Alessandra Simkin: What are the Similarities and Differences in PR Across Industries?
Interview Featuring Alessandra Simkin from Danone North America at the PRSA Tri-State Conference
Alessandra Simkin, Senior Manager of External Communications at Danone North America, spoke with Eric Wright, Executive Vice President at D S Simon Media, at the PRSA Tri-State Conference. During the PR Pals Talk Shop panel, Simkin talked about the Evian Drip Drop campaign. Evian partnered with visionary designer, Virgil Abloh, to create the new Evian collectable limited-edition glass bottle. She also shared insights on the similarities and differences between working in pharma and consumer.
ERIC WRIGHT: Hi this is Eric Wright with D S Simon Media here at the PRSA Tri-State conference here with Alessandra Simkin of Danone North America she is going to talk a little bit about her session later today. What are you guys going to be talking about?
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: Nice to meet you.
ERIC WRIGHT: Nice to meet you as well.
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: So we are a bunch of PR pals who started together ten years ago at my first agency and we all met and we’ve been getting together now and talking shop regularly and we thought it’d be really fun to kind of take our little outings public and one of the topics that we talk about a lot is how to do more with fewer and fewer resources whether it’s time money or whatever it is. So, we kind of all brought our different experience to the table. We have you know people who’ve worked in pharma people who work in nonprofit. I currently work in the food and beverage space and I’ll actually go through a case study that I recently worked on for the brand Evian where I manage PR for that brand.
ERIC WRIGHT: That’s fantastic. And how often do you guys meet.
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: So, we meet quarterly we try to meet as much as we can. One of us is based in London, one in Boston, and two in New York. So, it’s basically just anytime one of the out of towners is coming in, we all try to get together and make it happen.
ERIC WRIGHT: You’re always meeting face to face? As opposed to face time or using technology.
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: We actually just wrote our first article for PRSA, the PRSA blog, so, that we did over email because, you know, we need to get it in by the deadline, as these things go. But we try to meet face to face for our actual dinners.
ERIC WRIGHT: OK. That’s fantastic. And because you guys are all in different industries do you find that even though there’s those differences that there are similarities that you can take away, to assist in some of the planning and programs that you’re working on.
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: We love kind of pulling apart the similarities and differences between our industries. Actually, the article that we just wrote is about metrics and measurement and what we realize is that so often it’s becoming more important to think about how you can measure beyond impressions, and what we realized is that you know people want to look at sales for example, and how can you track that. It’s different in pharma versus consumer. But the desire to use those different metrics is the same.
ERIC WRIGHT: Very good. And what are some of the struggles or issues that you’re facing specifically in your industry?
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: Particularly in consumer, I actually went from pharma to consumer. So, you know I think a lot of people in pharma think ‘Oh if I was in consumer there would be no rules and it would be amazing and I would do all of these things.’ The thing is that most of your competitive set is also doing a lot. So there’s a lot of clutter and a lot of noise so you really need to do something special to break through.
ERIC WRIGHT: And how have you found the differences between coming from pharma into the consumer realm? Did you experience that ‘no rules’ kind of thing or you still have to follow a certain…?
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: Of course there are still some rules. You know food and beverages are regulated by the FDA and lots of other things. But I like that, you know, we have the ability to do a little bit more. You know, we can live tweet a little bit easier or live post a little bit easier. You know that’s always fun, especially when we’re having a big event. There’s a little bit less stress about those things.
ERIC WRIGHT: How involved is your legal department? Obviously, in pharma they’re very involved. Yeah. How involved are they?
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: You know our legal team is involved. I think the important part of working with legal, I’m actually married to a lawyer, so I kind of specialize in working with legal. But the important part of working with legal, I would say is bringing them in early. I always try to let them know what the concept is so that way, you know, we kind of understand what makes them comfortable, what makes them uncomfortable, and we can address it from the start.
ERIC WRIGHT: And are you primarily relying on an in-house team to get all this work done? Do you have an agency supporting you? How does that balance play?
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: For legal or just general?
ERIC WRIGHT: Just in general.
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: We work with a mix of PR agencies. So, for different tasks, we work with different agencies and that’s been really good for us because it provides us the flexibility to evaluate agencies based on how their capes match the project at hand. And it’s good for us because we get work that you know people are excited to be doing because it’s what they specialize in but it’s also good for them because it’s their sweet spot. We try not to ask agencies to do things that you know it’s really not their capability. So we’re getting the best work from our agencies, which that mix allows.
ERIC WRIGHT: And how big is your in-house team?
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: Our in-house team, I think there’s about 10 communicators. I’m on the external comms team and so there are three or four of us depending on how you count people.
ERIC WRIGHT: Very good, and are there any last thoughts you love to leave with the audience? One key takeaway maybe from your case study?
ALESSANDRA SIMKIN: Yeah sure. You know I think collaboration with different people and industries is what really makes PR shine, because PR is all about being relevant. So, for the case study that I’ll be going through it’s called the Evian Drip Drop. We use the fashion industry for our inspiration and that really made it very successful and helped us stand out beyond being just water but a very special water
ERIC WRIGHT: Very good, well thank you very much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.