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Why Public Relations Is a Sure Bet: Jesse Davis, APR, on Las Vegas as an International Tourist Destination


July 31, 2014

Jesse Davis, APR, says that the best part of his job is “connecting with diverse people and cultures from around the world on a daily basis.”

As director of international public relations for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the sole destination marketing organization for Las Vegas, he oversees global PR efforts for 14 international offices.

Davis has practiced public relations and marketing in various public and private sector roles for more than 20 years. Formerly with R&R Partners, the branding agency for Las Vegas, and recently as the PR and marketing manager for the Springs Preserve, a cultural attraction in Las Vegas, Davis has been a PRSA member since 2000 and earned his APR designation in 2003. He also serves on the board of the Travel and Tourism professional interest section.

Additionally, Jesse serves on the U.S. Travel Association’s Communications Committee and has served as a judge for PRSA’s Silver Anvil Awards. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism from San Diego State University and performed graduate studies in communications at Syracuse University.

What was your dream job growing up — were you always interested in travel?

My earliest dream job was to travel the country and play in every major league baseball stadium. I never made it to the big leagues, but I currently have the dream job for anyone who loves to travel.

How did you get your start in public relations?

I was fortunate to study under some renowned PR academics like Dr. Glen Broom and Dr. David Dozier. With their foundation, a couple of internships under my belt, and some solid industry references, I landed my first job in the private sector promoting packaged snack products and working for an agency flagship client, Mitsubishi Corporation.

How did you land your current job at the Convention and Visitors Authority?

I knew there would be massive competition to work for one of the most visible brands on the planet, so I took a risk and broke the application rules by submitting a global strategic plan, including everything I would accomplish in my first year on the job.

What key skills do you think employers are looking for in new hires?

Solid written and verbal skills and a good pedigree are important, but above anything else, I think employers are always just looking for the right fit for their team — from a professional and interpersonal standpoint. Being likeable is very important and something that you can’t teach.

How would you describe your leadership style and what makes a good leader?

My leadership style is to find a way to connect with your employees individually, identify what motivates them, and never leave anyone wondering whether they have done a good job or not. Good leaders understand that they are responsible for others and thrive on helping to make everyone around them successful.

What are some challenges you face in your day-to-day job as director of international public relations?

Daily challenges usually involve the cultural, communication and logistical complexities of directing PR efforts in 14 countries in nearly as many time zones. Although we conduct business in English, we deal with varying levels of fluency. Much of my time is spent ensuring a culturally smart, country-specific translation of our brand in each country. We may weave common brand messaging into all communications, but we speak to a different traveler in every country with different needs and means. Managing a PR budget for 14 different economies and regular currency fluctuations can be a moving target. And, maintaining consistent PR reporting standards and metrics across a global network has its challenges as well.

What role does public relations play in building and protecting your organization’s brand?

For us, public relations is a key component of a larger integrated effort. As we continue to grow Las Vegas’ international brand, our PR strategies allow us to generate credible, cost-efficient exposure globally. With PR professionals in 14 countries, we are able to sustain a brand presence in key international travel markets where we do not advertise and ensure travel decisions in these markets are not based on dated perceptions of our brand. Our global PR team generates an average of 10-12 Las Vegas media placements every day, and each placement is an opportunity to generate brand enthusiasm that can eventually convert to new visitors.

Why did you decide to take the APR exam and what are the benefits of being Accredited?

I took the APR exam to challenge myself professionally and to demonstrate my commitment to being an exemplary practitioner. Achieving the APR distinction is an honor, but it also indicates you are a student of a profession that continues to evolve.

The APR credential is turning 50 this year. Would you recommend it to other PR pros?

I would highly recommend the APR credential to those in the industry who want to improve their credentials and distinguish themselves among their peers. The testing is rigorous, and the preparation alone should make you a better practitioner.

What’s top of mind when you speak with peers and colleagues about public relations as well as the travel and tourism sector? Are there any big trends you’ve noticed?

In general, destinations and travel industry partners are seeing more value and placing more emphasis on international PR efforts. This may be due in part to the current level of federal support for the international travel industry, which is unprecedented and encouraging for all of us who work in travel and tourism.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Add your own style to everything you do.

What advice do you have for new professionals looking to enter public relations in the travel and tourism sector?

Be well versed on global travel issues and how they can impact the livelihood of your organization.  Understand the travel implications of gas prices, natural disasters, exchange rates, acts of war or terror, and travel-related legislation.

On a lighter note, brace yourself for the not-so-glamorous elements of business travel, such as airline food, jetlag, “plane talkers” and living out of a suitcase away from family and friends.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about PR during your career?

Always focus on demonstrating the value of public relations to your organization. Use metrics when you can, and communicate results that contribute to your company’s bottom line. Be an effective manager of people and budgets if you want to advance your career.

Getting to Know Jesse Davis, APR

Favorite activity to do in your leisure time?
Anything with my kids

Any 3 dinner guests, past or present — and what you would have to eat?
A BBQ with Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kurt Cobain

Favorite movie?
Tie between “Pulp Fiction” and “Napoleon Dynamite”

Best place to travel?
Las Vegas, of course! But, I love the Swiss Alps!

 



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