People of PRSA

  • People of PRSA – Meet Dan Dent, Media Relations Manager, Draper & Past President, PRSA Boston

    In People of PRSA on

     

    A professional with broad PR experience, Dan weighs in on effective social media programming, executive communications, and PR’s unique contribution to organizations.

     

    How did you prepare to work in PR?
    I started off as an English Literature major at the University of Iowa–a good place to learn writing and storytelling. As I learned more about PR, it was clear that storytelling is a key to help businesses and organizations connect with people. Following Iowa, I enrolled in a masters in Communications program at B.U. and was shown much more—more like the whole “keyboard.”

     

    You really “grew up” during the rise of social media and have worked in that area. What do you keep in mind in managing social media for an organization?
    With social media, we are all members of the media because anyone can contribute content.  But people need to keep in mind that there’s a social contract here—to be responsible and make sure messaging is fact-based. Also, we’re not just creating content, but building an audience and sharing a worldview.  You earn that audience’s trust over time and one way is to provide content of value. I think an avoidable mistake for all of us in communications is to insert too many “asks,” or calls to action, in our content; it’s important to provide good content and then perhaps every third or fifth post, there can be an “ask.”

     

    You’ve also been involved in media training for executives. What is some of the advice you’ve provided?
    Most of all, it’s important to speak from your position at your company or organization—to avoid speaking for an entire industry. That’s when people get into trouble. It’s always much better to say, “at our company, this is what we do.” Also, I stress being authentic. The best executives have a true understanding of their company and their customers. They get out and walk around their work places and visit customers. It’s so much more authentic if they can say, “this is what I saw or what I heard.”

     

    How has PRSA been of help to you?
    Over the years, I’ve been a corporate executive, an agency staff member, and an independent practitioner and, regardless of the role, it’s always been helpful to have a network to consult with.  At one point, I headed the Independent Practitioners Network, a very active community within PRSA Boston, and that was a great way to connect with others. With Covid, meetings have been on hold, but anyone can go to the PRSA national website, click on My PRSA and then My Networking Tools, and find other independents or members in other areas of PR. When I need advice, I’m always able to find someone through My PRSA, and they are willing to take my phone call.

     

    What do you think is the unique contribution of PR?
    I think we contribute to organizations in ways that marketing can’t.  Marketing focuses on customers and buying and selling, but PR brings a broader sense of the environment to the table. We focus on the many stakeholders who can impact an organization—and work to build positive relationships with them.

     

    Is there a surprising fact about you?
    I’m from Chicago, and in my first 20 years I sailed a sailboat in four Midwestern states—Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  To see how, check below*.

     

    *All while on Lake Michigan

    Interviewer: Bernadine Cassell, APR

     

  • People of PRSA – Meet Samantha Stone, Sr. Account Executive, Shift Communications & Co-chair, Young Professionals Network (YPN), PRSA Boston

    In People of PRSA on

    Meet Samantha Stone
    Sr. Account Executive, Shift Communications
    & Co-chair, Young Professionals Network (YPN), PRSA Boston

    Thriving in agency life, Sam, a former nationally competitive gymnast, now helps other young professionals gain a competitive advantage in the PR field.

     

    What’s the most exciting part of your job at Shift Communications?
    It’s exciting to pitch top tier media with the perfect story for our clients and see those stories come to fruition. In my 18 months at Shift, I’ve worked with CNBC, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, and other major media, and had a lot of great wins. I work with a variety of clients – some in educational technology, transportation technology, even a background check company. Many of my clients compile data and that provides a good basis for articles.

     

    What originally drew you to agency work?
    I wanted the chance to work with a variety of clients in a variety of industries, rather than just supporting one client. It’s an opportunity to keep learning and growing.

     

    What helped you most in getting started?
    I went to the University of Rhode Island, and while I was there, I got involved with an internship program for the Harrington School of Communication and Media. It was a great segue into true PR work. I worked on social media and did other forms of writing and had the benefit of working with our own professors. For anyone interested in PR, I’d really suggest getting summer internships and particularly in the summer right after completing school. You can then apply for jobs knowing you can offer actual work experience. Take a look at your own university’s internships!

     

    Why have you decided to help lead PRSA Boston’s Young Professionals Network?
    Networking is so important right after college. It’s such a help to be able to talk to others experienced in the field, and also those new to PR. For getting started or making a career shift, it’s important to know there are people you can ask about openings or you can contact for advice.

     

    How does the Young Professionals Network help with job growth and connections?
    We’ve been somewhat limited during the pandemic, but we had a great networking event earlier this year for junior-level PR professionals, and we plan to have one in person again soon. We also offer a mentorship program, and I personally mentor several people. To find out more about our upcoming event or the YPN Mentorship Program, I’d encourage people to check the PRSA Boston website or contact me directly (my LinkedIn messages are always open!). YPN is a terrific offering.

     

    Are there any surprising facts about you?
    I have an Australian Shepherd, Lily, who I adore. And earlier, for about 15 years, I competed nationally for gymnastics, which took up the bulk of my childhood. I don’t do gymnastics anymore, that was pre-college, but I really wish I kept it up.

