THE TYPE BAR
Tawanda Carlton is an awesome PR pro based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Her name might sound familiar as we featured her great insights in our previous blog, Public Relations 101: How To Land Coverage in Top-Tier Publications. She had such awesome insights about the PR world, pitching, and how to land coverage that we had to do a PR Profile spotlight on her!
Today, Tawanda serves as an Account Executive at Media Frenzy Global, a PR and communications firm based out of the greater Atlanta area. As a former news producer turned PR pro, she knows how to use her insight and awareness to connect with contacts to make intimate pitches that stick. We are so happy for the opportunity to chat with her about her experience in PR, from her origins and day-to-day to how she sees the landscape changing in the next decade.
A lot of the publicists we talk to start their careers with internships. What made you get into the PR industry?
I actually got into the PR space after working in local tv news. In college, I focused primarily on broadcast and earned a degree in media studies. I’ve always had a passion for communications so when I decided to turn in my news producer hat, I turned to internal comms for a few years. When I moved to Atlanta in 2016, I was adamant about joining an agency and was able to join the phenomenal team at Media Frenzy Global. We are a boutique integrated marketing and pr agency focused on helping build disruptive and innovative brands. I’ve grown so much as a person and as a professional under the leadership of phenomenal women: Sarah Tourville (CEO and Founder), Katie Kern (Partner) and Nikkia Adolphe (PR Director).
What is the most important part of your day? Why?
The morning. This is ironic because I am not a morning person, however, I’ve come to realize the early bird gets the worm. I also have international clients so getting emails and deliverables to them before their day ends and mine begins is key. The morning is also a great time to set your intention and your attitude for the day. I am really working on this in 2020. Attitude is everything and PR is a tough business. You hear a lot of no’s before you get a yes. Things change constantly, so it’s important to maintain a great attitude, stay hydrated and BREATHE.
What is your favorite part about working in PR?
Meeting new people and being a resource for others. I really pride myself in being able to create opportunities for others because so many people have done it for me. As a woman of color in this industry, unnecessary roadblocks are put on your path and assumptions of what you are capable of run wild. So, I try to bridge the gap for other women coming up in the industry or who need advice and encouragement. I am a part of several organizations that allow me to give back (ColorComm, National Association of Black Journalist, and the Atlanta Press Club). If I know of someone who can help you do your job better, I will connect you. If there is a space on the board I serve on and you’re a good fit, I will champion for you. Do you have an idea that’s on your mind? Let’s talk about it and make it even better. This business can be unnecessarily harsh sometimes, so whatever I can do to change that narrative, I will do.
What is the toughest part of your job?
Breaking through the influx of content. I recently read that on WordPress alone, 70 million blog posts are published every month and 3.2 billion images are shared each day. Talk about noise. Understanding how to differentiate your client’s brand from the rest can be challenging. I make a concerted effort to talk to my clients and understand what is on their minds, what are they reading, what ah-hah moments or epiphanies they are having and if they think differently from their peers. This has become key as I have been able to craft messaging or “contrarian” views around this and land my clients the coverage they are looking for time and time again.
What tech industry do you think is going to change the most over the next 5 years?
Voice-enabled technology is on the rise. I believe we are still in the midst of realizing its full potential and how it will impact our industry, nonetheless, we literally need to keep our ‘ears open’ for what it will do for our profession.
How do you prove the value of PR to your clients or executives?
With metrics and sound counsel.
Metrics – I say this as someone who hates math and numbers, however, honing in on how a client’s brand awareness has grown from quarter to quarter has become a game-changer for our agency. We have been able to attract and retain clients based on our approach and it really helps us see how much we’ve helped our clients grow. Metrics truly matter.
Sound Counsel– Our clients really depend on us to lead them in the right direction and it isn’t always easy however I have to remind myself that I am the expert. It may sound high and mighty but it’s true. I have gone above and beyond for my clients time and time again by pointing them in the right direction with my knowledge and expertise.
What are your must-have tools for your day-to-day tasks?
Flipboard – This is an App that my friend Angela Watts (another PR pro) shared with me that can be used on iPhone and Android. It’s been a lifesaver. I use this news aggregator to stay on top of what’s happening in my industry and my client’s industry. The news cycle is 24/7 and as pr professionals, we MUST know what’s going on. It really helps me gain a leg up on trends and new developments.
Cision – This is a really great tool for finding journalist, HARO is already built-in AND there are metrics built in to see what pitches are resonating with the journalist I reach out to.
Twitter – If you’re smart, then you’re on Twitter. Twitter is real-time as you can get. It’s such an easy way to reach out to journalists, colleagues and share your thoughts. I consume so much content it’s insane. However, when I come across an article or information I think will be useful Twitter is the quickest way to share the news. With the right hashtags of course.
Google Drive – I love how collaborative this tool is. It takes the fuss out of uploading and downloading docs to edit. I use this with my clients and can see updates in real-time. Simple, yet effective.
What are some of the trends you saw take shape this year?
Multiskilling. PR is no longer a one-way street. You must be able to think with an integrated mindset with everything you do. For example, utilizing Google Analytics to determine if your media placement drove traffic by to your client’s website, or creating UTM codes to track referrals and leads. Also, thinking of experiential activations, social media integration and email marking campaigns. I am warning traditional pr practitioners who only want to write and pitch to skill up or get left behind. The world is evolving and PR pros must stay on the cusp of change, it’s inevitable.
How do you see PR and marketing changing in the next 10 years?
This goes back to integration. 10 years from now I will probably have more of a marketing role than a PR role. It’s just the way to world is moving. Quite frankly, I’m open to that. PR professionals will have tools to help them track metrics better and the way news is shared will more than likely be different as well. Just by observing the last decade overall, we have to brace ourselves to what the next 10 years hold.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
My friends and family would call me a workaholic. It’s not something I’m proud of so I have to work really hard (there I go again) to find the balance. Part of that involves my mornings and the weekend. My work week is always full of surprises. I find when I get up early I have some time to myself. I try to read a bit and just ease into my day. On the weekends, I have time to read, follow up on my passions and reset before the week ahead. I also try to make sure I talk to someone in my family at least once a week. They are my center. I moved from NC to Atlanta, GA 3 ½ years ago and I find reconnecting with them restores balance in my life and reminds me of what is truly important.
Curious to see PR from a journalist’s POV? Check out our podcast Coffee with a Journalist, where we sit down with journalists from some of the biggest pubs around. To start, listen to season two’s episode Coffee with a Journalist: Ann-Marie Alcantara, The Wall Street Journal. We sit down with Ann-Marie to talk all things journalism, from crafting a great story to the great pitches that inspired them!