In this edition of “5 Questions,” Account Executive Maggie LaMaack interviews Account Director David Hlavac, with a little help from Account Director Heather Cmiel and Senior Account Executive Megan Swenson.
David is a 1980s punk-rocker from Minneapolis, who now lives in “the humble part of Edina.” He likes music and bagels, and he’s always up for a debate on Minneapolis vs. St. Paul.
We sat down with David and asked the tough questions about the public relations industry, his punk-rock past, and his pick between Minneapolis and Edina.
Maggie: How did you get your start working in PR?
David: It was a different route than most people take. I studied history and French literature in college before taking an internship with a US congressman here in Minneapolis. I parlayed that into an internship with the late Senator Wellstone in Washington. I stayed in Washington for a while and worked restaurant jobs before I saw a job opening in the Washington City Paper: “Entry level agency, no experience necessary.” It ended up being one of the premier cause marketing agencies in Washington, well known for being President Clinton’s media agency in 1992.
I interviewed and they said, “We’ll let you know in 1-2 weeks.” Well, I stopped on my way out and said, “Listen, you obviously have a need. I have a need. I can answer the phone, make databases, whatever you need. I’ll start right away — if you like me great, if you don’t like me, no harm done.” I thought I had biffed it at that point, but am glad I did because when I got home there was a message on my answering machine that said, “Come in Monday, and we’ll see what happens.” That’s how I got my start in PR. In the end, perseverance, desperation and a good sales pitch got me my first job.
Maggie: If you weren’t working in PR today, what would you be doing?
David: I would be in real estate, probably. I have always had a love for sales, and I love the idea of connecting people with a home. Or I would probably be working in some sort of sales capacity or doing something like technical writing or something not nearly as fun, but using the skills I’ve developed as a communicator.
My mom tells the story about when I was four or five years old, I rounded up all the frostbitten vegetables from our garden and loaded them in my red wagon, and went down the street and sold the vegetables. When I got home with a pocket full of dimes, my mom made me march back and say, “I’m sorry,” and not a single person would accept their money back. They said I sold them the rotten vegetables fair and square. I guess I knew from an early age that one of the things I wanted to do was communicate, sell and help other people communicate.
Megan: What advice would you give to your 14-year-old self and your 28-year-old self, and what do you think they would say back to you?
I would tell my 14-year-old self: “You don’t have nearly as much to prove as you think you do.” I think my 14 year-old self would say “[Insert expletive here] you.”
I would tell my 28-year-old self: “Don’t take work so seriously.” I think my 28 year-old self would have probably taken that advice. I was so eager to learn everything from other people then. You have to figure out how to apply advice to how you work best.
Heather: How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
David: Passionate, experienced and crazy.
Maggie: Minneapolis or Edina?
David: [After much discussion] Minneapolis.