I know, I know. Everyone hates lists. A number of people have told me as much straight to my face in the past! But, I’ve always been a fan. Our industry has proliferated them to the point of being a popularity contest. But, I’ve always tried to use and develop lists that are interesting, built on editorial curiosity and based on a mix of background and analysis (and sometimes, data).
Truth be told, I haven’t published any kind of list in quite some time. In fact, the only list I’ve posted in the last year has been my annual coffee list. So, even I have backed off lists of late.
But, I started thinking about this one a while back. It’s an interesting one in that it’s not wholly tied to social media, as many lists are. To talk about the most influential people in PR, comms and social in the Twin Cities, you need to go well outside Insta and Twitter. I thought about people who were:
- Decision-makers–those who controlled large budgets and made major hiring decisions that would affect a big swath of people.
- Career-changers–you know how everyone has one of those teachers from grade school that changed their life? Chances are, you probably have a boss in your professional career that changed the course of your adult life. I wanted to include those people, too.
- Trend-setters–and again, not just social media trend setters. All kinds, types and shapes.
- Future-makers–those who have made “stuff” that has, or will, change the way we work.
One last thing: this list is almost wholly built just from me. I polled a few people on LinkedIn, but for the most part, the input largely comes from me. So yeah, I know there are holes. I don’t know everyone. But, like I always say, this is my list. You are more than free to build your own–in fact, I’d love to see it!
So, here’s my take at the 22 most influential people in our industry in 2020:
Anna Lovely, vice president-global communications, Cargill
When you lead comms for one of the largest privately-held companies IN THE WORLD, yeah, I’d say you’re a pretty big influencer (especially when it comes to hiring and budgets). But the best part: Anna’s one of the absolute loveliest people you’ll ever meet. I had the good fortune of working with her in a previous role at Cargill. Trust me.
Katie Boylan – chief communications officer, Target
Pretty tough to have a decision-maker influencer list in Minnesota and not have the comms leader at Target on the list. Sure, she manages what’s likely a fairly large PR/comms budget that impacts many in our field. But, she also influences the tone and messaging of one of the largest retailers in the country. That alone gets her on this list.
Matt Kucharski, president, Padilla
Matt makes this list as the president of one of the largest PR/comms agencies alone. But, he’s also one of the most connected people I know (especially among the agency owner group). And, also one of the most accessible (at least in my experience).
Kathryn Tunheim, CEO, Tunheim Partners
Kathryn has been the CEO of Tunheim Partners for 30 years–the longest run of any current agency head. For that alone, she would be on this list. But, consider some other titles she either currently holds or has held: board member–Hennepin Country Medical Center, board member–McKnight Foundation, senior advisor of jobs creation–Office of Governor Dayton, board chair–Bush Foundation. I mean, I could keep going! Plus, if you put 100 PR people in town in a room, I’d venture to guess Kathryn Tunheim impacted at least half of them. She’s had that big of an impact on PR and comms in this town over the last 30+ years.
Crystal Schweim, partner, IFC Next
Now, I don’t know Crystal all that well. We’ve met a few times over the years. She seems fantastic. But, I’m basing this on all the wonderful comments I’ve heard and seen from colleagues who have worked for Crystal over the years on the agency side. I’m sure you’ll see a few in the comments of this post! To me, that’s the best sign of a true career-changer in our business. If the people who’ve worked for you over the years consistently sing your praises, you’re doing something right.
Rose McKinney, founder, Pineapple RM
I would count Rose McKinney as one of the handful of people who had a profound impact on my career. Back when I was just getting involved with PRSA, Rose was a mentor, and someone I looked up to at the time (still do!). And, I’m quite certain, in her role as agency owner and MN PRSA president, she’s had that exact same impact on quite a few people over the years.
Rebecca Lunna, vice president, Carmichael Lynch Relate
What I just wrote about Crystal above–exact same thing goes for Rebecca. I remember years ago learning that two good friends had worked with Rebecca closely in their formative years. Both said she was not only a great colleague, but that she turned into a life-long, good friend. I can’t think of a better compliment!
