January 9, 2017
PRSA Boston was thrilled to sit down with Sharon Barbano, Saucony’s head of public relations, to discuss sports PR, marketing to women, and what were the best and worst PR/marketing experiences that she has faced during her career. Sharon will be PRSA Boston’s featured speaker in January as she talks about “Find Your Strong: The PR Athlete” on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Wolverine Worldwide headquarters in Boston. To get your ticket, visit eventbrite HERE.
Here are five questions that we asked Sharon during our conversation.
Q1: What does it take to be a winning PR Athlete?
A: Two runners stand at the starting line of the Boston Marathon. Both have similar body types, training programs, and personal bests. Who crosses the finish line first? The one who expected to win finishes first.
Winning is an action. But first, you need the mindset to be a winner. Just like that runner, a winning mindset is the key to becoming a successful PR pro. But you can’t develop a winning mindset until you program your mind to be a winner. That’s where the hard work comes in. Discovering your life’s purpose, exploring your possibilities, and establishing your presence in the world are part of the groundwork. Next comes goal setting, planning, and visualization. Of course, all of this is futile without the passion to win. You’ve got to love what you do.
Q2: You’ve always been passionate about marketing to women and even ran your own agency−the Women’s Sports Marketing Group−which tapped into the power of women’s sports to help high-growth brands gain female market share. What’s the secret to winning this majority consumer?
A: There is an old journalism adage: “Follow the money, follow the women or follow both.” I’m suggesting that marketers do the same. Women drive an estimated 85 percent of consumer spending with their purchasing power and influence, yet women still say that marketers don’t understand them. Here’s my Eight-C Chicklist ™; it was developed based on the principles I learned and continue to follow while working with the majority consumer:
- Connection: A woman’s purchasing decision is based on how a certain service or product will improve her life.
- Communication: Understanding the difference between listening and hearing are crucial in the communication process between a brand and its female customers. Once you’ve listened, respond. Only then will she know that she’s really been heard.
- Choice: According to research, the average 30-year-old woman has nearly 24 pairs of shoes in her closet. Why so many? She wants a choice: she works at the office and works out at the gym; she runs errands on Saturday and 5K’s on Sunday; she meets her friends in the city and her kids’ teachers at PTC. Her 360-degree lifestyle demands options.
- Customization: And while we’re on shoes, if the shoe fits, she’ll wear it; but only if it fits her really well. They need to feel and perform to her personal needs. Today’s female consumer expects products created just for her.
- Consistency: Defection comes easy. Let her down once, and she’s off into the arms of another brand. It’s not fickleness; its unmet expectations.
- Cause-Related: According to a recent AOL study, 54 percent of millennial women switched brands because it supported a cause they cared about. What does that mean? More cause marketing, of course.
- Convenience: Millennials crave convenience stores with women now shopping at them as much or more than men. It demonstrates how valuable time is for today’s multi-dimensional woman. By streamlining her life with apps and ease of accessibility, a brand can become part of her solution, and she becomes part of the brand.
- Credibility: Millennial women are digitally-savvy people. They know what’s fake and what’s not. They crave authenticity. Female shoppers respond strongly to content shared by other women, transforming everyday consumers into influential brand advocates.
Q3: What is your worst PR/marketing experience and what did you learn from it?
A: During the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in NYC’s Central Park, Saucony athlete and friend Ryan Shay collapsed and died at the 5-mile mark from a sudden cardiac event. Ryan’s family, the Saucony family, and the entire running community were devastated. A month later, we established a memorial bench at the site in Central Park where Ryan collapsed and held a memorial event there with Ryan’s family, the media, and the whole Saucony team attending.
Each year since then, the day before the NYC Marathon, the whole Saucony team runs together before dawn to Ryan’s bench, leaving behind a pair of running shoes in his honor. This experience continues to underline the importance of always having a crisis communications plan ready to execute. Because of our plan, we were ready and able to do the right thing in the midst of tragedy, not only to manage the media but also to grieve with Ryan’s family and the running community as a whole.
Q4: What was your best PR/marketing experience and what did you learn from it?
