Sydney Naseef

Innovating the Ordinary

Liv WellerOlivia Weller lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she works as a post-graduate intern for FleishmanHillard, an award-winning global public relations agency. Weller is constantly tackling big projects and complex tasks many agencies don’t tend to pass onto interns. With this responsibility comes an unmatched learning experience that has allowed Weller to get involved with the agency’s innovative techniques to keep clients ahead in their varied industries. From agricultural clients to food and beverage, Weller is touching diverse elements of strategy, planning and branding, while maintaining a comprehensive understanding of diverse industry trends.

The award-winning agency is no stranger to national recognition for its innovative culture and public relations techniques, all of which Weller has been thrust into in less than a year. Without even realizing how habitual it’s become, she is constantly utilizing these inventive processes to help clients shape and reshape their goals and strategies. It’s no small task, and no day is the same with news and media constantly shifting, but in speaking with Weller it was evident that the company is an industry game-changer, even in the way it handles everyday tasks. 

SPARTANS INNOVATE: Brands being innovative is vital to success in this field, especially in this digital age. How is FleishmanHillard staying ahead of the game?

WELLER: Since we have offices across the globe, I feel like Fleishman does a great job being ahead of trends, flagging major news stories to our clients quickly, and monitoring social media with the best and most updated media tools. We’re making sure we’re ahead of the game when it comes to national and local media opportunities or speaking events for our clients that I feel like our competitors sometimes overlook.

How much of your work in general would you say is focused on intelligence gathering and data-driven PR?

From my end, on the media relations side, we do a lot of media monitoring for our competitors. For instance, one of our clients ran a spring Black Friday deal, and at the same time one of our clients was running their spring Black Friday deal. So, we monitored our articles and our competitors to find out how many placements and impressions each get. This is innovative because we take that data to our client and say, “Listen, this is how we compare to our competitors, this is how many exclusive pieces they’re getting.” And let’s say our client is 3 billion impressions below our competitor, well that’s something where we can say, “What are they doing? Are they doing paid content? Do we need to start doing paid content?” We do things like that for our clients across the board that makes them think about their strategy to see if there is anything they can improve for the next year. That’s probably where I work the most on innovative strategy aside from the FHeeds.

I wanted to ask you about that project — the Intelligence FHeeds. I know you work on this each week for your clients. Could you describe what this project and its process is like?

FHeeds are basically proactive ways that we can stay ahead of media trends and keep up with news stories so our clients are “in the know.” These are innovative because we are always learning new things about brands and what other businesses and companies are doing. Sometimes they aren’t even ideas for things we’re currently working on, but they’re things that may spark ideas down the road, whether it be artificial intelligence initiatives or just different tech initiatives. And it’s just finding different things that we can do within campaigns we’re currently running for clients. We’ve gotten great feedback from the FHeeds, and as we get new clients, many of them are very interested in them because it does help them stay ahead of the game. 

Most firms collect daily clips and do media monitoring for clients, so how would you say FH’s methods are unique in setting it up for industry success?

The way that we gather our news is different. Other agencies might have something similar to a FHeed, I’m not sure, but from what we’ve seen in our clients that are coming from different agencies, it seems to be something that they haven’t had before. Some might do it differently where they compile articles monthly or just flag them as they come in, and I think that’s where ours is different. We’re collecting news Monday to Monday so there’s not a gap of time. I feel like that keeps us innovative and moving forward for our clients.

Can you speak to the importance of working with clients to stay on top of industry trends and predict new trends, and how the Intelligence FHeeds are making that possible?

They see how these articles are helping them with their future initiatives, and it helps spark ideas for things they could be working on in the future. So if they know, for example, that they want to do Earth Day stuff next year, they’re going to have a flag for what brands are doing for Earth Day this year. Then they can look ahead and start planning for what they want to do next year, or for a campaign they want to do down the road. It could be a year from now, it could be two years from now, but they can keep those ideas. These can actually be actionable.

In respect to company culture, I saw that Fleishman was named a “Top Company for Executive Women” and “One of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality”. What is it like to be a member of a team innovative not only in their practices, but in their culture?

I never thought it would be such an importance aspect in a company until I came here. We do a lot of different projects and team-building activities surrounding those sorts of things. I think they help us with our clients, too because it helps us learn a different perspective. A lot of my clients take these things that we’re working on within Fleishman and they’re using them for campaigns and their own internal teams, too. It’s very cool to see. The fact that we won those awards, I’m not surprised, because this is something that from day one I knew was super important at Fleishman. They are always trying to set an example for our clients and teach them how to represent themselves with different issues.

I hadn’t really thought about how this company culture would help you interact with clients. Could you touch a bit more on that?

We have a diversity and inclusion team within our staff here at Fleishman, and they’re the ones that are planning activities and sending out fact sheets so that we’re informed because our clients are asking these questions. You know, it’s, “How do we support employees who come from different backgrounds?” or “How do we deal with consumers that are looking for ‘x’ in their brands?” These are questions that are constantly coming up across the board, and that’s why having these conversations internally are so important because we need to be there for our clients when those questions arise. If we aren’t informed, our clients aren’t informed.

As a post-grad intern at FleishmanHillard, how do you hope to continue fostering innovation in your future endeavors at the agency?

 I think as I continue to grow here, one thing I’ve found is that my input in the brainstorm sessions that we do are often really helpful for the team. Since I’m younger, they do pull me into a lot of them, especially a brand that’s trying to target Millennials and Generation Z. They want to hear my perspective, they know I just got out of college, they know I’m from the Midwest. We’ve all worked for different agencies and done different things, and no matter how old or how young we are here, we all can come to these brainstorms and can contribute to the conversation. 

We’ve been talking a lot about different methods of thinking creatively in my class. Do you feel those brainstorms are the ideal innovative way for teams to ideate?

When we do these brainstorms, they frame out what we are looking for and you get the material for the brainstorm a few days in advance so you can start thinking about it. Sometimes I’ll see articles in the news and I’ll be like, oh yeah, I remember doing a brainstorm on that like six months ago about this and I’ll flag those articles. It might not necessarily be sitting around a table and just shouting out ideas, but we are constantly seeing things that spark these ideas which goes back to my scanning for the FHeeds – it does help with new ideas. A brainstorm can sometimes be intimidating, but for the most part the people leading them are so knowledgeable about what they are looking for that they ask the right questions and frame them the right way so we can all spinoff one another.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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