He answers to Jay or Jas, and while he admitted to me during this process that he is a romantic comedy softie, I chose not to reveal that…oops. Seriously, he is a good guy with a good sense of humor, smart and it has been a real pleasure getting to know him a bit over the last couple of years. If you don’t know him, take the next few minutes to see what you are missing.
Jas, you’ve have taken a very interesting career path, producer, director of comms at a university, PA announcer, agency PR, blogger and now president of your own comms agency. If you were talking to someone looking to get into PR / Comms, would you suggest they try to follow a similar path? Why or why not?
I would suggest they follow their own path. I don’t think anyone’s path to career success is the same. Sure, you can find inspiration from someone’s steps, but not one direction is similar. If you told me when I first started out in television that I’d be in PR and running my own business, I would have raised an eyebrow and kept going. It wasn’t even on my radar. Now, I can’t dream of doing anything else. And that is what students or those that want to make a change need to keep in mind. Your next challenge may not be in your view right now.
The best piece of advice I received was “Do it because you want to, not because you have to.” I want to do what I’m doing now. When I work because I have to, I’m going to find something more challenging.
What do all of your professional positions have in common?
They all required hard work, focus and passion. I’ve lost the passion for some jobs along the way, but never the hard work and focus.
The one position that I have to ask more about is the PA gig for the (former New York Mets Triple A affiliate, now Toronto Blue Jays), the Buffalo Bisons. How did you get into this?
I worked as the PA announcer for Niagara University’s men’s hockey team. A colleague heard that the Bisons were looking for a PA announcer, so I applied. I tried out a few weeks before the season began and was lucky to get the gig. I get paid to watch baseball. As a long time fan of the game, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Can you provide some insight into the behind the scenes part of this job? How much prep goes into this position?
I normally get to the ballpark an hour or so before gametime. I read the lineups, check the pronunciations and see if there is anything to be done pre-game.
What you hear (batter walk-ups, announcements, in-game promotions) is just a small part of the picture. Behind the scenes, it can get a little crazy. The greatest part though is working with an enthusiastic, fun team of people. They all love what they do.
We had the Triple A All-Star Game last season at Coca-Cola Field. It could get a little stressful because we were in the national spotlight on MLB Network. The Home Run Derby was another story, because I was the on-field host. It ended up being one of the greatest career experiences because of the event. But took a good amount of preparation, not just for me, but all those involved.
What would surprise people about being a PA announcer for a AAA team?
The fans are apt to call you on a screw up. I read a name wrong one time and I heard a fan below me say, “You read it wrong, man.” I actually leaned out the window and said, “Sorry about that!” The fan was surprised that I was that close!
If you could do anything (professionally) outside of PR / Communications, what would you choose and why?
I’d love to be an astronaut. Growing up, I wanted to fly on the Space Shuttle. I’ve always had this affinity for space exploration. So, if NASA is reading this, when you decide to head back to the moon or Mars, I’m in!
How did you get into public relations?
My wife and I decided to move to where she is from (a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y.) about six months after we were married. I wanted a change of lifestyle from the TV/radio hours. So, I started applying for PR jobs. Niagara University was looking for an assistant director of communications and PR and I was lucky to get the job. It took some adjustment, but looking back, it was a good job to get.
If you could change one thing about the PR industry, what would it be?
That is honestly a tough question. I think it would be for more of us to adapt much quicker to the changing times. We need to think ahead for clients, why not for our own industry?
How has PR/Comms industry changed in the last 5 years?
Two words: Social Media. Personally, if it wasn’t for social media, I wouldn’t be where I am today (and would not have met Paul Roberts, either!). OFFICIAL EDITOR’S NOTE: haha
What does PR/Comms industry look like in 5 years?
We’re going to see social media evolve. Facebook and Twitter will still be the standard bearers. But there is going to come a day, very shortly, where we will have one platform integrate all the good things of Facebook and Twitter, as well as Skype, for one true social experience. Imagine the snark then!
Did you pay much attention to the recent attempt by PRSA to redefine public relations? If so, what was your thought about the process, result and industry-wide discussion?
I absolutely paid attention. I even did a blog on it . I appreciated PRSA’s hard work in trying to get an all-encompassing definition. Was the result successful? I don’t know. I certainly haven’t heard a colleague refer to the “definition.” I thought the industry-wide discussion was great. I didn’t appreciate some of the really rough comments towards PRSA. It takes guts to try and take a stand. Or, in this case, define a practice. Discussion or debate is healthy.
