On Wednesday, September 19th, Notable attended the Young Women of Influence speaker series at the Toronto Board of Trade. It was our first Young Women of Influence (YWOI) event, but we couldn’t have felt more at home surrounded by a flock of professional women, congregated in mutual anticipation of the speaker’s lecture on ‘Good Social Media’.
The speaker was Lauren Dineen-Duarte, mother and businesswoman with a personal and professional passion for social media. Lauren graduated from Seneca College with a certificate in Corporate Communications. She began her career by interning at a boutique public relations firm, which lead to her position at the Toronto-based tech PR firm Highroad Communications. There she worked on such high-profile campaigns as Universal Studios, LG and Microsoft, climbing the professional ranks to become the manager of her own team.
In 2008, Lauren received a professional opportunity that would change her working life as she knew it. Lauren was offered a top PR position for the Canadian branch of mega-corp American Express. Though she loved her position at Highroad, Lauren was intrigued by the possibility of new challenges at AMEX. The first of these challenges was to secure herself in her new role as PR agent for a corporation, rather than PR agent for a PR agency. Lauren explained that at an agency, you are not a decision maker, you are only selling ideas; whereas in corporate PR, you are the key decision maker.
Lauren and her new, visibly smaller team had to establish their independence and their role at AMEX. Often, and especially where social media is involved, people can confuse the roles of the PR department and the marketing department. As Lauren would later detail, social media should sit with the communications team as opposed to the marketing team, because they are more equipped to develop a content-focused strategy in a user-friendly way while communicating the right message to respective audiences.
Lauren’s next challenge was to try to convince her boss that social media mattered in PR. All the way back in 2009, not everyone understood the benefit of social media for communicating with consumers. For Lauren, one of these people happened to be her boss. Lauren and her team took on the role of educators, turning her boss from a social media skeptic into an avid social media user by taking the time to create personal lessons for him.
Convincing the rest of the company of the importance of social media took a little more time. It wasn’t until Lauren and her team proved the effectiveness of their social media use through online business metrics, which included trackable links (determining whether the strategy was driving people to the landing page), audience outreach and consumer engagement, through things like comments and shares, that the rest of the staff at AMEX began to take notice.
One of Lauren’s biggest achievements at AMEX was simply demonstrating the necessity of social media in PR, a move that resulted in the expansion of her team and increased budgets for PR projects. Now, thanks to Lauren, AMEX is at the forefront of professional social media communication, turning out new apps and maintaining strong relationships with other online media outlets.
“How to position yourself for success” – Tips According to Lauren
Find Your Passion
Lauren defines success as doing something you are passionate about. As an avid blogger, Lauren’s use of social media in her personal life helped her to comprehend the usefulness of social media communication, which she would later implement in her career in PR.
Lauren stressed the importance of establishing trusting relationships in the workplace and the benefit of mentors in progressing one’s career.
Trust Your Gut and Pick Your Battles
Lauren encourages trusting your gut in “everything from hiring people to picking shoes.” However, she likens business relationships to marital relationships; it’s all about compromise, know when to back down.
Take Creative Risks
Lauren encourages what she calls “big, blue sky ideas” – think big and take creative risks! Lauren’s biggest creative risk was introducing social media as a tool for communication in her PR department, without which neither she nor AMEX would be where they are today.
Celebrate Your Successes
“When your team looks good, you look good.” Congratulate your team personally and then share that success with the company at large so that you and your team’s contributions are appreciated as a part of the bigger picture.
One parting lesson from the queen of social media: keep your personal social media use and your professional social media use separate, with a clear line between them!
Top photo: Reshmi Nair (Host), Lauren Dineen-Duarte (Speaker) and Carolyn Lawrence (President and CEO of Women of Influence Inc.)