Media Relations: “No Day is the Same”
By Belle Ross
We’ve all been there – it’s late on a Monday night after your 6 to 9 class and you desperately need some comfort food for dinner. You search on UberEats for the closest McDonald’s to deliver to your dorm and you scroll for nearly 10 minutes just trying to decide what to order. Their advertisements read “$4.99 for a 20-piece Chicken McNugget”, “medium or small fry for only $1.00”, and your favorite, “Bacon McDouble for just $2.00”. Thanks to Media Relations Specialist Andrea Abate Dufour, you’re convinced to splurge on all three.
Andrea, a DePaul Public Relations & Advertising graduate, took some time out of her schedule to pay DePaul’s PRSSA organization a visit. She began the presentation by explaining how she worked her way up the PR ladder to land a life-changing internship with Zeno Group. At Zeno, she had the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of reputable brands such as Hershey’s, Dickie’s, The Four Season’s Hotel, and Quaker Oats. According to Andrea, being a part of Zeno Group was “such a great way to start [her] career” by teaching her important job skills such as networking, training a media spokesperson, and building a company’s brand. After several years at Zeno Group, Andrea received an offer to join the Media Relations team for America’s largest fast-food chain restaurant, McDonald’s.
Though her job title states “Media Relations Specialist,”Andrea handles several financial and business tasks and even serves on the global relations committee. In her experience, “being fast, being ready to react, and being scrappy” are three of the most critical components in her day to day work. Just recently, McDonald’s corporation was preparing to release two new menu items for the fall of 2018, when unexpectedly, an inside source had leaked the information to several media outlets. Frustrated and distressed, Andrea’s team needed to act quickly to stay ahead of the media companies, maintain an awareness of what was being said about the brand, construct an alternative launch project for the new items, and attempt to negotiate/compromise with reporters. “My job is to be a defender of the brand and company,” explained Andrea, “and to do that, I have to be flexible and open to change.”
When asked what advice she would give to prospective students heading into the Public Relations field, she responded with several useful tips. By interning and shadowing current employees in PR, Andrea developed a strong network of experienced individuals, learned the fundamentals of the job, and expanded her resume in working with high-profile clientele. She reminded students to remain humble at what they do and who they work with because in this particular field, no one is ever “too good” for a task. Lastly, she encouraged the members of PRSSA to stay curious and to never settle for mediocracy. The media and the industry are constantly changing, and it is up to current and future employees of PR to keep up with an ever-evolving society.
PRSSA was lucky enough to hear from not just one, but two, distinguished Media Relations Specialists on Monday evening. The second speaker, Alex Demers, has spent the last six years dedicating herself to one of Chicago’s most reputable communications agencies known as Golin. To offer some insight into Golin’s core values and company atmosphere, students were shown an engaging promotional video featuring Al Golin himself (the corporation’s founder) who established the agency on the notion of “Fixing it Before it Breaks”. Golin is accredited in the development of the G4 Model: a system which defines the workplace dynamic between explorers, creators, connectors, and catalysts. As a Senior Media Relations Manager, Alex takes on the creator role in generating new ideas, bringing stories to life, and delivering compelling content to audiences across the globe. Graduating from Lake Forest College in 2008, Alex found herself fortunate enough to land an internship at Dial where she refined her skills and connected with hundreds of influential companies. From there, she went on to work with Burson Marstellar, Edelman, and finally, to Golin where she currently resides. “Overtime, I’ve discovered that I’m really good at on-the-ground work,” shared Alex in regards to her year-long project with IKEA’s public relation’s team. During that time, she stayed on location in Colorado to work directly with IKEA employees, developing an eye-catching media campaign to appeal to the greatest number of people possible.
Though demanding and exhausting, Alex’s position does come with quite a few perks. For example, she gets to take an all-expenses paid trip to New York City once every quarter simply to create and grow relations with media clients of Golin. She has had the opportunity to partner with world-renowned celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Sutton Foster for various company events. Her office space is not the typical cubical and desk, but rather a collaborative environment with access to ping pong tables, an in-house bar, and close-knit coworkers. Alex concludes her visit with a helpful piece of advice saying, “Follow trending topics, news, headlines, and reporters on your social media. In doing so, you can stay ahead of your competitors and maintain an awareness of the world around you.”
The PRSSA chapter of DePaul was so grateful to have Andrea Abate Dufour and Alex Demers speak on a topic they were so passionate about. The students in attendance walked away feeling inspired, excited, and anxious for their future in the Public Relations field thanks to the motivating words of both women.