Behind the Headlines with Meredith Lejeune

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With more than ten years of experience, Meredith Lejeune is both a leader and an asset to the PR industry. With multiple professional accomplishments including serving as the Secretary of the Black Public Relations Society of Atlanta, working on the board of directors for the National Association of Black Journalists and earning the 2010 Rising Star Award from the Hampton Roads chapter of PRSA, Meredith brings a variety of experiences and credentials to the table. She is also the owner of Thought Bubble Communications and works with clients to develop and execute successful public relations and marketing campaigns.

This week, I sat down with Meredith to discuss the importance of being assertive, valuing diversity in the workplace and the value of both investing in and building relationships.

What drew you to the field of PR?

The funny thing is, as an incoming college freshman I wanted to major in music business management. Once I determined that wasn’t a good fit, I thought about the things I really loved. I always loved to write. I spoke to my college adviser and she helped me seal the deal! After talking to her and learning a little more about the profession, I knew PR was for me.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?

As a woman, and a woman of color, I learned early on in my career to assert myself when necessary and to stand my ground. I’m naturally a more reserved person, but corporate America and agency life can both be cut throat. It is essential for women to know how to speak their mind and understand that their voice is just as valuable at the table as anyone else’s.

How do you help brands create communication that inspires action?

At Thought Bubble Communications, one of our many strengths is media relations. One of the reasons we are so successful is because we relate to people as people. We get to know our media and influencers as the people they are, outside of their jobs. We are still plugged into who they are as professionals and make sure to touch base with them outside of pitching for clients. If there is a really great piece they wrote, we tell them! If they just posted something awesome on social media, like receiving a prestigious reward, we are one of the first to congratulate them! It’s important for us to extend our relationships beyond the job. Everyone knows people don’t do business with business. They do business with people. We want to make sure journalists like doing work with us. As a result, our clients get to shine.

What is one thing most brands are not doing but should be?

It’s great to see brands embracing the culture of others. However, we are seeing a lot more poor examples of cultural appropriation than we are seeing cultural appreciation. I believe this is due to a lack of diversity on marketing and PR teams. Recruiters and hiring managers need to make more of an effort to specifically seek out minority prospects or the opinions of their minority employees. If they are looking for young talent, Historically Black Colleges and Universities are a great place to start (Go, Hampton!). They should also partner with professional organizations specifically geared towards people of color in marketing and PR, like the Black Public Relations Society or Hispanic Public Relations Association. These groups are made up of professionals with various levels of expertise who are eager to network with brands. The talent pool is tremendous.

How does analytics drive PR strategy?

Had you asked me this question a few years ago, it would have been hard to answer. However, with the evolution of PR, we’ve been able to incorporate more measurable tactics. To put it plainly, analytics produce tangible, measurable results. In an industry where we are constantly having to prove our worth, measurable results show our value. Whether it’s traditional media impressions or hashtags, PR professionals need to be able to track the work they have done in order to provide results for their clients. These same results also give PR professionals the opportunity to take a deeper dive into the perception of their client’s brand and help them better understand how their target audience perceives that brand.

What is your secret to media relations success? How can you ensure that your clients are using the right strategies at the right times?

In my 12 years of experience, I’ve learned the value of building relationships. Getting to know journalists will help you pitch them better and show that you are going above and beyond what is required to work with them.  Giving them the opportunity to put a name to a face can take you from the delete folder to the top of the inbox. Otherwise, the right strategy is dependent on the end result. What is the desired outcome? Once you know that, you can put the correct plan in action to achieve it.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in this field?

Have a love for writing — or at least like it. You’ll be doing it a lot! I’d also tell them to stay ambitious and learn something from everyone and every task you are given. I worked for bosses that brought me to tears, but they were my best teachers!

Short Response:

1. I laugh most at….my kids! I am a mother to three-year-old twins. There is never a dull moment with them. We are blessed.

2. My guiltiest pleasure is…macaroni and cheese. I could probably live on mac ‘n cheese for the rest of my life!

3. If I could go back in time, I would travel to….the Civil Rights era. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Although we saw the worst of what our society had to offer, we also saw some of the best. Many leaders were birthed during that time along with a lot of unnamed heroes who took a stand for equality. For that, I am grateful.

4. My favorite subject in school was…music. It’s my favorite language.

5. My ideal day off would include….a day spent under the sun at the beach.

6. My spirit animal is….a fish. They swim freely and create their own path.