From Trauma Therapist to PR Agency Owner: How She Made a Successful Career Shift at 50+ Years Old โ€” PR Pro Spotlight ft. Michele Paiva

pr pro spotlight Jun 27, 2023

In our day-to-day lives, we think we’re rolling along doing well enough… but we don’t realize how much we could excel with more support. That support is freedom.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live a life you love running a PR agency and working with your dream clients? Our PR Pro Spotlight Series interviews our students and community members who have made the leap into PR and found huge success! 

We’ll be covering all the juicy insider details, from their biggest challenges and favorite parts of the job to their best advice for aspiring PR pros.  

Today, we’re sitting down with the amazing Michele Paiva, Founder of Viper Public Relations! Michele combines her passion for mental health and science with her love of marketing, journalism, and PR to help people help people. 

Tell us a little about your business and niche! 

My PR agency, Viper Public Relations, focuses on mental health and science, as well as wellness products that support mental health. The viper is actually a symbol of creativity and protection in Buddhism: a snake appeared above Buddha so he could attain enlightenment and help others. 

My husband, who is part of my creative sounding board, suggested the name to me, and it’s something I’ve stuck close to in my business. At Viper, my work involves helping traumatized people and companies go from barely surviving to thriving. 

What were you doing before you became a PR pro? 

I started out as a journalist, actually! I started learning PR and marketing on the side and ended up working in those fields while I went to school to become a licensed trauma-informed psychotherapist. Through my 25+ years of experience as a trauma therapist, I never left my passion for marketing, journalism, and PR behind. 

When I decided to go full-time with PR (with the help of The Pitch Lab), I kept three of my trauma clients on and slowly eased them out to make the transition a bit easier. It was only a few weeks after I joined The Pitch Lab, actually! My pasts with trauma therapy, marketing, and PR all came together and I’ve been doing Viper Public Relations full-time ever since.

Can you share some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a PR pro? 

When I began this journey, I had a five-year plan to transition into working in PR full-time. I love helping people as a therapist, but I felt that I just wasn’t making enough of an impact. I wanted to help others help others — this meant making tough decisions in my career. 

The plan was slow-moving due to circumstances in my personal life: at the time, I was the primary caregiver for my grandson, and my husband was diagnosed with incurable cancer a few years into my five-year plan (he’s doing well now, thankfully!). Time is more meaningful than anything to me, and it’s the one commodity we can never have more of. Working based on session hours, like in psychotherapy, didn’t offer the flexibility I needed. 

I decided I was done juggling my passions and started to ease out of my therapy work. At the end of the day, I’d rather help people who can help other people than work with clients one-on-one and limit my impact. With Jen’s help, I stopped playing it safe and took the jump I needed to take. 

How did you find the Profitable PR Pros Community, and how long have you been a member? 

I found Jen through a late-night Google search! It led me to the Profitable PR Pros Community on Facebook and I joined The Pitch Lab that night. Very unlike me, but it’s been a little under a year and I’ve not regretted the decision once! Joining The Pitch Lab changed my life — I went full-time with PR only two weeks into my membership. 

What’s your favorite part about being a member of the Profitable PR Pros community? 

The Profitable PR Pros is one of the first communities I’ve found that doesn’t feel cut-throat or totally faux. It feels a bit like a large agency with sub-agencies! I just love the energy in the community. Everyone’s supportive and ready to gut-check each other when things feel off…which can get pretty funny at times! Like, yeah, that client request is totally crazy and you’re so right for saying no! 

What inspired you to join our programs? 

I was inspired to join The Pitch Lab and stick with it because I needed, and will continue to need, to learn. And as a therapist, I know the importance of support; one of the biggest concerns in therapy is that the client may be without support in their personal life. Many people who have experienced abuse have been alienated from friends and family by their abusers to maintain control. 

In our day-to-day lives, we think we’re rolling along, doing well enough, but we don’t realize how much we could excel with support. That support is freedomThe Pitch Lab offers education and freedom to me. 

Have our programs helped you experience positive transformations?

Totally! This has been such a life-changing experience in such a short amount of time. 

I finally feel like I’m in my own flow again. It’s not that I regret my psychology career, but it wasn’t my passion in the way PR and media are. I’m also a former journalist and public news anchor and missed that as well. This feels like everything I’ve ever done is coming full circle into a space of complete fulfillment, and I’ve never felt this to this degree. 

The Pitch Lab helped me feel so amazingly confident on this journey. Within a few weeks, I was full-time with my agency, offering services that I truly believed I could excel at. I would not have had that level of confidence just a few weeks prior to joining! 

What do you love MOST about the work you do and the clients you work with? 

I’m still just starting up my agency, but I’m already connecting with dream clients! They tend to be science-based, which I really enjoy. 

When I joined The Pitch Lab, I challenged myself by reaching out to a company I absolutely loved and offering them my services for three months at a discounted fee. I expected them to just completely ignore me, but they requested a year-long contract at full price! I mean, what a way to kick off my agency! 

What are some outlets you’ve secured features in for yourself and your clients? 

Okay, this is the wildest story. I was able to get myself on a billboard in NYC during New York Fashion Week as a gift from a client! I was providing hypnotherapy to a skincare company at the time and gave out tons of their products at Fashion Week. The billboard was a total surprise and meant so much to me. 

I go by my maiden name in business, and my father, who passed away 30 years ago, always said his name would be in lights in New York City. He worked as a dancer with Radio City Music Hall but never got his name up there. With that billboard, it felt like his dreams had finally come true. It was the most amazing thing and really cemented for me how publicity can change lives — I want to give others that feeling, too. 

What advice would you give to aspiring PR pros? 

Since I’m still fairly new at this, I don’t know if I’m able to give advice as a PR pro! But as a grannie-who’s-also-a-therapist, my advice is to enjoy every minute. Never let anyone dull your passion and make sure your support system, both in-person and online, is always raising you up. Sure, all relationships have ups and downs over time, but the people in your life should be happy for you, support you, and just get you. Life’s too short for emotional vampire relationships (or clients!). 

We’re so grateful that Michele decided to share her story with us! We can all learn a lot from her journey toward taking control of her time, her passions, and her career to build an agency that truly supports her needs. 

Check out Michele’s agency Viper Public Relations, and be sure to join the Profitable PR Pros community over on Facebook so that you can take advantage of all that this amazing community has to offer!