Agency Highlight of the Week: GSD&M

By: Samantha Branson

In 1971, four University of Texas graduates, Roy Spence, Judy Trabulsi, Tim McClure and Steve Gurasich, decided they wanted three things: to stay together, remain in Austin, and make a difference.  An advertising agency seemed like the best idea and after switching between calling the agency Media 70 and Idea City, the founders settled on an acronym formed using their names, and thus GSD&M was born. Today, the full-service advertising agency employs over 500 Mexican food-eating, ping-pong playing, dog lovers that believe in the core values of restlessness, curiosity, and winning.

The building that houses GSD&M is located in the heart of Austin on West 6th Street. Our tour guide, HR Generalist & Intern Program Manager Lauren Kelly, started the tour in the lobby with a neon Bevo art fixture hanging over the front entrance given to the agency by Evan Boyles, the original neon artist, showing just how much UT pride the agency has. Our attention was then brought to the front desk that had been covered in cute pictures of dogs and cats. Lauren explained that before each meeting with a client, the agency gets “swagged out” in their company’s advertising. Just one way the agency welcomes its clients and makes them feel at home.

Unlike many advertising companies, GSD&M’s building was anything but boring. Throughout the building you can find art installations like the one found in the rotunda named “String Theory.” According to Lauren the “building is like a canvas.” The further into the tour, the more apparent it became that the environment at GSD&M is meant to spur creativity. Employees could bring their dogs to work and there was a game room, theatre room, and vending machines with $0.25 beer. The place seemed more like a fun house than a top-ranked advertising agency.

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Even the offices for major accounts at GSD&M are out of the ordinary. The Southwest Airlines wing has huge airplane props from previously filmed commercials and model airplanes of the famous Shamu-painted airplanes that were the result of a collaboration between two of the agency’s bigger clients: Southwest Airlines and Seaworld. The Goodyear account room features a tire swing in the middle of the room. Some other big names the agency boasts are Walgreens (which is their largest account), AT&T, and Chipotle. Throughout the account wing, inspirational phrases can be found on plagues on the wall like this one, “Ideas will be the currency of the 21st century,” reinforcing the positive, inventive atmosphere found at GSD&M.

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PRSSA members Alyssa, Samantha and Michelle posing on the Goodyear office’s tire swing on Oct. 31, 2014.

The names for the rooms even showcase the creativity of the people employed at GSD&M. Clients are given pitches from the agency in rooms named Alpha and Omega (with tons of food, of course). Other rooms found in the building are the “Cheesegrater conference room,” “Sky Box conference room,” and the “Inside Out room,” which actually isn’t a room but a balcony. The building also boasts a beautiful English-style courtyard where the agency has artists perform live music for the employees (because you can’t be housed in Austin without being connected to the live music scene). If you are more of a PR person, don’t worry. The agency also has a media section with a full house media team and a communications team.

If you wish to intern/work for GSD&M, they have an intern program for juniors and seniors. Internship experience is required and you must be able to work 20 hours a week. GSD&M is super competitive, but you do real work and the internships are paid. If you meet these requirements and this agency sounds like a fun place to work, go to www.gsdm.com to start your online profile today.image1

Edelman Austin Agency Tour Recap

edelman1By: Alyssa Neilson

Edelman is known for being the world’s largest independently owned PR firm with 65 global offices and over 5,000 employees worldwide. On October 28, our chapter got the privilege to tour Edelman’s Austin office and have a Q&A session with some of their AE’s and Senior Account Executives.

When we first got to their office, we were stunned by the amount of openness and killer interior design. It was such a creative space where all of their employees could be comfortable while working together on accounts.

