Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Amanda Brasier, APR, PR manager for CBM-US

Liza returns from the beach next week. Yay! I have missed our e-mails and phone calls throughout the week. Also, we might have the opportunity to work on a project together and I’m super excited about that – so I can’t wait to get an update from her when she returns!

This week’s Palmetto PR Diva Dish focuses on Amanda Brasier, APR, public relations manager for Christian Blind Mission – which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and disabled. Beth Thomason (who was featured last week) nominated Amanda Brasier, and we are happy to share her thoughts. I love that she gives props to her mentor and how that helped shape her professional path.

Read on to find about how she got started and her goals for the CBM’s future.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
I’m Public Relations Manager for CBM-US (an international humanitarian organization formerly known as Christian Blind Mission International).

CBM-US works in the poorest countries of the world helping to prevent disabilities and to treat them. My role is to begin to generate awareness for the organization, which is based in Greenville, S.C., and to create marketing tools that tell our story.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry?
Like a lot of folks, I started out in journalism, newspapers specifically. I loved to talk with people and then turn it into a story. I really couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do it!

About 12 years ago, I moved to the coastal region of South Carolina (Myrtle Beach, to be exact) and landed a job at an advertising and public relations agency, LHWH Advertising and PR.

There, I met my mentor, Lei Gainer, who really took me under her wing and showed me how strategic communication can be. It really allowed me to take something I loved doing and focus my efforts. I felt as though I had found my niche. I got to the Upstate about eight years ago, after a brief pit stop at an agency in Knoxville.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
Well, the conversion from public relations from being seen as “media relations/publicity” to more of a total communication strategy. Many of the clients I worked with various agencies only engaged our services to generate press coverage.

Today, I think the line between marketing, advertising and public relations is less defined and more blended than it was when I started out. And, that’s a good thing.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
I’ve been a member of PRSA for a long time. I was involved when I lived in Knoxville and worked as the PR Manager for David Newman Payne Advertising and I got involved in the SC chapter when I moved to the Upstate eight years ago. I was one of the last groups to take the “paper” accreditation test (it’s since gone online), and got my APR in 2002.
I’ve also been a member of CHPRMS (Carolinas Healthcare and Marketing Society) during the five years I worked in healthcare marketing.

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations/marketing industry?
Find a mentor. Get as many internships as possible. And surround yourself with talent. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve worked with over the years (Beth Thomason, Jo Halmes, Adriana DiFranco, Amanda Dow, Bridgette Johnson, the aforementioned Lei Gainer, just to name a few.)

Also—sometimes what can seem like failure in the moment (downsizing or loss of a job) can be a blessing. I’ve learned through personal experience and through watching some of my friends that there is a huge demand for talented marketing and public relations professionals, so if you’re in that category, have confidence that you’ll find something else. And it will probably be better than what you were doing before.

o What is the best thing about your job?

I love the fact that I work for an organization that is helping society’s most disadvantaged people regain dignity and establish a quality of life. It’s hard for anyone who lives in the United States to imagine just how horrible living conditions are in a developing country. Add the burden of coping with life in a developing country with having a disability and you have the focus of CBM’s efforts.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?

There’s only one of me, and it’s not really enough to go around.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your company or one of your clients)?

I believe that CBM-US is an organization that will blossom in the next 5 years. If you’re reading this column, you probably hadn’t heard of us before, but I believe that we will soon run in the same humanitarian circles as some other very credible NGOs, like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse. I’m proud to be part of that effort.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
A lot better than I used to. Now that I have two small munchkins (16 months and 4), my work/life balance has to be saner than when I started out. The ankle-biters demand it, as does my husband. (And my neurotic cat.)

o Anything else you would like to add?
No—it’s been a pleasure. It’s always great to take a moment and reflect on why you do what you do and where you’ve been and your company along the way. Now I better get back to work!


What sets you apart?

Liza and I sometimes get in a rut when we meet. We typically go to the same coffee shops for morning meetings and regurlarly visit the same old haunts during lunchtime. Admittedly, we like routines, and it’s also convienient for both of us to meet in certain areas at certain times…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But I was pleasantly surprised when someone suggested I meet them at Liquid Highway – a Greenville-based coffee shop that I had never experienced before – this morning.  I got there a few minutes early and started to read the paper with my tall brew in hand.  And when the rest of my party got there, we ordered shots at 9 in the morning!  (They are actually yummy, great-way-to-start-your-day espresso shooters.)

