When I first met Morgan Hay-Chapman (in I believe 2011) she was the president of the U of M MN PRSSA chapter (a big deal), president of the MN Daily (an even BIGGER deal), a full-time student (ho-hum), and I believe she had an internship, too (at space150, where she is currently employed–go figure).
As I got to know Morgan just a bit better, it seems this is par for the course for her. She’s not satisfied unless she is literally dominating the local PR and digital marketing arena! In my work with MIMA, I routinely hear from colleagues about how great Morgan is–that doesn’t surprise me in the least.
So, it’s my honor to share with you just how awesome this young woman is…
You’re a “planner” at one of the biggest interactive shops in Minneapolis (space150). What does that mean–“planner”? What does your job consist of?
I spend most of my time working on social strategies, content planning and analytics/reporting. Any given day could consist of a client meeting to collaborate on an upcoming social strategy presentation, brainstorms with our creative team to plan social content for one of our brands and digging into excel to prepare a quarterly social report. Mainly it means that I get to plan ways to connect our brands to people on the internet.
You’re a PR grad from the U of M (Go Gophers!), but you took a job at an interactive firm. Why did you decide to go that direction vs. a more traditional PR firm?
Digital has changed our industry and totally blurred the lines between PR and advertising. I knew I wanted to be a part of a place where creating digital experiences was the priority. Everyone at space150 is an expert in their own area of digital whether it’s UX, front end development or social. With how quickly the digital landscape changes it’s invaluable to be surrounded by a group of people who are on the forefront of industry changes in their respective disciplines. I learn something new every day.
You do a lot of work in social media at space150–what are the biggest concerns you hear from clients re: social right now? Biggest opportunities?
The top two concerns we hear are probably how to show the impact of social on a business and what platforms to prioritize. It’s been really fun to test new ways of proving that social is having a direct impact on a business beyond just impressions and engagements.
You were the president (and worked for) the MN Daily for almost three years in college. How did that experience prepare you for the workforce?
The Minnesota Daily is IMHO one of the best training environments for our industry. It’s entirely student run, and anything that can happen, will happen. Working at the Daily I got the opportunity to lead projects and influence actual business strategy fairly early on in my career. I also am fascinated by the evolving world of journalism and I got a front row seat to the changes and struggles facing that industry. I can definitely see myself working for a media company in the future.
When I first met you in college, you were taking a full class load, had an internship, was involved with the U of M PRSA chapter as a leader, AND you were about to become the president of the MN Daily. How the hell did you pull that off? Do you think today’s PR grad needs to maintain that level of activity to get a job in today’s market?
You know I’m not sure I would recommend that many commitments but that type of busy is definitely a good bootcamp for agency life. However, I do think it’s more important than ever for PR grads to get real world experience outside of the classroom. Digital is the “future” (present) of our industry and it changes at such at fast pace that you need to be in the weeds on real projects to really understand how things work. I still think about your post from 2012 “10 skills the PR pro of 2022 MUST have” and how many applicants have only one or two of these skills. Those ten skills are still critically important for PR grads and if they aren’t being taught in the classroom then hopefully other activities will provide the opportunity to learn them.
You’ve been involved with MIMA now for over a year–what do you get from your MIMA volunteerism that you don’t get anywhere else?
First and foremost the community of people involved in MIMA is fantastic. But the thing I get from my MIMA volunteerism that I don’t get from anywhere else is access to professionals who inspire me that aren’t in our local market. This past year I worked on coordinating speakers for the annual MIMA Summit and was able to meet Oliver Luckett from theAudience and Chad Mumm from Vox, two people whose work I admire greatly. I highly recommend getting involved with MIMA through volunteering or at least attending the MIMA Summit this Fall.
One thing I liked about you the first time I met you is that you seemed to get the networking piece of the workforce life (even though you weren’t IN the workforce at the time). How important do you believe networking is for students trying to find that first job? What are the keys to success?