A: I was given the opportunity to launch the PR function at Saucony 15 years ago and have continued to successfully oversee the brand’s communication strategy single-handedly. While it would have been easy to use the excuse that we didn’t have an agency to support my individual efforts and thus accept self-mediocrity, I took it as a challenge. I now know from experience that nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Wishing will not. Talent will not. Bigger teams will not. Persistence is a powerful force.
Q5: Can you describe yourself in one word?
Sharon Barbano, head of Public Relations for Saucony, is an industry leader in strategic communications and sports marketing with more than 25 years of experience in entrepreneurial and corporate leadership positions. At Saucony, Sharon has applied her passion as a former world-class runner to communicate the brand’s award-winning performance running technologies while inspiring others to experience the transformational power of running. Prior to joining Saucony 15 years ago, Sharon was Reebok’s Group Director for Women’s Global Marketing. Sharon is the race analyst for many of the nation’s top running events; her on-air commentary has included television and radio coverage of the Boston, Chicago, LA, and New York City Marathons. Sharon was named a 2015 Achilles Hero by the Achilles Foundation for her work in the encouragement of disabled people to participate in mainstream running events. She was presented with the Women’s Trailblazer Award by Running USA and is a recipient of the Woman of Distinction Award from the National Association of Women in Education.
About Fast 5
This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as … winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos
Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email: Joshua Milne at firstname.lastname@example.org and
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or board of directors of either organization.
January 6, 2017
Who is Sofia Coon?
I’m 26 years old and am originally from Syracuse, NY. I’m currently a Senior Account Executive at Scratch Marketing and Media in Cambridge, MA. I’ve been with the company for about a year and a half and love the technology startups and companies we work with. I enjoy that I can nerd out on things like data integration, mobile apps, customer experience platforms and more. Trying to find a basic way to explain complex things is a fun challenge for me. I am extremely passionate about public relations and love that I get to help shape the strategy and messaging used by a client to provide awareness for them within their industry.
You’ve been a board member for a few years. What is your focus for 2017?
I was a PRSSA member at both Curry College in Milton, MA where I earned my Bachelor’s and Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY where I earned my Master’s. When I moved back to Boston, I immediately got involved with the Boston chapter as I knew it would give me the networking contacts and friends that I would need throughout my career. I started on the junior leadership team, working to reinvigorate the young professionals network (YPN) with a colleague. The two of us recreated the program structure for professionals with 5 or less years’ experience, hosting networking sessions and events that catered to what the new PR professional needs to know. In 2016, I was asked to become a Director at Large on the board. I am now in my second term, continuing work with YPN as well as being a part of the committee for the 2017 PRSA International Conference, which will be held in Boston this fall. I am also working with our campus connection program – providing Boston area schools with information on the tools and resources PRSA can provide rising juniors and seniors. I look forward to seeing what all three opportunities bring in 2017 and continuing to be a part of the board for years to come.
Why are you involved with PRSA and what has it meant for your career?
PRSA has always been a rock for me. The seasoned professionals I’ve met have been through a number of the same obstacles and challenges that I have. I know I can count on them to respond to an email, help me with a recommendation or provide me the advice and guidance that will continue to send me down a successful career path in the future. All I can do is to continue to have the same “pay it forward” mentality and do what I can for the generations of PR professionals behind me. I also know that I can reach out to a PRSA member internationally and more likely than not they are happy to answer any questions I may have. I was recently doing some industry research in Canada and had multiple members that were willing to have phone and video conversations to tell me about their experiences.
What is your recommendations for individuals thinking about joining PRSA?
I always offer them a chance to be a guest at an event or to look at what the national website has to offer in terms of webinars and mentorships. I have a number of examples of how PRSA has helped me navigate my career and I can share how it will help them if they become a part of the network.
When you’re not involved with PRSA Boston or doing your full time PR gig, what do you do?
I love reading and reviewing books. I have so many daily adventures in my job, but I love reading about other worlds and time periods. I’m also a big musical theater and drama nerd. I used to be on the board of a theater company in Wayland, MA and now volunteer for box office or front of house management when I have the opportunity. My boyfriend and I also love going on road trips. Vermont is one of our favorite places to go when we have a long weekend.
Tell us something not many people know about you (Don’t worry….we’ll keep it a secret!).
I have a bookstagram! I’m getting it back up and running in 2017 as I had to take a small hiatus, but follow me on @BookishBlueFox for some book recommendations and to follow my personal reading challenge of 60 books in 12 months (I read 55 in 2016).
