I did an interview with my cousin (and friend), Lindsay Wright, about her public relations career and a campaign that she is most proud of. Lindsay has been in the industry for thirteen years. Since 2009, she has been a freelance writer and communications strategist.
Unfortunately, our schedules didn’t match up very well this week, so we ended up doing the interview over email. Although this was a very informal way of interviewing (and not the way I would prefer to do it), she was extremely understanding! So, thanks again Lindsay, for your insightful answers and accommodating attitude!
Me: What made you decide that PR was the career for you?
Lindsay: To be honest, I’d say that I stumbled on PR by accident… While I was in university (doing a BA in English and planning to become a high school teacher), I took a summer job at an advertising agency and was asked to help out on a PR campaign for a client working on a big Habitat for Humanity sponsorship. I’d really been enjoying the work in advertising and was already starting to wonder if that might be a better career path for me than teaching. This campaign was outside the agency’s area of expertise, so they brought in a senior PR professional to work on the project and I became her assistant for the summer. I had never really been exposed to PR as a career option before – and I loved it right away. The combination of writing and planning and working with people and constantly being challenged by moving pieces and variables was FUN. I can remember working ridiculous hours that summer, and hardly being able to sleep at night because I was so excited about what I’d be working on the next day. After my English degree, I enrolled immediately in a PR diploma program – and I was given the opportunity to stay at that agency and work on all PR-related projects. I’ve been in the industry ever since and I still get that can’t-sleep feeling sometimes when I’m working on a project. I think that’s a pretty good sign that you’ve found a career that’s a good fit!
Me: Please describe a successful & tactical PR project that you have worked on that you are especially proud of.
Lindsay: A few summers ago, I got a panicked call from a client of mine asking if I could take on a last-minute project. He’d been asked by a friend to help a group of small local potato farmers to organize their message and put pressure on the government to change new regulations that were quietly coming into effect – regulations that would suddenly make it illegal for them to sell potatoes at farmer’s markets, to local grocery stores and restaurants, or even at a roadside stand on their own farms. These regulations were put into place by a large producer co-op and they would mean the end for many of these small producers who’d been farming potatoes for generations.
It was so last-minute that I went to the meeting that night by myself – and walked into a room for 80+ angry farmers and other people who were upset by what was happening. By the end of the evening, everyone had had their say and we’d managed to decide on a few key representatives who would lead the charge. More importantly, I knew what we’d need to do to help them.
Working together with a team from Cocoon Branding (now ClarkHuot), we put together the fastest campaign I’ve ever worked on in my life. They put together some really impressive creative while I set up a blog, sent out media releases, drafted backgrounders, did some media training bootcamp for the people who’d be doing interviews on behalf of this coalition. Our goal was to gain media coverage and begin to put pressure on the Manitoba government and Peak of the Market leading up to an important meeting that aimed to have these new regulations reversed.
The news coverage was both instant and extensive. We were all over television, newspapers, and news websites – with the public squarely on our side. The creative was installed on billboards and in transit shelters… And the next day, our group met with the government and Peak of the Market – who agreed to re-write the exemptions for small potato growers, with the consultation of our group.
The entire campaign – from our first meeting to their last – lasted less than three weeks.
Me: Why are you most proud of this project?
Lindsay: I loved the challenge of figuring out how to make Manitobans aware – and make them CARE – about something they’d probably never even thought about before.
And obviously, the quick and tangible result of the campaign made it really special. We work on so many things that are a drop in a bucket and we hope that they help someone – but we can’t always be sure. This project meant everything to the farmers I met. And being able to deliver a positive outcome for them – an outcome that kept them in business – felt amazing.
Me: What is one piece of advice that you can give when it comes to taking on tactical PR projects, for someone like me who is just starting out in the PR world?
Lindsay: Just one?! 🙂
You’ll get stuck working on ‘boring’ projects sometimes – but there’s ALWAYS an interesting angle, and it’s your job to find it. Your work is always important to someone, and there’s always an audience that will care deeply about it. Once you tap into that, it will make YOU care – and that’s when you’ll do your best work.
Me: What keeps you excited and passionate about doing what you do?
Lindsay: I love the fact that every day is different. It’s impossible to work in PR and be bored (unless you’re boring). Those moving pieces and variables keep it interesting. And the tools we use change so rapidly – especially with social media and the internet. I’m not that old, but I’ve spent WEEKS of my life standing in front of a fax machine sending out news releases… I’m sure that I’ll see even more significant changes before I retire. But once you understand strategy and what makes a good campaign, you can learn to use any tool to help get you there.
Lindsay’s successful campaign for local potato farmers won many awards as well (for obvious reasons). Take a look at the images below to see some of the work they did!