Susan Beatty, VP-external communications, US Bank
If there’s a list of most connected people in PR in the Twin Cities, Susan Beatty is very close to the top of that list. She’s also among the most generous, kind-hearted people in our industry. She consistently goes out of her way to help people find jobs–something, especially in this environment, that should be celebrated. Too bad she’s a Packer fan–otherwise, she’d have my full endorsement 🙂
Betsy Anderson, assistant professor, University of Minnesota
If you made a list of all the UST and UMN students Betsy Anderson has taught and impacted over the last 15+ years, it would be a veritable “who’s who” of MN-based communicators. What’s more, Betsy’s one of those professors that everyone loves. You know the one–that professor who changed EVERYONE’S life. She’s doing it every year over at the U of M these days.
Much like Betsy above, Janet has been impacting the lives of folks in PR for more than 15-20 years in her role within the APR program in PRSA. I’m not sure how many people she’s helped get their APR over the last 20 years, but I’d venture to guess it’s almost EVERYONE that’s gotten one in that timeframe. She’s an institution in the local PR scene, and without question, someone who has changed many, many lives.
Greg Swan, director of digital, social, PR and innovation, Fallon
THE go-to person in the Twin Cities for all things innovation and future-thinking. And, to be honest, he’s been that person for years. Every time I’ve heard Greg present on trends over the years, I’ve come away excited and energized–that doesn’t happen with too many people. His newsletter is also a must-subscribe.
Kristina Halvorson, founder, Brain Traffic
Kristina was doing content strategy before it was even a thing (at least, in the modern-day content marketing sense). So, in many ways, those of us who any sort of content marketing should be thanking Kristina for paving the way! Her shop, Brain Traffic, was well ahead of its time (founded in 2000, well before the content hysteria took off). She’s also, bar none, the best professional speaker I’ve ever seen. She’s my personal favorite. She doesn’t speak locally much anymore, but when she does, I’m sure to snag a ticket. And, her popular Confab event was a trend-setter, too–one of the first true content-focused events of its time.
Nadine Babu, CEO, Babu Social Networks
I’ve never met Nadine Babu. But, I don’t feel like I have to in order to put her in the trend-setter bucket. Here’s a woman who completely remade herself–from sales rep earlier in her career to social media agency owner for the last eight years, Nadine is a great example of someone who saw a path (social media marketing was still relatively new in 2011) and made it. She’s easily among the most plugged in when it comes to all things Gopher athletics-related. And, she’s one very connected agency owner.
Stacia Nelson, founder, Pivot Strategies
What Stacia’s doing with Pivot is changing the way PR/comms agencies will operate for years to come. I know people have tried the virtual model before, but I haven’t seen it succeed like this. Stacia’s not just trend-setting when it comes to agency models either. She’s one of the few agency leaders you’ll find active on LinkedIn (disclosure: Stacia and Pivot are clients of ACH). And, you won’t find a more kind-hearted person anywhere.
Liz Giel, Bethany Iverson, Alex West Steinman and Errin Farrel, Founders, the Coven
When the Coven opened two years ago as a community space for women, non-binary and trans people, it was groundbreaking. In 2020, while most of us work virtually, that’s changed a bit. But, I would argue the concept behind the Coven is stronger and more meaningful than ever. And, these four women are sure to pave the way for more inclusion and diversity across the creative industry in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Laura King, founder, Marketers Community
There aren’t a lot of recruiters you recognize in the PR/comm space anymore. Sure there are agencies, but no specific names pop to mind. Except Laura King. Given, she’s not technically a PR/comms recruiter (more of a marketing focus, I believe), but she’s positioned herself as a much different animal than your garden-variety recruiter. From her new Marketer’s Community Zoom meetings to her Marketing Leadership Sactuary, Laura is a born networker with a special talent for bringing people together.
Blois Olson, principal, Fluence Media
Blois has been a future-maker from the beginning of his career. From starting New School Communications 25+ years ago to playing a lead role at Tunheim to now managing his Morning Take news empire, Blois has always pushed the envelope.
Bianca Jones, Best Buy
Ever since I’ve been in the PR/comms industry (25+ years now), we’ve had one big issue: A complete lack of ethnic diversity. PR is the industry of white people–especially here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. That’s why I think Bianca Jones is so important to the future of diversity if PR here in Minnesota. She’s talented. She’s on a leadership fast track (now on the MN PRSA board of directors, positions of increasing responsibility at Best Buy). And, she’s a great person. I couldn’t think of a better person to spearhead a ramp-up of diversity in our industry.