So important! Networking is invaluable. Most of my mentors are people who I first met for networking coffees or lunches. In fact, I have my job because I handed my “business card” to the former director of media at space150 during a student tour and she passed it along to Craig Key. From my experience two things are critical to networking success as a student: not being afraid to reach out and asking for recommendations. People are so willing to share their knowledge with students and rarely say no to a request to meet for coffee. Sending that first email might feel awkward but it gets easier each time. Guest speakers or agency tours are a great opportunity to meet people and then later follow-up with a request for coffee if you find them interesting. Second, is asking for recommendations on who to meet next. Everyone you meet with has their own connections and more often than not people are happy to connect you to other relevant professionals in their own circle.
Betsy Anderson first asked me to speak to her University of St. Thomas PR class a number of years ago. Ever since, I’ve been a regular guest speaker–I think mostly because I beg her to do it 🙂
But, over the years I’ve gotten to know Betsy quite well. Many lunches and coffees later and I’d go as far as to say we’re pretty good friends. So, this interview today is entirely biased–just so we’re clear 🙂
But, I’ve also come to admire Betsy a great deal over the years. First, she has one of my “dream jobs” for lack of a better term (teaching–which some day, in some shape or form, I will do). Second, I can see first-hand the impact she’s making on kids’ lives. In fact, I hear it from the legion of kids who have graduated from UST over the years–and believe me, there’s a lot of them. And, not coincidentally, most of the are quite successful.
So, let’s hear more about how this agency pro-turned-educator is helping to shape the next generation of PR minds.
You started your career in agency PR before making your way to the academic world 10-plus years ago. Why did you make the switch? And what do you miss–if anything–about the agency world?
I decided I wanted to be a professor while I was still in college. I was inspired by my favorite professor at Bethel (Kathy Bruner – now at Taylor University). So going back to grad school was always in the back of my mind; but first, I thought I should learn something about the subject I wanted to teach.
I loved my PR agency experience. A couple of things I miss are the great people I worked with and the fun of working downtown. Overall, though, I feel like I’m still connected to the industry enough that I still feel part of that world to some degree, so the career shift has allowed me to experience the best of both worlds.
What’s the one thing you absolutely love about teaching?
I love when a student really connects with the topic, and when I feel like I’ve been really helpful to students. There’s nothing better than having people come up after class and say they didn’t know much about PR before, but are now excited to have found the perfect major.
It’s also a great feeling when students really get into an activity, such as a crisis simulation, and immediately see how it has enhanced their knowledge or skills.
For those considering a career in academia, how would you even start to consider that as an option? What did you do? What would you do over if you were to pursue a career in teaching all over again?
There are basically two tracks: you can teach a course as an adjunct while continuing in your day-job, or go back to school for a Ph.D. and pursue a full-time faculty position.
For those considering an academic career, I’d recommend: doing informational interviews with faculty; trying it out first as an adjunct; and/or attending the “Help Wanted in the PR Classroom” session at the PRSA International Conference, which focuses on transitioning from a professional role to the classroom. For a full-time faculty position, the schooling is obviously a commitment, and then it takes many years of hard work to develop a line of research.
If you’re really lucky, you may be able to find what St. Thomas calls a “clinical” faculty position – which is a full-time faculty position that requires significant professional experience rather than a Ph.D. (there are fewer of these positions available). One thing that’s important to know is that faculty salaries aren’t what you might expect given tuition costs, and most professors I know work extremely hard so the hours aren’t quite as cushy as some people might think, but it’s definitely a fun and rewarding career.
I’m glad I don’t have to do it all over, but I’d try to enjoy the process more and stress less.
You regularly bring in folks from the professional world into your classes–in fact, I believe that’s how we met for the first time! How big of an impact do you think that has on the students?
