An Interview With a Next Generation Publicist

  • Posted by: Chaloner

I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with a favorite candidate, Joel Mandina. Joel came to us from Keating Magee in New Orleans and we placed him at Mullen in Boston. He went onto launch his own company, VICE Marketing and has just completed a graduate degree in Global Communications at the American University in Paris. Joel’s experience has given him a unique perspective on what it takes to launch a successful career in PR today.

Q.At the start of your career, what skills did you feel you needed to develop in order to have a career in media relations? Did that change?
A.I think that any budding publicist, no matter what their area of speciality, needs to have three fundamentals:  Efficiency, Adaptability and Creativity.  Efficiency because we are at the whim of the 24-hour media cycle while also juggling multiple and varied clients.  Adaptability because of those aforementioned clients. Finally, the creative aspect:  It’s our job to differentiate our clients from the ever-increasing media noise, and we need to do it interestingly, honestly and with panache.

Q.Is it important for publicists today to feel as comfortable pitching a story to a journalist as curating social media? Or is it more advantageous for a young publicist to specialize?
A.Yes, PR people need to feel comfortable in both the traditional and social media spheres as, in a successful relationship, the two will work in tandem with one another for the success of the client.  Regarding journalism v. social media, I think that this issue speaks to the very fabric of the media industry.  Where does citizen journalism end and marketing begin?  With whose loyalties does the citizen journalist lie? Does the publicist serve the press or the client?

Q.What was the origin of VICE?
A.The VICE experience was something that just came together as my career began to evolve.  I suppose the agency was a combination of my own interests in travel, celebrity, fashion and large, global events with a desire to do things faster, cooler and sexier than I had seen before.

Q.You studied Global Communications in Paris. How do you think your time abroad will serve you in your next role?
A.Globalization is not even a buzzword anymore; it is reality.  The digital revolution, the cult of global brands and the power of celebrity have leveled the playing field, so now we’re all at the global level.  The old adage, “When a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Africa, it can cause a tsunami in South America” isn’t just a philosophical musing.  A Tweet can renew a brand (look at Oreo’s #dunkinthedark for the last Super Bowl in New Orleans), topple governments (the Arab Spring) or manufacture fame (see Kim Kardashian, the power player who basically owned the branded Tweet).

A recent Edelman study said something to the effect of “Entertainment is the connective tissue between cultures,” so I’m hoping to synthesize the pillars of my experience to help translate messages across various cultures across the globe.

Q.”Storytelling” has become a big buzzword – is this a new skill or a new name for an old thing?
A.At a very basic level, marketing is storytelling.  The messages we communicate for our organizations–why this product is better, why this person is sexier, why this “cooler” is in–are all separate narratives that we use to support the narrative of ourselves; and I think that’s where the difference is now.   Consumers are incorporating all of these stories into the very narrative of themselves (their Facebook walls, their Pinterest boards, their Instagram accounts).   Why do you think the Selfie Culture is so aggressive?  Not only does everyone have a stage from which to tell their story, they are loving it! Everyone thinks their story is awesome.

Q.How can PR professionals grow their storytelling skill set?
A.Storytelling is an art form, whether in the board room or a cocktail party; so my advice is to just get as much personal experience as possible to differentiate yourself.  The medium of story might be changing, but an interesting story, i.e., the content, is still where it’s at.  No one wants to be the person at the Sunday brunch table without a good weekend story.