A day in the life

The range and scope of job functions in-house and at agencies is mushrooming as PR evolves. PRWeek staffers profile five comms leaders who embody the broadening power and purview of today's PR pro.

The range and scope of job functions in-house and at agencies is mushrooming as PR evolves. PRWeek staffers profile five comms leaders who embody the broadening power and purview of today's PR pro.


CSR champion:
Chad Tragakis, Hill & Knowlton

Chad Tragakis, SVP and CSR lead at Hill & Knowlton, starts his day like any typical PR professional – with clients on the brain.
 
His commute from Virginia to Washington, DC, begins with listening to NPR and CNN with an ear out for key issues impacting clients in the hospitality and financial services sectors.
 
The issues monitoring continues at the office with scans of The Washington Post and CNN websites. At the same time, he is tuning into CNN on television.
 
On this particular day, Tragakis is interrupted by a call from another client. A VP for a global NGO in Kenya has an issue it needs support on – and for Tragakis the work begins.
    
As the role of CSR in a corporate structure has changed over the 12 years Tragakis has been working in the space, so has the responsibility and function of his position.
 
More companies are seeing the value in CSR, and Tragakis says he is getting calls from clients that might not have had CSR on their radar a few years ago. This means being pulled into more business areas and having a dual focus on external client work and internal agency initiatives.
 
After his initial issues monitoring news scan for clients, Tragakis gets to work on how his agency can keep its own environmental responsibility in order as co-leader of the agency's “Green Team.”
 
“In India, there is a current debate in the government about making CSR programs mandatory, which impacts every company doing business there, including H&K's India office,” Tragakis explains about his current projects for the Green Team.
 
The India office will undergo training headed by Tragakis, so his daily routine now includes switching his focus from client work to putting together internal training materials and presentation planning.
 
Tragakis' internal job focus also helps coordinate the agency's pro-bono work. Currently, this includes working with a DC nonprofit to convene a forum coinciding with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which will consider the responsibility companies have in helping advance peace, foster democracy, and improve America's reputation abroad.
 
The process begins

When preparing for new client business and pitches, Tragakis starts by identifying the company's strategic goals and core competencies.
 
“It is my personal belief that companies are global citizens and have a moral obligation to take on issues that fall within their purview, whether it is climate change or poverty,” he explains. “Corporate responsibility is always the strongest when it aligns with business strategy, goals, and values – so that's where I start.”
 
Tragakis says he then works with each client to map out its stakeholders and identify areas where the company can have a positive impact through its products and services.
 
“People are starting to recognize this isn't fluffy stuff and it's not just spin,” he adds. “It can have a real tangible connection to the business.”
 
Like other areas of PR, digital has become a catalyst for change in the CSR space, Tragakis says.
 
“It's a real driver for why companies need to get serious and it's a new drive for transparency,” he explains.
 
Anyone with the power to Tweet or blog can now become an activist and hold companies accountable, which only adds to CSR's value.
 
The savvy companies, says Tragakis, are those that use the same tools and platforms as channels to get information as they do to share information.
 
The challenge for CSR today is standing out in an increasingly crowded space. Ten years ago, Tragakis notes, there were fewer companies doing and leading. Today, not only is the bar higher, but nearly everyone is trying to tell their story, which makes it much harder to break through.



Senior PR manager:
Krista Canfield, LinkedIn

Krista Canfield went from chasing tornados as a reporter in South Dakota to touting the ins and outs of the professional social networking site LinkedIn to journalists.

 
“Absolutely loved my job,” says Canfield, senior PR manager for the Americas, Canada, and Brazil, at LinkedIn. “But I knew being on call on Saturday night sleeping with a police scanner by my bed was not necessarily the work-life balance I wanted long term.”
 
Like many before her, she leveraged her journalism background and skills into a career in PR. Now, among her PR duties at Mountain View, CA-based LinkedIn, she routinely tutors journalists from Canada to Brazil on how to tap the vast amounts of information on the website to break juicy news stories and cultivate sources.
 
The tutorials are a win-win of sorts. They show eager reporters how to break stories from the information users post on their profiles, and at the same time promotes the service among the very group of people that can spread the message faster than anyone else.
 
“I still get to do a lot of what I was doing as a journalist,” says Canfield. “I am still doing that story creation that I love so much.”
 
Entry into PR

The path to such a job began at Syracuse University, where Canfield studied broadcast journalism and finance.
 
“I initially had aspirations of doing financial news reporting,” she says. After her stint in journalism, Canfield landed an internship at PR firm the Horn Group in 2005, where she rose to be an SAE and worked for three years.
 
An avid LinkedIn and social media user herself, it was when she posted an advice question on her LinkedIn network while on vacation in Paris she reconnected with a former client. That former client had a job lead for her, a PR job at LinkedIn, where she has now been for about three years.
 
Today, Canfield wrapped up another one of her journalist tutorials. Roughly 50 reporters ranging from the tech, trade, and business press participated this time. To date, she has schooled about 1,000 journalists on how they can use LinkedIn for their reporting.
 
“When I came on board, I thought there were a lot of things here journalists can actually use for themselves,” adds Canfield. “I just brought my news nose to it,” she says.
 
