Armed with a bachelor’s degree in communications from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and a passion for public relations, Gilda Squire packed her bags and headed to New York City in 1996 from her hometown in Ruther Glen, Va.
“I wanted to make it in the entertainment industry and decided I needed to be in New York to make that happen,” she says.
Squire pursued many opportunities–including a stint at the FBI–which gave her a diverse background but not the PR position she desired. Entry-level offers from entertainment companies came with salaries far below what she could comfortably live on in the big city. When a recruiter advised that her experience made her a great candidate for Wall Street, she took a job as an administrative assistant at Goldman Sachs, the global investment banking and securities firm.
“Taking the job at Goldman Sachs was difficult because that was not what I came to New York to do. I felt like I was selling myself out,” says Squire.
Two years later she joined the firm’s brand marketing and advertising team as a brand-marketing manager, where she developed a diversity marketing program. The program, which proved successful, provided her a formal entry into PR, albeit indirectly. “I always say ‘I received my professional MBA at Goldman Sachs. While working there I built a strong work ethic and traveled. After a year I stopped feeling sorry for myself and pursued PR within the company,” says Squire.
In 2001, after five years with Goldman Sachs, Squire moved into PR full time when she acquired a position as a publicist at book publishers Penguin Group. The transition into book publishing was tough, she concedes. With no background in traditional publishing, her initial attempts to enter the field were unsuccessful. It took a great deal of resolve and the support of famed literary agent Marie Brown to land her at Penguin, where her first assignment was to publicize a new book by Suze Orman, the internationally acclaimed personal finance expert.
Since then, she has worked with several well known authors and public figures, such as Bishop T.D. Jakes; MDs Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt, principals of The Three Doctors Inc. and authors of “The Pact;” Super Bowl winning quarterback Phil Simms; and New York Times best-selling author Karrine Steffans.
Working with Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., a pioneer in women’s sexual health, was one of her most challenging yet most rewarding campaigns, Squire says. While Black media outlets embraced Dr. Hutcherson and her work, mainstream media organizations essentially ignored her at first.
“Finally one magazine editor called me to say, ‘I’ve been getting your calls but this book just isn’t for us because our audience is not primarily Black.’ I was taken aback and argued that the book was for all people, the writer just happened to be Black,” says Squire.
They came around, eventually, and today, Dr. Hutcherson is the media’s go-to person on women’s health and sexuality, evidenced by her appearances on Oprah and such mainstream programs as The Today Show and Good Morning, America.
In January 2008, more than 10 years after leaving Virginia, Squire stepped away from publishing and launched Gilda Squire Media Relations. “[Leaving] was tough because I always worked and was used to the convenience of a salary and benefits. But in order to get to the next level, I had to go. So I stepped out on faith,” says Squire.
In the 18 months that she has been in business for herself, she has secured continuous work and developed an impressive roster of clients. Among her numerous “exciting” projects, she is working with Oxmoor House on O, The Oprah Magazine’s “Dream Big” campaign; with James Brown, sportscaster and author of the forthcoming book, “Role of a Lifetime: Reflections on Faith, Family and Significant Living;” and with TV One for its UnSung series.
“Whatever you want is out there, so just go for it,” Squire advises budding entrepreneurs. “The path isn’t always easy, so take life as it comes. Make the best of it and know that there’s always an alternative route to getting what you want.”