- Current position: Senior Public Relations Specialist at Zillow
- Hometown: Winter Park, Florida
- Alma mater/degree: Florida A & M University; Interdisciplinary Studies (focus in communications and design)
- First PR Job: Communications Assistant at Seminole State College of Florida
What was your first PR job like?
My first PR job was in higher education. I remember it like it was yesterday. More than six months had passed since graduation and after over 30-something applications submitted with no reply, I was beginning to become very discouraged and paranoid around the possibility of never getting a chance to work a “real PR’ job.” The evening before I was slated to reluctantly start my first day as a general manager of a local Steak ‘n Shake, I received a call from the PR manager from Seminole State. They wanted me to come in for an interview the following morning – which coincidentally was supposed to be my first day at my new job! I took a leap of faith and skipped the first day to go to the interview. I thought it went fairly well, but after about a week I was informed that the specialist position went to someone with more experience. Nevertheless, they had a communications assistant position open that they offered to me. I was bummed I didn’t get the position I’d originally went after and now I was faced with a new dilemma: totally quit my new salaried restaurant manager position that was paying over $40K a year or take this communications assistant job that was paying $12.00 an hour. I knew that this could be my only foot in the door, so I decided to take the job and simultaneously work another part-time job as a server to supplement my income. And I’m glad I did because it was the perfect first job for someone new to the field – the perfect environment for me to hone my technical PR skills and figure out how to navigate the “real world” after college.
As the communications assistant, I was responsible for things like building media lists, helping produce coverage reports, writing blog posts and staffing student events. While I was learning a lot, I wanted to do so much more. So what did I do? From time to time I would just ask my bosses to allow me to work on things that I thought would be cool. I eventually asked to help more with press release writing and capture “student life” content for social. Each time I asked to tackle something new, the team would always give me the opportunity. Soon I was given more ownership over specific year-long initiatives, like covering the school’s baseball team and pitching its stories to local sports reporters (pitching = the fun stuff!). In about a year I was promoted to communications specialist, which allowed me to quit my other part time job and focus on PR full time! In my role as specialist, I was assigned even more projects to own, things like writing press releases for the entire athletics department, crafting comms tied to initiatives for the College’s non-profit arm – The Foundation – and helping to write speeches for the President of the College. All in all, it was an awesome experience and I learned a lot.
How long have you been a member of PRSA and what made you join? What aspect(s) do you enjoy most?
I have been a member of PRSA since 2016. Prior to that I was a member of the PRSSA chapter at my college, where I served as the fundraising chair for a couple of years. My favorite things about being an active member of PRSA are the camaraderie and professional development opportunities. All of the events and networking activities are perfect places to learn from people who have been in the game much longer than you have.We all speak the same language here, so it’s also supremely beneficial to have a network of friends and colleagues to vent to in times of need – ones who actually understand what the heck you are talking about.
Additionally, events like our annual media mashup event where we speed date with a handful of local journalists and so many of our other monthly programs and workshops covering a wide range of pertinent topics designed to keep us sharp and provide us with the latest and greatest trends in the field have been invaluable as it relates to growing my network and matriculating through my journey as a PR professional.
What does your typical workday look like?
I’m currently working as a Senior Specialist on the market PR team at Zillow. I start my day every morning at 8:00 a.m.The first thing I do is conduct a quick scan of the news landscape checking for Zillow mentions or anything pressing relating to the housing market, home design, the macro economy or the world of technology. This quick scan may spark an idea for some proactive pitching or – if there is anything that needs to be addressed regarding the Zillow brand based on the day’s news coverage – I act accordingly.
My team is part of Zillow’s larger brand communications team, which helps manage and finetune how Zillow brand perception. As part of this, my main responsibility is to cultivate and maintain relationships with national and local media around the country– those who cover all things related to the housing market. So, more than 75 percent of my day is me interacting with the media – that’s pitching and landing housing stories or responding to inbounds that come to Zillow’s press inbox. I also – almost daily – work very closely with our team of economists on things like getting their expert take on the latest housing market happenings, and turning those takes into simplified and digestible talking points and key messages aligned with Zillow’s goals, voice and objectives; brainstorm opportunities for proactive storytelling; and conduct 1-on1 media prep sessions to get them ready for any of the plethora of interviews we book for them on a weekly basis, based mostly on our pitching efforts. Zillow’s wealth of housing market data and insights helps to inform national and local media on what’s happening in their local markets. We’re able to give them the latest and greatest on things like, what the typical home value is in their region, how many days homes stay on the market before selling, whether demand is up or down based on Zillow page views and more.
