1. How long have you been working in public relations? What attracted you to it?
I officially entered the public relations industry when I joined Waggener Edstrom Worldwide in May 2007. However, I have been working in the communications arena for the past 15 years including the Republican National Committee, Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, Washington Business Journal, C-SPAN, GovTech Solutions, U.S. Department of Education and most recently, the White House. I have always been fascinated by the power of communications, meaning the ability to effectively disseminate and consume information through valuable channels of influence. Whether it’s by word of mouth, print, radio, television, the Internet, or a convergence combo of all the above, methods are quickly evolving to keep pace with societal needs for 24-7 news and information. It is as exciting to watch as it is to participate.
2. In your opinion, what elements are essential to a good digital PR campaign?
All good PR campaigns begin with defining the business challenge first. Then, identifying target audiences and establishing monitoring processes and success measures assist in determining the best strategies and tactics that map to those objectives. The Internet should simply be part of that overall plan, woven through accordingly to augment message and reach. Basic elements should include SEO/SEM (keywords & tagging), cross platform sharing, blogger outreach, multimedia (audio, video, photos), online community building and social media engagement.
3. Whose blog do you read the most?
4. How do you communicate the importance of new media strategies to your clients?
I usually begin by making the point that the Internet isn’t a panacea, but rather a tool that can assist in augmenting message, monitoring conversations and connecting key influencers and audiences in new ways. Some may be wary of the Web because it’s new, percieved as unproven, or pushes them outside their comfort level. The best way to allay their concerns is to provide real concrete examples, mapped to business objectives, that have produced successful results.
5. President-elect Obama’s social media campaign was credited for being the first of its kind. What’s your take on the role of new media and the blogosphere in Obama’s success?
Certainly, the Obama campaign understood the power of building online community. They used the Internet as an effective communications tool and, of course, to raise money. They also put the proper resources behind it with 95 Web staffers and almost $12M spent in two years for online efforts alone. That’s huge! Leveraging social media sites like Facebook (co-founder Chris Hughes joined the campaign) and Twitter helped connect his supporters but ultimately his election, in my opinion, was more a reflection of the promise of his candidacy rather than just his Web presence.
6. Please describe the biggest challenge you face in your current job.
Clearly, trends on the Internet move at a very rapid pace. It is very difficult to stay on top of the latest site or tool that pops up. Often, there’s a temptation to be wowed by a new site because it is “bright & shiny” but over time, it’s utlization will determine it’s value and market staying power. I think Twitter is a good example of that. When I first joined, I admit that I just didn’t get it – and many that I have spoken with about Twitter agree that they also initally felt the same way. Once I started to really use it, however, it has consistently demonstrated value to me in countless ways and although others have tried (Jaiku, Plurk, Pownce, Yammer), I keep coming home to tweet!
7. Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in working as a communications consultant in DC?
First, one must understand that even though Washington is a powerful world city, in many ways it’s also a small town community. So, I recommend getting out there, attend some Capitol Hill events, find others with like interests, join DC Facebook groups, follow DC folks on Twitter and explore all opportunities no matter how big or small they may seem. If just getting started, seek an internship at a PR agency or media outlet to get a foot in the door. To demonstrate knowledge of the digital space and it’s importance, start a blog and use it as way to connect with the DC set online.
8. If you could rank for any keyword phrase you don’t currently rank for, what would it be?
Hmmm, you mean besides “Nine-time Olympic Gold Medal Champion?” OK, seriously, let’s go with digital strategy expert. I personally think that it’s a little presumptious for anyone to call themselves an expert, but I certainly don’t mind if Google does it!
9. Assuming you had never gone into public relations, what would you be doing now professionally?
As a child, I dreamed of one day becoming either a dentist or a fireman. However, a couple cavities later and a fear of heights quickly dashed those hopes. Other than that, I probably would have become a stand-up comic or an international star of stage and screen. Ha!
10. Do you follow the Washington Nationals? Do you root for Teddy during the Presidents Races?
Believe it or not, I have never been to a Nationals game – I know, I know! I’m originally from Maryland and grew up during the height of Cal Ripken’s career, so naturally the Baltimore Orioles have always been my team. Go O’s! Plus, the Ripken family is from Aberdeen, Md. which is where my mom is from so I have always felt a little vicarious hometown connection. However, since I currently live very close to Mount Vernon, I have to root for the original George W!
Well that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading this. A big thanks to @MelaniePhung for sending the questions for all to answer.
Thanks to everyone who participated. Please check out their sites and follow them on Twitter.
@almacy a Digital Strategy Expert
@melaniephung a DC SEO Strategist
@martinbowling a lover of Zima
@utahseopro a Utah SEO Consultant
@fairminder who offers Boston Website Design and SEO services
@cyandle a Google Adwords Professional
@melanienathan an Edmonton SEO specialist
@jackleblond a VP of Internet Strategy
@djpaisley a Digital Communications Strategist
@vinceblackham a Utah SEO specialist
@researchgoddess a Staffing Social Media Specialist
@monicawright a Maine SEO professional