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PR Interview with Lisa Zone

January 16, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

The latest edition, episode 005 to this Q&A project is Lisa Zone (or Zone to her friends) senior vice president, head of customer communications practice group. With more than 15 years’ agency experience managing B2B and B2C marketing communications programs for a variety of clients, ranging from start-ups to nonprofit organizations to Fortune 500 companies, Lisa is also former president of American Advertising Federation – Cleveland; active with many community organizations and nonprofit Boards.

Lisa, you are a senior VP at Dix & Eaton an agency that provides integrated marketing and PR services. While most readers of this blog know what that means, how do you explain your job to friends and family?

My “explain it to your mom” speech is basically, “It’s my job to help my clients get in front of their customers.” That might mean helping them at a trade show, getting them in the newspaper or a magazine or talking with customers on social media. The tools might change, but the ultimate goal is always the same – to increase and enhance engagement with the people who buy my clients’ products.

Lisa ZoneIf you could do anything outside of PR / Communications, what would you choose and why?

I think I’d enjoy being a hairstylist or makeup artist. The projects I tend to enjoy most are the ones that include a lot of creativity, and both of those fields are all about creativity – and creative people. Plus, I’m a bit of a girly girl.

 How did you get into this industry?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a newscaster – until I did an internship at a TV station the summer between sophomore and junior years and realized I didn’t. I did, however, enjoy the work I did at the station within the public affairs department, which was the closest thing to a PR department at the station. The following summer, I did an internship at a local advertising and PR agency after hearing one of the agency partners speak to my journalism class. I loved that internship experience so much that I stayed on part-time during my senior year in college. They hired me upon graduation, and the rest is history. I was recruited to my current job by someone I’d worked with at that agency internship.

Your resume / LinkedIn profile is impressive and includes all the core PR, marketing, event categories one would expect, but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what ‘Brand Culture Integration’ is, can you explain?

Brand Culture Integration is part of Dix & Eaton’s branding process that identifies and engages a team of internal brand ambassadors (a Brand Engagement Team) to participate in the branding process along the way. Our experience suggests that this approach – particularly in companies with inclusive corporate cultures – generally yields a better end product and builds buy-in along the way from key internal stakeholders.

If you could change one thing about the PR industry, what would it be?

In my opinion, the best PR practitioners are the ones who have insights into the complex business challenges facing an organization – and who have a seat at the table to help solve those issues. PR should not be an afterthought. I’d love to see the PR function elevated to a strategic function of an organization, as much as operations, legal, etc.

How has the Marketing / PR / Comms industry changed in the last 5 years?

Certainly, social media has drastically changed the way companies communicate with (not at) their constituents – customers, employees, investors, community, partners/suppliers, etc. And it’s not just staying on top of emerging and popular social media platforms that’s important – it’s understanding how content is developed and delivered in an ever-evolving communications landscape.

What does it look like in 5 years?

Who knows? I don’t think any of us could have predicted the impact social media would have on the way companies communicate today five years ago. In my estimation, it’s less important to try to guess where communications is going and instead focus on really paying attention to how people are communicating with each other – then adjust to reach them where they are with content they seek.

What social media platform do you use (most) professionally? And is it different from what you use for personal?

Twitter is hands-down my go-to resource for all things professional, as I find I can learn from other practitioners, industry resources and media outlets all in one place. I find myself using Facebook more for personal use, mostly because that’s where a lot of my personal connections are. As I said earlier, it’s all about paying attention to how people are communicating with each other – and where. For me, that means Twitter for professional development and insights and Facebook for personal connections. But I must admit – Instagram is fast becoming a favorite platform for me. I love the way a photo can capture a story, even with no caption. Visuals are very powerful communications tools.

Do you make any attempt to differentiate your personal from your professional social media persona? If so, how?

No. To me, it’s not authentic to maintain one persona for work and one for personal – and social media is all about authenticity, isn’t it? That’s not to say I don’t sometimes filter what I put on my social networks (acknowledging it’s a representation of both my personal and professional self) – but I do use the same language, humor, etc. for work and play.

What advice would you give young professionals just starting out in this industry?

Young professionals are often very eager to prove themselves, which sometimes manifests itself in talking too much or trying to figure everything out without asking for help. There’s no shame in asking for advice or spending more time listening than talking in meetings when you’re just starting out (though I’d caution to not be totally silent in meetings either). I’m more impressed by a young professional who listens, absorbs and shares a really thoughtful observation or question than one who just talks and talks and talks to make sure his/her voice is heard.

What is the best professional advice you ever gave / received?

I always tell college students studying PR or communications to take some basic business classes, even if it’s not required for their major. It’s the one thing I wish I would have been exposed to more in college, as I have had to self-teach myself to understand things like financial statements and earnings announcements. If PR is going to have a seat at the executive table, it’s critical for practitioners to really understand how a business runs.

Have you ever deleted a Tweet / post? If so, why?

Absolutely. Most often, I delete when I catch a grammar or spelling error. There have been those times, however, that my emotions have gotten the best of me and I’ve used Twitter to vent. That’s not productive and doesn’t really accomplish much. I’ve learned to avoid hitting “send” on those tweets for the most part, but there are always a few that slip through – at least, until I delete them.

What is your immediate reaction to the follow:

Twitter: news, connecting
Facebook: overcrowded, personal
Google+: undercrowded
Klout: grain of salt
Corporate blogs: thought leadership
LinkedIn: recruiting, job hunting
Social media: two-way
Marketing: one-way
Public relations: all-ways

Need more of Lisa? Check her out on Twitter at @lzone or on LinkedIn.

See past interviews including with Jeff Beauregard, Krista Giuffi, Jules Zunich and Frank Strong

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