Account manager, consumer marketing practice, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
Call Jackson Jeyanayagam on his cell phone and a dose of rap music blasts in your ear instead of the familiar ring tone you might expect. It is an offering from T-Mobile called "Ring Back Tones": callers can hear the ring tone that the cell phone owner picks. When he first got it, tons of people asked what it was. Jeyanayagam would reply, "Well, it's my client's new product."
Jeyanayagam, 28, has been working on the T-Mobile account with Waggener Edstrom Worldwide for 2.5 years. A graduate of the University of Oregon with a degree in sociology and communications, he had no intention of pursuing PR until a friend suggested it, saying that it was "basically hanging out with people and going to parties." He took an internship at a hospital the summer before senior year and discovered quickly that PR was work, albeit work that he quickly grew to enjoy.
"It all comes back to people, building relationships, and how people want to receive messages," says Jeyanayagam.
Relishing the interaction he has with clients has contributed to Jeyanayagam's success thus far. "He has great relationships with media and influencers - not because he has to, but because he wants to," says David Beigie, VP of T-Mobile corporate communications. "He genuinely has a great time with the people he works with on a daily basis; it's not often you see that."
Fostering the same sort of relationship with cell phone customers is more of a challenge. Negative feedback about both the service and the coverage is common.
"Consumers are so picky and choosy with cell phone service," says Jeyanayagam. "Part of the challenge is building loyalty to the brand." He has met that challenge by continually getting placement of T-Mobile and its Sidekick products in key consumer media, like The New York Times, CNET, and US Weekly.
Jeyanayagam considers himself lucky to be working with T-Mobile, a company that has given him enough freedom to think progressively. He also gives credit to Waggener Edstrom, which has helped to keep him focused and stuck by him, even when he didn't know at first if he would be able to move from Canada to work in the US.
He looks forward to a career that will continue to work with traditional media as well as take advantage of the PR opportunities available in new media, such as the blogs and wikis he has already implemented.
And, Jeyanayagam does have the chance to go to the occasional soiree. At a dinner for the Blackberry Pearl launch, Beigie says took a string of faux pearls from the centerpiece and placed them on Jeyanayagam, prompting some gentle ribbing from the industry journalists in attendance.
"At events, there's certainly information about our products and services and [getting the media] to give our devices a test drive," says Beigie. "But the point is to get together and have fun for real. Jackson is one of the architects of that."