Holding Yourself Accountable: Ernst & Young’s Michelle Sing on Communications and CSR

March 28, 2013

Michelle Sing is senior associate, communications and marketing at Ernst & Young LLP in the Philadelphia area. She holds a M.S. in broadcast journalism and an M.I.A. in non-profit management and corporate social responsibility, both from Columbia University, and she received her bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages and cultures from Columbia College.

Sing has previously worked in various roles for L.E.K. Consulting, International Bridges to Justice, POV – American Documentary,  “Nightly Business Report” at PBS,  Weatherhead East Asian Institute and “Dateline” at NBCUniversal.

She says that the best part of her job is “constantly learning — a job working with the news media means there’s something new each day.”

How did you get your start in public relations?

I had an unconventional entry into public relations. I was an aspiring journalist, who had worked in management consulting, and I found that public relations allowed me to blend my love of news media, writing and business strategy.  While in consulting, I focused on biotech and retail, and at Ernst & Young (EY), I primarily support the advisory (consulting) service line and act as the PR lead for the healthcare, life sciences and consumer products sectors. My varied experiences have come together in this role. 

What made you decide to make the shift from broadcast journalism and non-profit/CSR to communications and marketing?

I’ve always been excited by the idea of macroscopic change and influence, and communications is an essential component of achieving that. My driving interest in becoming a mass communicator was the common thread between my broadcast and non-profit experiences, where I held roles in communications. I wanted to gain experience by working for a large, global organization, so I’ve been fortunate to work at EY.  Communications and marketing involves creatively packaging and promoting notable initiatives within the firm, and I love contributing to that process.

What’s a typical day like for you at Ernst & Young?

I can’t say there’s a ‘typical’ day on the job — and that’s what keeps it exciting! In general, however, my day usually begins with catching up on the news of the day,  particularly for primary areas I support.  The remainder of the day is filled with any combination of strategy sessions to determine media hot topics, meetings with EY leaders to develop and draft thought leadership, calls with agencies to brainstorm new media angles, scheduling and facilitating media interviews, relationship-building calls with reporters and industry influencers, and managing industry awards/survey submissions.

What role do communications and public relations play in building the EY brand?

Communications, whether externally to the media or internally to EY’s 167,000 employees, is an unrivaled vehicle of disseminating information. It’s the primary way of bringing the important work and values that distinguish EY to a broad audience. I’m fortunate to work with leaders who recognize the value of communications, are committed to supporting our team’s efforts and invest their time to address media opportunities.

What are some challenges that you face in your day-to-day job?

One of the areas I manage is health care. Its rapidly evolving landscape is rousing change that has far-reaching impacts. Keeping pace with the new legislation, regulations and technologies affecting this industry and beyond can be challenging, but it’s also exciting to monitor the momentous transformation of this space.

Is this time of year particularly demanding or eventful for the company, as it’s considered “busy season” in the accounting world and Tax Day is April 15?

There’s no question that this time of year is incredibly busy for our client-serving colleagues in [the tax sector]. From a media point of view, each year at this time, we promote the latest version of the Ernst & Young Tax Guide. Our activity includes print and online outreach, plus satellite radio and  TV media tours leading up to the April 15 filing deadline — all contribute to our spokesperson being the most quoted tax professional. 

Earth Day is April 22, which brings CSR to mind. How does Ernst & Young display its socially conscious mindset to customers year-round?

At EY, we believe that one of the best ways to build a better business is to build a better world. Ernst & Young’s CR strategy is focused on three “E”s — education, entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability. Our signature program for education is called College MAP, a team-based mentoring program, which helps young people from low-income communities become college-ready.

We also sponsor the annual Americas Corporate Responsibility Fellows program, which sends select EY employees on seven-week assignments where they leverage their workplace skills to meet the specific business needs of entrepreneurs in emerging markets at no charge to the businesses.  To date, more than 60 high-impact entrepreneurs from the Endeavor Network in Latin America have benefited from this program.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned that you use daily?

Be a team player. Don’t dwell on problems, but work with your colleagues to find a solution that will get the job done right. In team settings, it’s common for circumstances to change. Be flexible, chip in to help out and learn to adapt with the evolving situation. Also, do everything to the best of your ability.  A strong work ethic is irreplaceable.

What’s the job outlook like for new graduates and young professionals?

The job market is competitive, but companies are hiring.  As you continue the job hunt, take measures to set yourself apart.  You don’t need a PR job to gain valuable PR experience.  Volunteer for a non-profit — many organizations have groups for young professionals and functional committees, such as communications/media outreach.

What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the PR profession?

Develop a voracious appetite for the news and get your news from a range of mediums and through different platforms. Familiarize yourself with social media applications.  You don’t have to be a pro at using them, but understanding their function and reach will help make you a versatile PR professional.

What is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?

Listen more than you speak, fervently build up those around you and remember that you’re never too busy to say, “thank you.”

Managing Editor Amy Jacques interviewed Michelle Sing for this month’s member profile.

Getting to Know… Michelle Sing

Favorite book? 
“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez

Favorite movie?
“Shawshank Redemption,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Remember  The Titans”

Best place to travel? 
Madrid, Spain


N. Paul Dusseault, APR says:

Great piece, Michelle. Thanks for sharing. Good to get to know you a little bit. May you never have a typical day.

April 8, 2013

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