Our Q&A session was led by Abby Van Uum, a proud Texas PR grad and former UT PRSSA member. “I chose to work at Edelman because it is simply the best PR firm in the world.” The Austin office has a little under 30 employees and adds about two or three more every couple of months, and just five years ago there were only about 10 people total in the office. Edelman’s Texas offices are comprised of Austin, Dallas and Houston and are seated in their southwest region. We learned about how each Edelman Texas office is different than the next and Austin is reputably the “funkiest” and the second largest of the three. Edelman Houston is smaller as it was formerly Vollmer Public Relations before Edelman purchased it in 2010 as well as its employees.

edelman3At Edelman Austin, employees are encouraged to take work breaks in the office’s lounge area (complete with a kitchen and some good books). In our Q&A with some of the youngest account executives there, we received some very good advice about pursuing a corporate PR role at Edelman. “I knew I wanted to work at Edelman right away, so I kept looking on the website for Austin openings until there was one,” Abby said. “The best way to get your foot in the door for an internship here is to have us on your radar so we can have you on ours, before you apply. Send us your resume so we have it on file, we actually go through them when we are looking to hire immediately when we pick up a new client in the office.”

Edelman only hire graduates for their internship program, and the office typically only hires one intern per semester, but interning with Edelman is bound to end in a full-time offer upon successful completion of your internship – four out of six of the AE’s we met with started as Edelman interns while UT students.

“Definitely, focus on your writing and use your writing classes to your advantage. We write more in this job than I ever thought I would,” she added.

Edelman also has lots of employee incentives that make the company so favorable for people that work there. There’s an Edelman exchange program that the AE’s said is kind of like foreign exchange in your career. In this program, Edelman lets you apply to be able to switch offices for a few months in another city or country to get a different experience. Applying is open to all employees around the world, so sometimes the Austin office hosts Edelman employees from other cities and other parts of the world. Edelman is also flexible when it comes to letting employees move offices and cities, permanently.

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The Truth Will Set You Free (from PR Disasters)

By: Cody Church

Pardon the anecdotal evidence, there won’t be much of it in this blog, but when I told my family that I planned to major in public relations their first reaction was, “Well, you’ve always been a good liar.” But the fact is, with research readily available on the Internet, PR professionals who “spin the truth” are easily debunked by media outlets; this only encourages public distrust – the exact opposite of what PR is intended to accomplish. I hope to prove that honesty is the ideal way to regain public trust after an incident, and conversely, that lying makes the issue far worse.

July 15, 2010 – news breaks that a pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico has been capped after gushing oil into the water for 83 days. When Deepwater Horizon, a rig operated by BP, exploded and sank, 210 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf while the pipeline remained damaged. As of today, BP has been required to pay $42.2 billion to restore the Gulf, with $2.5 billion in damages to coastal fisheries, a major element of the Gulf Coast economy. In late June of 2010, a Gallup poll found that only 16 percent of Americans approved of BP’s handling of the spill. Without a doubt, BP had both an environmental and PR disaster in their hands.

BP laid low until Christmas 2011 when they unleashed a massive national PR blitz, touting the success of their restoration initiatives along the Gulf Coast. Many locals called the campaign “BP propaganda,” and one energy activist pointed out that the research done by BP was never made public and was conducted by scientists who were protected by confidentiality agreements. Three years after receiving an approval rating comparable to Sadam Hussein’s, BP’s stock is still down; thus, proving that their PR efforts have largely failed. A few final efforts by the company’s PR team are underway now in the op-ed sections of major magazines and newspapers – notably an article posted in Politico by Geoff Morrell, senior vice president of U.S. communications and external affairs for BP, titled “No, BP Didn’t Ruin The Gulf.” Another op-ed offered a different opinion on the aftermath, but the question I ask is this – why is BP trying to “spin the truth” when their public relations campaign would have been more successful if they admitted their fault in the disaster and didn’t dilute the debate with junk science? I have two examples of honesty paying off in a big way for companies.

In early 2011, sales of Domino’s Pizza were slipping. The company decided to try a new method to generate interest in their product – admit their fault and emphasize the improvements they were making. The results were clear – sales drastically improved. In addition to their TV ads, the company also launched a new section of the website where customers could upload pictures of their food. Domino’s made a promise never to digitally touch up food on their website or in their commercials to make it more appealing; instead, they told the consumers that they planned to “do better,” and make a product that actually looks as great as it does in their advertisements.

