Behind the Headlines With Brenda Urban
If you aren’t passionate about the product or service you’re pitching, journalists will see right through your pitch.
Brenda Urban, director of communications at Klick Communications, says communication professionals must seek out brands that they love and are excited to work with.
In this interview, Brenda shares what she learned from appearing on a reality television show, why you need to work in an environment that motivates you and what skills communication professionals need to be successful.
What are you most excited for in your new role as director of communications at Klick Communications?
I’m excited to be joining a dynamic team of professionals who are motivated by success. Klick Communications’ campaigns are designed around research and insight into the consumer, rather than focused on one-off media placements.
As a result, the teams in Los Angeles, Honolulu and Sydney have all produced award-winning work that make a difference in the clients’ bottom line. I’m inspired by their creativity and enthusiasm to deliver results.
What was being on the Bravo series, “Eat, Drink, Love” like? What did you learn from that experience?
I think as anyone who has appeared on a reality television show can attest to, there is really no greater exposure for a brand than integration into a national network television series. It was challenging to be in front of the camera – long hours of taping, scrutiny from the public and your portrayal is at the mercy of editors.
I don’t necessarily believe the old adage of all PR is good PR, but I quickly learned that they can’t edit what you don’t say. And once the show aired, I received plenty of calls from potential clients who were interested in learning how PR can help grow their business.
What are some of the biggest challenges hospitality and lifestyle brands face? How can they overcome them?
The business strategies that work today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. The consumer landscape is constantly evolving, and, in turn, hospitality and lifestyle brands need to stay ahead of the intersection of technology and trends.
Brands should seek out communication professionals who are motivated by change and find creative solutions to keep their clients relevant.
You’ve worked with some of the top travel and tourism brands. What are your secrets to success?
I have always believed in creating an environment that motivates you – seek out destinations that you dream of traveling to and hotels that you would love to stay at. I’ve learned that if you don’t authentically love and believe in the product, media professionals aren’t going to believe your pitches.
I always want to represent brands that will positively reflect back onto my brand or agency. Clients should always feel that they are in good company with fellow clients, and potential clients should always want to aspire to be represented by a firm that represents the best of the best.
Have you ever encountered a major brand crisis? How did you handle it?
It’s critical to make sure how you handle a crisis doesn’t become the crisis. I have handled quite a few crises, from hurricanes in the Caribbean to terrorist threats in the Middle East, and the best way to get through those moments is to be well-prepared.
Anticipate potential crises. Have a communications plan in place and identify a team who is ready and able to respond calmly and consistently.
How do you envision the future of PR?
During the length of my career, public relations has evolved from mailing out press releases (yes, as in printed materials!) to viral social media campaigns.
In order to be successful in this industry, communication professionals need to be proficient in both traditional media and social media. It is critical to understand that information, both accurate and damaging, is just a click away and PR really is what stands between the consumer and the brand.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in PR?
Personally, I think starting at an agency is the best way to gain the skills you need as a publicist. Most agencies have the tools to train you and the connections you’ll need to succeed.
Work hard. Listen. Be willing to get out there and meet people, but also understand that a career in public relations doesn’t just consist of going to parties and traveling the world. It involves being a strong writer, creative and well-spoken.
Never, ever burn bridges. It is a small industry, and you will most definitely come across the same people in five, 10 and 15 years. I am still reaching out to journalists that I worked with over a decade ago.
And please know your medium! Have a passion for the specific industry you want to work in, and read the websites and publications that cover the industry.
Nothing says amateur more than a publicist pitching a column or an article that isn’t relevant to the writer. And nothing impresses me more than when I interview someone for a position, and they can reference recent headlines and websites that I read on a daily basis.
Rapid Fire Round
1. My hobbies outside of work include…anything outdoors. Weekends at the beach, biking, hiking and paddle boarding.
2. If I was stuck on a desert island, I’d…learn how to fish.
3. My biggest pet peeve is…complacency.
4. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…coffee. And the idea that every day is a fresh start and anything can happen.
5. I laugh most at…my two pitbulls. They are both so sweet and goofy. They don’t have a care in the world.
6. My guiltiest pleasure is…lazy mornings on vacation, when I don’t have to jump out of bed immediately to start my day.
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