Students LOVE hearing from real-world professionals. And given how quickly our industry is changing, I love learning from them too – especially on newer or more technical topics such as SEO, SEM, analytics, or content strategy & management. I’ve experimented this past year with having “professional writing experts” come into our PR Writing class to give students feedback on their writing. That way, students aren’t just writing for one audience (me), but are learning that not everyone reading their writing will necessarily have the same opinion.
Some pretty smart people have come out of your PR program in the last 13 years–Mike Keliher, Bridget Jewell, Allison Janney and LeeAnn Fahl (formerly Rasachak) come to mind, just for starters. How has UST become this PR juggernaut–especially for a smaller, private university?
This is a good transition from the previous question because all of the professionals you mentioned have come back to UST as guest speakers! I can’t take credit for Mike and LeeAnn – who graduated before I started at UST – and there are students like Bridget and Allison who will be successful no matter what, but hopefully I helped interest them in public relations as a career. Even when I worked as a PR professional making hiring decisions, the St. Thomas PR program had an excellent reputation, along with places like the U of M, St. Cloud State, and even St. Olaf for its English major.
One reason for UST’s strong strategic communication program may be its location. We have access to incredible adjuncts, guest speakers, professional development opportunities and nearby internships. This creates a culture where junior/senior students who do a good job at an internship are able to recommend younger students when they leave, and it just becomes the norm to see students in your classes gaining great experiences – which inspires others to follow in those footsteps. Also, St. Thomas currently places great emphasis on quality teaching and provides excellent professional development opportunities to faculty.
How has teaching PR changed over the last 10+ years? I mean, we know how the INDUSTRY has changed, but how has that impacted how you teach PR classes at UST?
The industry changes have, of course, impacted the content of the classes I teach, and it’s both fun and demanding to try to keep up along with other research and service responsibilities I have as a faculty member. Take PR Writing, for example. I taught this course in 2013 for this first time since 2008. I felt pretty cutting-edge by including a blog assignment in this class in 2005, but think about how writing tasks have changed from 2008 to 2013. Students still need to know how to put together a media list, media alert and news release, but also how to write a good tweet, Pinterest caption or social media news release, and how to generate relevant ideas for a social media content calendar.
But beyond content, teaching strategies also have changed. Active learning activities such as case studies and discussion have been popular for a while, but we’re getting to a point where some students have a low tolerance for a 60-minute lecture. Professors are starting to experiment with “flipping the classroom,” where students view a (hopefully engaging) lecture module online, for example, and come to class ready to participate in an activity that applies the information. Professors are also having to get more creative to capture attention.
You started and championed the first social media class at UST–and from what I can tell, it’s been a BIG success. However, I continually hear of schools who don’t have a single class devoted to social and digital, despite the fact that this is a key skill employers are looking for in the professional world. Why have schools been so slow to start and offer classes that would better educate and train our future PR pros in the basics of digital marketing?
There are probably at least a couple of reasons for this.
Often there can be some red tape (curriculum committees and approval processes) that can slow down how quickly universities are able to offer new courses. Also, there can be a philosophical divide between offering too many “how-to” skills classes (where a social media class may be categorized) vs. providing more of a well-rounded liberal arts education that emphasizes abstract and critical thinking skills. My personal opinion is that sometimes this point is over-emphasized, and that skill development and thinking work together. For example, I took a year-long video course in college. The equipment and software I used is completely out-of-date now, but today I still use what I learned about storyboarding, good shot composition, and how to teach myself new software programs (lifelong technology learning skills).
Not all administrators realize the extent to which social media and digital technologies are completely reshaping our field, and the advantage that students have over the competition if they’re able to gain skills in social media strategy, graphic design, video, etc., in addition to more traditional communication skills. TopRank’s Lee Odden reflected this sentiment in his MN Search Summit keynote address this summer with this quote from Avinash Kaushik, digital marketing evangelist at Google: “You can no longer be good at just one thing… It is a 10-thing world now.”
