PR Interview with Jules Zunich
One of the selfish reasons for launching this Q&A project was to use this site to better get to know some of the good folks that I’ve met via social media – especially those that live too far away to meet for coffee. One such example is today’s feature – episode 002 or Jules to her friends.
Jules, you’ve been running your own PR / Comms consultancy for over a decade, could you talk about your normal day to day looks like?
Part of the reason I work for myself is because I have four children. I fully expected to work my way up the corporate ladder at some huge firm in Los Angeles or New York, but being a mom changed my priorities. I like being able to flex through my day between my corporate self and my mommy self. I miss agency life, but kids don’t stay little forever. So my typical day is totally spastic. I am cooking and checking email, writing and doing laundry, driving and having conference calls. Even with a dedicated office that is totally kid free, I feel comfortable stopping in the middle of the day to print cut-outs for the kindergarten class. I have worked in traditional 9 to 5 office roles, but with those, I had amazing flexibility and support. I have never been chained to a desk. My personality is more suited to corporate life, but my lifestyle is more suited for consulting. I would take a great job offer, because managing a business is hard and I miss my matching 401k, but I always come back to consulting because I get to pick awesome clients and projects and not miss my kids.
You have your own blog, which you know I’ve long been a big fan of, what have you learned about blogging over the last couple of years?
Yes, you have been my biggest fan and I thank you deeply for that. It really means so much to me. I was terrified when I started my blog, but I am over it now. What I have learned is that everything I tell my clients about blogging is true: It is a pain, a labor of love, and requires a commitment to writing that most non-marketing managers lack. It can be deeply rewarding, but rarely in financial terms. As a writer and communications professional, I find the burden of managing a blog to be almost too much for me. As you have noticed, I have taken long breaks.I often think of stopping and taking it down because I know that I am not doing it right. I am exceptionally critical and I knew it should and could be so much more. I am glad that I forced myself to manage a blog so that I can really be authentic when guiding clients. Right now the advice that I am sharing is this: If you do not have an hour a day to blog, then you will not get the results that you want. If an executive sniffs at that, then I know blogging is not for them. And I do not recommend hiring it out. Yes, have a great web person who can help you with the technical stuff (yes, I have stayed up all night trying to get a widget to work) but the blogs that are great are steeped in authenticity. And anyone who lets the interns run the blog should be tarred and feathered.
What tips do you have for individuals or companies starting a blog?
After blocking access to the interns, ask yourself and your team why you want to start one and have a really, really good reason. If you do not have people clamoring for your thoughts – emailing you, calling your or finding you via social media on a daily basis – then maybe you do not need a blog and your marketing efforts could be better applied in other areas. I think people over simplify their marketing these days and are completely lost in the noise and have no idea why. The splatter effect is good for art, not business. A blog that basically says, “Me Too,” is not really going to market your products and services very well. I have had a lot of success on my blog, but would not say that it has been successful at marketing my services. Readers and paying clients are two different things.
If you could do anything outside of PR / Communications, what would you choose and why?
I have always loved to dance and I taught fitness classes when I was younger. When I see anyone dancing or even hear music, my heart stirs and I long to be in a dance studio again. If I could do it all over again, I would have been less practical and danced my heart out before I looked for a real job. Also, I am really good at giving advice. I come from a family of therapists and medical professionals, plus I am a little bossy. I would be a great therapist or life coach.
How did you get into public relations?
I was in school in California and an instructor recommended me for a paid internship at Jane Ayer Public Relations. Until that point, I had wanted to work in advertising, but after about two seconds in Jane’s office, I knew that PR was for me. I am thankful for her every day. I was actually working at a small community newspaper at the time too, so I marched into the Publishers office and laid out a new position for myself. He supported me and I started working in community relations. I like to learn by watching others, but I can make things happen for myself when needed. I had really great work experience early on.
If you could change one thing about the PR industry, what would it be?
