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PR Rock Stars: Boston Scientific’s Amanda Gebhard

You know how when you meet some people you can just tell they’re going to be a big deal some day. That’s how you feel when you meet Amanda Gebhard. And I’m quite sure that feeling will pay off in the years ahead (you watch!). She’s currently in a social role over at Boston Scientific, but I think the comms/marketing world has much more in store for this young woman. Let’s hear more from this PR Rock Star:

You’re a senior communications specialist-social media for Boston Scientific. Since social positions vary widely from company to company, what does your typical day look like?

I would say my job is roughly 60% content (strategy and execution), 25% analytics/reporting and 15% community management.

Here’s what a typical day might look like for me:

  • Check email, news and social feeds
  • Read daily alerts and monitor brand accounts twice daily for comments, mentions, etc. – take action as needed
  • Meetings
  • Content work
  • Evaluate incoming content requests, edit copy, assist with legal/reg reviews
  • Draft posts, work with brand team on visual assets, send posts through legal/reg review, schedule or publish
  • Develop content strategies for larger campaigns/initiatives
  • More meetings
  • Reporting
  • Pull data and create report for listening, campaigns, etc. (not daily but at least once or twice a month)
  • If time, make progress on longer-term projects


In your six-year career you’ve worked for three health care companies. In those six years, what have you learned about working in social in a highly regulated industry?

While each sector of healthcare has different regulations, the processes – and challenges – are mostly the same across the board. Many healthcare companies take a very conservative stance when it comes to social content, which is understandable. But it can sometimes hinder innovation and creativity, and it definitely creates time and work. However, as you build trust with your legal and regulatory teams and learn what their biggest concerns are, you can start to form partnerships and forge a path forward. It definitely takes time, though.

I would also add that there is still SO much gray area in healthcare regulations when it comes to social media. The regulations can’t keep pace with the technology, so it leaves a lot of room for interpretation.


Working in social for a health care company is decidedly less “sexy” than working for companies like Target, General Mills or Best Buy. Why do you continue to choose health care over other industries?

It goes without saying that healthcare is rarely (if ever) on the cutting edge of social and digital media – especially with larger orgs. So if your goal is to do cool, exciting work that makes for good case studies, healthcare probably isn’t right for you. But if you enjoy interacting directly with patients and customers, and you want to work for a company that’s making a tangible difference in people’s lives, healthcare could be a good fit.

Aside from the meaningful work aspect, healthcare is also a thriving industry (especially here in the Twin Cities). And I’m personally very interested in the intersection between health and technology – I see lots of potential there.


What’s the biggest trends you’re seeing in social media when it comes to health care marketing right now?

Surprisingly, live video seems to be an emerging trend in healthcare. One organization doing a lot with this is the Mayo Clinic. They host regular Facebook Live Q&A sessions on various medical topics. I think this is a great way to connect with and educate patients in a more authentic, interactive way.

Influencer marketing is another trend that’s gaining traction in medical communities. According to CDW Healthcare, 87% of physicians ages 26-55 (and 65% ages 56-75) are active on social media. Some have built significant personal brands and are very influential within their networks.

Paid social is a pretty large topic of conversation as well. It’s increasingly important for all industries, but it’s particularly complex in healthcare due to evolving regulations and platform advertising rules.


You volunteer your time with Social Media Breakfast as a community manager, and have since 2014. What have been the primary benefits of donating your time to this organization?

Volunteering with SMBMSP has been one of the smartest career moves I’ve made. Aside from the obvious benefit of learning from other social media professionals, here are a couple of the benefits I’ve seen:

  • Connections – SMBMSP has vastly expanded my network, and I regularly stay in touch with people I’ve met there.
  • Resume building – Volunteering with an industry group looks great on your resume. Before I accepted my position with Boston Scientific, my involvement with SMBMSP came up in nearly every interview I had with every company.


What are the biggest skill gaps you see amongst today’s social media professionals?

One of the major gaps I’ve seen lately relates to human resources, of all things. Whether it’s employee relations issues that surface on social media or talent acquisition social strategies, there is a clear disconnect between the teams that typically work on social media (in marketing or communications) and HR. If HR is at all integrated into the social strategy, there needs to be a resource that understands both the discipline and the medium enough to guide both teams.

