As a part of my PR Strategy Series, we are talking to top experts in the field to give entrepreneurs, PR specialists, and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career.
Today I had the pleasure of talking with Brandi Sims, PR Consultant for Brandinc PR. She has over 14 years of experience working in public relations and marketing. Brandi helped to promote and produce local and state events throughout the U.S. including online and in-person. Current and past clients have ranged from public figures to small to mid-size businesses in the entertainment, beauty, government, and non-profit sectors.
1. First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path.
It’s an interesting story. What got me started in public relations was the intrigue and interest in MTV show day beauty in the early 2000s called Power Girls. The premise of the show revolved around a set of interns working for the Lizzie Grubman, PR agency, and showcasing, their experiences working in public relations. I was incredibly inspired by not only the work they were doing but the personality that excelled under pressure. It was one of the first instances that I saw, what I was interested in represented in a legitimate career path. Public relations isn’t party planning, it’s creating strategic campaigns and messaging surrounding a brand. We are the movers and shakers behind the scenes that helped elevate these brands of course, with a dash of personality, passion, and a bit of wordsmith makes a difference.
2. Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
I think the most interesting story that happened within my career stems from expanding into entertainment and lifestyle brands over the last five years. When I started in public relations, my primary learning space was in the nonprofit and finance sector. As many know, nonprofits are a great opportunity to learn a lot and in many cases, they are on a pro bono or volunteer space. As I grew into my field, I took a lot of the experiences that I learned in those spaces to really help me become a better professional. Nothing can prepare you more than having very limited resources to work with. Where education and experience don’t come in, grit and scrappiness will, and that’s what ultimately set me apart.
I was working at a small agency in Virginia representing celebrities, and clientele and up until that point I had never experienced or dealt with it in any capacity, so culture shock is an understatement. One day while I was working in the office, one of our celebrity clients, stop by to say hello, but we were not expecting them to. I was working on a pitch in my workspace, one from behind me. I hear my name being called to come and say hello. And walk towards them. That’s when I realize a client was there. I was completely caught off guard and just treated it very nonchalantly. I don’t know what it was, but something clicked in me, although I was caught off guard to not fan girl just because a Two time Super Bowl winner was within feet of me. Although I had no experience prior to working at this agency working with celebrities, my instinct was to remain professional, and treat the situation as I would with any other client. When I look back on that, and I share this story, colleagues are so shocked that I didn’t react more or roll out the red carpet, but I stand by my response. What I’ve gathered from this work is that celebrities know their celebrities, but they also know that there are people. While there is a second group of few that love the admiration and attention and want to be treated like regular people, because really, and truly they are. I think what has helped me develop valuable relationships with clients, and colleagues are that I’ve always had a very grounded and humanized approach to myself. We are all people working in the space, simply doing the best that we can and living our lives. At the end of the day, we all have to put on our pants the same way.
3. Can you share a story about the funniest PR mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was not being prepared to interview. Very early on, I got my experience from interning through non-profit organizations. One day, I had been scheduled for an interview at a local philharmonic and had already prepared my attire, and notes as well as pitching myself to a potential employer. I was so hyper-focused on my attire and speech that I did not remove my nail polish, which I had my college boyfriend’s name spelled into each one in stick-on crystals and acrylics. Not to mention, most were broken and rough. By the time I realized I had left them on, I was already greeting my interviewer, who immediately looked directly at them. It wasn’t addressed, but it was noticeable. I still ended up getting the internship, but from that point on, I kept my nails short and basic. First impressions matter and I would never want to give the impression that I’m not professional because I have a sloppy appearance or am unprepared.
4. Describe your experience in Public Relations for the Event Industry.
Great question. My experience focuses primarily on publicity events. These have ranged from brand activation and launch events to community outreach or community service-based events. Spending upon the client’s needs, I developed and strategized on events that would make the most impact on what we were looking for. While our role was heavily focused on the strategic planning process of creating publicity events, this does not take away the role of an event planner for more of our large-scale activities. In my experience, having the support of a solid team of diverse is crucial for leading a successful publicity event.
5. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
For me, the tipping point in my career was when I started to receive calls and messages from people that had heard about my work and were interested in my services. With public relations being an engine for word-of-mouth efforts, it’s not surprising that from the business standpoint we rely heavily on that effort in terms of our own agencies. The other tipping point was when I started to have colleagues and other professionals identify my work. For example, there was a recent crisis communication situation with a young professional’s non-profit group, and I was asked for my insight on the response. I put it together based on my initial thoughts, which were later used in response. Afterward, I was contacted by a mutual colleague after seeing the response from the group to the individual, and right out the gate, they made comment, “I see that you’re still putting out small fires.” I just smiled and pushed forward. When people can start to pick up on my style in campaigns or communications messaging, it speaks to the impact I’ve had.
6. How do you evaluate the success of a public relations campaign?
To determine the success of a public relations campaign, you must first evaluate based on the initial objectives and goals. When I get started with new clients, we take a deep dive into the organization. What are their specific goals for publicity? Some organizations seek publicity to help improve their company’s reputation, whereas others are seeking more awareness and engagement on social media and their website or showcasing community involvement. Honing on why is how we can evaluate and measure the performance in our efforts. This must be clearly defined from the very beginning in order to have a successful public relations campaign.
7. Do you use press releases in your work?
Yes, my team consistently produces press releases for the purpose of sharing company announcements, activities, and otherwise relevant news that the public must e aware of on behalf of our clients.
8. Is media coverage important in pr for events? What outreach methods do you find work the best for securing media coverage?
100%. Media coverage is crucial for PR events. Keep in mind, publicity events are designed to be events that garner media attention and ultimately the public. Without coverage of these activities, it does hinder performance and interest. Before reaching out to any media outlets, you develop a relationship. There’s no skipping this step and what has set us apart in terms of media pitching & outreach compared to other agencies. We work closely with the media because we consider ourselves in sharing news and information. This is highly effective in capturing the right interest and outlet to cover our client’s activities.
Content Marketing Platform
- 100,000+ media publications;
- get backlinks to your product;
- scale work with content distribution.
9. Describe the elements you might include in a campaign wrap-up report for a client.
Some elements I would include are metrics and analytics. There’s so much data that can be collected from campaigns that it helps to streamline and report these within our wrap-up results. When you consider communications messaging through online platforms such as social media, websites, blogs, etc. these are all relevant to a campaign and are incredible sources for collecting performance data.
10. How do you stay updated on industry trends? What are your sources for daily news?
I follow quite a few public relations and communications industry groups, such as PR Daily and PR News. I also serve on the national PRSA Entertainment & Sports Section Executive Committee, where a great deal of information on new trends and news is constantly shared directly with the membership of PR professionals.
11. Describe a PR campaign you worked on of which you’re especially proud.
I would say was working on Live on Festival with country singer April Cushman. Live on Festival campaign highlighted the inaugural concert for the hybrid platform that offered music artists the importunity to connect with their fans both online and on-location, while also maintaining the bulk of the profits from sales. One of the fascinating things about the campaign was that while we were limited in time, we had newsworthy content to let the event take off. We focused our efforts on a truly integrated marketing campaign, combining several outlets and resources to get the best outreach on the project. The results were both local and national coverage, with brand partnerships developed as a result. As an agency owner, I like to take on unique, indie, and underground projects that really allow my team to get creative and explore. This campaign was no different, and we were fortunate to work on it.
12. What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
My favorite life lesson quote is that if you don’t tell your story, someone else will. I think we all have a right to share our story and in working in public relations, I take on the role of empowering my clients to find their narrative. Not only that but also to reclaim it. In many ways throughout my life and career, I’ve always been guided by this:
I have a voice and I need to use it.