I Left My Heart in San Francisco (And Can’t Come up with Clever Post Titles)

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.

Our view of Union Square on Friday morning.

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.

Lunch with the Say Hey Kid.

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.

We met with Fleishman-Hillard on the 20th floor of their building, and were treated to this gorgeous view.

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.

Warm welcome at the SHIFT-hosted happy hour.

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.)

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Delayed Reaction: Rose Bowl

Yes, I know the Rose Bowl game was practically a week ago. But after a couple days in the car and a couple more organizing my life before winter term begins, this is all I could muster for a recap of my wonderful four-day SoCal stint.

I drove down with two great friends – Lauren and Lindsay – and we made a pit stop in San Francisco to ring in 2012.

Yep, we're those people who hold our arms out to take pictures of ourselves. Please note the cable car in the background - we were DEFINITELY in San Francisco.

We spent our New Year’s Day on I-5, and I feel pretty good about my year knowing that the first lunch I ate in 2012 was an In-N-Out Burger.

Because an Oregonian can't come here and not take a picture of her meal.

It was an incredibly smooth journey that carried us all the way to the Hilton at LAX, the Ducks’ team hotel. There were designated ticket pick-up hours, and a line was already forming when we arrived. As we waited, my usual bout of ticket anxiety kicked in. Did I really get one? Yes, I’ve been receiving the Azumano Travel emails. But did I remember to buy a second one? Yes, I distinctly remember listing my dad as Lauren’s emergency contact so I could submit the form as quickly as possible. Do I have my student ID card? It never hurts to look again. Yes, it’s there.

This always happens to me at Autzen. The student ticket distribution system is so touchy that, even with guaranteed student season tickets, I’d get nervous every time I neared the turnstiles.

But my fears were unfounded, and two gorgeous tickets waited for me in a crisp envelope.

The coolest sporting event ticket I've ever possessed, even if it is a rip-off of the Obama "HOPE" design.

We went from the Hilton back up to Santa Clarita, where we’d be staying with the family of an old housemate (who has since married and moved permanently to Eugene). I’d met Jeff and Anne a couple times before, but we didn’t know them all that well and they were incredibly kind and gracious to us.

Monday came: Gameday. We navigated public transportation to Pasadena, which was surprisingly easy. As we exited the Metrolink train we rode from Santa Clarita to downtown LA, the train operator issued the usual warning to remember your personal belongings but added, “and no offense to anyone, but go Oregon.” We cheered.

There’s really nothing I can say about the game that hasn’t already been said. All I have to add is how excited I am to know that I was there. Even in the excitement of the moment, we acknowledged that this was a game for the ages. When DAT’s 91-yard run is played on the Autzen jumbotron years from now, I can tell my kids, “I was there! I saw that!” That fumble recovery? I was there! Heck, I bet I’ll even drop that line with regards to Montee Ball (who, despite Wisconsin’s loss, is a beast).

If there was any way to experience your final Oregon football game as an actual Oregon student, this was it. BCS redemption. California sunshine. History made on a number of fronts. Geez, it’s fun to be a Duck.

The view of the field from our end zone seats (unfortunately, we didn't have the luxury of depth perception).

The classic Rose Bowl trip photo.

My Converse stand among a post-win sea of confetti and pom-poms.

What a wonderful day.

Just for kicks, a few other fun trip anecdotes:

  • We left early Saturday morning, and it was pretty darn cold. So cold, we couldn’t get the doors of Lauren’s Ford Escape to open. We poured water over the openings and yanked on the trunk door. Then we realized the doors were locked.
  • The concierge at our hotel in San Francisco warned us to layer up before we headed into the city for NYE. “Everyone says it’s freezing,” she said. Knowing that San Francisco can be chilly, we ran back to fetch our coats. Then proceeded to peel off layer after layer as we walked through town – apparently that city is warmer in December than June.
  • Before we left, I called LA’s MTA and mapped out a pretty legit route to the stadium. Jeff, one of our hosts, told us about the faster Metrolink train we could take downtown, but none of us thought about the return trip. When we arrived downtown after the game, we learned that the day’s service to Santa Clarita had ended…meaning we were stranded. Jeff and Anne get a gold star in heaven for driving to North Hollywood and picking up our helpless trio.
  • The hardest part of being a college football fan is enduring the endless Chick-fil-A ads, after it was mercilessly removed from Oregon several years ago. (I love Chick-fil-A, but Lindsay, whose family hails from Georgia, is an even bigger fan.) Thankfully they still exist in LA, so we were able to get our fix.
  • We stayed in Redding on the way home, and as we walked out of the hotel, a CHP officer was walking in. Noticing our Oregon attire, the first thing out of his mouth: “Have fun in Pasadena?” Even the fruit inspection people at the California border asked us if we were headed for the game.

Oh, one final thought. If you’re looking for a classy but not-too-expensive place to dine in LA, head for Bottega Louie. My roommate at the UO is from the area, and she and her mom treated us to a fabulous lunch on Tuesday, complete with mini desserts. Aside from major family meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don’t know the last time I’ve seen so much quality food on one table.

Pastas and pizza galore, fried calamari, caprese, asparagus, some sort of delicious beet dish. Food coma.

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TART.

Coffee, of course. And the most beautiful take-out boxes known to mankind.

I have a bunch of other pictures – most notably, of Bottega Louie’s insane macaroon trees – but you get the idea. Amazing restaurant, great company. (And drinking iced coffee in January.) One of the greatest afternoons on record.

A dark, rainy winter is ahead, but I feel lucky to have had four days in the sun with my friends and my Ducks.