Also, as a counter point, I would actually argue that there are too many expectations placed on social media professionals. We’re expected to be writers, designers, photographers, videographers, project managers, community managers, customer service agents, marketers, crisis communicators, recruiters and analysts. Those jobs require vastly different skill sets, yet to some degree, companies expect it all from one person. They’re getting a heck of a deal.


You mentioned at the last SMB that you’d love to get your hands on some Snap Spectacles. How do you see brands adopting this new technology in coming months/year?

As cool as Spectacles are, I honestly don’t see most brands adopting them since they only show one individual’s point of view and they only work with one platform – a platform that many brands (aside from media) have been slow to join. But I do think they’re a great proof of concept that will lead to a more “brand-friendly” product – perhaps one that isn’t tied to a single platform or device (like Samsung’s Gear VR) or even a single perspective. I think the immersive, interactive experience of VR is here to stay, though it will evolve, but I predict the “wearable” VR trend won’t stick around.


For years, I’ve said there are two things I will not talk about online: politics and religion. I’ve walked myself back on the former recently, but I noticed that you don’t hold back in talking about your religious beliefs. Can you talk a little about why and the role your faith plays in your life?

First, I understand and respect why many people choose not to talk about religion online, because it’s very easy to misinterpret or take things out of context. But my faith is a large part of who I am, and I’ve made the personal decision to show up online the same way I do in person. I do think there’s a right and wrong way to talk about your faith, especially on social media, but I don’t believe in avoiding a topic altogether simply because some people may not agree with it. Also, I’ve found that it opens doors to more meaningful conversations and relationships, and that alone makes it worth it to me.


Like me, you’re a South Minneapolis resident. Best place to live in the city! I’m curious: What are your favorite restaurants and/or coffee shops on the south side?

South Minneapolis is absolutely the best place to live – I love it here. There are SO many good restaurants and coffee shops; it’s hard to pick my favorites. But here are a few spots I keep going back to:

  • Wise Acre Eatery (locally sourced food and giant, thick-but bacon)
  • The Lowry (chicken and waffles – enough said)
  • Red Cow (I’ve tried most of the menu and have yet to be disappointed)
  • Five Watt Coffee (fantastic coffee without the crowds of Spyhouse)

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9 things to consider before making the leap to being a solo PR consultant

What tips do you have for someone considering making the transition to being a solo marketing/comms consultant?

It’s a question I hear more than you might think. Partly because I am a solo. And partly because it seems like more people are considering this as a career path all the time (certainly more than when I made the jump eight years ago).

There’s so much to consider when making the leap. And, next Thursday, I’ll be talking about all of it as part of a panel on MIMA’s first ever “Career Development Series” around modern career management.

But, for now, I thought I’d tap into one of the best communities I’m a part of: The #SoloPR Facebook Group. I asked these fellow solo PRs what tips they would have for someone considering the transition. Here are the top 9 tips they provided:

1: Set realistic goals for the first year. “Focus on replacing your income first. Don’t take on any overhead like offices or expensive subscriptions. Put your head down for a whole year and only work on revenue generating things. No free stuff! Get a good lawyer to help you with a general contract. Hire a bookkeeper day 1.” — Maria Coppola Cummins, Maria Coppola PR

2: Find your first client BEFORE you leap. “If you are leaving an agency, check the terms of the non-compete clause in your contract. If you are in-house, discuss with you boss to see how your employer might become your first client.” — Janet Falk, Falk Communications and Research.

3: Network, network, network! “Find out what conferences/events there are in your field and attend them to learn more and meet new people. Get your social profiles going before you leave your new job. Be prepared to hustle and learn to accept disappointment – it won’t always work out the way you want.” — Tanya Churchmuch, MuchPR

Invite people in your network who have gone solo out to lunch. (Individual lunches, this isn’t a group thing.) It doesn’t have to be someone working in the same field. Ask them what works, what doesn’t work. Or, if not in the same locale, have a virtual coffee with a solo professional then send them a gift card for Starbucks. I conducted several of these advice-gathering meetings before I went solo and they were immensely helpful. — Jennifer Freeberg Frighetto, Frighetto Communications

4: Don’t underestimate your expenses. “You are now responsible for quarterly tax payments including an extra 7.2% hit for your employer share of social security taxes, health insurance, liability insurance, and consider getting disability insurance if you don’t have another source of household income.” — Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, Falcon Valley Group

