corporations rely on us to help them manage and maintain trust with all their stakeholder audiences. This isn’t just media relations. It’s also strategic decision-making and communication with other stakeholders, such as employees, investors, vendors, suppliers, and customers.

What we do isn’t really public relations anymore. It’s really an evolved function that I would call “communications consulting” and “reputation management.” It requires a 360-degree view of all the critical stakeholders that impact a business and its bottom line. It requires an understanding of how to make sure that any material business decisions that companies make are articulated in a way that sets them up for success and growth in the future.

TNJ: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work at Edelman?

Patrick: We’re busier than we’ve ever been because every client either has a financial challenge or opportunity to help as it relates to COVID-19. That needs to be communicated to investors, customers, employees, the media, etc. So, it’s crisis management 24/7.

TNJ: What is it like to be working from home?

Patrick: I am lucky that my parents have a place outside the city. They are quarantined in the city but we have a place in Connecticut and they let my fiancé and me come here. We’ve been here for two weeks and have access to the outdoors. I feel extremely grateful.

TNJ: What projects are you working on now?

Patrick: Most of the work I do is confidential. Right now I’m working with the top Fortune 500 companies on managing their response to the pandemic, whether providing crisis support to the nation or managing stakeholder expectations about financial challenges they’re facing because of COVID-19. There’s never been a more critical time for communication expertise and financial expertise. It’s been really interesting to see how pretty much every company – public or private, large or small – has internalized, or has been forced to internalize the importance of superior communication and transparency because of the crisis.

TNJ: You also do a great deal of pro bono work. Why?

Patrick: It’s really important, from a career perspective, to use your skills in contexts beyond your job because you get better practice and you get better at what you do. It also helps you to be more imaginative and creative when you apply certain skills to different situations. But the real reason why I do a lot of nonprofit work – and also invest in startups as an angel investor – is, I think it’s my duty to give the resources that I’ve been blessed to have to others who need them, whether it’s to early-stage companies without infrastructure, or nonprofits.

So, whether that’s my social network, or access to capital, or skills that I’ve learned in the corporate world –all of those are things that I know I have to offer. From the moment I was a baby I was taught to give an offering at church every weekend. That’s philanthropy. My parents also donate to nonprofits and my dad has been on several boards ever since I was a child. So it’s in my DNA.

TNJ: Have you found ways to give back during the pandemic? How can others help?

Patrick: There are tons of emergency funds for restaurant workers and arts nonprofits for performers who can’t perform at this time. And, of course, food security nonprofits. So far, I’ve donated to the World Health Organization (WHO), International Medical Corps, Feeding America, The New York Foundling, Food Bank For New York City, Citymeals on Wheels, the Tao Group Hospitality Cares Employee Relief Fund, The Wing Employee Relief Fund, Civil Jewelry’s Relief Fund, and various arts nonprofits.

TNJ: Managing emotions must be a huge component of professional success. What tips can you give for managing one’s emotions?

Patrick: I think people focus too much in controlling their emotions and I don’t think that’s particularly healthy. Being able to identify your emotions and put them in the broader context of things and not allow them to swallow you up is a different thing. What actually makes women incredible leaders is that we’re very aware of, and are in touch with our feelings. I don’t think that that’s a weakness. But I think one should identify those feelings and put a plan in place for how and when you want to process them, and also decide what you can learn from them.

It’s about not allowing yourself to overblow the significance of how you might feel, which will change hour-to-hour, minute-by-minute. That’s an important way to prevent them from disrupting productivity. However, your instincts and your feelings are incredible ‘tells’ you can use to make you successful. EQ [emotional intelligence] is a really important part of being a leader. That is, understanding how other people feel and being responsive to it, and anticipating how other people will behave. So, I do think that it’s a mistake to focus on that old-school “leave your feelings at the door” mentality.

TNJ: What are one or two principles of effective networking?

Patrick: Networking should never be a job or transactional. Invest in relationships with people that you actually have a true interest in getting to know and developing and helping in the long term. It’s a two-way street. There is nothing less effective than approaching someone with an “ask,” or treating the relationship in a transactional way. It’s always best to try to be helpful to others and simply get to know them over time, in an earnest way because you’re actually interested in them. That’s my first principle on networking. My second is don’t call it “networking.” Humans are quite perceptive. So, when people treat networking as some sort of strategy, it can be a “turn off” for a lot of important people who may be helpful to you and your career in the future.

TNJ: What is the one factor that was a huge part of your achievements?

Patrick: Grit. I think this is what makes me a bit of an old soul, compared to a lot of millennials. I’m the product of immigrant grandparents on both sides. It’s the important values of resilience through tough times and determination – and I say “determination,” more so than “motivation.” A lot of times people focus more on getting “motivated.” The problem with motivation is that it fluctuates. Some days you feel motivated and some days you don’t. It’s determination and your commitment to your goals that help you push through those moments. And so I try to instill that message in all the people I mentor because mental toughness is really what differentiates successful people from those that perhaps simply experience bouts of motivation.