Emily Pritchard, president, The Social Lights
Yeah, that’s right. I’m promoting my competition. But, it’s easy to do when you’re talking about Emily Pritchard. She’s taken an agency of 2 at the ripe age of 22 and built it into an agency of 20+ in under 10 years. And, she’s quickly establishing herself as one of the key millennial leaders in our city in the social media space.
“The Snack Guy.” That’s what a number of folks know Dan DeBaun as at his employer, Life Time. But, as you’ll quickly see in this short interview, Dan is a whole lot more. He’s a former journalist-turned-PR pro. He’s a runner. And, he may be the first (and only) journalist to interview cats on TV! (see below for the full story)
Let’s hear more from this PR Rock Star.
Let’s go back to the beginning–how did you get your start in the media world?
I was a radio news reporter for three years in St. Cloud out of college. I reported on just about anything during my time in radio…Breaking news, traffic reports, school board meetings…I even interviewed cats at the humane society one time (look it up; Editor’s Note: Ha! I did–and it is epic!). I then spent two years at the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal reporting on retail and restaurants before I started my career at Life Time in May 2018. I really appreciated my time in radio and print journalism. I quickly learned the importance of being flexible and working at a fast pace under constant deadlines. Of course, being exposed to so many local business leaders during my time at the Business Journal was a blessing. I learned a ton from my day to day conversations with these people about how they became successful.
Little known fact: You led social media management for the Business Journal during your time there. How did that prepare you for your first job in PR with Life Time?
It gave me valuable experience with daily posting and scheduling on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Twitter was an especially big priority and it gave me a chance to connect with a lot of fellow journalists, who I continue to follow and interact with as a PR pro. It’s a fantastic tool to keep up on their work and what issues they’re focused on.
Why Life Time? What drew you to that company, in particular?
I was drawn to the culture and energy here. I interviewed our CEO Bahram Akradi a couple times as a reporter and really admired his vision for Life Time. It was really neat to hear about the company’s new ventures into coworking at living spaces at the time. I’m also very interested and passionate about health and fitness. I’m an avid runner and have had a growing interest in mental health and nutrition. Life Time has given me a chance to combine those interests into my career. It’s also nice to have co-workers who enjoy running. For the longest time I was the only person in the office who enjoyed it. People thought something was wrong with me.
Can you tell us a bit more about your current role at Life Time?
I spend a good chunk of my time on media relations and pitching. I coordinate a lot of TV segments and print/online interviews across the country. Part of this is media training our general managers, personal trainers and other experts to get them ready to go on camera. We really have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to energetic and smart people at Life Time for media. It makes the job really fun.
Your clubs were largely closed earlier this year when COVID initially hit. Can you talk a little about what work life was like during that time? How do you do PR for a company when most of your clubs were closed!?!
We had to adapt very quickly when COVID-19 came into our world. Starting in late-February, our task force got going, communicating with clubs and with members. Then, we made the decision to close all of our clubs in mid-March. As a company, we quickly pivoted and within a week created and began offering on-demand virtual classes on the Life Time website and You Tube channel for members and nonmembers (they’re still available here and we continue to post new classes all the time). My role was focused on media pitching on these virtual classes, vs. our typical in-club offerings. There was a huge demand in the media for ways people could stay in shape while staying home, and we saw a great response from that outreach. We recently did some family workout segments on KARE 11, for example.
Starting in May when our first club reopened in Oklahoma City, we’ve spent a considerable time working to secure placements in each market. The response has been phenomenal as we’ve orchestrated a ton of media visits to our clubs to showcase our enhanced cleaning and safety protocols we now have in place to keep people safe when we’ve reopened.
While it’s been a long several months, we’re close to fully or partially reopening nearly all of our 150+ locations across the country.
What’s been one big win you’re especially proud of during your time at Life Time?
I’ll always be really proud of getting one of our member weight loss stories featured by the TODAY Show. We have a member at Life Time Savage, Scott Morton, who lost 40+ pounds so he could donate his kidney to his brother. He managed to lose the weight, in part, due to his daily walks on the treadmill at the club. It was an incredibly rewarding story to see come to life. It took months of pitching, interviews and follow up…but it happened! Scott is also an employee at Life Time Savage now. I think that speaks to the culture that’s present here.
You also happen to work for one of the best PR leaders in our city–Natalie Bushaw. What’s one thing you’ve learned from Natalie during your first couple years working at Life Time?
