In PR Practicum (PRCA 3711/4711) with Barbara Nixon, we were assigned to conduct an informational interview with a PR professional. Using Twitter, I found Brett Pohlman who allowed me to ask him questions over the phone.
Sarah: “What is a typical week like for you?”
Brett: “For me, I manage a lot of social media for clients–their facebooks, twitter, and provide a lot of strategy to those clients. The customers/consumers drive what I do on a regular basis”. Brett explains how their largest client is Baskin Robbins. “I manage their twitter and handle and respond to customers online, depending on what they tweet about and say about Baskin Robbins” He also manages their facebook fanpage by putting out new products, pictures, and videos, as well as all kinds of new information. He also works a lot with RFPs, which is a request for proposal. “Anytime a client submits this, we decide if we want this client. We research them and look at their brand as a whole and see what we can do with them in social media. I research a lot and keep abreast of what is going on in social media. One minute twitter is in, and the next minute it could be out.” Brett explains how the industry is very fast paced and that you never know what is going to come next, so nothing is ever completely typical.
Sarah: “Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.”
Brett: “Back in April, we had our 31 cent scoop night at Baskin Robbins.” He explains how the store has over 12 or 1300 individually owned franchises throughout the country. “For us to do a national program like this is really big because our computer systems aren’t all hooked together, and not all franchisees are hooked together”, says Brett. They did a huge push with the mommy bloggers online. “Since Baskin Robbins is such a family oriented, ‘let’s go with your kids to have ice cream’ kind of brand, families and moms are a huge target audience and mommy bloggers so active on facebook and twitter now. They embraced it, shared it on their networks, and at the heat of the moment, right there leading up to the night, we had just about 20 tweets per minute that were going on about Baskin Robbins.”
Sarah: “How important is writing in your career?”
Brett: “Extremely important. I wish I would have payed a lot more attention in my pr writing course. The pr writing course, for me, was one of the hardest, but I learned the most out of that course. In English classes and your freshman and sophomore years, you’re trying to write a lot of wordy sentences. Pr writing is completely the opposite—straight and to the point with no excess information. To be able to do that very well will keep you employable for the rest of your life. There is always a need for good writers. I can’t tell you how much we end up giving to a copywriter, or someone that does it full time, vs. keeping it in house. And yeah we’re good writers, but writing also takes up a lot of time….if you can write, you will get hired. It’s pretty much a done deal.”
Sarah: “What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?”
Brett: 1.) “Be involved with social networks as much as you can; that is literally the future. My professor at auburn was always telling us that. Within the last 2 year, things have changed so much- take Twitter, for example. Almost everyone is on it or at least trying it out.”
2.) ” Try to think outside the box. I know that’s not always easy, but too often students will just regurgitate what their professors say to them or how their professors teach them. We want you to go further than that and really put in that extra thought. Even if you’re blogging for a class, put in that extra information. When you can drop names and start reading and showing that you’re involved, that’s when we really start to look at you like a new hire. You’re putting your own opinion in that.”
3.) “Whatever you do, do it very passionately. I think that you can do whatever kind of pr genre that you want, and I think that is really easy…especially in pr and in social media. It’s really easy to start writing a blog, or becoming an expert in a field of what you like. Take fashion for example, if you like fashion, you can become an expert in that field. There is enough social media within the fashion industry itself to learn everything you need to know.”
Sarah: “What do you do to keep current in your industry?”
Brett: “Get outside of the office. Too often I just work so hard and so much that to get outside of the office space and to get around to other thinkers is probably the best thing. In Boston we are very lucky because we have lots of tweet ups around the city about people in social media. I have a great arsenal of social media people within the city and to hear them speak and go to those events is great. Also, read blogs—all the big pr blogs.”
Sarah: “What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?”
Brett: ““The strategy part of pr is what I really didn’t understand before I left college. I was very quick to regurgitate what Robert French was saying in my social media class and I was really good with keeping up with blogs and videos. But when you’re put in a real world situation, it’s really hard to start thinking of ideas about what companies should be doing. Be able to think strategically, that’s what will set you apart.”
Sarah: “What has surprised you the most about working with PR?
Brett: “For me, in my particular situation, I have been surprised at how much I have been able to do. I could have gotten a job where I sit in a cubicle and not have moved very far and not progressed as much. However, I went to a medium sized firm that’s going on its 30th year next year. Fortunately, my boss loves to help young people out and I got very lucky that I found this firm here in Boston. I think if you push people and you push your bosses and do a great job, they are going to reward you with getting more responsibility. In this economy, you really have to work hard.”
Sarah: “What professional organizations are you involved in?”
Brett: In school I was in PRCA and also became an officer. I also did a lot with UPC and was also involved in student government. Right now I go to a lot of social media breakfasts on a regular and am also involved with the Social Media Club, and the Advertising Club of Boston.