Meet the PR Pro: Erin Allsman

October 18, 2010
PRSA Philly

by Juliana Rosati, public relations and special events director at George School; Chapter Chat feature editor for PRSA Philly Membership Committee

Welcome to “Meet the PR Pro,” a column designed to highlight professionals in the PRSA Philly chapter through conversations that reveal career paths, industry advice and a touch of humor. For this edition, we interviewed Erin Allsman, public relations director at Brownstein Group.

In addition to serving as a director-at-large of PRSA Philly, Erin is also a member of the 4A’s PR for Clients Committee and Social Media Subcommittee, the Philly Ad Club PR Committee and the Communications Committee for the March of Dimes Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter.

How would you describe your daily responsibilities at Brownstein Group?
Every day is different, but generally speaking my days are spent strategizing with my team on various public relations and social media initiatives, as well as meeting with our president, Marc, and our leadership team on new business development, client growth plans and agency issues. I also dig in to a lot of client work, particularly in strategic planning and crisis management, and I am often out of the office visiting clients and prospects.

What first attracted you to the PR field, and why have you stayed?
I was first attracted to PR because it seemed like a great balance between the business world and the media industry. I wanted to do something related to my English degree and writing background, and I liked the idea that in PR you have a product at the end of your day – an article or media placement, a piece of collateral or a successful event as the culmination of your hard work. I’ve stayed because I’ve grown to truly love the business and I believe there’s so much more that I’m yet to accomplish.

What was the best advice you received when you were just starting out in your career?
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. And go to work at an agency – that one didn’t happen right away for me, but I am very happy I made the transition when I did.

You have been recognized for your knowledge of social media. What do you think are some common misconceptions about social media and its role in PR?
I think the three most common misconceptions about social media are that it’s easy, that it’s free and that it’s enough. Many people think that a Facebook page and/or a Twitter feed equals a social media campaign. A Facebook page is not a strategy; you need to understand how your brand fits into the broader context of the space, and that begins with research and planning. Social media needs constant attention. Campaigns need promotion to succeed, and that costs time and money. Finally, social media is not enough on its own. It needs to be supported by other tactics – editorial coverage, advertising, SEO, guerilla campaigns, events, etc. are all still relevant components of a comprehensive plan.

As a member of PR committees for two advertising associations, how would you describe the relationship between advertising and PR?
I believe that now, more than ever, thanks to the rise of social media, the two distinct disciplines are working together. The lines are blurred, and we’re realizing that we need each other in ways we didn’t in the past.

I understand that you received your MA in Communication from the University of Delaware. What advice do you have for PR pros who are thinking about pursuing an advanced degree?
My advice to anyone considering an advanced degree is to be absolutely certain that the direction you are taking is the right path, and that you have the time, energy and commitment to give it 100 percent. For PR specifically, look for a degree program that combines theoretical learning with practical experience such as an internship for credit or a PR campaign planning course. You need field experience to make the degree work for you in terms of getting ahead in your career.

What news sources do you read or tune in to on a daily basis?
Because of the nature of our work, I still read the print version of the Philadelphia Inquirer just about every day. Other than that, most of my news is online – The New York Times and Wall Street Journal for general business news, plus RSS feeds, Twitter, 4A’s Smartbrief, Ragan’s and Mashable for work-related news and interesting case studies. I am a huge Brian Williams fan, so if I’m home in time I tune in to “NBC Nightly News.” I also read the Economist, which makes me feel more connected to global issues.

Outside of work, how do you enjoy spending your time?
Right now I am very focused on spending every possible minute with my beautiful 4-month-old baby, Jane, my husband Dave and our dog, Charlie. But outside of that I really enjoy Bikram yoga, traveling, dining out, reading and shopping!

What are your top three favorite books?
1. “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand
2. “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen
3. “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway

What advice do you have for anyone entering the PR field?
Definitely have a thick skin. PR pros need to be able to handle rejection! Also I really believe that this is a field where you learn from doing, so make field work a part of your studies.