By Erin Pogue
A fellow Bobcat herself, Michelle Faist successfully navigates her way through the world of communications since graduating from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Public Relations.
After college, Michelle began a growing career in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a position as an Account Executive for MARC Public Relations, an integrated marketing agency. There, she managed several public relations and media relations campaigns for a variety of clients such as Rite Aid Corporation, True Value Hardware Stores, Carlow University and numerous others. From there, she took hold of the opportunity to become an Account Supervisor for Ketchum Midwest, a leading global communications firm. Michelle managed several Food and Healthcare brands as an Account Supervisor, leading strategic planning and media relations and monitoring overall brand campaigns. After six years with Ketchum, Michelle became a Senior Manager for Corporate Communications with Del Monte Foods in Pittsburgh, where her Consumer Marketing career strengthened and gave her the chance to manage public relations for leading quality food and pet products brands.
Her extensive background with a variety of clients led her to where she is now: Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs for StarKist Co., a leading brand for seafood products. Today, Michelle is in charge of external and internal communications for the company, which involves overseeing public relations, social media and spokesperson efforts for StarKist. The extensive range of experience as well as the continued climb of her career is what inspired me to interview Michelle Faist on the growing platform of PR: social media.
Erin Pogue: Describe a recent successful social media campaign conducted by your company and why you feel it was successful.
Michelle Faist: I’d say that one campaign that I’m most proud of is going on now. We are working with pro-golfer Michelle Wie. We have been trying to make our brand relevant to a younger audience and connecting our brand with a healthy, active lifestyle. Leveraging a professional athlete who really fits that description and has a large social media following of her own has really generated high levels of engagement and introduced our products to a new, young audience (thanks to Michelle’s following). We have created some action-oriented content, including videos and photos, which has been driving increased engagement. Content is king and I’m particularly excited about this content, which you can see on our social channels right now.
EP: What type of consumer research do you conduct before planning a social media campaign?
MF: In terms of social, we really try to balance the demographics of who is currently a fan, specifically looking at Facebook stats, and who our StarKist target audience is. From that grounding, we build out our content strategy and goals for the year. Our Marketing team does a lot of work, both qualitative and quantitative, to understand our target audience and that information is the backbone to everything, including Social Media, that we do as a brand.
EP: What do you think is the most important upcoming trend in social media and why do you feel it is important?
MF: I love the Social Media space because it changes so rapidly. There are so many incredible tools and opportunities with the space. I’m a big fan of Pinterest and I see more and more opportunities for brands to do both enhanced editorial content development and paid advertising on that space as Pinterest continues to evolve. I like that there are more and more survey/polling features on platforms like Twitter, which will allow for real-time feedback that can be valuable for the brand. And I see more and more opportunities with platforms like Snapchat and Periscope. Corporations and brands are really trying to figure out how to best leverage emerging platforms to reach new audiences, so it’s super interesting to see how everyone is scrambling to figure it out. I always like to follow brands and companies that are doing it right. Good inspiration!
EP: In planning social media campaigns, how does your role differ from being in an agency versus working for a specific company on the client side?
MF: Great question. I think on the client side, you really need to provide the strategy and the objectives of what you want to accomplish. The agency side provides a lot of the creative ideas and daily executions. Your job is to make sure that the agency is developing the content that is “fitting the bill” and ultimately going to help you reach your goals and drive your business.
We have our agency do a lot of conquesting…jumping into social media conversations or comments where our products are being mentioned (either good or bad). I focus a lot on making sure the tone is right and the approach to their communication is accurate.
Each party in this scenario has a lot of responsibility. I found that on the client side, I do a lot with “connecting the dots” with the PR, advertising and social media teams so that everyone is coordinated with our marketing efforts. I also work with internal audiences to make sure that everyone gets to review and approve content. That’s a big effort in and of itself, but making the brand team and leadership aware of what content we are putting out there really makes everyone feel involved with the process. And I think that’s very important.
EP: What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social media PR professional?
MF: Get experience. I can’t stress that enough. Get internships and secure opportunities to let you experiment, grow and create before graduation. Agencies and companies are looking for young professionals who know this space and can help translate that knowledge to their company or brand. So leverage the need in the marketplace, but come to the table with some real world experience.
Michelle’s success and knowledge in the growing media of today’s culture is what makes her advice and experience so substantial. The viewpoint may change from being on the agency side to the client side, but the goal is always the same: find the best way to create consumer engagement. The world of social media is always changing and new ways to communicate with an audience continue to break through. Knowing your audience and keeping up with them is the most important way to create that two-way relationship, while using social media to continue that interaction and keep their engagement with your brand.