Test Drive My Job : Tonya Seavers Evans Uncovers How Personal Style Impacts PR
Mopwater: Describe your path to PR: How did you wind up in this field? TSE: I grew up in the Midwest – in Illinois and Indiana – and moved to Florida when my father’s job was transferred during my junior year of high school. You know those kids who’ve known exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up from the age of five? Well that was not me. When I enrolled in college I was a business major and then an advertising major before discovering public relations. I landed a part-time job at an advertising agency as a receptionist and realized that I didn’t like ad copy writing at all. One day one of the account executives asked me to support her on a public relations project. After working on this project which happened to be a Porsche promotion I fell in love with public relations. I went back to school changed my major for the second time and earned my degree in journalism and mass communications with a concentration in public relations. It is really the best – and one of the most expensive – decisions that I have ever made. My first real job in public relations was exactly where I wanted to work, at an agency.
Mopwater: Describe a pivotal moment in your career. Did you have a mentor or internship
that really solidified your interest in this field or helped you hone in on a specific
focus area? TSE: There were two pivotal moments. The first was working in a small agency environment where I learned to work and write on very tight deadlines. In a small office you can’t afford to drop the ball because there is no one there to pick up the slack. The second was when I got in to work one day and learned that our CEO had been removed by the board of directors the night before. I was devastated but it taught me that there is no such thing as job security and that I had to take control of my own career by becoming as marketable as possible so that I am prepared for any change.
Mopwater: Describe a typical workday including your work hours. What do you do all day?
Describe your office setting and workplace. TSE: At Style Strategist Inc. we have three primary areas of focus. First, we work with our clients to develop a style strategy where we consult with individuals and groups to help them develop a style that is consistent with their external message. Sometimes we encourage clients to make external lifestyle changes that better reflect their core message and sometimes we advise clients to make more subtle style changes to their wardrobe that help to reinforce their message. Our clients are primarily CEO level executives and entrepreneurs. Secondly, we provide writing services where we work with executives to manage their speech, writing and messaging. We help them identify causes they would like to support and then manage their messaging to ensure it is in line with their personal and company values. Our goal is to position our clients as leaders in a specific area or topic. And finally, we provide media relations specific to fashion pr.
So, like most public relations roles, a typical work day at Style Strategist really varies from day to day. For some projects I’m writing and staring at a computer screen all day and on other days I am meeting with my clients at a retail store and taking photos and videos, so we can evaluate the looks we’ve tried. I have to meet my clients in their environment so I understand their style needs. I use an executive suite for formal meeting space and host our style engagements over lunch or brunch at places like 59th & Lex Express in Bloomingdale’s on other days. The days are long but we have flexibility too which is most important to me.
Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks and why? Do you love to pitch? Dread writing releases? Adore blogging for your brands? TSE: Pitching is about contacting someone that I have a relationship with and sharing some information that I think they would find interesting, so I’ve always liked that part, but the thing I like most about PR is that I have to be extremely knowledgeable in various areas. I have to be able to talk about earnings today and beauty products tomorrow. Who doesn’t love being an expert?
Right now, I really dread writing traditional press releases because they are seldom necessary. I think that most PR professionals are using them less and less, but we need to do a better job of educating our clients about other, and many times more appropriate, PR and marketing tools like micro-blogging and SM releases.
Mopwater: Who are some of your (or your company/organization’s) clients, and what kind of projects do you take on for these clients? If you work in government or a corporate communications office, describe the work you do in your role. TSE: I work primarily with executives and individuals. Recent clients include executives from Tyco International, Play Pretty Beauty and Genuine Insights. I worked with the president of Genuine Insights to develop a style strategy. She has a great message on “discovering your genius” and needed a style to reinforce her message of individuality. We also represent a natural based line of skincare products called Play Pretty Beauty. We manage the company’s public relations and promotions.
Mopwater: Describe a recent project where you produced results of which you’re really proud. TSE: My client recently sent me a twitpic link with some photos from a keynote speech she delivered to a Fortune 100 Company. Her look was chic and confident yet approachable and friendly. She incorporated some natural elements using accessories and selected some travel pieces to pull her look together – all of the style nuances that we developed as part of her style strategy. After that speech she was booked for a longer engagement with another top firm. It’s rewarding to see a strategy come to life that way and see a real business impact.
Mopwater: What is your favorite thing about this job and do you think you’ll be in this position in 5 years? TSE: Absolutely! I have designed a career that allows me to marry my two passions: writing and fashion. In five years, I plan to continue working with clients, but hope to expand our consulting engagements so that they are more global in scope, and I definitely want to expand into fashion PR.
Mopwater: What aspect of the industry are you most excited about? TSE: I am most excited about the changing media landscape. I think we’ve just scratched the surface in terms of what new media will be around tomorrow and I think it’s great that every day people have a voice and a significant influence in the marketing space. Taking your own photos and video footage, writing and editing the story, and then distributing it really gets us back to the core of journalism in many ways.
Mopwater: If you could work on any dream project of your choosing, what would it be?
TSE: My dream would be to work with a company on a business transformation project that would include working with each department to develop a style strategy that would be reflective of their roles and their individual styles. The project would include working with executives on their personal styles and designing work spaces or what we call creative spots that make each team member the most creative and effective. It would be awesome to work on a project that embraces style as part of a lifestyle change.
Mopwater: What if anything would you have done differently in your career up to this point
and what advice would you give someone who is trying to break into your field? TSE: The only thing that I would change is that I would have worked in an international public relations role outside of the U.S. Understanding the dynamics of a global marketplace is really critical and would have been a great experience. The advice that I would give to a public relations newbie is to write a detailed description of your perfect job and shoot for that, and if there is not a role for you develop one. Create your own opportunities.