In high school, she landed an internship with a local radio station and started a club for kids trying to pursue a career in broadcasting. She says her career aspiration, at the time, was to be a video jockey for MTV.
Fortunately for the public relations community, her subsequent experiences in education and internships persuaded her instead to pursue a career in PR. She has since worked on both side of the table, both in-house on the client-side, and at PR agencies – and also has served as a key leader for Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR).
Today, she’s the vice president of Communications for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). There she leads a team of “storytellers of SHRM getting audiences to think, feel and behave differently across all channels via multimedia content.”
She is Tina McCormack Beaty and she’s my guest on this 42nd edition of the Off Script Q&A series.
1) You spent a long time in an agency before going in-house. What’s that transition been like for you?
TMB: The difference between agency and in-house depends on the ethos of each organization. I was fortunate to transition between two similar organizations in terms of culture. I left a fast-paced, global agency known for its strategic planning and integrated PR campaigns with purpose-driven clients to enter a transforming, global organization looking to improve the place we all spend time at – the workplace!
There is always a learning curve at a new place, but an agency trains you to on-board to new clients quickly, so I was able to listen and learn from the SHRM team while simultaneously hitting the ground running.
2) What are the similarities between the work you are doing for SHRM and the work you used to do in an agency?
TMB: It is completely different and yet the same!
The power of laying out a strategic plan and understanding your audience is the same regardless if you are on the agency side or in-house. The tactical toolbox is similar as well.
The biggest difference is that at an agency, even as AOR, you are typically focused on one product line or one audience or only a part of their business. Coming in-house to SHRM I look at how PR can drive our business goals and do so by partnering across all departments, each with their own set of goals and touchpoints to the audience.
SHRM would have been a dream client because leadership is innovating across its products, events, member experience and communications, so it is a thrill to be in-house.
The most exciting aspect is that we are advocating to make the world a better place. We know that working Americans spend 8 to 12 hours a day in the workplace and big issues, such as the gender gap, immigration, skills, pay inequality, and sexual harassment, are showing up at work. We must advocate to create better workplaces so that we can create a better world around us all. We are asking business executives, supervisors, and individual employees to all join in with HR to fix workplace cultures.
3) As you’ve learned about the business of your association’s members, is there anything about HR as a discipline that has surprised you?
TMB: The challenges that HR face are unique. HR is a business partner to the C-Suite as they lead the most important piece of any company – the people. Without a workforce, companies across the spectrum of industries would come to a grinding halt.
Employees are a critical piece to any organization’s success and yet one that is often taken for granted, overlooked or shuffled along. HR has the hefty job of recruiting talent, keeping business goals top of mind, training and retaining talent, ensuring compliance, and strategizing workplace culture initiatives.
We often hear that HR experts want to transform the employee experience by enhancing the culture yet are bogged down by issues created by people managers not properly trained in people management.
How many of us have had a decent job at a good company but the experience was sullied by an ineffective direct supervisor or a toxic team culture? SHRM research shows us that 1 in 5 Americans have left a job due to a negative culture. If we were able to create better workplaces and better people managers, it would improve the experience for the employee and increase the bottom line for companies.
Additional research showcases the power that HR, direct managers and executives have in fixing toxic workplaces by being transparent and honest around tough topics like pay equity, family leave and benefits. At TalkWorkCulture [a site created by SHRM to address these issues] we are challenging working Americas to have a workplace culture convo over a cup of coffee. Yep – one coffee break focused on a tough topic can really start to shape the world we work in.
4) On the in-house side, there are clearly areas of overlap between HR and corporate communications – internal comms comes to mind. Given the vantage point you have, what are some ways these two functions can work better together?
TMB: Communicating to employees is one of the most powerful actions a company can take. When you have engaged employees, you have happy customers. Employees should always be a key audience for companies.
Strategic HR practitioners do a great job of partnering with their internal communication colleagues to drive a consistent story out to employees and have a mechanism to truly listen and interact with them. Employees should be treated just like you would engage any other key stakeholder group in your ecosystem – and that starts with a formal goal or ethos, a strategy, an objective and a yearly tactical plan to talk with them, hear from them, and help them think, feel and act the way you want.
Southwest Airlines has an amazing track record of how they treat their employees and how they can directly attribute those efforts to an increasing bottom line even while in an industry in decline. HR and internal communication teams should align on the ethos of the company and how those are brought to life daily. Ginger Hardage, the former SVP of Culture and Communications at Southwest is an expert in this space and a great keynote if you get the chance to catch her live.
See these related posts:
3 Creative Ways Public Relations can Partner with HR and Recruiting to Attract Talent
Diversity, Politics and MBAs in the Business of PR; Off Script #20: James S. Walker
10 Leadership Tips for 1:1 Meetings with Employees
5) Do you think PR has gotten harder or easier in the last 10 years?
TMB: The PR industry has certainly changed in the last decade but so has the world in which we are communicating. What makes our jobs harder, such as fractured attention spans and channel diffusion, is also what makes it easier since we have tailored platforms to reach niche audiences and more ability for two-way communication. Access to information and increased levels of skepticism from mass audiences will continue to drive PR practitioners to innovate and lead with valuable content.
6) Is there an aspect to PR that brings value to an organization that you think generally goes under-appreciated by business leaders?
TMB: I don’t think we have fully cracked the code for PR measurement which makes it difficult for executives to embrace sometimes. There is an interesting trend happening where big CPGs are eliminating the CMO role (Uber, Lyft, Coca-Cola, Hyatt, and Unilever) which I think provides an opportunity for PR leaders to showcase the business value to our ability to get audiences to think, feel and act differently. The power of PR can drive a cultural movement, educate, or convert skeptics into brand ambassadors. Gone are the days of the traditional funnel, we are in the era of the evolving consumer decision journey.
7) Is there a question I didn’t ask, but you wish I did?
TMB: If anyone has a passion to change the workplace (it is up to all of us!), they can check out the resources available at SHRM.org/Work and follow along @TalkWorkCulture to join in the conversation!
8) Lightning round: please answer the following in just a word or a phrase:
- One company whose PR you admire is…(TMB) Prudential (a couple of years ago they turned their PR stunt around retirement into an entire yearlong ad campaign).
- One PR tool you can’t live without is…(TMB) Zoomph.
- If you weren’t doing what you do now, you’d be…(TMB) an architect.
- If you suddenly got 10% more PR budget, you’d spend it on…(TMB) in-person brand activation.
* * *
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
The Willingness in Marketing to Try Something New; Off Script No. 41: Drew Hawkins of North Highland Consulting
Image credit: Unsplash