What social media platform do you use (most) professionally?
Twitter is my go-to platform. It’s how I build my reputation and how I continue to build and get business. And is it different from what you use for personal? I blend by Facebook and Twitter use for personal and social. However, lately, I’ve ramped back on my use of Twitter for personal use.
Do you make any attempt to differentiate you personal from your professional social media persona? If so, how?
When I first launched my business, I used my personal Facebook and Twitter pages. Now, I have FB and Twitter for JRM Comm. Why? Because I wanted an outlet where clients, friends, and potential clients could go for information. It’s actually worked out well.
The best PR / Communications people you’ve ever worked with share what quality?
Honesty and sincerity. I’ve been lucky to work with and meet so many great people. They all are honest and sincere. People like Deirdre Breakenridge, Justin Goldsborough, and Valerie Simon. Each have the qualities I’d like future pros to emulate.
What advice would you give young professionals just starting out in this industry?
Never, ever let someone tell you that you can’t. But, never let someone sell you a job that isn’t right for you. Believe in YOU and your skills. And be honest with yourself.
Immediate reaction to the follow (in one or two words preferably):
Twitter: Game changer
Facebook: Standard bearer
Corporate blogs: Stiff
LinkedIn: Severely underrated
Social media: No longer a “fad.”
Public relations: adapting
Still need more of Jason? Check out:
The latest edition, episode 005 to this Q&A project is Lisa Zone (or Zone to her friends) senior vice president, head of customer communications practice group. With more than 15 years’ agency experience managing B2B and B2C marketing communications programs for a variety of clients, ranging from start-ups to nonprofit organizations to Fortune 500 companies, Lisa is also former president of American Advertising Federation – Cleveland; active with many community organizations and nonprofit Boards.
Lisa, you are a senior VP at Dix & Eaton an agency that provides integrated marketing and PR services. While most readers of this blog know what that means, how do you explain your job to friends and family?
My “explain it to your mom” speech is basically, “It’s my job to help my clients get in front of their customers.” That might mean helping them at a trade show, getting them in the newspaper or a magazine or talking with customers on social media. The tools might change, but the ultimate goal is always the same – to increase and enhance engagement with the people who buy my clients’ products.
If you could do anything outside of PR / Communications, what would you choose and why?
I think I’d enjoy being a hairstylist or makeup artist. The projects I tend to enjoy most are the ones that include a lot of creativity, and both of those fields are all about creativity – and creative people. Plus, I’m a bit of a girly girl.
How did you get into this industry?
Growing up, I always wanted to be a newscaster – until I did an internship at a TV station the summer between sophomore and junior years and realized I didn’t. I did, however, enjoy the work I did at the station within the public affairs department, which was the closest thing to a PR department at the station. The following summer, I did an internship at a local advertising and PR agency after hearing one of the agency partners speak to my journalism class. I loved that internship experience so much that I stayed on part-time during my senior year in college. They hired me upon graduation, and the rest is history. I was recruited to my current job by someone I’d worked with at that agency internship.
Your resume / LinkedIn profile is impressive and includes all the core PR, marketing, event categories one would expect, but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what ‘Brand Culture Integration’ is, can you explain?
Brand Culture Integration is part of Dix & Eaton’s branding process that identifies and engages a team of internal brand ambassadors (a Brand Engagement Team) to participate in the branding process along the way. Our experience suggests that this approach – particularly in companies with inclusive corporate cultures – generally yields a better end product and builds buy-in along the way from key internal stakeholders.
If you could change one thing about the PR industry, what would it be?
In my opinion, the best PR practitioners are the ones who have insights into the complex business challenges facing an organization – and who have a seat at the table to help solve those issues. PR should not be an afterthought. I’d love to see the PR function elevated to a strategic function of an organization, as much as operations, legal, etc.
How has the Marketing / PR / Comms industry changed in the last 5 years?
Certainly, social media has drastically changed the way companies communicate with (not at) their constituents – customers, employees, investors, community, partners/suppliers, etc. And it’s not just staying on top of emerging and popular social media platforms that’s important – it’s understanding how content is developed and delivered in an ever-evolving communications landscape.
What does it look like in 5 years?
Who knows? I don’t think any of us could have predicted the impact social media would have on the way companies communicate today five years ago. In my estimation, it’s less important to try to guess where communications is going and instead focus on really paying attention to how people are communicating with each other – then adjust to reach them where they are with content they seek.
