Staff Stories: An Interview with Alissa Shanahan

Tayler Lord is a publicist at UNP and is, after nearly a year at it, unsure if she is still a new employee or not. In “Staff Stories,” she interviews her newest coworkers to introduce them to the rest of the university press world.

Alissa Shanahan is the Advertising, Exhibits, and Awards Coordinator and just turned her old bedroom into a mini yoga studio.  

Tayler Lord: Hi Alissa!

Alissa Shanahan: Hi Tayler!

TL: Okay the first question is what’s your current position at UNP and how long have you held it?

AS: It’s a long one, get ready for it. My current title is Advertising, Exhibits, and Awards Coordinator. I’ve held the position since the beginning of October, so an entire three months.

TL: Happy three month anniversary! What brought you to UNP?

AS: I was a junior at UNL and dabbling in some design stuff in the Journalism college. I had a friend who suggested I apply for the student designer position because she was leaving and she thought I would be a good fit. So I worked as a student for a year and couldn’t get enough, so I became a temp for a couple months after graduating. I did design work and some publicity and now here I am as a full time staffer.

TL: Can you explain your job a little more?

AS: Well, I have three separate roles that are distinct from one another but all aspects mesh together well. The bulk of my job is coordinating exhibits and all of the nitty gritty details. I book the booth space for all of the conferences and trade shows we attend, which is between thirty and fifty each year. I also coordinate in-booth author signings at those respective exhibits and work with our marketing designer on promotional materials. I’m really just dipping my toes into being the Awards Coordinator. As you know, you and Anna were taking care of it for a few months as I was getting settled into this position!

TL: Yes we have, you’re welcome.

AS: Thank you! The awards tie into the exhibits job because a lot of awards we submit to are for societies that hold conferences we attend, and then a lot of the awards are presented at the conferences. And I haven’t done too much with the advertising side of it yet, but we’re going to work on the schedule for upcoming ads this year.

TL: So how did you get the advertising, exhibits, and awards position?

AS: It was a natural step into, I think. Emily Giller, who had the job before me, was sort of my overseer when I was a student designer since I worked on designing ads for her. So when she left our former marketing manager said, “Hey, you should apply for this! That makes sense!” And I said, “Okay!” and I applied and here I am.

TL: So you’ve actually been at the Press for awhile! Which aspect of your current position are you most excited about?

AS: I was mostly attracted to advertising. Most of my time in the J-school was spent in creative classes, like ad campaigns, design, and creative conception. I’m excited to find new ways of unique advertising rather than traditional print ads, like native advertising online.

TL: What is that?

AS: Native advertising is an ad that appears on your screen but doesn’t look like an ad. Most consumers don’t want to be directly advertised to, so it’s about being subtle and creative.

TL: Wow, I’ve never heard of that!

AS: Yeah, I like that the digital world is always changing. Those new opportunities in advertising excite me.

TL: What has surprised you most so far about working at UNP, especially as a full-timer?

AS: I realized that everybody’s workload is a lot more than I thought it was as a student. I kind of had a veil over my eyes and didn’t really realize what everyone in the department did. I honestly didn’t even know everyone’s roles before I was full time. So I was surprised to know individually how much each person does here and how much weight they carry as a part of the marketing department.

TL: What advice do you have for people starting a career in publishing based off your own interesting career path so far?

AS: Coming from a journalism and advertising background, I was always told to have an open mind about what your career path could be. I think when you’re looking for a job in publishing you should have an open mind because there are a lot of choices that you may be surprised to learn about.

TL: Agreed.

AS: For instance I don’t think people realize that EDP (editorial, design, production) has such a huge role.

TL: Yeah, I didn’t know that so much of the design was done in-house until I started working here.

AS: There are many small details that most people probably don’t know about until they actually start working in the publishing industry. And some staff at UNP started in one department then moved to another, so I think being flexible and willing to try new areas you didn’t think you were interested in is important. That’s how I landed in my job!