5: Step outside your comfort zone. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Can’t freak out every time a payment is later than you want, work you want doesn’t come through on your schedule, or a client moves on. If you’re prone to that sort of reaction to circumstances that are definitely going to happen, this isn’t the right path.” — Stu Opperman, Impact Players

6: Crunch the numbers. Then, crunch them again. “Numbers are everything. From setting metrics for yourself in reaching potential new clients to the amount you charge to cover salary, overhead and your own marketing. You won’t survive “estimating” any number for your business.” — Ebony Grimsley-Vaz, Above Promotions Company

7: Trust your gut–even when you’re just getting started. “For example, don’t be afraid to accept low-paying work at first-it could turn into something bigger. Get good insurance-health and disability for example.” — Terri Thornton, Lampe-Farley Marketing Communications

8: You need to be a jack-of-all-trades. “How much passion do you have to learn the two dozen+ components of running a business like important areas of operations, finance, technology, human resources, business development, strategy rolled in?” — Kris Vruno Huson

9: Make sure insurance is locked up. “Get disability insurance before you leave your full time gig. Save up a small cushion to help you through cash flow challenges. Think through how to market your own business.” — Susan Stoga, Carson Stoga Communications

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What today’s executive leaders could learn from UW-Eau Claire’s Chancellor Jim Schmidt

We’ve all heard the litany of excuses our executive partners give us for why they can’t be a bit more active on social channels.

“I just don’t have any time.”

“It’s just too risky.”

“I still don’t see the business benefit.”

In fact, according to recent reports, only 38% of public and private company CEOs have updated their social media channels in the last YEAR.

Apparently, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor, Jim Schmidt doesn’t fall into that bucket.

UW-EC grad, Kevin Hunt and I had the chance to interview Chancellor Schmidt earlier this week as part of our Talking Points Podcast. And, we learned he’s taking time almost DAILY to interact with media, legislators, community members, staff and students on Twitter (he also blogs here).

During our interview, I couldn’t help but think: Executive leaders at organizations across the U.S. could learn a lot from this guy. Specifically:

You don’t need an hour–you just need five minutes

This is probably the excuse we hear most often from our executive partners–and the one I have the biggest problem with. Here’s why: I’m not asking you to spend an hour on Twitter today. I’m asking you to spend 5 minutes. Chancellor Jim is a perfect example. Much like a company CEO, he’s a busy guy. He’s locked in meetings. He’s traveling. He’s meeting with important people. But, he also has short bursts of “downtime” he can use to check in on Twitter on his phone. In fact, he was doing just that when he got to our podcast interview a bit early. He uses those five minute bursts to check in on his mentions and conducts some basic keyword and hash tag searches to find tweets to retweet and respond to–like this one below from a UW-EC alum. Everyone has five minutes–even your CEO.


Who says the CEO can’t also handle customer service?

One of the things that immediately struck me about the Chancellor was his ability to connect with students. He was approachable and down-to-earth with the students during our podcast interview. And, on Twitter, that’s really no different (he was even careful about his Twitter handle based on how approachable he thought it would make him). I’ve noticed Chancellor Jim routinely responds to students and prospective students who tweet at him. In fact, he often serves as a “customer service” rep of sorts for UW-EC. The example below is not out of the ordinary for him. Now, you might say, my executives don’t have time to handle customer complaints. And I would point to Chancellor Jim. By responding to these concerns, openly, on Twitter (where others can see them), he’s demonstrating to a whole lot of people (including prospective students, current students, and staff) that he, and the university, cares about their futures. And, by the way, he’s most likely not solving these “customer issues”–he’s merely responding to them and serving as a triage point to get them to the right people internally.



What better way to connect with employees (or students, in this case)?

“How can you lead an institution if you don’t have a sense of what’s on the minds of your students?” This was a quote from Chancellor Jim on the Talking Points Podcast–and I think it illustrates perfectly one of the bigger business cases for more C-level leaders using social media. How can you lead a company if you don’t have a sense of what’s on the minds of your customers (or employees, for that matter)? Now, there are other ways to get that information–I get that. But, nothing as direct, immediate and unfiltered as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media tools. And it’s not like Chancellor Jim isn’t dealing with difficult situations on Twitter. A quick glance at his feed, and you’ll see he is addressing problems and tackling issues head-on–he’s not shying away from the tough stuff. Which is what a good leader should do, right? I just wish we’d see more corporate leaders embrace that mindset.