Canfield now gives a mass teleconference tutorial about once a month. During the 20- to 30-minute call she asks reporters to log in to their LinkedIn page. She walks them through the platform, shows them how to follow members in industries, sign up for groups, monitor profile changes, and watch for data or changes that could mean a big story.
 
The job has taken her to Brazil, where she gave such a lesson to 50 reporters at one of the country's largest news publications.
 
Slow rise to the top

If social media is where it's at, Canfield is on the front lines. It hasn't always been like this, though. Even just three years ago, when she would call reporters to talk to them about LinkedIn they would confuse the name of the service with a car rental business with a similar sounding name.
 
“It was an uphill battle to explain to them why our site is important or how it could be useful,” she recalls. “Slowly but surely, word has spread.”
 
When Canfield joined the company, LinkedIn had approximately 18 million members. Now it has more than 90 million.
 
“It's fantastic to be at the forefront of where everybody's interest now lies,” she says.



Cleantech guru:
William Brent, Weber Shandwick

For the past several months, William Brent, EVP of cleantech for Weber Shandwick, has gotten used to the San Francisco scene. His new office overlooks a building that used to house The Industry Standard during the Internet boom days.

“I can walk out my door and be on miles and miles of mountain trails,” he says. “The sunshine is plentiful and there is just so much more happening in cleantech in the Bay.”
 
Brent, who was previously based in Seattle, recently returned from a trip to Pasadena at the California Institute of Technology where Bloom Energy announced Bloom Electrons, a service that allows customers to lock in their electricity rates for 10 years. Caltech, Walmart, and Coca-Cola have signed on to use the program.
 
Bloom Energy, a Silicon Valley green startup, is one of more than 15 companies who work with Brent and Weber's cleantech practice today, which was merely a pipe dream in 2005. Brent, who was just two years off of his 15-year stint in China as a journalist and filmmaker, joined the agency and convinced management to open up the practice.
 
“There were a couple of small boutiques I knew of with that focus, but at that time very few people were thinking about it in these terms and putting the resources behind it to really grow,” he recalls.
 
‘Time' to get started

Brent's first cleantech client for Weber was a fuel-cell company based in Shanghai. He worked on a small project that eventually landed it on Time's list of best inventions of the year.
 
Today, Brent works with a team of 15 in San Francisco and Seattle, as well as staff in Boston, DC, New York, Los Angeles, Europe, and Asia.
 
This past February, the cleantech team assisted in the groundbreaking of INEOS Bio's advanced biofuels facility in Vero Beach, FL. The plant will convert yard, vegetative, and household waste into cellulosic ethanol and renewable power for the local area. Production starts next year and is expected to power approximately 1,400 homes.
 
Other recent initiatives Brent and his team have worked on include the US rollout of a new plug-in hybrid electric car, the Chevy Volt. Overseas, they assisted eMeter with the launch of the Smart Energy Demand Coalition in Europe, which provides information on services and technologies related to demand response, energy efficiency, smart meters, and smart grids.
 
Also, in 2010, another client, Spain-based Abengoa, received a $1.5 billion loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy to build Solana, a 250-megawatt solar facility in Arizona, which will power 70,000 homes.
 
In January, the Clean Economy Network (CEN) held its first business leaders summit in Washington, DC. Brent, who was involved in starting the organization in 2009, said CEN promotes awareness of a new economy based on clean technology and innovation for an industry that is often muddled with regulations and policy.
 
“Not only is it challenging for communications strategy, such as communicating highly technical, oftentimes very nerdy issues, both to business costumers and consumers,” he explains, “but also layer on top of that all the policy and government regulation issues you have.”
 
Outside the office, Brent maintains a lifestyle of sustainability with his wife and two sons. Food is consumed locally and shopping trips are held to a minimum of five to 10 a year. At home, he keeps a close eye on his thermostat, and uses energy-efficient appliances and low-flow showers.
 
“I didn't own my first car until I was in my mid-30s,” he says. “I commute on public transit and walk. But the biggest difference I can make is helping cleantech become mainstream.”



Digital creative:
Tracy Shea, Coyne PR

Tracy Shea and his team strive to create the most on-trend creative elements in the digital space. But the seeds of those projects stem from the simplest of places. Shea's first concern isn't about bytes or bandwidth. The first question he will always ask his clients is “Why?”

“Someone will say I want 10,000 followers on Facebook, but they can't really tell me why that is important to their business,” he explains. “We lead them through a process of discovery and find out what they really need.”
 
Shea, SVP, digital creative, at Coyne Public Relations, joined the firm last July. Prior to that, he was part of the team that launched CNN.com in
1995 and he also worked at Wired. Shea has a half-dozen Emmys under his belt and worked as executive producer on a live “videophone” broadband expedition to clean up base camps on Mount Everest for Verde Media and produced a series of National Geographic Expedition sponsored trips to places such as Tunisia and Antarctica.
 
Constant growth

Since joining Coyne, Shea has been going full throttle, growing the agency's digital resources and expertise.
 