I would make it harder to enter the field. Truck drivers have to be licensed, why shouldn’t we? Of course, the old people like me would be grandfathered in – I hate taking tests. I think that PR people had it easy in the previous decade and now we have to prove ourselves again. Dot com PR was so easy. We need to be more focused on business outcomes. Trust is a huge issue and I have seen some craziness in the profession that makes me want to run screaming. I take all of that with a grain of salt though, because I know that the vast majority of practitioners are champions of the profession. The one thing I would campaign for is strict limitations in how interns are utilized and there is some political PR and campaigning stuff that is just wrong.
How has PR/Comms industry changed in the last 5 years?
The Wizard of Oz approach is gone. You can no longer do your magic behind the curtain and then voila! news coverage. The past 5 years has brought transparency at all levels, which is good. I think the past 5 years has changed professionals, creating a chasm between the tech savvy and the not tech savvy. And by tech savvy I mean digital and social media savvy. I am seeing very senior, experienced people flailing and rookies rockin’ it. It’s an uncomfortable shift in the force, but a necessary one.
What does PR/Comms industry look like in 5 years?
Less shiny. The days of huge agency contracts will be over. I see more in-house PR as companies realize that PR is still as much a science as an art. Companies will want to harness that power. I see the superstars shining a little less brightly and everyone just getting back to business.
Did you pay much attention to the recent attempt by PRSA to redefine public relations?
Yes and no. I like structure and I like the association in general. I followed the news, but kept my mouth shut. Which is not easy. But honestly, how bad is that our PR association had to redefine our role in business. If we can’t brand ourselves…
I agree with the definitions, but the whole process highlighted the profession in a less than flattering light, I feel. I am not big on airing dirty linens. I would have liked to have seen a little less of the process publicized.
What social media platform do you use (most) professionally? And is it different from what you use for personal?
Funny. I just told someone that following me on Twitter and Facebook is like following twins with distinct personalities. For me Twitter is 99% professional and Facebook is 99% personal. My Twitter feed is full of PR professionals and my Facebook friends are people I went to high school with. There is rarely overlap. I have a Facebook page, which lingers somewhere in the middle due to the people who Like it, but the content is professional. LinkedIn gets the least of my attention and is totally professional.
Do you make any attempt to differentiate you personal from your professional social media persona? If so, how?
Yes, but I rarely need to. I am always me and I tend to be rather formal so everything is professional to me. I never post about my relationship status or anything like that. I will do cute kid stuff on Facebook, but mostly I’m all work all the time. Or my style of work all the time, I should say.
The best PR / Communications people you’ve ever worked with share what quality?
What is the the last PR / Comms book you’ve read and would you recommend it?
I just read Dial M for Murdoch and yes, it seems like essential reading for communications professionals.
What are your top three industry related blogs / resources?
I am like an old dog…not interested in many new tricks. I pretty much read business news like NYT Media and Advertising and Forbes Media and Entertainment. My all-time favorite blog is PR Squared, although I tend to avoid gurus. I get all of the industry standards and just pick through them when I have time. And I read what my followers tweet.
What advice would you give young professionals just starting out in this industry?
Don’t be so creative.
What is the best professional advice you ever received?
Don’t take things so personally.
People that know you you would describe you as?
Silly. Competitive. Kind. So many people confess later that they were initially intimidated by me, which I find shocking.
What is your Immediate reaction to the following?:
Facebook: Evil nuisance
Google+: Who cares
Klout: Napoleon Complexes
Corporate blogs: Paychecks
Social media: Life
Public relations: Everything
With, it depends or a combination of both not being allowed, the most effective PR program is driven by internal communications leaders or outside agency / consultant?
A strong internal team is the way to go, but it can be a negativity/doldrums graveyard if not tended properly.
In what ways do you think social media has changed public relations?
Increased transparency is my favorite change, just ahead of increased pressure on professionals to bring it.
And is this good for PR agency /consultants?
Yep, great for both.