PRSA Member Spotlight: Julie Wright, (W)right On Communications, Inc.

Full Name:  Julie Wright
Title:   President & Founder
Organization:  (W)right On Communications, Inc.
Years in PR:  25
Years in PRSA, San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter: Just renewed after letting it lapse!
Hometown:  Vancouver, B.C.
Current Community:  Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

1. Describe your current job in one sentence, being as specific as possible.

My job is to keep the agency and our team focused on producing client partner wins through great work that is strategic, creative, integrated, innovative and measurable.

2. How do you think your journalism background helped you succeed in PR?

Because I have a background in journalism, it’s easier for me to put myself in the media’s shoes when I’m pitching or managing an issue. I am a fan of great, ethical journalism and am proud of my friends who are practicing it every day. I continue to support good journalism through contributions to KPBS and Voice of San Diego, subscriptions to local and national dailies and being a member as well as a sponsor of the San Diego Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.

3. Please tell us a bit of backstory on how you founded (W)right On Communications.

I knew I would start a business someday. My dad was an entrepreneur and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. I took the leap in January 1998, a few months after my first son, Brandon, was born. When my second son, Brian, was a year old, Grant and I moved to San Diego from Vancouver. After two years of freelancing in San Diego, I hired my first employee. It wasn’t long before we had an office and a growing team. I’ve never looked back, and next year will be the agency’s 20th anniversary!

4. Agency life is intense and PR often is cited as one of the most stressful careers. How do you manage the stress and help your team to as well?

Juggling multiple deadlines and client projects plus managing client expectations is a constant challenge. These are realities of the environment and the profession. We build each other up at (W)right On with shout outs at the end of every team meeting. It’s a chance for each team member to recognize the great work or help they got from another team member, and I always leave our team meetings feeling great as a result.

We celebrate too. When we have a great quarter, we do something fun like going to Universal Studios, and when we have a tough quarter, we do community service together like sorting produce at Feeding America or repotting seedlings at San Elijo Lagoon in their plant nursery. It’s not quite as much fun as visiting Hogwarts but the service feels good and brings the team together.

5. If you had one piece of advice to give aspiring PR professionals or new graduates, what would that be?

Keep curious—keep learning, reading, asking questions, listening to podcasts—whatever it takes to keep current on your profession, your world and your client’s or employer’s industry. Knowledge is power, and self-awareness is key to success. So challenge your assumptions and beliefs. You are never done growing, particularly in this field.

6. You’ve been involved in a number of boards including the Board of Trustees of the Tri-City Hospital Foundation and RSI Systems International, how has that experience impacted you.

I joined several organizations after moving to North County from Canada. I benefited from Leadership North County, a program offered through Cal State San Marcos, which taught me who’s who and what’s what in North County. Very helpful! I got involved with the San Diego North Economic Development Council eventually becoming its chair as well as chairing the President’s Advisory Council at CSUSM. Getting involved in those organizations helped me meet many wonderful business and community leaders and get to know my community more deeply. Most importantly, community service taught me to step up and make a difference while also pushing me out of my comfort zone and showing me my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Also very helpful!

I’ve dialed back my community involvement over the past year to focus my energy on my agency, our team and our client partners as well as investing more time and energy into associations like PRSA that are directly connected to my profession and industry.

7. (W)right On Communications works with clients across a wide variety of industries including energy, cleantech, hospitality, land development, government, water utility, and health and medical devices. What challenges and opportunities come with working with a diverse portfolio like this?

Right?! In a market like San Diego, it is helpful to be diverse, and it is a strength of ours. (W)right On applies communications best practices that translate across all industries. We have formed practice areas to build on areas where we have deeper expertise including B2B, energy and clean tech, healthcare, hospitality, nonprofits and infrastructure development. Each (W)right On team member supports one or two specific practice areas so that they continue to grow and build upon their knowledge and experience in that space. It works well for the team because they enjoy some variety while also becoming experts in a few industries.

8. What was your first job? Do you still use any of the skills that you used at that job today?

One summer during high school I bussed tables at a high-end Italian restaurant in downtown Vancouver. I didn’t learn much from serving bread, refilling waters or clearing tables. I did, however, learn some basic workplace survival skills: fending off the constant teasing of the three bus boys I worked with, avoiding any behavior that would trigger the Italian chef with the explosive temper, and building relationships with the handful of waitresses I knew I could trust to support me out on the floor.

When my oldest son got his first job bussing tables in a beachside restaurant last summer, my first advice to him was “Figure out fast who your friends are.”