October 12, 2016
The Interview: GE’s CCO Deirdre Latour Chats About GE’s Corporate Culture, the Presidential Campaign Aftermath for Journalism and Why She’s a Closet Bruins Fan
For seventeen months, Deirdre Latour (@deirdrelatour) has been the lead communications strategist rolling out one of the biggest US business stories of 2016: the corporate headquarters move of Fortune Global 25 company GE (NYSE:GE) to Boston’s burgeoning Seaport District. On Wednesday, November 9th, she will, for the first time, share that story directly, as keynote of PRSA Boston’s C-Suite Conversation with Deirdre Latour at The NonProfit Center of Boston, just one block from South Station.
In anticipation of her presentation, we wanted to know why she thinks GE’s move to Boston will be good for the company as well as our region. PRSA Boston President Loring Barnes catches up with GE’s busy global communications leader:
LB: You’re a College of the Holy Cross alumna, so welcome ‘back’ to Boston. I’m going to jump right in: What are GE’s goals for being a leader in the Greater Boston community?
DL: We really want to become integrated within all facets of the community and before too long, be known as an important value-add neighbor. The fact that the GE Foundation is headquartered in Boston gives us a solid anchor from which to build out our philanthropic investments in STEM education for local public schools and to support innovative responses to urgent public health challenges. We just announced our latest foundation grant to fund opioid addiction response resources at Boston Medical Center within a $15 million dollar healthcare pledge overall (Boston Globe, Metro, Oct. 10, 2016). Through our actions, we want to convey that GE is here to make positive contributions to Greater Boston, in part through investments in innovation to drive solutions.
LB: GE’s corporate communications is located in NYC, Boston and Washington, DC. You’ll be speaking to an audience of public relations professionals. Are you hiring?
DL: We really are in good shape. We run lean and mean and of course with the use of technology where we located is less important than the capabilities and connectivity that we provide. GE is in 180 countries, and this is the communications team that got us here so we really didn’t have a need to rebuild it. Of course, I always love to meet new talent!
LB: You will be speaking the night following what feels like an interminable and bruising presidential election. What will US journalism look like as we head into 2017, and in your view how will this be reshaped by this electoral process?
DL: It’s really a shame, but journalists have been denigrated and even traumatized throughout this campaign. In too many cases, reporters have become the story. While video, audio and digital content will continue to be king for PR and media alike, I think the journalism landscape will look very different coming out of this election. It will be interesting to see how some of the big networks are reshaped.
LB: What is the biggest misconception of GE in your view?
DL: I think any organization of our size – we employ 330,000 employees across 180 countries – gets saddled with the label ‘big business’ meaning large, inefficient or monolithic. But what is big business really? It’s the people who believe in innovation to make our world a better place. 125,000 of our employees are here in the US. This workforce brings diverse perspectives, education and ideas to a singular mission of driving change. GE offers an environment of urgency for bright minds; these are people who are drawn by the energy of innovation and who are determined to make a difference.
LB: Do you think GE’s personality will change with its move to Boston, and if so, how?
DL: It already has, and definitely for the better. Whenever you change your physical surroundings, the process of relocating requires that you shed excess material things and you think fresh about what you want to do differently. For GE, I think we consciously didn’t transport any sediment of bureaucracy that likely built up over time simply from years of being in one place with a consistent operational routine. Any move is disruptive, but that’s proven to be good for us. It’s exciting to be reinventing what a corporate headquarters looks and feels like. Our CEO (Jeffrey Immelt) is working in a very visible, centrally located office. He likes it as do our employees. For anyone with the ability to compare, they would have to say that the GE in Boston feels faster, leaner and more engaging. Our new Fort Point neighborhood, with so much building going on around us, truly fits the sense of transformation that is happening within our company.
LB: Let’s talk about your career journey a bit. PRSA Boston will be your first speaking opportunity in the city, and to other public relations practitioners since this big news and GE’s subsequent arrival. You’ve had a meteoric rise from your early days on the agency side (Porter Novelli, then Edelman). How would you appraise your career path?
