September 30, 2013
“The people and the feeling that there is still a lot more for us to achieve as an agency” are the best part of her job, says Erin Allsman, APR. She’s the vice president, public relations and social media director at the Brownstein Group, a brand communications agency in Center City, Philadelphia, and oversees all PR and social media accounts, manages the department and leads new business development.
Allsman also currently serves as the host committee chairperson for the 2013 PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia, which takes place on Oct. 26-29.
“The history, the energy and the food” are her favorite aspects of Philadelphia and she looks forward to hosting “4,000 of our closest PR friends” and “showing them everything that our city has to offer,” Allsman says. “I also want to demonstrate to the broader community that there is tremendous PR talent and expertise in this region.”
How did you get your start in public relations?
I was an English major in college, and I knew I wanted to find a career that blended writing and communication skills with business. After two years in financial communications, I went back to graduate school full-time to pursue a career in public relations.
Why did you decide to go into public relations?
I felt that it gave me the opportunity to touch on all my interests. I could be part journalist, part businesswoman, part corporate communicator and part marketing executive. It appeared that no day would be the same, and so far that has proved true.
What does your job entail at the Brownstein Group?
My job involves department management and hands-on client work. I collaborate with my staff on pressing client projects, provide strategic counsel to my team to help them problem-solve and work with the other department heads and our CEO on integrated projects and agency business. I am often out and about, pursuing new business opportunities and meeting with clients, and I spend quite a bit of time managing department operations, staffing and strategic planning.
How have social media and real-time news changed how you reach your audience and work with media?
Both social media and real-time news have provided us with more opportunities to reach our audiences — if you know where to look. We can skip the media middle-man and go direct through social, and because of the demands of the 24/7 news cycle, there’s more opportunity to provide different perspectives and illustrate various aspects of the same story.
Every news story gets dissected to death, and reporters are under such immense pressure to publish early and often that we are in a position to truly help them do their jobs. It’s not any easier — you still have to be creative in the ways that you connect with media, be a trusted resource and provide a compelling point of view.
Do social sharing platforms help drive audience engagement or other initiatives?
Absolutely! These tools perpetuate consumer behavior — they allow us to covet, curate and, ultimately, charge our cards. They combine two of the most powerful influences: intriguing images and peer validation, and are extremely powerful tools for brands.
How do you keep your brands interesting for audiences who are oversaturated with content? What’s the best way to keep them engaged?
It all starts with consumer insights and strategy. There isn’t a single “best way,” rather you must understand your audience’s needs and desires in order to provide content that will keep them engaged. It could be humor, inspiration, thought leadership or special offers — it will be different for every brand and every client.
What role does public relations play in building and protecting your brand?
PR counselors are often called into a situation that is already in motion to help mitigate the negative consequences through messaging. My opinion is that this approach is too little, too late. The most progressive organizations are bringing public relations to the table to help shape business and operational decisions and using their communication skills, media knowledge and scenario planning capabilities to establish the right business practices and proactively protect their brands by anticipating potential problems before they happen.
What advice do you have for a young professional looking to go into public relations?
Intern and read a lot. I want to see that a young professional has both hands-on experience and opinions on the industry, and is up on best practices and new innovations in our profession.
What trends do you see on the horizon for public relations?
The convergence of paid and earned media is the biggest trend in our industry today. It impacts all agencies, all brands, all industry sectors and all media. It changes the way we evaluate what we do and how we consume and publish information.
Tell us about the PRServing Philly “Accessory Donation Drive” that will take place at this year’s Conference.
The idea was conceived by our hospitality sub-committee chair and my colleague, Laura Van De Pette, APR. It was important to us that we incorporate a philanthropic effort that was both relevant to Philadelphia as the host city and easy for our guests to participate in. We identified Career Wardrobe as an appropriate partner whose mission aligns well with our audience and collaborated with them to develop the program.
It’s simple. Just bring a gently used accessory like a belt or handbag — something that travels easily — to donate to underprivileged women who are re-entering the workforce and need to look the part. We were thankful that PRSA was so supportive of the idea and adopted it as part of the PRServing America program.
Managing Editor Amy Jacques interviewed Erin Allsman, APR, for this month’s member profiles.
What’s your favorite tourist spot to visit in Philadelphia?
The Society Hill neighborhood
If you could have any three dinner guests, past or present, who would they be — and what would you have to eat?
Jane Austen, Coco Chanel and Bono, and we would eat Thai food
What’s your favorite place to travel?
What’s your favorite movie?
It depends on my mood, but right now, it’s “Annie” because it keeps my three year old’s attention for two straight hours!