Winter term at the University of Oregon can be dreary: cold, cloudy, probably raining, summer still months away.
The pain of late February was eased, however, with a quick trip to San Francisco with my Allen Hall Public Relations pals to tour a few agencies in the area: The OutCast Agency, Fleishman-Hillard‘s SF office and SHIFT Communications. From exploring the neighborhoods of San Francisco to soaking in wisdom from PR pros, it was a BLAST. Yeah, capital letters.
We drove down on Thursday and devoted Friday to visiting agencies. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed coffee in Union Square before beginning our tour.
OutCast seemed to embody the hip Bay Area tech PR agency vibe. Their offices are housed in a brick building near AT&T Park and chalkboards with inspiring quotes line the walls. Employees from various levels of the agency hierarchy – including one UO grad and former AHPR member – spoke to us about OutCast’s clients, strategic approach and internship program.
An element of OutCast’s structure that intrigued me was their recently developed media strategy team. While everyone is involved in media strategy to a degree, they have a team dedicated to developing relationships with reporters and consulting individual client teams on media-related projects. One of my favorite parts of my internship at Sports Illustrated this summer was sitting in on meetings in which the communications team brainstormed unique approaches to media relations – how many angles can we find in this story, and what reporters might cover it? To whom can we give an exclusive? How can we play up the most exciting part of this story? It sounds like OutCast’s media strategy team tackles those questions, and I loved learning more about it.
Since OutCast is so close, it would’ve been a crime not to stop at AT&T Park. A few AHPRers on the tour are Bay Area natives and huge Giants fans (their excitement for Buster Posey’s return was palpable), so all the baseball fans made a pilgrimage to the ballpark.
Our next stop was Fleishman-Hillard, which gave us perspective on the larger agency culture. They walked us through a few case studies of recent work, including a campaign with Callaway Golf. An advertising agency developed a new ad campaign to promote the brand’s new product line, and Fleishman was tasked with drumming up publicity for the campaign itself (not just pitching the products featured in the ads). The campaign featured famous golfers like Phil Mickelson, and took them off the golf course and into Las Vegas, where they made shots from the tops of buildings and into fountains. Hearing how they targeted various media outlets and capitalized on unique opportunities (like having Phil sing the SportsCenter intro music) inspired me to think creatively about media opportunities for campaigns I might work on in the future.
Finally, we visited SHIFT Communications, which was especially terrific because we were able to re-connect with the great Karly Bolton (I’m following her footsteps as AHPR’s Firm Director), who now works in their SF office. After a panel discussion about SHIFT’s work, approach to PR and advice for the job search, they hosted a happy hour for us; I know we all loved chatting with the office about PR, statement necklaces, the New York Giants and everything in between.
Karly guided us through San Francisco’s coolest neighborhoods that night, and we packed up for Eugene in the morning. There’s something tragic about looking at the San Francisco skyline in your rear-view mirror, knowing all that lies ahead is 500 miles of freeway and a lot of homework. (Okay, that sounded a little more dramatic than I meant it to.) But you get the idea – there are few things more fun and inspiring than a weekend in a big city, surrounded by awesome people. Can’t wait to go back.
(P.S. – AHPR’s Business Development Director, Rachel Koppes, did an AMAZING job planning everything, from reserving the hotel to carrying a clipboard with directions from agency to agency. She deserves a standing ovation.)