DL: Yes, I never thought I would be as senior in my professional role as I am. I came into GE not knowing how little I knew, but I was fortunate that this company incubates learning and gives every employee the opportunity to reach and grow. While I benefited from that, I really never had a master plan to advance my career. I just worked hard in the moment and the rest happened as a result.
LB: What would you tell your 21-year old self about how to shape a successful and fulfilling public relations career? Is there an insight or lesson you wish you knew then that you want to share now?
DL: I would say, be kinder to people. Assume that people are coming from the best place and that they have their own context for how they approach problem-solving or work in general. Things don’t have to be done your way to get accomplished.
LB: By virtue of directing a global communications function, you have a 24/7 job. What do you enjoy outside of work to recharge or take a break?
DL: I think everyone needs boundaries to protect personal time. I have a great team that helps me to accomplish this so that I can be present with my family. When I’m not traveling, reading for work or otherwise busy with my kids, I’ll turn on HGTV. I love interior design, home décor, photos of architecture and fashion and anything having to do with the arts. Where I’m in New York, I love Broadway! I’m a huge ‘Hamilton’ fan.
LB: Important questions to wrap this up. Yankees or Red Sox? Has the GE move influenced your pro sports allegiances?
DL: Oh I’m definitely loyal to Red Sox from my days back at Holy Cross. I watched David Ortiz’s last game and I was sad. He’s really been such a beacon, not only for baseball but also as a humanitarian. We’re going to miss him. I probably shouldn’t mention this but by marriage, we watch a lot of the Ottawa Senators because my husband is originally from Canada.
LB: We won’t tell the Bruins. One more chance: Starbucks or Dunkin?
DL: Starbucks. Remember, I’ve been in New York for twenty years.
LB: Thank you for your time, Deirdre. We’re looking forward to hearing more about your vision for GE, some of the insights you’ve gained as a communications professional that inform your work today, and to offering this opportunity for more people to meet you and your PR team.
DL: We’re looking forward to it.
Early Bird Registration to the November 9th Program can be found HERE (payment via Eventbrite).
June 15, 2016
First Speech in Boston Since GE Relocated
PRSA Boston chose the PRXNE16 Northeast District Conference to announce that GE’s Chief Communications Officer Deirdre Latour will be the keynote on Nov. 9, 2016 at the organization’s 66th Annual Meeting, themed ‘Communications for Innovation.’ The relocation of GE’s World Corporate Headquarters to Boston’s Seaport District is the year’s biggest business story for Massachusetts, with implications to public relations professionals from higher education, STEM and technology development, chamber and civic groups, infrastructure and commercial construction.
“GE’s new leadership footprint is emblematic in how public relations advances the innovation economy, said PRSA Boston President Loring Barnes, APR. “To have the lead communications architect Deirdre Latour share how GE is collaborating with start-ups and stalwart brands will be both timely and insightful. This will be her first speech in Boston since GE relocated and we are thrilled.”
Latour’s career journey from agency giant Edelman to GE underscores the range of professional opportunities that the corporate and agency duality allows. She is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society and has been recognized by PR Week and PR News.
“GE is grateful for the enthusiastic reception we’ve received from the Massachusetts business community and legislative delegation,” said Latour, who will be returning to her home state. “As we move our headquarters, we understand how essential communications is to connecting with the Boston community.”
GE’s decision to centralize its global headquarters in the burgeoning Seaport District has turbocharged Boston’s-related building, public works and highway construction. Latour will speak about how ‘adaptive communications’ is essential for innovation industries to accelerate business plans.
GE (NYSE:GE) is the world’s Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. GE is organized around a global exchange of knowledge, the “GE Store,” through which each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry.
About Deirdre Latour, CCO GE (@deirdrelatour)
Latour leads the company’s global communications functions, shaping the company’s culture and supports its business growth worldwide. She has worked for GE for over twelve years, having made the shift from respected PR firm Edelman. She is an alumna of College of the Holy Cross and member of the Arthur W. Page Society, a community of senior and chief communications officers, PR agency CEOs and academics.
The 66-year Boston Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (registered 501c6) connects members to the world’s largest association for public relations professionals. PRSA Boston offers year-round thought leadership, Accreditation certification (APR), educational content and networking programs, which this year included hosting the PRXNE16 Northeast District Conference. PRSA Boston will host the PRSA 2017 International Conference in October 2017.