I love working with Natalie and she’s really taught me the value of building and balancing relationships, both with the media and our internal partners. Natalie has a warm and energetic personality that I really admire. I’ve learned a ton just by watching how she communicates with others and remains calm and composed under any situation.
You’ve been posting a series dubbed “Rapid Snack Reaction” for a while now on Facebook + Insta. How did that come about? And, do you think this work helps you in your work in the influencer marketing space at Life Time?
Ha! I was sitting in the parking lot of a Trader Joe’s with a box of maple cookies and couldn’t wait to eat some of them. Then the idea popped in my head to record myself eating them and reviewing them rapidly…because I was hungry and impatient. I grew up watching energetic pitch men on TV like Billy Mays and Ron Popeil and always found them fun to watch…So, I decided to combine that sort of energy into trying new foods. I certainly wouldn’t call myself an influencer by any means, but it’s given me experience with creating content. It also (to my surprise) connected me with a lot of people at Life Time. I’m known as “ that snack guy” in the office to several people.
Related: You’re a big foodie. Favorite Twin Cities restaurant that you are absolutely hoping does not go under during COVID-19?
Red Cow can’t go under or I may need to take a week off work to recover.
Finally–what’s one silver lining you’ve experienced during the pandemic so far?
I really appreciate that the pandemic has given me a chance to grow my skills and gain a lot of experience performing under pressure, especially when it comes to crisis and member communications. Outside of work, I really appreciate having extra time in the morning for running and exercise. I try to get as much fresh air as possible each day!
In case you missed it, LinkedIn sold Slideshare, the once-popular slide deck social sharing site, to Scribd a few weeks ago.
That thud you hear is the sound of the news landing in social media circles.
Few people cared. And, for good reason. Since buying Slideshare in 2013 (it’s been SEVEN YEARS since they bought Slideshare?!?!?!), LinkedIn did absolutely nothing with its investment. Nothing.
And that is a big missed opportunity.
Not that Slideshare was a social media darling. Or, destined to overtake Facebook. No, Slideshare was a niche network. On par with FlickR, Quora and Reddit.
But, it had a loyal and strong following. And, it met an online need–a place to house our slide decks and share them across the social web.
When LinkedIn acquired Slideshare in 2013, I remember thinking: I can’t wait to see what they do with this! Big possibilities on integrations with LinkedIn, right? Considering LinkedIn is THE professional social network and most decks came from professional types like marketers, HR folks and consultants.
But, LinkedIn dropped the ball–for whatever reason. Nothing happened. Slideshare floundered. And, eventually, people stopped using it.
And man, a big opportunity was wasted.
Here’s just a short list of the ways LinkedIn could have bolstered Slideshare via its platform over the years, and made it a more useful platform:
- Build out a “Presentations” tab in LinkedIn. I know some people insert their prezos in the “Featured” tab, but given the relevance of PPTs in everyday professional life, why not build out an entire tab devoted to presentations for LinkedIn users? Not everyone would use it, obviously, but I’d be willing to be a lot of people would.
- Featured prezos in the feed. Why not insert “featured presentations” in the content feeds of users? This would be based on your industry and interests, of course. But, what a great way to get more useful and informative content in the hands of users?
- Top 10 prezos of the day/week/month. Why couldn’t LinkedIn have curated the top 10 prezos of the day/week/month by industry/sector? That would have been a relatively easy way to unearth and showcase the very best content from Slideshare to an entirely new audience who wouldn’t normally see it (but, who would most likely appreciate it based on relevance).
- Making Slideshares into Webinars. What I was secretly hoping for once a big company like LinkedIn bought Slideshare is that they would develop some kind of easy tech that would allow us to make each deck into a webinar–effectively, giving us the opportunity to add our audio presentation to our PPT deck.
Those are a just a few ideas that came to mind. If you’ve been a Slideshare user over the years, I’m sure you probably have many more!
For now, I guess I’m just disappointed in the lost opportunity.
Does the name ring a bell?
For many in 2020, you probably know him as that guy on Twitter who shares mostly awesome (and funny) stuff in your feeds.
For a smaller number of people, the name Rex Chapman conjures up images of dunks wearing a University of Kentucky uniform in the early 90s.
Yet others remember him as the guy who was addicted to opioids.
But, from a marketing and communications perspective, you should remember and acknowledge him in a singular way in 2020: As the single-best example of the power of content curation on the web today.
