One of the things I enjoy most about being a publicist is working with people. Getting out from behind my desk and mixing with others at events, on media tours, at client meetings… you name it. I often liken myself to a field reporter as opposed to an anchorwoman. Out. Among the people. I’m also insanely obsessed with details. Recently, someone at our agency described my attention to detail as “otherworldly,” and yes, I think there may have been a slight eye roll as they said it. I get it. It can probably be annoying at times. But there are also times when it’s essential.

Working with spokespeople on behalf of my clients allows me to combine my passion for people and enthusiasm for details. I’ve been involved with or managed a number of different spokespeople throughout the years, and it’s interesting to look back and see how campaigns have changed based on the media landscapes. Here’s a glimpse at some of my favorite projects involving an outside spokesperson, from the oldest to the most recent.

Ted Allen for The Grain Foods Foundation’s Bread Art Project (2009)

Remember SMTs? For those of you who haven’t yet reached your 30s, I’m referring to a satellite media tour, for which you set up shop in a studio (usually in New York City) for four hours and bang through back-to-back live segments with news programs across the country. For this particular campaign, we dressed a kitchen set and had the foodie, chef and host discuss the health benefits of bread and grains (a key mission of the Grain Foods Foundation), along with speed-demoing some recipes he’d created specifically for the Bread Art Project. After a morning full of broadcast interviews, we made our way uptown to Harlem where we donated a truckload of bread to the Food Bank for New York City, courtesy of GFF member Arnold Bread. Not only did this bolster the cause component of the Bread Art Project (that benefitted Feeding America), it was a great place for a photo op.

What you didn’t see taking place behind-the-scenes:

  • Coordination with our direct client + Feeding America + Ted Allen + The Food Bank for New York City + SMT studio rental + food stylist +++!
  • Getting a permit for the Arnold truck to park in Harlem, of course on a street that was closed to one-way traffic due to construction – in the rain
  • Keeping a dozen clients (members of GFF’s board) happy

Bob Harper for The Grain Foods Foundation’s Go with the Grain (2010)

In the midst of promoting the Bread Art Project, GFF was also battling the Atkins movement’s message that carbs are evil, while in fact, there are many benefits from eating breads, crackers and grains. To implore consumers not to turn their backs on this essential food group, we invited them to Go with the Grain. To reach them en masse, we partnered with one of the most well-known health and fitness personalities at that time: The Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper. In addition to a handful of small, invite-only fitness events on both coasts, we made a splash with Bob at SELF Magazine’s Workout in the Park, in this case New York’s Central Park, and promoted a sweepstakes (via Facebook and Twitter, because that’s all there was then) to win a one-on-one personal training session with Bob in Los Angeles.

What you didn’t see taking place behind-the-scenes:

  • Working into the contract that the health nut would write four recipes using grains, and one would use white bread as the main ingredient (everything has a price…)
  • Frenzied calls to the airlines because someone wanted to stay an extra night in New York
  • Pleading with staff for another night at said person’s fully-booked hotel-of-choice in SoHo

Melissa d’Arabian for The Grain Foods Foundation’s Bread Art Project (2010)

Do you know who goes through more loaves of bread than anyone? Families with small children. Not all those brown bags are filled with bentos, at least they weren’t in 2010. Fresh off her “Food Network Star” win, we scooped up Melissa, a mother of four who promoted healthy cooking for families on a budget (Her show was called “Ten Dollar Dinners), before bigger brands got to her (they did, trust me, and we couldn’t have afforded her after them). Partnering with Share Our Strength to raise awareness and money for No Kid Hungry, we made this particular campaign about families, and educating them on the affordability of grains. In 2010, mom bloggers were gaining buzz because of the buzz they could create for you. We partnered with Mom Bloggers Club to host events with the bloggers (and their children) in New York, Atlanta and Chicago (markets where GFF had strong stakeholder presence).

What you didn’t see taking place behind-the-scenes:

  • Frantic runs to Starbucks for straws so that Melissa didn’t ruin her lipstick pre-event (I’m never without straws when dealing with spokespeople now)
  • Scrubbing and cleaning (on hands and knees into the wee hours of the morning) the gorgeous – but unkempt – townhouse we rented for the New York event
  • Talking the homeowner out of forcing us to replace his white shag rug that had been “colored” by happy children with chocolate cupcakes during the event (Hey, we cleaned your kitchen… you can clean your rug)

Jessie James Decker for The Original Muck Boot Company (2016-17)

I just wrapped a six-month campaign designed to promote two new collections within the Muck Boot line. Jessie has a passionate and engaged following across her social media channels, so that’s where we played. The amount of time spent in contract negotiations, nailing down exactly how many Instagram posts vs. Facebook and Twitter posts, is insane. But think about it. Insta-celebs can charge big bucks for one single post on the platform. (Don’t forget to stay abreast of FTC guidelines to ensure your spokesperson is being clear about #sponsored content). The Jessie Decker campaign was full of negotiations, the most I’ve ever dealt with, and I can’t help but think it’s because so much happens in real-time these days. You have five seconds to get those consumer eyes on the post she’s making to promote your brand. Make them count. In addition to social posts, we worked with Jessie on a Facebook sweepstakes, Instagram takeover and pop-up event in Nashville.

What you didn’t see taking place behind-the-scenes:

  • Getting granular on the images in social posts (think: you should be wearing socks with winter boots)
  • Meeting the pop-up event trailer at a parking lot on lower Broadway in Nashville at 1 a.m.
  • Cutting off JJD fanatics from taking more than one selfie with the pint-sized powerhouse (no, you can’t come back for one more photo with your entire family)
  • And much more, which you can read about in my next post on Backstage.

Monica Higgins
Account Director

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