In August 2001, when Patti Hill was laid off from her job in the tech industry in Austin, Texas, she decided it was time for a career change. So instead of looking for another job in the technology fields, which were experiencing a downturn and widespread layoffs, she chose to start a public relations firm.
Hill launched Penman PR a few weeks later, and for the past 20 years she and her team have used their years of wide-ranging experience to provide public relations support for a variety of tech industry start-ups. Penman PR is one of more than 1,000 firms that have signed AARP's Employer Pledge, a commitment to promoting equal opportunity for all employees, regardless of age.
Penman PR uses an innovative approach to meet clients’ needs. Instead of building a large staff of employees, the company mostly works with independent contractors — in particular, experienced professionals who are looking to change careers, like Hill was. The firm provides these people with the training and support they need to switch fields successfully. What's more, they get the independence to work when and how they choose. In 2020 more than 2 million people turned to freelance, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study from Upwork. Contract work and freelance positions accounted for 36 percent of all jobs in the workforce.
Hill recently spoke with AARP about the opportunities Penman PR can offer people who are considering transitioning to a career in public relations. The following are lightly edited excerpts of that conversation.
Penman PR trains people who want to start careers in public relations. What types of people have you found made the switch well?
Hill: The people who we most enjoy working with are those individuals who have transitioned from another career. Interestingly enough, I don't look for PR people because, to me, having a house full of people that have the same background doesn't provide the diversity for brainstorming and different perspectives that an organization with people from different backgrounds can. Over the 20 years we've been in business, the people I've had work here include a professor of business psychology and an attorney. My current business partner was in hospitality.