Second, you might have seen the new ads McDonald’s is running on the Internet that focus on the quality of their food. It is no secret that many people doubt the health value of a meal at McDonald’s, but their new ads don’t claim McDonald’s should be a new health craze, they simply show the viewer exactly how their food is made, all the way from the pasture to the wrapper. Once again, honesty is key.

The clear difference between BP, McDonald’s and Domino’s is that only one of them caused billions of dollars in damage to the planet. However, I would argue that the same ethical principles apply, regardless of the situation. When crisis arises, inform the public about what happened and do it truthfully.

Brooke’s Basics: Advice for Public Relations Hopefuls

By: Madison Weaver

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Brooke Goggans with Vi Tran on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2014.

Brooke Goggans, a director of client services at Hahn Public Communications, spoke with UT PRSSA about her government relations and public affairs experience spanning across the country at our meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

Originally from California, Brooke started her college career as a sports marketing major at the University of Oregon, but later switched to political science. “I was always interested in politics,” she said, and recalls that she even sent letters to governors as a child. She also minored in communications so that she could be more “marketable,” upon her advisor’s recommendation.

As a student, she headed to DC to serve as an intern. Her first day of work was September 11, 2001. She remembers that she was actually in the senate chambers when the first plane hit. “It was one of the most intense, nerve-wracking, amazing experiences of my life,” Brooke said. She was even a part of an anthrax scare involving Senator Tom Daschle. Even after all of these crises, she still wanted to stay in DC and finish her internship.

After graduation, Brooke moved back to DC, then later to Boston. She took four months off waiting for the job she truly wanted – a job at McDermott Ventures. She surrounded herself with some of the most powerful women in Boston, and stayed with them for seven years. “I was able to figure out what my place was in strategic communications,” Brooke said.

After moving to Austin, and working and meeting with different firms, Brooke found a place working with Jeff Hahn of Hahn Public Communications. A great piece of advice from Hahn is, “Sometimes a setback is a set up.”

She discussed with PRSSA her three biggest pieces of advice:

  1. Find a mentor and find them often.
  • It is crucial to find people interested and invested in your career. She told students to hang on to the “pearls of wisdom” that each mentor can give.
  1. Send “thank you” notes.
  • Brooke encouraged students to write one handwritten “thank you” note a week. She said that it’s what will create and maintain relationships, both in your work and personal life.
  1. Take and set up meetings.
  • Having meetings with people of all agencies and firms will help you network and further expand your connections. “The worst thing that anyone can say to you is ‘No, I don’t want to meet,’” Brooke said. She urged students not be intimidated.

During the Q&A session, she closed her talk by saying, “spread your wings,” and told students to not be afraid to put themselves out there. “Now is the time to do it.”

Austin City Limits: Spotlighting Local Businesses Since 2002

By: Caterina NasrIMG_7053

Grassy hills, roaring crowds, decadent treats, and incredible tunes, Austin City Limits Music Festival is at the pinnacle of annual events for the city of Austin. A three-day festival that is centered on celebrating all things music, food and art, the event’s two back-to-back weekends showcase everything the capital of Texas has to offer.

Unlike most other music festivals in the nation, Austin City Limits, or better known as ACL, capitalizes on so many unique opportunities to highlight local businesses. The festival is fully aware of the amount of creativity and innovation that courses through this city’s veins and, therefore, takes advantage of the weekends as ways to showcase all of what Austin’s locals have to offer.

IMG_3428After the music, the local food tents are arguably the second biggest attraction at the festival. Featuring Austin classics like East Side King and Juiceland, the tents attract all of the festival’s attendees eagerly waiting (or dying) to dive into whatever mouth-watering treat they please. Whether you’re an Austin native or a visitor far from home, ACL is helping spread the hype about so many businesses by giving people a glimpse of the capital city’s local eateries. Tasting the delicious food will lead a customer to tell friends about it, follow the restaurant on social media, and without a doubt, engage with the restaurant.