There is a practical reason for a lack of social media courses, as well. It takes an incredible amount of time for a full-time faculty member to keep up with social media today, along with other teaching, service and research responsibilities. I love to quote what Hugh MacLeod wrote in a copyblogger post a few years ago: “Some time ago I found out the hard way that keeping up with social media, keeping ahead of the curve, was impossible. You might as well try emptying the Atlantic Ocean with a bucket.”
Finally, it can be difficult for an adjunct professor who is immersed in a 24/7 social media job to commit to teaching a social media course on a long-term basis. I think universities that can find this type of professor or adjunct should recognize this rarity and take advantage of it. In my opinion, the ultimate benefit to students would be a team-teaching approach between a full-time faculty member and a social media professional expert. Attention universities: Arik Hanson would be perfect for this. Want to team up?
You know how when you meet someone for the first time and you just know they’re going to go big places in life?
That’s how I felt when I met Laura Fitzpatrick the first time.
In fact, I’m guessing that’s how many people feel when they meet the brand sociologist from Carmichael Lynch.
At the ripe old age of 24 (I’m guessing), Laura has already spent time at some of the biggest agencies in town, played a lead role in AdFed2, won numerous awards (including being listed as one of the #32Under32 recently) emceed one of the best events in town (Ignite), and plays comedian at Bryant-Lake Bowl every so often.
Most people in their mid 30s don’t have that diverse a resume.
And it’s exactly why, when you meet Laura, you get that feeling. This woman is going places.
Let’s hear the rest from her…
In just two years, you’ve managed to climb the ranks at two of the larger creative agencies in town (OLSON and CL)–what’s your secret?
I‘d say the secret is that you have to find the secret for you. There is no one path to getting where you want to go. I used to think if I followed what “so and so” did I would get to where “so and so” is, but I am a different person than “so and so”. The best way to move in any direction at an agency is to forge your own way. “Making it” looks different to everyone (great article–get over that the source is Glamour Magazine–here directed at women), but advice applicable to both genders, figure out what it is for you. In the end if you find the areas where your passion and skills intersect and you’ll head in the right direction.
You have an interesting title–and I’m guessing role– at CL as “brand sociologist.” Can you tell me more about what that means, exactly?
We search for insights and ideas across culture, category, audience, brand, and media to find the creative opportunity for any given project and/or brand. We help to make sure campaigns are created with messages and across platforms that will resonate with the intended target audience. Sometimes we do this by social listening, sometimes we do this by focus groups and surveys, and sometimes we get to go out and observe/talk to the consumers (my favorite).
You’re also a highly motivated person–and that shows in your extra-cirricular activities. You’re active with AdFed, and I see you at MIMA events regularly (and we really met via you volunteering for last year’s #mnblogcon). How did you become a hand-raiser and what has it done for your career so far?
Volunteering, freelancing, etc. gives you the opportunity to try things you don’t get to do at work or to build on skills you already have or want to have. It helps you become a more well-rounded worker with an understanding of areas beyond just yours. You have more experiences to pull from and you get to meet some incredible people (cough cough Arik Hanson) who can teach you new things.
You also recently took up improv–and I know you had a show at Bryant Lake Bowl fairly recently. How does improv help you with your day job as a creative strategist?
I could write a book on this. Improv has not only contributed to my creativity at work, but has also enhanced so many aspects of my personal life. Improv isn’t about comedy— at its core it’s about reacting, listening, being focused and present. It has helped me think on my feet, jump in to conversations and know when to do so, adapt to things I wasn’t expecting, let go of control, and so much more. I highly recommend that if you’re a human, you try improv. (Recommending Brave New Workshop & HUGE Theatre classes— anyone is welcome to ask me how to get started). Learning to be comfortable with vulnerability helps you become a less fearful, more confident and creative human being.
Some may not know this, but you were the University of Minnesota Homecoming Queen in 2011/2012. Any lessons that you learned during that experience that carry over to your professional life?
Be nice to everybody— people are incredible as is their support.
