An Interview With Laura Emanuel, Managing Director Of Red Thread PR
Brownstein Group is expanding its existing PR services and capabilities with the launch of Red Thread PR, an independent public relations specialty agency. One of four agencies within the Brownstein Group network, Red Thread PR brings an integrated mindset to brands to help them build connections and fuel their longevity.
We sat down with Laura Emanuel, Managing Director of Red Thread PR, to discuss the industry, her career journey, and the great debate on Nutella as a condiment.
This interview has been edited for brevity.
What is your idea of the perfect public relations campaign?
The most impactful and memorable campaigns were often effective because they changed behavior. That’s when you realize, “Oh, wow, this was so much more than communications, this changed how people think and act,” and that’s the ultimate goal with any campaign.
What is the worst thing a public relations campaign can do?
Spin! Campaigns that spin the facts and rewrite the truth are the ones I’m emphatically against—there’s a lack of transparency and an element of misinformation that potentially takes advantage of someone’s ignorance on an issue. That’s the number one thing I cannot tolerate and won’t do for a client.
What PR professionals would you most like to have dinner with?
In 2015, REI blazed a trail—they sparked action and change with their Opt Outside campaign, which is still in market today. It launched around the holidays, encouraging consumers to spend time outdoors with their families, rather than shopping on Black Friday. They closed their doors on the biggest physical retail day of the year, and ended up inspiring a movement that lives on today—REI set a new precedent for what it means to live your brand values. It started as a PR campaign, but became a mainstream conversation and changed behaviors across the industry. I’d like to take the people behind that campaign to dinner.
What is the most overrated and underrated strategy or element of a campaign?
Earned media. That might sound odd coming from me, considering it’s always the heart of our campaigns. It delivers the highest level of credibility to a campaign, but it can’t stand alone. It’s not a magic bullet—it needs other supporting tactics and channels to amplify it. There’s never a single tactic that can achieve everything, it’s the compond effect of channels amplifying each other that wins.
What was the moment that you felt most accomplished in your career?
Right now. Expanding our leadership team to include Nicole and Meagan has been an amazing moment. I’ve seen them strengthen and expand our capabilities (and their families!) over many years. Through it all, we have fun. We finish each other’s thoughts, yet also challenge each other. To see their fingerprints all over this new chapter of PR at Brownstein is incredibly rewarding.
When did you most feel like giving up?
The pandemic was hard. There were moments when I didn’t know if our client partnerships were stronger than the weight of the pandemic, and others when we forged ahead, creating bold, smart work that never saw the light of day. I was really candid with my team—I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with any campaign, but I was certain about our team’s destiny. I knew that no matter what, we would figure it out, keep the team together, and succeed with our clients. But, while those were some dark days, it’s one of my proudest moments—we didn’t have any layoffs, we invested in employee development, won awards for our work, and retained clients, even if they were forced to pause for a time. We made it through together and are now embracing tremendous growth.
What is the quality you look for when hiring a Red Thread PR team member?
There are two qualities: curiosity and poise. Curiosity can wane as you get further in your career, but its importance only swells. Curiosity breeds innovation.
It’s equally important to be unflappable. My mentor Erin Allsman, Managing Director of Brownstein Group, exemplifies this every day. She never appears rattled, no matter what is happening around her, and instilled that quality in our team over the years. Through her example, I learned to look for people who, even in times of crisis, retain their poise and confidence—and even bring calm and clarity to their team.
What is your favorite and least favorite condiment?
My favorite condiment is Nutella, but you can’t put that on everything. You can put it on a lot of things (try it on celery with sea salt—you’ll thank me later), but some people argue it’s not really a condiment—I’m not sure we can be friends if that’s you. My least favorite is mayonnaise. I can’t have a jar of it in my house or even watch a TV spot with it.