The art market is yet another opportunity for local artists to show that Austin offers one-of-a-kind artworks and products. By creating an element of exclusivity at the festival with the art and shopping tents, customers become a part of this special opportunity that only ACL offers. If a customer enjoys what a store or artist is selling, they are more likely to spread the word and maintain their customer loyalty even after the festival is over.

ACL also highlight’s local businesses from outside of the festival gates. Transportation isIMG_7166 vital during ACL weekend. Getting to and from Zilker Park can be a challenge, but the event helps feature methods like ride-sharing apps and pedicabs as easy ways to enter and exit the festival. Uber, Lyft and pedicab drivers are typically Austinites, so ACL helps bring to light their efforts as well.

By highlighting Austin’s local businesses, ACL is helping put them on the map more and more every year. When ACL features a local restaurant at the food tents or an original Austin boutique at the art market, they are helping these homegrown businesses reach out to a new and vast customer base as well as increase their brand awareness. As long as ACL is starring these Austin-born businesses, people,  not only from Texas, but also from all over the nation will continue to perceive Austin as a must-see destination.

Career Fair Recap

By: Tiffany Lin

Bustling with professionally-dressed students, the College of Communications Career Fair is an opportunity for students of all majors to begin or extend their network among the largely connected field.

Hosted at Darrel K. Royal Stadium, students were given a chance to meet and impress several potential employers and ask for more information about internship and job openings, exchanging their resumes for information packets. To strategize how they would use their time among a busy environment with multiple intriguing employers, many students had printed their own map layout before arriving at the fair.

From social media internships to script reading internships, each of the majors in the College of Communications was covered as the different companies had something unique to offer. Both large and small companies had elaborate set ups to entice the eager crowd, and many brought out t-shirts and their own products to further showcase their firms.

General Mills supplied snacks such as chips and nutrition bars, while the Walt Disney Company passed out information-printed notebooks and pens. Austin Monthly even gave out several copies of their magazines, while showing that they had several journalism and social media internships. Before long, lines formed at most of the tables including T3, iHeartMedia, and PulsePoint.

At the fair, students should be open to approach any organization that appeals to them and learn more about what they have to offer. In order for students to be able to start up a more extensive conversation with recruiters and at the same time, avoid the awkward, “So… what does your company do?” question, they should research companies beforehand.

The College of Communications Career Fair is an excellent resource for students of all graduating classes and majors. Students should take the initiative to introduce themselves to each of the companies of their interest and learn about the diverse opportunities they provide. The next fair is scheduled on March 11, 2015 in the same venue, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., so mark your calendars!

PRSSA National Conference: Network, Learn, and Explore

By: Elizabeth Chavez

photo 2Two week ago, three UT PRSSA officers returned to their normal routines after a long weekend in the nation’s capital for the PRSSA National Conference. Every conference day included sessions that varied from a first job survival guide to understanding what the media want, but there was one theme that was consistent throughout the entire conference – step outside of your comfort zone.

The public relations industry is rapidly growing on a global level and each session was tailored to fit current needs. Attendees were exposed to new trends such as a better understanding of wearable technologies, how to pitch to different types of media and understand how to adapt communication across all industries.

photo 3 (1)PRSSA conferences not only allow students the ability to learn more about the public relations industry, but it’s also an opportunity to network with professionals and students from other chapters – my favorite part of the entire weekend. I can safely say that I now know at least one PR pre-pro from each region in the nation!

It was helpful to discuss and analyze sessions with newfound friends, who were going through similar challenges and eager to learn organically from UT PRSSA and other chapters in attendance.  The opportunity to pick the brains of our peers and professionals was truly the cherry on top of a great weekend. We even found ourselves bumping elbows with distinguished Public Relations fellows who gave us advice on upcoming endeavors.

photo 1 (1)This was my first time attending a National Conference, and it was such a great experience, which allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone to learn more about the industry in a cool city. If I had the opportunity, I would love to go again.. My advice to students who will be members of UT PRSSA in fall of 2015 is to GO! It is a great way to network, learn, and to explore. Plus, next year’s conference is in Atlanta!