Love what you do— you can’t fake passion & sincerity so find a place where you wholeheartedly enjoy yourself day in, day out.
One of my favorite local events each year is Ignite. And you seem to have taken Ignite by storm–now having served as emcee of the most recent event. What drew you to Ignite and why do you love it so much?
As someone who has always loved public speaking I love that Ignite gives anyone the chance to face their fear of public speaking (a fear of an unreasonably large amount of people). I get to see other people discover the fulfillment and incomparable adrenaline that comes from jumping in. Unlike other more formal events, Ignite puts no creative barriers on what you can talk about. Your purpose can be to inform, enlighten, entertain, or all three. Ignite is the chance for anyone to talk about anything from Bollywood to Beards of the Presidents to Types of Profile Pictures. I enjoy seeing others conquer a fear, get on a stage, and out of their comfort zone— nothing cooler than that.
Like I said at the outset, you’ve spent time at some of the biggest agencies in town in your short career so far. What advice would you give to those considering a big agency gig? What are the challenges? What are the upsides?
I feel very fortunate to have worked for some really rad places. From my perspective the big agencies have offered me the chance to work with big clients willing to do big things. I’ve had the chance to meet a comedian I admire, brainstorm campaign ideas with a professional snowboarder, fly out to Google for Project Glass, do some undercover research and have lunch with one of my favorite authors (and brain crush), Simon Sinek. And none of those things even compares to the talent I’ve had the chance to work with every day. I’ve never worked at any agency smaller than 200 so I really have nothing to compare it to. As far as advice I would say never let size intimidate you— still try and get to know everyone. When I started at my first agency gig I started taking people in different departments out to lunch to learn about them, their role, and how I could best help them.
From where I sit (which, to be clear, is usually at home, CoCo or in a coffee shop :), I believe it’s pretty easy to spot the real up-and-comers in our industry. You’re clearly one of them. What advice would you give to those kids now in school that are looking to become the next Laura Fitzpatrick?
Ha. I think that is still being determined. As I said in my first answer, advice is overrated and you have to find what works for you.
Here are a few things I look to:
- The Holstee Manifesto- it hangs in my room and I read through it daily upon waking up.
- Asking what would Beyonce do?
- Find things that scare you and then do said things.
- Actively seek out things you’ve never experienced before and practice being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
- Don’t aspire to make a list or win an award, aspire to be purposeful.
Book suggestions: The Power of Habit, Start With Why, Bossypants, Damn Good Advice, ALL Malcolm Gladwell books, and The Alchemist.
I really can’t recall how or when, exactly, I met Holly Matson Spaeth–it may have been on Twitter. But, we share a love for “breakfast for lunch” and have gotten to know each other a bit better over the years as a result.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for Holly. Not because we’ve worked directly together (we haven’t) or that she’s been a client (she hasn’t) or that she’s even been a strategic partner (again, she hasn’t). But, Holly always just seemed like one of those people I should get to know. And she seemed really, really smart. How did I know that at the outset? I didn’t really. Instead, it was a judgment and gut call based on her online behavior, what I have heard about Holly from friends and peers (which has been nothing but positive) and from my initial meeting with her a couple years ago.
That’s a long way of saying I’m more than happy to highlight and profile Holly’s good work today here on the blog. Let’s hear from Holly.
You’ve been at Polaris now for almost two years. This is your first stint on the corporate side–or at least, your first stint at a larger corporation. Have you enjoyed working on the corporate side vs. the agency side? What are the pros of each?
I have been very fortunate to work at some amazing places with some amazing people throughout my career. The corporate experience, at least at Polaris, is not all that different from what I’ve experience in agency life. This is probably largely due to the fact that I work on all of our product lines. Generally one big benefit to the agency world is getting to touch a wide array of product types and businesses. With my role, I get to do this while sitting in the corporation. It makes for a lot of emails and meetings, but it couldn’t be more rewarding to be a part of all the different teams at Polaris. In terms of pros on the corporate side of things, it is really wonderful to work with agencies. We are very lucky to have some great partners like The Factory out of LA and Media Loft right here in MN that help us look smart to our consumers time and time again.
