Big thanks to PRWeek for including me on its list of 50 “rising stars” in tech PR and digital communications. That was definitely the highlight of my week!
I spoke on a panel discussion at my office in May about earned media — what it is, what the challenges are, and why it’s important. My fellow panelists represented more of the word-of-mouth / influencer engagement and traditional media relations points of view, whereas I weighed in based on my experience with digital PR and social media (although I’ve done those other things, too). They both had really interesting things to say and hopefully it was helpful in terms of getting the word out about what “earned media” really means.
(If you want to attend an upcoming free event like this, check out Huge’s event listings.)
Good to know I’m not yet replaceable by robots. I should hope not, considering I’ve allegedly spent at least eight days and 19 hours of my life tweeting (and that’s not even counting the tweets I’ve done over the years for accounts like @DUMBOFoodTrucks, @AmericanExpress, @Travelzoo, @eBayClassifieds, @Hugeinc and more). Good Lord…
Take the quiz if you want to see how you fare. I wonder if anyone will make potential community managers or copywriters take this quiz before hiring them, ha. It’s probably not a bad idea!
Huge uses its main space to host events for the community and runs classes for staff, such as coding and yoga. In addition, a Huge staffer created and manages the DUMBO Food Trucks Twitter handle.
“I’d recommend just getting to know as many people as possible at your company,” said Alyssa Galella, director of earned media at Huge. “Attend company events, strike up conversations in the kitchen, or invite people to lunch. Most of my closest friends and confidants at work weren’t necessarily people I worked with directly very often, but I admired their work and wanted to get to know them better, then made an effort to do that. They can also make introductions to their own mentors and bosses.”
Galella recommended staying in touch with former colleagues as a way to get candid advice, and she, like many of the other 20-something agency staffers, agreed that it is definitely their own responsibility to be on the lookout for mentors, and that it doesn’t have to be some official agency program. In fact, most agreed that a good mentor relationship has to happen naturally.
Digiday asked me to weigh in on the topic of Millennials (since I am one) and mentors in the workplace. Here’s the rest of the stuff I said that didn’t make it into the article:
Huge doesn’t currently have a formal mentorship program but we do have a great Employee Engagement team that creates opportunities for employees to interact across departments and levels. I think finding mentors in general has to happen organically — it can’t necessarily be forced (Sheryl Sandberg has an entire chapter about this in Lean In). Since the members of Huge’s leadership team are very hands-on and accessible, I think that probably makes it easier to find informal mentors here than it might be at other companies.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I have an official mentor but I’ve learned a lot from working with Huge’s CEO, Aaron Shapiro, on Huge Labs projects and PR activities. I also really admire all of the strong female leaders at Huge — like President/COO Shirley Au, Chief Experience Officer Michal Pasternak, and West Coast Managing Director Patricia Korth-McDonnell — I feel like I learn something new whenever I get the chance to talk to them.
I also stay in touch with former coworkers who I’ve known for many years and appreciate their advice and support on career-related topics, too. Whether or not you consider them mentors per se, I definitely think it’s important to have colleagues who you admire and whose opinions you trust, to help guide you in your career. And it’s also important to be willing to be that person for others.
I do think that it’s important that employees feel like they have someone they can go to for help if they’re unhappy at work, whether it’s their manager, the human resources department, or company leadership. I think people sometimes just find another job and leave without ever speaking up about why, until their exit interview. Whereas if they had explained what the issue was and how they wished it could be better, maybe their current company could have done something to improve the situation — you’ll never know if you don’t ask. But that kind of atmosphere can be achieved in other ways besides a formal mentorship program. For instance, Huge’s CEO conducts meetings with the junior members of every department a few times a year, to make sure people have a chance to give him honest feedback without their boss in the room.
In terms of advice, I’d recommend just getting to know as many people as possible at your company. Attend company events, strike up conversation in the kitchen, or invite people to lunch. Most of my closest friends and confidants at work weren’t necessarily people I worked with directly very often — but I admired their work and wanted to get to know them better, then made an effort to do that. They can also make introductions to their own mentors and bosses.
