From Startup to Success: Sizing Up the Careers of Allie Schwartz Grant and Paola Colberg


Meet Allie Schwartz Grant, Senior Account Director, and Paola Colberg, Senior Account Executive, two SMS team members leading our agency’s integrated campaigns.

In this conversation, we’ll chat with Allie and Paola about their career evolution, PR as a thriving, fast-paced industry, the flexibility of our hybrid model, and finding that sweet spot between work and life.

Let’s start at the very beginning. What drew each of you to the field of PR and how have your initial motivations evolved at Schwartz Media Strategies?

Allie: I fell into PR somewhat accidentally. During college, I was working for a real estate firm and my brother was working for a major PR firm in Miami. I always heard him talk about his clients and all the exciting campaigns he was working on, and I ultimately became interested in the field.

While in college, I switched my major to public relations and communications. I eventually started working in the hospitality industry and loved the idea of lifestyle and events-driven PR. It was really all I knew at the time. PR was always glamorized on TV and in movies with celebrities and fun parties. Once I started interning with Schwartz, I was exposed to the business-driven world of public relations and I never looked back. I was immediately drawn to the firm’s real estate and nonprofit clients and realized how our work made an impact in the community where I grew up. I really enjoy that connection to this day.

Paola: I majored in French and Advertising in college, so Public Relations was not really what I envisioned as a career. My first internship was in 2010 at a boutique public relations firm in Miami where I worked with brands that hosted events during Art Basel and the Miami Boat Show. I quickly realized that Miami was on a path to becoming a global city with different cultures. That fascinated me. I wanted to pursue a career at an agency working with different clients that were moving this city and that’s exactly where I ended up.

How have you seen Schwartz Media Strategies change over time? How does the Firm’s fast-paced environment affect your daily work?

Allie: When I started in PR, social media was barely a thing – there was no Instagram; Facebook was where you shared your “status” and chatted with college friends. Media relations was king and people still picked up magazines and newspapers to read about current events. That’s all changed now, and the world of social media has really altered how we consume our daily news and interact with others.

We can land a great front-page story in the paper, but it means almost nothing if we don’t amplify it across social media. The reality is more people will consume that story on social media than in print.

As this trend has unfolded over the past 15 years, our Firm has become more integrated. Today, our client campaigns comprise diverse strategies, including media relations, content marketing, and social media.

Paola: I started with Schwartz Media Strategies in 2017 and since then, I feel the entire industry has changed. As a firm, we have migrated from a traditional PR agency to an integrated agency where digital marketing is part of our everyday focus.

Because our work is so closely tied to what’s happening in the world and in our clients’ industries, life here is never boring! In my seven years, I’ve never experienced a day where I’m looking for something to do. That is what continues to motivate me and I’m sure other team members can relate.

The best advice I’ve been given is to “slow down” when things get a little hectic. I pause, take a deep breath, and remember that multitasking and working fast (but smart!) is the essence of what we do. We are on a neverending rollercoaster ride, always keeping up with our client’s goals, the news cycle, and the digital world. I love it!

Balancing the demands of work and personal life can be challenging. How do you strike this balance? How does the Firm’s hybrid model and company culture contribute?

Allie: Balancing being a working mom can be challenging. There are days when I feel like I’m killing it at work, but not being present enough at home with my family.

On other days, I feel like I’m the best mother in the world, but I’m not going to as many networking events as I used to attend.

The truth is, there really is no such thing as perfect balance and you’re always going to feel like something’s lacking. You just have to put in your best effort at everything you do – at home and at work – and as long as you do your best, it all works out in the end.

Our hybrid work model helps me slow down and maximize everything I’m doing. I can walk my kids to school and be home in time for a Zoom meeting instead of always feeling like I’m rushing or wasting time in traffic. If I need a mental health break in the middle of the day, I can take a quick spinning class between meetings. We have the flexibility to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Paola: As a mother of two, I’m in the constant battle of ‘work-life balance.’ After the pandemic, I learned that the work-life dynamic is less about balance, and more about how I organize myself and prioritize my responsibilities. Working from home some days gives me the flexibility to pick up my kids from school, have lunch with them when I can, or step out of my office to give them a big hug. For me, that is priceless.

PR is mostly women-driven. Can you share your thoughts on what has fueled this trend? How does Schwartz Media Strategies fit within this context?

Allie: There’s a great Atlantic article that breaks this down, and draws some conclusions about why women are drawn to PR. Much of it comes down to women enjoying fields which breed creativity and collaboration, which are two factors that women gravitate towards.

I’ve always found it ironic that PR is dominated by women, because from the start of my career, I’ve learned almost everything I know from the two best men in the business. Hats off to Tadd Schwartz and Aaron Gordon. They are surrounded by a team full of women, which I’m sure isn’t always easy for them! They lead by example and have always made me feel supported, encouraged, and motivated. I’m sure I speak for all the women who have built and advanced their careers at our firm.

Paola: Women tend to be strong communicators, and I think the idea of working on a team alongside other smart people makes agency life attractive. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Aaron and Tadd closely across a range of accounts over the years. I’ve learned so much and the experience has been incredibly rewarding. We can’t forget that they are working parents too, so they understand the challenges I face trying to be a mom, a wife, and a great PR pro day after day. Our entire team has been extremely supportive of me and my personal and professional goals over the years. That starts at the top.