On this month’s profile, we are talking with Nicole Young at TEAM LEWIS. She’s a strategic, creative, and detail-oriented agency director.
For the last 8+ years, she’s led consumer accounts ranging from multi-billion dollar global enterprises to exciting startups. She’s spent most of her PR career working with brands in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) space. Still, she also has experience in the consumer tech, home & decor, and education industries – just to name a few.
She graduated from SDSU with a degree in public relations back in 2015 and has worked in an agency setting ever since, starting as a PR intern to now a managing director.
Read below for the entire interview with Nicole:
1.) Tell us a bit about your day-to-day and what it’s like being the Managing Director at TEAM LEWIS.
As a managing director, I wear a lot of hats, but my main role is to lead my account teams and serve as the primary day-to-day contact for my clients. I work closely with my vice president on strategic counsel and oversee the execution of media relations tactics. I’m lucky to work with some young and incredibly talented PR pros who do most of the pitching for my programs and regularly secure stellar media wins which helps me keep my clients happy! I also play a role in acquiring new agency clients, managing client retainers, and everyone’s favorite thing: regulating hours.
2.) What’s the best pitch of yours that resulted in coverage and what elements made it successful?
My favorite piece of coverage I’ve ever secured was a Fast Company feature story for an emerging plant-based milk brand I worked with a few years back. It resulted from a pitch I crafted highlighting five exciting brands to watch out of Dallas where my client was based.
There are a couple of things I did that I believe made my pitch resonate:
- I tailored it specifically to one particular Fast Company reporter who had written a similar story months before about emerging brands out of a different city, so I knew off the bat it was something he’d potentially cover.
- It also wasn’t overly promotional of my client or its products.
- I identified four other, non-competing brands to highlight (which were approved by my client to include) and gave all five brands equal attention in my pitch. I got lucky in that my client was the one he ended up gravitating toward and eventually covering, but I believe not being overly promotional was what got my foot in the door.
3.) What makes a good subject line? Can you share an example of one that worked?
Good subject lines are short, sweet, and to the point. A former manager of mine once advised me to keep my subject lines to seven words MAX and I try to stick to this whenever possible. If it’s possible to do so without making the subject line too long, I like to give reporters a taste of what I can offer them.
For example, if what you’re offering is a company executive or subject matter expert to comment on a trending or relevant topic, I like to start my subject line with “Expert available” followed by “to discuss <INSERT TOPIC>” – this template has worked well for me on multiple occasions and with multiple pitches.
4.) What information do you always make sure to include in a pitch?
I always make sure to highlight what I can offer them outside of just an idea for a story. What resources do I have at my disposal that I can offer them to make this angle a reality? Whether it be a subject matter expert, data, product to try, etc. Make sure to bring it up early, don’t let what you have to offer get lost.
On the topic, I’m on a mission to cancel the classic intro line, “I saw you write about XYZ so I think you’d be interested…” – if you’ve done your research on the reporter and know that whatever your pitching them will be of interest, there’s no need for that line. If you feel like you need to include that line to connect the dots between what the reporter regularly covers and what you’re offering, it’s likely not going to be a fit. Get straight to the point – reporters get thousands of pitches a day so make sure the most important information – like what you can offer them – is stated early.
5.) What’s been your favorite campaign you’ve worked on and what made it successful?
Oh gosh this is so hard, I’ve been fortunate to work on so many fun campaigns throughout my career. But a highlight was working with Antoni Porowski from Queer Eye on behalf of Wholly Guacamole for their National Guacamole Day campaign; this was back in 2018 and shortly after the world was introduced to the new Fab Five so Antoni was a hot commodity.
Obviously anytime you can work with a celebrity you’re going to pique attention, but what I believe made this particular collaboration a success was that it was authentic. We tapped Antoni for this campaign because he’s Queer Eye’s resident food expert and had spoken publicly about his love for avocados, so him promoting guacamole just made sense, and because it made sense media took to it. That’s my biggest advice for anyone looking to working with celebrities or social influencers to promote brands or products – make sure it’s authentic. Consumers and media are wise to this tactic, after all we’re inundated with sponsored content every time we open our phones or computers, and it’s easy to tell when an influencer has a genuine connection to a brand or product vs. when they did it for the money.
6.) What’s your best tip for measuring PR? What’s the most valuable KPI to track in your opinion and why?
I really like to educate my clients on the value of quality coverage vs. quantity of hits or impressions. When I onboard clients and we’re outlining our program KPIs, we develop an impact score which we use to measure the quality of our coverage. Things we look at in are whether or not the coverage includes a photo of the product, a link back to the website, whether it speaks to our target consumer, or highlights key brand messaging, etc. One full feature story is so much more valuable to a client than five minor brand mentions, so it’s important to showcase that.
7.) How do you maintain relationships with journalists when you have no news to share?
Reach out even when you don’t have news to share. Follow your friendlies on their social channels and on LinkedIn, and when you see they’ve gone on a fun vacation or achieved something professionally reach out to start a conversation! Congratulate them, ask them about their personal lives; be more than a news engine.
8.) What’s your #1 tactic for building relationships with journalists?
Don’t just be a news engine, be a resource and help them out even if it doesn’t directly serve your client – an example of this was a few years back I had a media contact reach out to me because she was looking for expert commentary for a story she was working on and asked if I had any registered dietitian contacts I could put her in touch with. I worked with a bunch of RDs at the time because I had a lot of food clients. Even though it didn’t make sense for any of my clients to be inserted into the story, I wasn’t going to leave this media contact hanging. So I secured her the commentary she needed and she continued to reach out to me regularly for help, and eventually, I was able to get my clients included in one of her pieces.
9.) What’s the best PR advice you’ve received or given to others?
Be yourself – it sounds so simple, but it’s much easier said than done. I think in one way or another we’re all dealing with some form of imposter syndrome – whether it be with clients or with media – and its easy to feel like you need to be a “better” version of yourself when communicating with these parties. But people want to hear from YOU, not the version of yourself you think you need to be. When I first started my PR career and started pitching media I’d default to being more formal in the language I used because I thought I needed to sound professional. I tired of that quickly and decided it was more fun to just be myself, so I started doing things like adding memes or GIFs into my pitches, I used more casual language when appropriate, switched up my sign offs, etc. Once I ditched the persona of the person I thought I needed to be and started being myself, I started getting much more positive and frequent responses from journalists. And it’s how I eventually formed close bonds and friendships.
If you’re looking for more tips from PR professionals, check out our entire PR profile series highlighting some of the top PR professionals in the industry!
Like this series and have a guest you think would be a good fit? Shoot us a Twitter DM or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know who you’d want to see featured next! PS: you can recommend yourself too.
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