In general, work really hard and make your managers’ jobs easier, so they love you and want to spend time with you. If there’s a project that’s outside of your existing workload, like a last-minute new business pitch, volunteer to help. Word gets around about who the superstars are and who’s always willing to go the extra mile to help out the team. If there’s someone you don’t know but whose work you really admire, send them an email saying you noticed [their work on something specific] and you’d love to hear more about [something specific related to that] sometime, if they have a few minutes to chat or get coffee. Do your homework and make sure you have specific questions or topics you want to discuss because they are probably very busy and get a lot of requests from random people who just want to “pick their brains.”
Perhaps the greatest indication of television’s outsized presence was that SXSW’s normally indefatigable nightlife ebbed briefly on Sunday night, when HBO aired the season finale of True Detective. Many conference attendees retreated for an hour to watch it.New York Times media columnist David Carr, a perennial presence here, captured the cultural forces at workin his columnpublished that same evening: “In the short span of five years, table talk has shifted, at least among the people I socialize with, from books and movies to television. The idiot box gained heft and intellectual credibility to the point where you seem dumb if you are not watching it.”— Andrew Cunningham (@cunninghamarc)March 10, 2014Many True Detective viewing parties, though, were thwarted by the crush of traffic to HBO Go that prevented streaming the show over the internet. Traditional cable TV in hotel rooms proved more reliable.
This was probably my proudest SXSW moment this year. I had been obsessed with True Detective (like many of my friends) and was completely shocked that HBO was promoting the upcoming show Silicon Valley in Austin but had absolutely nothing planned for the True Detective finale (and neither did any local movie theaters or bars with big screens). Not sure what they were thinking but at the last minute on Sunday morning, I took matters into my own hands.
I ran around Austin hunting for (and thankfully finding) a bunch of Bluetooth laptop speakers, asked our bartenders to get us some six-packs of Lone Star beer, and started searching Twitter for tweets by the many SXSW attendees wondering where they could watch the finale. I tweeted at and emailed a bunch of journalists and other folks, letting them know that we were planning to watch in our bar on laptops with HBO GO (which, full disclosure, my company Huge designed, back in the day!). Not the best solution but better than nothing.
We had a bunch of cool people show up, from the tech reporter at the local Austin newspaper, to a filmmaker who recently did a documentary all about showrunners (he showed us a sneak preview), to a true crime writer, to a guy who teaches high-schoolers how to code in Chicago. It was really fun and everyone who attended was so excited and grateful. We were very lucky that both our laptops got through the entire episode before HBO GO started crashing on everyone else. My coworker Andrew tweeted about my little shindig and Quartz even included his tweet in this story about SXSW. How’s that for realtime marketing?
Then there’s digital shop Huge, which rented out an unmarked bar on 6th Street called Midnight Cowboy, referring to the space as its “speakeasy” headquarters. It really looks like an old speakeasy on the inside, and you cannot get in if you don’t know someone.
When it comes to actually forging business relationships at a networking-heavy event such as SXSWi, who needs all the noise and busy bodies at big parties and activations? At least that’s Huge ecd Jon Jackson’s logic in this Instagram video.
SXSW was an exhausting whirlwind (as usual) and I was basically a barwench (either doing client work or schmoozing people at the speakeasy) from around 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. every day for a week. I didn’t actually make it to a single panel or another company’s party at all, because someone (or ideally multiple people) on our team had to be at the bar at all times. At least I got to sneak away for a couple of hours to meet (and pet!) Lil Bub.
Anyway, here’s a media hit I secured in Adweek that’s all about Huge’s bar (with a staffing assist from Lindsay). We may not have had a ton of fun but the Huge Comms team did an amazing job of securing media coverage (this was just one of many stories mentioning Huge) and making connections. Even Ian Somerhalder and Elijah Wood showed up, no joke.
No one cares where the good idea comes from; we all just want to get there and make something cool.
It was fun (/slightly surreal) to return to my alma mater this week to speak to members of the NYU PRSSA and Comm Club. The students asked some great questions — I was nervous that nobody would have questions and I’d have to find an hour’s worth of things to talk about on my own. PR often gets a bad rap, so I’m always happy to try to help get the next generation of smart kids interested in checking it out.