Chet Piotrowski is an alum from Eastern Illinois University. He majored in Communication, focusing in journalism. Chet is now a visual photographer, does his own online marketing, and does stories and photography for his local newspaper. What’s even more inspiring is that he owns his own photography studio, Piotrowski Studios. I was able to connect with Chet as we share the same hairstylist, and we conducted the interview via FaceTime. I see Chet marketing his business and work through social media on almost a daily basis, which is a crucial step for promotion.
Whenever I asked Chet what brand of camera he used, this was his response: “Nikon. I have to use caution though. The camera is just a tool. To give you a metaphor, we’re all capable of digging a hole. A shovel can do it for you. But a backhoe can do it more efficiently – the comparison being an all manual camera versus one like I use with all the bells and whistles. It’s not the camera that makes the image, but the vision behind creating the image. The camera is the tool where you produce your vision.”
To get the inside scoop about the realities of a working communication major, keep reading the interview below:
Q1: What is a typical work week like for you?
A: “I am my own business owner. A typical work week for me includes answer phone calls with questions about my pricing, how I do things, and my style with Piotrowski Studios. The newspaper is also one of my clients. In a scene of a fire, I have to approach people. I have a widespread of clients. Working for the newspaper business does not exactly adhere to the public relations mindset. I just report the facts and present them as best as possible.”
As a communication major, it is evident that it is a field of study. Chet works with nearly all areas within communication. As a journalist and photographer, his consistency is inspiring.
Q2: Tell me about a project that you worked on that you are especially proud of.
A: “Right now, I am currently working on a book for the St. Anthony basketball team and celebration. I have been wanting to write a book for about 15-20 years, and I did not find a topic that would have a far reaching impact. Effingham has a huge St. Anthony crowd, and I knew I would have a different viewpoint, and a lot of people in the community would respect this work. I am about to set it off for print and will have it by July.”
St. Anthony is a Catholic School in Effingham, Illinois.
Q3: What do you do to keep current in this industry?
A: “Continuing education is important and crucial. I know a photographer that went to art school and she thought she did not need to go back. Continuing your education is important with any career, but especially in communication and in the arts because there are so many new ways to communicate. Social media is the new avenue to communicate to clients about what we are doing and how we are doing it. You have to learn now to market.”
Communication is constantly changing, and it is changing quickly. Taking classes here and there after you graduate may not be such a bad idea, just to keep up in the industry.
Q4: What do you wish you would have known before starting your career?
A: “Oh jeez. I think that college does not prepare you for the real world experiences. It provides you with structure, but it does not provide you with what you with what to do if if a situation arises. You have to know how to set prices and how to effectively communicate with people, especially if they think your work or product is too expensive.”
This is some very valuable advice to keep in mind. Since college may not always provide what actions to take in a real-life scenario, finding an internship or job shadowing could provide these experiences and lessons that college classes do not provide.
Q5: How is writing important in your career?
A: “I wouldn’t say writing specifically- but knowing how to write. As a journalist, you need to learn how to effectively communicate to potential clients with a wide range of fashion. A website will be completely different from a press release. Knowing how to communicate and write just the facts without any emotions attached is different from a press release from a business. Proper punctuation and spelling is crucial. I see a lot of poor spelling, and that is something that has gotten away from society. In the public, you need to carry yourself in a higher standard, and this also goes for social media and press releases. I have seen many mistakes on marketing because they did not take the time to proof read. How you present yourself is a key representation of how people are going to respect you. A well read person, dress accordingly, will typically get more clients.”
The key factor here: PROOF READ, PROOF READ, PROOF READ! Think about this, how likely are YOU going to want to buy a product or trust a business if they misspell words on their marketing or have terrible grammar?
Q6: What are three tips you would offer someone just starting out in the communication field?
A: ” My first tip would be to find someone to eat your work and tell the truth on how you need to improve. I am 20 years in my career and I still have the same professor critique my work from EIU. Be open to valuable criticism. The second tip is that you are going to have to put the time in and nothing will be given to you, unless you are a spoon fed baby whose parents have a ton of money. You have to work for your success. Success is not given, it is solely based upon the people who have influenced by career and education, and I use that to improve my work. My third tip is to give back to your community. People are more apt to use businesses that give back to the community. Volunteering, discounting things, and giving things for free are just a few ways to give back. People are more likely to notice what you are trying to do if you give back, opposed to someone, saying, ‘give me me your money!’ Use your voice in the community by giving back to the community.”
Be open to valuable criticism. As a college student, take every bit of advice and criticism that your professors give you, even if it is hard to hear. They are only trying to help you improve. Not only that, keep in touch with them as Chet did, and it can have a lifelong impact on your career. Work hard. You are the destine to your own success. Always give back. Without the community, you would not exactly have a job, so find ways to give back as often as you can. You need them and they need you.
After hearing everything Chet has said about this communication field, it has only made me more excited to graduate and to start working. I always knew that it was a competitive field and hard work is crucial. After I graduate, I would love to find a way to continue giving back to the community through fundraising and volunteering with Special Olympics. I would also love to work for a business that gives back to their local community whether it may be raising money for local animal or homeless shelters, or actually volunteering with them. I think I would like to take a class or two every year just to keep up with the constantly changing communication force.
Q7: Has the field changed much since you started?
A: “Oh yes. Where do I begin? I started in ’97 and around the year 2000, the technology bubble exploded and everyone had either a camera or a website. The ability to communicate with people went from from paper, to emailing, blogs, and text messages. A lot of us who were skilled in one verse of communicating lost our jobs. Artists lost their jobs. Journalism will not die, it will just redefine communication. Right now, Effingham Daily News does not have a full time photographer. New York Times even got rid of their public editor. Journalism and how we communicate news and sports is going under a drastic revolution. As a photographer, many of us have the credentials and education, but yet so many people can go out and purchase a camera and think that they can be a photographer without the education, without the proper gear, and without experience. Because of this, I have to make my public relations and marketing differentiate from these people.”
Since the field has drastically changed, and will continue to change, continuing your education would be beneficial.
Q8: How has technology effected your daily work?
A: “When I first begun my career, I was shooting film and would do this at sports games. I would use two rolls of film, so 72 shots a game, and now I am doing 1,000 shots a game, all because of technology. Technology has taken away the cost of film and chemicals. The cost of product (film and chemicals) has gone to the cost of labor. The time frame to get the images to your clients has become very short. I can go to an event, photograph the event, and then have the photographs to my clients in seconds. I can shoot gymnastics and have the photo online in 30 seconds. At an Effingham football game, I sent a picture from my camera, to my phone, and was able to post the photo within five minutes. With film, that would have taken 25-30 minutes.”
Technology has made the ability to access anything within minutes or even seconds.
Q9: Are you involved with an organizations?
A: “I am. I have volunteered with Big Brother Big Sister. I am also a member of the Professional Photographers of America. I am the co-chair of the Downtown Effingham Business Group to provide sustainability and opportunity for shoppers to use or for our businesses to use, and the make the downtown area thrive.
FUN FACT: One terrific way Chet gives back to the community is that each year he will give one couple a free wedding photography. He chooses a couple that he feels is very deserving of this and feels that life has not given them a fair break.
Piotrowski Studio Website
Check out Piotrowski Studio on Facebook