What social media platform do you use (most) professionally? And is it different from what you use for personal?
Twitter is hands-down my go-to resource for all things professional, as I find I can learn from other practitioners, industry resources and media outlets all in one place. I find myself using Facebook more for personal use, mostly because that’s where a lot of my personal connections are. As I said earlier, it’s all about paying attention to how people are communicating with each other – and where. For me, that means Twitter for professional development and insights and Facebook for personal connections. But I must admit – Instagram is fast becoming a favorite platform for me. I love the way a photo can capture a story, even with no caption. Visuals are very powerful communications tools.
Do you make any attempt to differentiate your personal from your professional social media persona? If so, how?
No. To me, it’s not authentic to maintain one persona for work and one for personal – and social media is all about authenticity, isn’t it? That’s not to say I don’t sometimes filter what I put on my social networks (acknowledging it’s a representation of both my personal and professional self) – but I do use the same language, humor, etc. for work and play.
What advice would you give young professionals just starting out in this industry?
Young professionals are often very eager to prove themselves, which sometimes manifests itself in talking too much or trying to figure everything out without asking for help. There’s no shame in asking for advice or spending more time listening than talking in meetings when you’re just starting out (though I’d caution to not be totally silent in meetings either). I’m more impressed by a young professional who listens, absorbs and shares a really thoughtful observation or question than one who just talks and talks and talks to make sure his/her voice is heard.
What is the best professional advice you ever gave / received?
I always tell college students studying PR or communications to take some basic business classes, even if it’s not required for their major. It’s the one thing I wish I would have been exposed to more in college, as I have had to self-teach myself to understand things like financial statements and earnings announcements. If PR is going to have a seat at the executive table, it’s critical for practitioners to really understand how a business runs.
Have you ever deleted a Tweet / post? If so, why?
Absolutely. Most often, I delete when I catch a grammar or spelling error. There have been those times, however, that my emotions have gotten the best of me and I’ve used Twitter to vent. That’s not productive and doesn’t really accomplish much. I’ve learned to avoid hitting “send” on those tweets for the most part, but there are always a few that slip through – at least, until I delete them.
What is your immediate reaction to the follow:
Twitter: news, connecting
Facebook: overcrowded, personal
Klout: grain of salt
Corporate blogs: thought leadership
LinkedIn: recruiting, job hunting
Social media: two-way
Public relations: all-ways
So, why goodbye? In many ways, over the last few years, this blog accomplished more than I ever expected but in other ways, I was disappointed that I never had enough time to give to this project. That being said, don’t feel bad for this blogger. There is no drama attached to the ending of the blog. I’m not dying (that I know of). I’m not even leaving PR (that I know of). Like most things in life, this decision is based not on one single event, but on a number of factors.
Why July 26? I decided to make this final post on July 26, because that is an interesting day in my personal history. It is one of my happiest days – my wedding anniversary and one of my most somber – the day my mother passed away. As one can imagine, this day has always been one of conflicted emotions, so it was fitting to chose this date because ending this blog (while on a very different scale) also leaves me with mixed emotions.
Accidental blogger. As an introvert that has never had much interest in networking or joining industry organizations and I’ve always felt like thoughts and opinions regarding the right way and the wrong way to approach communications was for others to discuss. You know, real industry thought leaders. So, looking back, I’m still surprised that I ever launched this blog. Even at the time, I wondered – who would care about what I have to say about public relations? I’m a JAG – just a guy – with no personal branding desire, no consultancy to promote, no books to peddle and no speaking engagements to chase. Over the last few years, I learned that there is certainly a place for a PR JAG to be heard.
See you soon. I made a lot of new friends thanks to this blog and for that I’ll always be thankful. I’ve also met more good communications professionals in the past couple of years, than my prior decade plus in the industry. Many of these relationships will continue via social media and maybe even the occasional IRL meetings. So, while this certainly isn’t goodbye, it does feel like the end of something that has long been a big part of my life. I’ve learned a ton and have had lots of fun. So, from now on, if you really want to know what I think about PR, communications or anything else, we’ll have to do it the old fashion way, via email or over a beer.
Thanks! Before I sign off, I want to take a sincere moment to thank everyone from my small group of regular readers to one-timers that stopped by without saying a word. Every visitor, comment, page view, RT and even spam message was special to me. Now it is time for this PR JAG to go back underground.
Peace. Or as my mom used to say: Goodnight, God Bless You, See You in the Morning and Have Happy Dreams.