Malia O’Connor

We all know that BIS campus is some sort of melting pot of cultures, a place where you introduce your own and are influenced by other cultures as well. This interaction most likely will bring you to become an open-minded and better communicator, so good that it will become your professional career path like Malia, so let’s hear her story about being a Public Relations in the BIS Alumni section.

  1.   Please tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Malia O’Connor, currently, I’m a senior content strategist at a public relations company focused on start-ups and high growth companies based in San Francisco, California. I attended BIS from grade 10 through the middle of grade 12 and graduated from Maui High School. In college, I studied first at Marymount California University in Palo Verdes, California, and later went on to California State University in Fullerton, California. I’m an American citizen with a part Indonesian half-sister, have lived in Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai, and has visited many more countries on my travels. I enjoy gardening, time spent outdoors, and well-crafted puns.

  1.   Why did you choose public relations as a career?

I didn’t quite make a conscious decision to pursue public relations as a career, rather my interests and unique perspectives lead me to it. You see, I’ve always been incredibly curious. As it got to that time in my life where I had to choose a path of study for university I initially started with Business as I felt it was a marketable degree, but I struggled with making a connection with the material that I was learning and I wasn’t the most math-oriented person. I had to work extra hard to get through those accounting, economics, and calculus classes so after successfully completing my Associate’s program I pivoted my studies to Communications and something just clicked with me. I fell in love with the content of my courses from fostering creativity to learning why we decide to buy a certain brand over another. What I gravitated to the most was the storytelling aspect of public relations and how it could be utilized by businesses to help them engage the public.

  1.   What is your favorite part about being a PR content strategist?

I really love learning new things from the various companies I work with and identifying those interesting facts about them that could give them a competitive edge. I also really enjoy the people I get to interact with from start-up founders, to front line employees, to CEOs of multinational companies hearing their individual stories always seem to inspire me.

  1.   What do public relations mean for you?

It can be hard to differentiate public relations from marketing. To put it simply, marketing relates to promoting and selling a specific product that a company makes, whereas PR is focused on maintaining or elevating the positive reputation of the entire company. For me, public relations is telling a story about the business as a way to create a greater connection with the public.

  1. According to you, what are the skills that are necessary for becoming a successful PR content strategist?

Some of the skills that have helped me in my career are Curiosity, empathy, and resourcefulness. The more curious you are the more things you will learn, and the more things you learn, the more intelligent you become. Being empathetic allows you to understand varying perspectives on things and will help you craft a story that would appeal to those perspectives. Lastly, you need to be resourceful because you will often have to solve for and communicate about difficult business decisions.

  1.   What is your opinion on the increase of communication platforms and social media?

Growing up as a child of a hotelier, our family moved around a lot and I had friends all over the world, when social media came onto the scene I was in university and became completely obsessed with it. I found it to be the coolest way to stay connected with the friends I had made over the years. As it grew in popularity I began using social media in my career and learned how businesses could utilize this new form of communication to create a greater connection with their customers. Recently, I feel like these platforms that were made to bring us closer together are now being used to divide us with the spread of misinformation and negativity. Nonetheless, I truly believe social media has helped to usher in many positive movements in the world and I stay hopeful that it will continue to support its greater purpose of bringing people together.

  1.   What values or learning that you acquired at BIS do you still use today?

BIS provided me with a more informed understanding of the world outside of the U.S. My classmates came from very diverse backgrounds and I was able to acquire this global view of the world. Having the opportunity to learn in a multicultural environment has helped me uncover my abilities as a communicator and has aided me in becoming the empathetic leader I am today. I will always look back fondly on my time at BIS and the incredible people I’ve met there.