Additionally, Zillow is undergoing a huge transformation, becoming an end-to-end solution for getting a home.The company is currently building what we’re calling the “housing super app,” a place where buyers, sellers and renters can conduct the entire housing transaction all in Zillow app. So, our team is also charged with helping to educate media and the public on the fact that Zillow has and is evolving from a site most known for being a place where millions of people start their home buying journey by searching through thousands of listings and checking out home values via the Zestimate, to now becoming this place where you can do things like find and communicate with a local agent, finance a home via ZIllow Home Loans, find down payment assistance resources and more. It’s so fulfilling and fun to come up with various strategic comms and storylines that help us get this message out to consumers.
Finally, as we all know, we as PR people have our hands in EVERYTHING! Depending on the day, I may also be working on the most random of things, like identifying opportunities to partner with various traditional and nontraditional media partners on sponsored content, developing reporting decks and other assets to present our team’s wins and other results to various internal audiences, pitching ideas for publicity stunts to our marketing department and other senior comms leaders, and so much more! It’s exhilarating!
What’s something new you want to learn or master in 2023?
I want to figure out how to leverage my knowledge and expertise as a seven year PR pro to become a PR influencer. In other words, I want to master social media. Figuring out the tricks of the trade to increase engagement and my following online is one of my main goals this year.
At the same time, to fuel this growth, I want to master streamlining content creation so I have an arsenal of content produced on a weekly schedule, so that I can consistently share with my audiences.I’m also launching a podcast this year, so I would like to master that realm too! More to come.
What is a recent PR/Communications campaign you worked on and what did you enjoy most about it?
Recently, I worked on a campaign to help promote Zillow’s new moving with pets page. Pet stories are always fun. But what was most fun about this mini campaign was coming up with a newsworthy hook to tell this story. Our Marketing team came to our team to help get the word out about this new resource page for pet parents looking to move, and we came up with a newsworthy listicle around “top pet-friendly cities for renter using Zillow rental data and insights from our pet-friendly filter usage. This piece has received a ton of coverage, many of which included mention or links to the page, and we’re still seeing traction from it.
Who is a PR professional you admire and why?
As a true PR nerd, I pay close attention to all of the movers and shakers in our field.There is a PR practitioner by the name of KiKi Ayers (if you don’t know who she is, please do your Googles 😀). She founded her agency about five years ago and has been absolutely crushing it over the last few years. She’s worked with everyone from Russell Simmons to Sean “Diddy” Combs to Jamie Foxx to Haha Davis. What’s most inspiring is her apparent relentlessness as it relates to achieving greatness in our field. She is a self-taught practitioner and a go-getter. Having started her agency, Ayers Publicity, while being homeless, she now is regarded as one of the top entertainment PR players in the country. She also, like me, attended an HBCU and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Her story is one to be admired and motivates me to make no excuses, and shows me that if you put the work in , nothing can stop you from reaching greatness.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Orlando?
- Hanging out in Winter Park: Having dinner with friends at Blu on the Ave, Boca or Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine. Grabbing Häagen-Dazs ice cream before strolling through Central Park on the way to watch the sunset at Dinky Dock. Spending a weekend morning racking up on fruits, veggies and different cheeses at the Winter Park Farmers Market. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the fun and chill things you can do in Winter Park. I grew up there, my parents still live there and I absolutely love it there! It’s my happy place.
- The Downtown Orlando Nightlife: Hey, what can I say. I like to be social. Roaming about Downtown Orlando on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon is awesome. The vibes are amazing and there are a plethora of different bars, lounges and restaurants to enjoy.
What’s your most-used emoji?
I love the 💯emoji! It has so many use cases. You can use it when you agree with someone. You can use it as a salute or to show respect. Google says it can “express or emphasize achievement, support, approval, and motivation. It also generally means ‘absolutely’ or ‘keep it 100’ (keep it real)” I agree with all of that and I use this emoji almost daily via Slack, iMessage, Zoom and more.