“Video production has become one of our leading services,” he explains. “Video is becoming a dominant factor and people are looking at the Internet more than they are reading it.”
 
Finessing the creative idea du jour, as Shea calls it, also requires discussing basic dollars and cents. Videos people consume today look like they were done with a flip cam by a high school kid, but in reality were done by a production company and cost $50,000 or $100,000, he says, adding that creating the video is only part of the process. Decisions must be made about allocating budget to paid media, advertising, syndication, or SEO.
 
Currently, Shea and the Coyne creative team are building a hub for Pfizer's 19 legal teams expected to launch in the third quarter. The internal hub will allow members to engage with each other and share video, legal documents, and news across platforms, take classes, or participate in a virtual Q&A.
 
“It's a news network for Pfizer's entire legal team,” he says.
 
Shea is also working on an internal project at present – the agency is about to launch the Coyne Hot Sheet app for the iPad. The traditional e-mail hot sheet offers news on noteworthy programs in PR, advertising, and marketing.
 
“The app will offer real estate to another brand or our own brand to produce live video and stream-through so we could literally use the iPad and hand those out to people, whether they are media, consumers, or stakeholders,” he explains. “We could stream live events or give them personalized video through protected real estate on the app.”
 
Coyne is relocating in June to a larger headquarters within Parsippany, NJ. There will be a full studio with the ability to do live video, SMTs, digital non-linear editing, animation, and photography. Shea expects to make more hires as the agency gets deeper into app building and content management systems.
 
New media brands

Shea has been having a lot more conversations with clients about taking ownership of the news in the space in which their business operates.
 
“That's the biggest trend and I am counseling our clients on having a digital newsroom mentality,” he says.
 
Shea sees a point in time when outlets such as Fox or CNN will go to companies such as Goodyear for automotive news, for example, providing that communications are authentic and unbiased.
 
“We are not far from where some big brands become media brands,” he says. “We will sit down to watch the 5 o'clock news and your sound bite will be produced by Starbucks.”



Health advocate:
Maggie FitzPatrick, Cigna

The biggest challenge in Maggie FitzPatrick's day is simply finding enough time.
 
FitzPatrick, a longtime executive at APCO Worldwide, was named CCO at Cigna in August. Since then, she has implemented a search for a global AOR and a new chief spokesperson. She has also identified “gaps” in the health insurer's communications function.
 
The daily objective, she explains, is working on “building the infrastructure for the communications function at Cigna and making sure we have a strong strategic plan that aligns with our business objectives.”
 
Early to rise

Her day began at 5:30am on March 2, an early, but not unexpected time for FitzPatrick to start. Her daily routine includes using her Google Reader, an in-house media analysis, and reading hard copies of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
 
The evening before, FitzPatrick attended the National Press Foundation dinner in Washington and flew back to Bloomfield, CT, where Cigna is based, late that night.
 
On the morning of March 2, FitzPatrick, along with David Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, and Katie Wade, VP of state government affairs at the company, met Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D) and his economic development director Alan Levin for breakfast at Cigna's client center.
 
The officials discussed job creation in Delaware, a state where Cigna has doubled its work force since 2003.
 
“We talked about CSR and how we could extend our programs in the state,” recalls FitzPatrick. “We also had an in-depth talk about how we could engage constructively with leadership in Delaware to help solve some of its challenges around healthcare.”
 
Following the breakfast, FitzPatrick took two meetings, one regarding Cigna's search for an AOR and the second served as an interview with a candidate for the chief spokesperson position.
 
“One of my top priorities is getting the team in place,” she says, “and I'm meeting with as many candidates as necessary.”
 
Driven by talent

FitzPatrick notes that since joining Cigna, she conducted an assessment of its communications and is seeking out “best-in-class” talent whose experience includes social media or policy communications as part of an effort to source areas where she felt there were gaps.
 
She manages a team of communicators, both in Philadelphia and Bloomfield, including six people who directly report to her. Day-to-day execution includes the management of priority issues and media, events, executive positioning, and corporate philanthropy and CSR events.
 
The agency search is closely aligned with FitzPatrick's assessment. At the March 2 meeting, she met with the sourcing department at Cigna and an internal agency selection team, made up of executives from Cigna's international, marketing, communications, and CSR units.
 
The team went over how the firms are ranked, based on 25 criteria for Cigna's specific needs. It also discussed the agencies' diversity attributes, an area Cigna considers very important, says FitzPatrick.
 
The insurer's next step was scheduling site visits with firms before inviting the final three to present to the executive team at the end of March.
 
The remainder of FitzPatrick's day was filled with meetings ranging from planning for the company's investor day to talking with the corporate responsibility team about new initiatives.
 
FitzPatrick also met with the international team to discuss an upcoming trip to China and South Korea in late March and the company's outreach strategy before taking a 9pm flight to California with Cordani for Cigna's annual client forum.
 
FitzPatrick says Cigna benefits from its CEO's appreciation of the value of deeper stakeholder engagement.
 
“When you work in an industry that's been through the difficulties of reform and such challenges, there's a really strong sense of loyalty and commitment to doing well together,” notes FitzPatrick. “I've found that to be very rewarding.”

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