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New trend: Companies making product design trends based on Instagram

By now, you’ve most likely seen Starbucks newest concoction: The Unicorn Frappuccino.

It’s purple. It’s pink. And, maybe most importantly to Starbucks, it’s inherently Instagrammable–to the tune of 150,000+ pics on the platform so far using the #unicornfrappuccino hash tag–there are tens of thousands more using the #starbucks hash tag.

Except, according to most, it tastes like crap (at least, according to many).

But, for Starbucks, creating a new tasty drink most likely was not the MO.

According to a Starbucks spokesperson via The Guardian: “The look of the beverage was an important part of its creation, our inspiration came from the fun, spirited and colourful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media.”

Read between the lines: This was a huge marketing play, pure and simple.

And, most of it was focused on what kind of drink would photograph well on Instagram (and Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram).

Why spend millions in marketing ad buy dollars when your target audience will market it for you? That was clearly the strategy here–and, judging from the social media stats we can see so far, it worked (not to mention the 20-person deep line I saw at Starbucks last Wed. when it was unveiled at 7 PM AT NIGHT!).

Meanwhile, Starbucks didn’t seem to put a ton of marketing dollars into its promotion of the new drink:

One tweet (most likely with paid dollars behind it, but no way of knowing)

One Facebook post (same thing):

One Instagram post:

I didn’t see a huge media blitz. I didn’t see ads on TV or across the internet.

What I did see was virtually everybody on the internet talking about the drink and photographing it last week. Without much of any paid incentive to do it.

All because the drink photographed well on Instagram.

Starbucks is hardly alone in tapping into this trend.

Locally, right here in Minneapolis, Hi-Lo Diner is rumored to have made key decisions on the decor and appearance of their restaurant based on how people would photograph their food on Instagram (and their retro sign outside).

And, I’m sure they aren’t the first, nor will they be the last, to take that approach.

I’m also thinking about coffee shops like Spyhouse and Annelace in Northeast Minneapolis–both of which have an inherent “Instagram-worthy” appeal to them.

Product and service design choices are now being made (in large part, in some cases) based on what photographs well on Instagram.

And I don’t think this trend will be limited to coffee shops and restaurants.

I could see this also impacting companies and industries like the following:

  • Apparel (where it’s already happening)
  • Organizational products (notebooks, bags)
  • Beer labels and packaging
  • Home and outdoor products

The list goes on. As companies become more data-focused and more aware of real-time consumer trends, thanks to social media, it will be interesting to see if this trend accelerates, or if it fizzles out, in the years ahead.

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Should companies pay their PR interns?

Yesterday, I made my bi-annual journey down to my alma mater to speak to PR and Mass Comm students. In one of the classes I spoke with, an interesting discussion broke out around internships.

Specifically: Should companies pay their PR interns?

Understandably, many of the students tended to say “yes–companies should definitely pay us.” And, from where they sit, I can hardly blame them.

Soon-to-be college grads. College debt. Parents breathing down your neck to get that first job.

I get it. Internships kinda suck. Especially when they don’t pay.

But, I’m here to tell you one thing: I’m not sure it matters.

Should companies pay interns? That’s not my battle. I tend to think market forces should dictate that sort of thing–not regulators.

But, if you step back and look at the bigger picture: Getting paid for an internship really doesn’t matter. Here are three reasons why:

#1: Getting paid for an internship isn’t the end goal. Finding a full-time job that pays you a decent amount of money you can live off is the goal. An internship is just a means to that end. So, if that internship pays you–great. If it doesn’t–don’t sweat it. Just work your butt off, make connections and get that first job.

#2: The pay’s not worth it anyway. Think about what a typical internship pays. Probably somewhere between $10-15 an hour. That’s barely enough for most people to live off in most major markets. So, if that’s the case, why sweat the minimal pay? Why not reframe your outlook and look at the internship a bit different–again, see it as a means to a bigger end.

#3: Internships are all about experience and connections anyway. As an intern, you have zero leverage when it comes to the job search. You’re 21/22. You have zero experience. No leverage. So, utilize the internship for what it is: An opportunity to gain valuable experience (raise your hand to do EVERYTHING), and and opportunity to meet and network with people who can GET YOU A REAL JOB!. Do those two things well during your internship and you will have a job within 3-4 months.

Agree/disagree? I know you have an opinion on this one…

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