We got into a conversation with Joanna Allen to know more about her entrepreneurial journey and how Allen Marketing Communications Inc., is unlocking the full potential of the Public Relations Industry.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Please brief us in detail about the current scenario of the media industry.
US media industry comprises newspapers, magazines, television, radio stations, and online media. While PR professionals develop creative story ideas and we work with reporters to cover our clients in the news.
During the last couple of years, major newspapers and magazines have shifted to just having an online edition due to shrinking advertising dollars. Major daily newspapers still have the luxury of multiple beat reporters. However, smaller newspapers have few staff reporters and they rely heavily on content from news wire services.
Could you please walk us through your educational/professional journey?
I graduated from Hamilton College with a major in economics and a minor in creative writing. I lean towards microeconomics – companies use research to gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. Rule number one with economics – if the price is right, then consumers will buy.
Throughout my career, I have worked on consumer marketing campaigns designed to create an emotional connection with consumers and to build loyal customers. I graduated during a recession and jobs were very slim. I didn’t want to begin my career working as a secretary because I didn’t want to get stuck in a dead-end job.
A Hamilton alumna, Nathans Josephs, had her own boutique public relations agency focusing on food and beverages. I didn’t make a lot of money, but I honed my skills – writing press releases, pitching the media, organizing special events – and I build my portfolio.
Then, I worked at another small consumer marketing public relations agency specializing in home furnishings and high-end luxury jewelry accounts.
I secured an entry-level job at Dorf & Stanton Public Relations which became acquired by Shandwick International, one of the large global public relations agencies. I worked at this agency for about five and half years moving from an account coordinator position to a senior account executive position.
At this agency, I worked on consumer marketing clients in travel, food, and beverages, non-profits and wines, as well as energy and telecommunications clients. I discovered my passion for consumer marketing clients here and I worked on new product introductions, cause-related marketing clients. Here I represented clients such as Quebec Tourism, Montreal Tourism, Hydro Quebec, Almaden Wines, Covenant House New York, Puerto Rico Telecommunications Company, Renaissance Cruises (now known as Oceania Cruises), Terry Fox Run, Kronos Foods.
I left Shandwick International, just before the company merged with Weber Public Relations to become Weber Shandwick, to pursue a senior account executive position at Hill and Knowlton Inc.
At Hill and Knowlton Inc. I represented travel, food clients, and Alzheimer’s drug. I worked at this agency for about one year and then I lost my job when the agency lost a large million-dollar client due to a country election. During my tenure at this agency, I represented the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Utah Travel Council, Splenda, Aricept and Hellman’s, and Best Foods Salad Dressing.
Then, I worked at another boutique PR agency representing a luxury hotel, a private jet company, and a bourbon account. After working on the agency side, it is a natural progression to explore career opportunities on the client-side. I worked in house for VisitBritain, the national tourist office for London, England, Scotland, and Wales for five and half years.
I lost my job as part of a global restructuring because the British government won the London Olympics, but the government didn’t allocate any additional funds to promote the Olympics. Sadly, I lost my job as part of a global cost-cutting initiative to save money to fund the Olympics.
I started my consultancy working in-house at Girl Scouts of the USA on the 100 anniversary to position the non-profit as an advocate to build girls of courage, confidence, and career. After my stint at Girl Scouts, then I moved full steam to secure my own clients.
What was the moment that triggered you to step into the media industry?
During my junior year, I spent a lot of time in the career center at Hamilton College. There was a book – What Color Is Your Parachute – I did a series of exercises to find out which career would be appropriate for me.
After doing this career assessment survey, the careers that came up for me were advertising, marketing, and public relations.
My alma mater had an alumni career exploration program and I conducted informational interviews with alumni in advertising, marketing, and public relations to learn about their career path and then prepare for a career in one of these industries.
I actually thought I would pursue a career in advertising. Once again, I graduated during a recession and jobs was scarce. A Hamilton alumna gave me my break in the public relations industry and I have been in this field ever since.
When was Allen Marketing Communications established?
I incorporated Allen Marketing Communications, Inc. in 2009. I was still working in–house at VisitBritain, the national tourist office for London, England, Scotland, and Wales.
I was a government employee and I would hear about any requests for US representation. I wasn’t actively looking for clients, but if something came my way, then I could work on the business.
What are the prominent services/solutions offered by the company?
Allen Marketing Communications, Inc. provides several services such as brand development, new product introduction, media relations, cause-related marketing, crisis communications, consumer promotions, social media – influencer marketing, trade show support, and editorial series.
What are your primary responsibilities as the Founder/CEO of the company?
As the CEO of Allen Marketing Communications, I am very involved with new business, as well as the day-to-day client relations and direction for the client. Happy clients pay the bills and I look for clients with the potential for long-term relations. This behavior helped me win a Big Apple Award for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. After that, I saw an increase in visitor arrivals to Britain thanks in part to the stories I generated for the destination.
I also played an important role in increasing donations for Covenant House New York through the human-interest stories and programs to make homeless and at-risk youth self-sufficient to break the cycle of homelessness.
What measures do you undertake to ensure optimum customer satisfaction?
Customers are looking for companies that are making a difference in their community through charitable contributions and through their sustainability to reduce its impact on the environment.
This makes customer feedback very important. Happy clients return month after month and they pay the bills. I provide clients with monthly reports, as well as schedule monthly conference calls to discuss the progress to date against our program. During the monthly calls, the client and I can look at what is working and make adjustments to the program to reflect more timely story angles.
The concept of media bribery has emerged in recent years. How do you ensure transparency and authenticity amid the increasing skepticism around the media industry?
In the US market, there are specific news outlets that can accept sponsored trips and others that cannot. Other media outlets need to pay a press rate or experience a particular product or service as an unbiased source.
Media, in general, will state a trip has been hosted by a particular organization to convey the message of an authentic news source.
In the US, there are sponsored media opportunities and these stories are clearly stated as sponsored by a certain client so the general public knows a story is an advertorial vs. an editorial piece.
What was your response to the unprecedented situation?
My areas of expertise are travel, food and beverage, wine and spirits, non-profits, and lifestyle brands. Though I have a strong background in travel and hospitality. My business took a real nose dive due to the Covid-19 virus and the world shut down due to the virus.
I had to pivot and focus more on spirits and non-profit industries since the travel and hospitality business were shuttered by the Covid-19 virus. Business is starting to come back slowly. And the advent of 5G technology will enhance the connectivity for day-to-day operations.
What are the services/solutions we should anticipate from Allen Marketing Communications in the near future?
My company will focus on the same services – travel, food and beverages, wine and spirits, and lifestyle brands. I will develop strategic alliances with other small businesses specializing in SEO, website development, text messaging to complement the offerings for clients.
As a decorated leader, what would be your piece of advice for entrepreneurs seeking careers in the media industry?
It is best to do what you love and then you will succeed in this industry. Diversify your product offering you can be resilient if there is an economic downturn. Develop a business plan. Find a business mentor who can serve as a sounding board and help you bounce ideas and help to grow your business.
Develop strategic alliances with other like-minded businesses where you both can have a mutually beneficial referral business program. Take professional development courses and always keep learning and stay current in your industry.