What a great way to break the ice while getting a little extra caffeine into your system. Not only does Liquid Highway allow you to take shots before noon, but every cent of profit after taxes supports medical clinics, missionaries and schools around the world.  Essentially, by supporting the local business, you are also helping other communities in need.

You know, there are a bazillion coffee shops out there – one on every corner it seems. And I’m sure you’ve read articles that contain practical marketing tips where the author tells you to it’s crucial that you differentiate yourself from your competitors. They might even ask you the question, “What makes you so different from the rest of the bunch?” Well, I think Liquid Highway can answer this question in a heartbeat.

What comes to your mind when you think of organizations that have done a great job in building their brand? Do you know of companies that rise above the rest because they have a unique story to tell? Tell us about it! (And if you stop in to try an espresso shooter at Liquid Highway, let me know what you think!)

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Beth Thomason, APR

This Friday we are happy to feature Beth Thomason, APR of Thomason PR for the Palmetto PR Diva Dish section. Liza and I had lunch with her this week – where she introduced me to Corporate Deli (love it!) – and also shared recent photos of her two boys! Read on to to learn more about how she balances being a mother, a wife, a friend and a business owner so successfully, and have a great holiday this weekend.


Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:

As the owner of Thomason PR, I’m an independent practitioner providing strategic public relations and marketing communications planning, media relations, copywriting, collateral development, project management and event planning services to Upstate businesses. 


How did you become interested in the public relations industry?

I entered college with every intention of majoring in News/Ed and aspiring to work for a newspaper, having served on my high school newspaper staff and thoroughly enjoying it.  However, my sister, who had just graduated from college and started her first newspaper job, encouraged me to explore other avenues.  Being the good big sister she has always been, she knew the newspaper industry wasn’t for me, so I signed up for a PR 101 class at USC and was inspired.  I quickly discovered how I could fuel my journalistic passion in the field of public relations and gain access to so many different career paths.  


What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?

Technology has drastically changed the speed in which we share information and the methods in which we communicate.  I’m dating myself here, but I remember when it took a couple of weeks to write, approve and distribute a press release, using the fax machine to go back and forth with a client on changes, ordering photos with pre-printed captions and then photocopying and mailing out the releases to a select few media outlets.  That process now happens in a matter of minutes with far greater impact.


Are you involved in any professional associations?  If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?

I’m a member of PRSA and most recently served as the Upstate Independent Practitioners Committee Chair.  I also serve as the Communications Coordinator for my church.  Earlier in my career, I was involved in several associations and held various leadership positions, but I cut back a few years ago when I started my own business and had limited time to commit to volunteer activities.  


What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations industry?

I strongly recommend completing a couple of internships, whether paid or unpaid.  An internship provides excellent work experience to include on your resume and sets you apart from students with no PR-related work experience.  Internships also offer excellent opportunities to explore different career paths you can pursue with a degree in public relations.  By getting hands-on experience, you can discover a particular passion and help determine where you will be most fulfilled in your career.


Please describe your experience in obtaining your APR.  Was it different than you thought?  How has it made a difference in your professional career?

I had the pleasure of preparing for and taking the APR exam with two colleagues, which made the process much more bearable than going it alone.  I enjoyed the opportunity to reexamine the history of our industry, read about the PR pioneers and study the theories behind what we do.  The process also reminded me of some of the basics that we often forget in our busy day-to-day activities.  


I took the accreditation exam in the previous testing format, which consisted primarily of short answer and essay questions in the morning and the development of a full-blown PR plan in the afternoon.  The examination was very intense and totally draining after several weeks of preparation, but well worth the time and the effort.  It was rewarding to me both personally and professionally to become accredited.  As an independent practitioner, I feel having my APR has given me added credibility when marketing myself to potential clients and it has certainly benefited my career as an IP. 


What is the best thing about your job?

Being my own boss.


What is the thing you like least about your job?

The fact that I never leave work…with an office in the middle of my home, I feel like I’m always at work and find it hard to resist the urge to check my e-mail or answer my phone outside of my regular work hours.


Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your own practice or one of your clients)?

ISO Poly Films is the cover story for their key trade magazine, Flexible Packaging, in this month’s issue!  The company is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, and I have had the pleasure of working with ISO Poly for seven of those successful years.


