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Savvy Communicator: Q&A with Todd Defren of PR-Squared

Last week, we announced the Top 50 PR and Marketing blogs for 2012. PR Squared was lucky #13 on our list and is commonly found on AdAge Power 150. Todd Defren, the Principal of Shift Communications, started PR-Squared in 2006 and has become one of the most sought after speakers in the PR and Social Media space ever since. He was nice enough to sit down and answer some of our questions. For those of you who are fans of Todd’s blog, we think you might be surprised to hear Todd wasn’t born knowing he wanted to be a communicator. Like many of us, he sort of fell into the role accidentally, but we think he’s right where he belongs.

Todd Defren

Q: Why did you start a career in PR?

A:  I fell into a PR career. I was married, with a baby, receiving welfare assistance, desperate.  A former colleague of a family member was in PR, heard about my plight, and took pity on me.  I knew that if I was given an opportunity to prove myself through writing, I’d have a fair chance.

Q:  What is one of the most rewarding experiences in your career and/or a favorite campaign?

A:  The ballyhoo about the Social Media Press Release, and its subsequent adoption by the wire services and several Fortune 500 brands, isn’t something I talk about or dwell on much, but, it was certainly a career highlight.  Starting the agency in 2003 was a huge milestone.  And on the business development front, since SHIFT Communications tends to be the dark horse candidate up against much larger, better-known firms, it’s a big deal when we win brands like McDonald’s, Salesforce.com and H&R Block.  These are the things that will be on my “highlight reel” when I ride off into the sunset.

Q:  What are some best practices?

A:  You’d expect a stock answer to this, but I’ve seen so much variation in the way some firms handle their assignments – especially in the social media sphere – that I’ve come to believe that “best practices” are unique to each firm and, a competitive differentiator… which means if you want to learn our best practices, you need to work at SHIFT.  We’re hiring, by the way.

Q:  What keeps you in the field of PR?

A:  This is a relatively young industry – and it is certainly full of young, ambitious and fun people.  The energy and enthusiasm in PR is infectious.  The industry opportunity is unbelievable.  The people you meet on the client side are always memorable and often brilliant.  Also, it pays pretty well.

Q:  Where do you see PR in five years?

A:  Look for fuzzier lines between paid, owned and earned media.  PR people have distinct opportunities in each sphere.  Fortune will favor those who can work past the muscle memory that sometimes plagues the more hidebound agencies and executives.

Q:  Anything else you would like to add?

A:  Did I already mention that we’re hiring?

About Laurie Mahoney

Laurie Mahoney is the Director of Product Marketing at Cision. She is a regular contributor to Cision Blog mainly focusing on topics like content marketing, social media and SEO. Laurie is a Chicagoan now, but spent her earlier days in the South where she attended the University of Georgia. She has a weakness for good TV, sushi and anything that mentions “salted caramel” in the name. You can find her on Twitter @channermahoney.

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