Because that’s how Rex Chapman came to become a household name on the internet.
Just take a look at his feed.
95% of his tweets are retweets of other people’s stuff (with his own commentary).
Most of the stuff he’s sharing he’s finding from across the web/Twitter (with many suggestions, I’m guessing).
He’s creating very little content on his own (especially visual content–almost none!).
Yep, Rex Chapman is THE case study in 2020 of what great content curation looks like.
Let’s just look at his feed for a few examples from JUST YESTERDAY!
More than 100 Beirut residents have been reunited with their pets after a blast that rocked the city a few weeks ago.
Here’s one of those reunions.
I’m here for all of this.🌎❤️pic.twitter.com/hexRORlIPU
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 31, 2020
This is probably the content Rex is most well-known for–the emotional, uplifting and inspirational content. He typically ends it with some derivation of “This is the content I’m here for.”
John Thompson passed away last night.
He was the first Black coach to win a NCAA title.
He won two as a player w the Celtics.
He had a 97% graduation rate for his players at Georgetown.
Here is Allen Iverson thanking John for saving his life.🌎🏀💔 pic.twitter.com/QY88pOWeHC
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 31, 2020
Like I said, Rex is a former college star and NBA player, so it’s no surprise he curates content from around the league–especially this year as the NBA has taken center stage in the fight against racism. These types of emotional videos are pretty typical for Rex to find and share.
Ok so someone has edited Karen videos with zombie sounds.
The internet. Undefeated… pic.twitter.com/SMDQ1BFYiR
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 30, 2020
Finally, Rex has an uncanny ability (OK, so it’s probably thousands of people sending him clips to tweet each day–but he still has to sift through all that stuff!) to uncover the best of the internet. Case in point: A video of Karens with zombie sounds.
I could go on and on and on and on. Just look at his feed for ONE DAY–it’s an endless stream of this kind of stuff. And, I find myself always wanting to share it.
That’s a top-flight content curator, folks. Rex Chapman. He’s doing it better in 2020 than any brand (or person, really) out there.
So what can brands learn? I think the big thing is simply the power of curation. Rex could certainly be posting more of his thoughts on certain topics–we know he has them. He’s not someone who’s short on opinions! But instead, he spends what I’m sure are hours curating this content. He could be promoting whatever it is he wants to promote (apparel, new startup he’s invested in, etc.), but he chooses to curate content. The point is, Rex Chapman could do what most people do on Twitter–talk about themselves. But instead, he curates the internet for us.
And, I for one am here to say we’re all better off for it.
News flash: It was my birthday yesterday (8/24). Don’t worry if you didn’t send me a card–I only get 3 anymore (and I love those three!).
I received the usual influx of happy birthday messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, text and email. Side note: Not one person called me on my birthday. Not one!
Anyway, I received all the requisite happy birthday messages from everyone in my life except one notable exception: brands.
I only received ONE happy birthday message from a brand–Stitchfix. And, that email was literally just a happy birthday message.
No special birthday offer.
No free gift.
No birthday code.
Nothing. Thanks for doing business with us for the last 5 years–but we’re not giving you SH*T!
Why is that? Why don’t more brands actively market to people on their birthdays?
Maybe they do, and I’m just following the wrong brands. But, I follow and buy from a lot of brands online, and like I said, I got ONE message!
This is weird, right? I mean, your birthday is possibly the single biggest day of your year–especially for younger people. The older you get, the less “important” it becomes, of course.
But, I will say, if anyone of the golf brands I buy from sent me a note with a, say, 50% off code on my birthday, I would probably use that! (are you listening LinkSoul?!?!?)
Or, another place I shop once in a while: Vinyard Vines. Why couldn’t they send me an email on my birthday with a special message and a one-day “free Vinyard Vines hat with purchase of $50 or more”? I might do that!
Or, what about Golf Galaxy? Couldn’t they use their purchase history data to see that I haven’t bought golf balls in a month? I could probably use some new ones! Why not send me a happy birthday message with a couple for a FREE box of balls? Wouldn’t that build some serious brand loyalty?
Birthdays are such emotionally charged days, I don’t know why more brands aren’t marketing to us as we blow out our candles? I know not every brand collects that data on their customers, but I’ve certainly filled out enough online forms to know MANY retailers and companies have that data on me.
Why not use it?
You missed a big opportunity with this consumer yesterday.