Thomason PR is in its fourth year of business, and I’m finally getting around to working with a designer to create a branding package, including a real logo and website!


How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?

One of the earliest lessons I learned after going out on my own was not to take on too much work and learn to say “no” to new business opportunities to maintain my desired work schedule. I set boundaries and strive daily to protect them.  By choice, I work part-time and have created a schedule that allows me to spend the afternoons with my boys – I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old.  There will always be time for more work, but there will never be more time to spend with my children…they grow up way too fast!


Anything else you would like to add?

Simple words of advice:  Unclutter your life.  Be true to yourself.  Laugh often.


New Kids vs. Tom Petty – fair fight?

So, I was jogging in a local park during my lunch break this afternoon, listening to the radio on my horribly un-hip and outdated walkman from 2004, and I hear New Kids on the Block’s “Step by Step” come on. Not only did I NOT change the station, I turned up the music! It was a lot of fun for me to listen to a New Kids song and walk down the proverbial memory lane, because – let’s face it – they aren’t exactly on heavy rotation on any of the radio stations, not even the ones that play songs from the 80’s and 90’s. When the song was over the DJ mentioned the band is back together, they have a new album and they are touring, too…heh?

I’m not gonna hate. NKOTB was the first concert I ever went to. I even wore a seemingly lifesize “Joey” button, which roughly covered two-thirds of my tween torso. But why are they back? What are they doing touring now?

When I got home I googled NKOTB. Surprisingly, they are not all angry-looking and bloated like many pop stars past their prime. They actually look good! And I also realized that this news was announced in April, so I’m a little behind the times. But I still have no desire to go see them, nor do I really want to hear anything from their latest album, and I think it’s because I just see this as a huge marketing ploy – something that will make them, their managers and their record label a lot of money.

But as I type this, two concert tickets for Tom Petty are within my view on my desk…he and the Heartbreakers are playing in Charlotte this summer. I’m going to that. Why am I not cynical about his tour? Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two.

I did a little more digging and found this article, which is really interesting and says that reunion tours should be examined on a band-by-band basis. From that perspective, you can decide for yourself whether a band is reuniting for the fans, for the band or for cold, hard cash.

What do you think of reunion tours? Are they just another marketing ploy for everyone involved to earn extra income? Do they even care about the fans? And, more importantly, who was your favorite New Kid?

Fear this….

Identity theft is a huge problem these days. (Don’t get me started about how social security numbers were never meant to be used as personal identification devices, but that’s another post for another day). But hackers and thieves continue to steal innocent people’s identities to assume fraudulent personas, steal money and generally wreak havoc on credit reports.

LifeLock is a company purporting to save you from the evils of identity theft. For $10 a month, they’ll send fraud alerts to the credit bureaus (even though you can do it yourself for free), and claim to protect your personal information from theft.

CEO Todd Davis is so confident in his company’s services that he deliberately shows his own social security number in all of Lifelock’s advertisements – including TV, billboard and print ads. It’s one thing to believe in your service offering (hey, if you don’t believe in what you’re selling, who will?). But the other part of that equation is that it actually has to work (or at least, don’t offer a guarantee that it will work).

According to the article, “Davis acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that his stunt has led to at least 87 instances in which people have tried to steal his identity, and one succeeded: a guy in Texas who duped an online payday loan operation last year into giving him $500 using Davis’ Social Security number.”

Oops. Now Lifelock customers in Maryland, West Virginia and New Jersey are suing Davis, claiming the service hasn’t worked for them. Davis is still standing behind is service, despite these accusations. You can read the full article for yourself to see some of the other fuzzy gray areas associated with buying into this service.

But once again, it’s a company using its marketing to prey on the fears of people to boost sales. It’s unfortunate that fear sells so well, or else maybe some of these folks wouldn’t be so successful.

Do you buy into ‘fear advertising?’ Have you bought a product or service recently because of a fear? (I’ll ‘fess up: Based on a Red Cross mailing I received, I recently built a whole emergency pack kit complete with bottled water, first aid supplies, canned foods and some cash in the event the Apocolypse hits. Paranoid? Not usually, but what if…..??).

And for marketers: do you use fear to sell? Does it work?

Relief groups turn to Twitter amid crises – PR Week article

This makes a lot of sense to me and explains how Twitter can be ultra-effective in spreading key messages, particularly in crisis situations.