We’ve talked together about the crush for good mid-level digital talent in Minneapolis. I’m assuming the same issue is playing out in other major markets. What do you see as the key reasons for this lack of talent in the mid-levels? And what do you think our industry do about it?
If someone is labeled a social media strategist they are immediately “a must hold on to” or “must get employee.” This not only makes it extremely difficult to find candidates, it makes it difficult to woo them to your organization, even with shiny objects. Literally, in our case, shiny, fast, heart-pounding objects. Our industry needs to start looking outside the labels of social at people’s cumulative skill set. People with customer service backgrounds, PR professionals, journalists, and more can be trained and sculpted to fit these roles. We find that it is far more about fit, passion, and a desire to learn than it is about the immediate experience.
You have an interesting background. You started out more in SEO/SEM marketing, then shifted to more of a digital marketing professional. Was that a natural change for you? What key skills have you picked up along the way? What areas do you see as areas of growth for you?
To me there really was no change. All of these activities are simply tools in the digital marketing tool belt and they function together. You can’t have an integrated online strategy without thinking about how media placements correlate to user experience and social media. It is sometimes a blur to think about all the things I have been fortunate to learn over the years. SEO, Sponsored Search, Influencer Outreach, Analytics, Social Optimization, and a slew of additional buzz words come to mind. Can I say again that I have been really fortunate with where I have worked and the people I have worked with? I have. The talent in Minneapolis is crazy. We have a pool of people that get ‘it’ like few other cities. When I think about growth areas for myself, I am diving in on global integration. It is really exciting to help make our business better in a way that fits the culture and behavior of various countries.
Polaris is one of many Fortune 500 companies right here in the Twin Cities–yet, I feel like I don’t hear about Polaris all that much. Why do you think Polaris flies a bit under the radar here locally?
We don’t feel like we slide under the radar, but some of that thought might have to do with interest levels. The mass use and appeal of some of the other Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities can draw further media attention, but if you talk to anyone who rides a motorcycle, snowmobile, side x side, or ATV…they know all about Polaris. That is not to say that we don’t also get our media moments. Our CEO, Scott Wine, was deservedly named the 2014 Executive of the Year by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
Any interesting digital work that you’ve led in recent months (as winter winds down–hopefully!) that you want to share?
Last summer I was lucky enough to be part of the re-launch of America’s Oldest Motorcycle Brand, Indian Motorcycle. We did some amazing work during that time, but one of the projects we were most proud of was “The Spirit of Munro.” When we unveiled the all-new engine, the Thunder Stroke 111, at the 2013 Daytona Bike Week, we did so in a custom streamliner that was built in honor of Burt Munro. If you don’t know who Burt Munro is, head to Netflix and immediately watch “The World’s Fastest Indian.” Trust me, you won’t regret it. Once people saw this streamliner they instantly began to ask us if we were going to run it and run it we did. We did a seven day countdown of images, but didn’t tell them until day seven that the something bigger was coming. That something bigger was this:
The passion that went into this project was astounding. Being able to say I had a hand in this piece is something that I will truly never forget.
You’ve won a fair amount of awards in your almost 10 years in the industry (I’m guessing most of those came during your time on the agency side). Now that you’re on the corporate side, how much does award-winning work matter when you’re selecting an agency or vendor partner?
We don’t put a ton of stake into awards when looking to select agency partners. We look for previous experience, vision for our brands, and team fit. If an agency meets those criteria and has won awards, that is just a great bonus.
You’ve spent time in San Diego and Minneapolis during your career. What made you come back to the frozen tundra? I mean, someone forced you, right? 🙂
I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Plus, a lake is just as good as an ocean in my book.