Behind the Headlines With Lauren Kaufman
The media is constantly changing, and brands that fail to embrace innovation will remain stuck in the past and miss out on new opportunities.
Lauren Kaufman, senior vice president at Spring, O’Brien & Co., recommends keeping a close eye on the industry and market to ensure your brand is always current in its strategies.
In this interview, Lauren discusses how to multitask effectively, her exciting plans for the Harley-Davidson Museum and the challenges brands face today.
What drew you to the PR industry?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved art, writing and being creative. While I excelled at all my classes, I would always rather write an essay than take a multiple choice test. Knowing I had a way with words, I eventually wanted to find an industry that utilized those skills and allowed for creativity.
After majoring in literature & rhetoric, minoring in marketing and holding internships in TV, advertising, PR and movie publicity, I found that PR married my core interests. After a short stint at a large NYC agency on its agricultural product PR team, I actually found my true calling by chance when I answered an ad in The New York Times for a job at Spring O’Brien, an agency that specializes in travel and tourism PR.
When the EVP said I would be working with the Greece tourist board and I had just returned from vacation there, I knew I’d found my home. I was hired on the spot and never looked back.
What’s the most important PR lesson you’ve learned?
I have learned how to multitask. When I have clients and media on hard deadlines, endless calls and meetings, plus networking and new business goals to meet, while also managing and mentoring the PR department, work can be overwhelming. Prioritizing is critical.
It has taken some experience to know what I can push off and what needs to be done now, but it’s a skill I try to teach to my colleagues from the outset. There’s a reflex reaction these days to reply immediately to every email as it hits your inbox, but it’s not necessarily the smartest way to work. Having the ability to judge and juggle is key – as is asking for help when you need it.
I understand Spring O’Brien was recently appointed the agency of record for the Harley-Davidson Museum. What do you have planned for them?
Yes, we are so excited to be working with the Harley-Davidson Museum as AOR. We started the relationship with the museum in 2014 on a project basis, organizing a trio of A-list travel writers to visit for feature coverage in target outlets.
While the museum is a “must-visit” attraction for motorcycle enthusiasts and enjoys regular press in industry publications, our goal is to bring wider consumer attention to the young venue and the great American story it tells. With 80 percent of its visitors being non-riders (and 10+ percent international tourists), we are working on a focused media relations campaign to raise the museum’s profile, secure it the travel coverage it deserves, and encourage more people to visit its Milwaukee home.
What do you think was the key factor in Spring O’Brien winning that account?
I had a great first call with the marketing director, discussing our PR approach and the way we like to work – not as an outside agency but as an extension of our client’s marketing department. I also tell it like it is; I have a very realistic view on what we can accomplish together and what it will take to get it done, without over-promising.
I think the key to this win was understanding and developing a strategy that got to the core of who they are and where they want to be. We are pitching press to explore American history through the eyes of some its greatest visionaries and inventors; we see the Harley-Davidson Museum as the “Smithsonian of the Midwest.”
What are some of the biggest PR challenges travel and lifestyle brands face?
The media marketplace is ever-changing and it’s imperative for travel brands to stay current. I have some international clients who believe solely in print media wins and do not put enough value into online outlets and the role social media plays today in North America. It’s a regular challenge to educate clients that we know our market best and how travelers here research and consume their news.
Budget cuts have also been a challenge. While 15 years ago I used to send 100 media professionals a year on my cruise line client’s sailings, today’s cost of business and smaller budgets make such a practice extremely rare. We are challenged to keep pace with less funds, which forces us to be even more focused with our efforts for the strongest ROI possible.
How do you envision the future of PR?
While I think the core of what we do – strategy, branding, media relations and awareness building, will not change, the ways in which our messages are delivered and consumed will continue to evolve.
I don’t think any of us with 20+ years of experience ever would have foreseen the importance of tools today like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, but here we are. I don’t know what the next few decades will bear, but I welcome the challenge and the growth opportunities our industry provides.
What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in PR?
Internships and networking are key. Use your friends and family to network; ask for informational interviews to learn about the fields in which you want to go into and to be kept top of mind should a position open.
It’s critical to get as much experience as you can while in college. We like to see entry-level resumes with some experience in the communications area. This can be in the form of a leadership role in an organization, summer jobs, involvement in groups like PRSSA, etc.
Also, don’t discount an internship after graduation. We have long had a practice of hiring recent grads as full-time interns and, should they be successful, bringing them on as account coordinators a few months down the line.
Rapid Fire Round
1. My biggest pet peeve is…spelling mistakes.
2. If I won the lottery, I’d…buy a penthouse in NYC and travel around the world on a private jet.
3. I’m at my best when…I get a good night’s sleep!
4. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…coffee; I’m a night owl.
5. My guiltiest pleasure is…Sour Patch Kids; I am a candy fiend.
6. My favorite social media platform is…Facebook, so I can keep a pulse on what’s happening with friends and family.
Spring O’Brien is a Myriad Company.
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