     

    Interviewer: Bernadine Cassell, APR

     

  • People of PRSA – Meet Lynnea Olivarez VP, Corporate Communications Encoded Therapeutics & Membership Co-chair, PRSA Boston

    In People of PRSA on

    Meet Lynnea Olivarez
    VP, Corporate Communications
    Encoded Therapeutics & Membership Co-chair, PRSA Boston

    A recent transplant to the San Francisco Bay Area, Lynnea continues her service to PRSA Boston and her solid growth in biopharmaceutical communications.

     

    You continue to serve PRSA Boston, even though you’re now living on the West Coast.  How is that?
    Last year, I joined the PRSA Boston Board (wanting to get more involved). A few weeks later, I got the opportunity to lead communications at an emerging gene therapy company in San Francisco. I really wanted to stay on the board and keep my ties to Boston, and in a connected world, it all can work.

     

    What originally drew you to biopharma communications in Boston?
    When I studied journalism at Northeastern, I thought I would become a reporter, but after an internship at my hometown newspaper, I knew it wasn’t for me. So, I enrolled in a PR course, and later had the good fortune to be a student co-op at the biopharma trade association, MassBio. That started me on the path I’m still on today. I’d found an industry that I could be passionate about, make a meaningful contribution to, and grow and learn from for years to come.

     

    What’s the secret of your career growth?
    After college, I got my foot in the door at a large pharma company, not in comms but in IT! After volunteering to improve how information was disseminated, the demand was so high that I created a new internal communications role. I also made a point to read job listings for roles I knew I wasn’t yet qualified for, to see what experience I needed to get. I zeroed in on my biotech focus by reading trade publications, growing my network and media relationships, and joining professional societies, as well as seeking out mentors. So, although I didn’t have formal science training, I was able to use my communications and writing background and then pick up the rest on the job.

     

    Are there any surprises about PR work in San Francisco?
    Not really, since it’s a small world when you work within an industry, and a strong network can still thrive regardless of location.

     

    You were honored by PR News as one of 2020’s Top Women in PR. What was that for?
    At my last job, doing external affairs for a CRISPR gene-editing company in Cambridge, I led a brand refresh to reflect our evolution. The award also recognized one of my employee engagement initiatives, a fifth-anniversary celebration and community day, where our 200+ team members volunteered at a dozen non-profits in the Greater Boston Area.

     

    Are there any surprising facts about you?
    In high school, I earned a Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting, which is the equivalent of the more well-known Boy Scout Eagle Award. And, acquaintances are often shocked to learn I hail from Texas, due to my lack of a Southern drawl – although a “y’all” still slips in every now and again!

     

  • People of PRSA – Meet Kristin Foley Account Manager, fama PR & President, PRSA Boston

    In People of PRSA on

    Pizza-loving, hard-working, and drawn to agency life, 2021 PRSA Boston President Kristin Foley comments on her career choices, the Boston PR field, and her great PRSA Boston leadership team.

     

    You’ve worked in agency PR for nearly 10 years now.  What drew you to the agency side of PR?
    I’ve always wanted to work in an agency because it’s a great place to start. You experience PR at the ground level—dealing with all the strategies and tactics. I also enjoy having a chance to work with different clients and learn about different industries. You’re never bored; every day is different!  Also, I enjoy agency culture. I get to work with like-minded people around my own age—and that makes going to work all the more enjoyable!

     

    In LinkedIn you describe yourself as “hard working.”  What else is needed to succeed?
    There are some “soft skills” that aren’t taught in college but are really important in this field. I’d say number one is being organized, followed by being able to prioritize. I find on any given day, I may start off with an agenda, but by the end of the day, many other things may have come up, and I need to deal with them. Also, it really helps to be someone who can “roll with the punches” –who’s not easily overwhelmed or stressed. You often have to change directions, figure it out, and organize what you need to do.

     

    Did you have any big “pivots” during the pandemic?
    Like many others, people at our agency started working from home, and we also had to re-think media relations and be clear about the media environment with our clients. Early on, the media was 100 percent focused on the pandemic.  We had to be extra sensitive to what was going on in the world and think through if what we were pitching made sense, given the times. Now, the pandemic has become more part of everyday life, but we still need to keep that sensitivity.

     

    What do you hear about the PR field in Boston?
    At first it seemed like the pandemic would really hurt PR and marketing, but that has not been the case. In fact, I see more opportunities than ever. It’s a bit of a talent war among Boston agencies, so people have options. I think with the pandemic, many companies have needed to figure out new ways of making money—or to pivot in other ways.  PR can get those messages across and communicate a company’s mission and values.

     

    Is there a surprising fact about you?
    I’ll have to think about that. Here’s one: I really like pizza!  (But perhaps everyone who knows me, knows that.)

     

    What are you proudest about PRSA Boston, especially during the past “pandemic year”?
    I am so proud of our board and leadership team and how they have come together. We’ve been able to adapt and keep professional development going. Programs are now virtual, but members seem to enjoy this. We now have another option to serve people, so perhaps in a way we’re come out of this pandemic year even better!