For this member spotlight, we interviewed Jamie Pachomski, APR; Corporate Communications & Public Relations Manager at Argo Group.
Why did you join the IABC?
After earning a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications, my worldview of communications broadened dramatically. I realized I needed to push harder to stay current with the latest trends, best practices and industry research across all disciplines in business communications. To that point, I had specialized mainly in global public relations. As I gained experience over the years and saw my career take a more holistic track in global business communications, I joined the IABC in 2012.
You were a Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Specialist for the U.S. Army. How did that prepare you for a career in communications?
After I completed all the required training for my role as a PSYOP specialist, I was assigned to the Target Audience Analysis Detachment (TAAD) based at Fort Bragg, NC. This unit’s purpose centered on determining the most effective way to persuade a Target Audience (TA) to achieve the objective(s) of the PSYOPS mission. The TAAD focused on identifying TAs, and analyzing their attitudes, beliefs, and vulnerabilities. This intelligence would then be synthesized and used to develop products (e.g., leaflets, etc.) that – when disseminated – were designed to influence desired behaviors among the TA(s). Overall, the experience I gained in the military early on in my career poured the concrete for the disciplined work ethos I still follow to this day. In this unit, specifically, I learned to really appreciate the fundamental value of research in the communication process. Without a clear understanding of the psychological drivers that really matter to the audience you are trying to reach, your efforts will undoubtedly fall short.
You were a Senior PR Consultant for FM Global for several years. What advice can you share on how best to protect a company’s reputation?
Protecting a brand is just as important as promoting one. We now operate in such a dynamic and transparent world – one social media misfire can bring a company, its brand, reputation and even its stock price to its knees. Bottom line: be ready for anything. I’m reminded of a related situation that tested our PR team’s crisis management skills in 2011. At the height of the downfall of MF Global – the 8th largest bankruptcy in U.S. history – FM Global’s name was thrust into the conversation in both the mainstream and social media due to transposition errors people were making – though unintentionally. Chatter reached a fever pitch during Jon Corzine’s Congressional hearing on the former CEO’s role in the firm’s collapse – so much so that “FM” Global unwittingly became a top 10 trending topic on Twitter. For most PR pros, this feat would have been one of the highlights of their career. To our credit, we were already monitoring the brand vigilantly as a regular practice. So, when brand mentions of “FM Global” started popping up on Twitter, we took immediate action to set the record straight – reactively in social media, and then proactively via the mainstream media. In doing so, we worked to ensure our stakeholders were informed of the facts – namely, that FM Global was NOT going bankrupt. We did so through the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Fortune – work that earned us points with our exec team and helped to preserve the company’s digital footprint. What’s more, we were recognized for best practices in B-to-B magazine and in “Social Marketing to the B-to-B Customer” – one of the first social media how-to guides for B2B marketers. There was also a rather sensationalized piece in the Business Insider, which we chuckled about afterward. My advice: invest in brand monitoring services – for traditional and social media. Chances are there’s more being said about your brand than you are aware of. And when – not if – the storm hits, be the organizational calm, but think and act swiftly. Be ready, be responsive and be real.
At Argo Group, your team encompasses the management of the whole gamut of global corporate communications functions. In many companies, these roles are separated into different departments. What advantages do you find with these functions all sitting together?
It’s no secret that content largely drives the focus of many communicators’ daily grind. Savvy communication practitioners today know that syndicating content effectively across owned, paid, earned and shared media can’t happen when organized into silos. It’s a clunky, inefficient, time-wasting endeavor, yet many departments are still operating this way. The best leaders in communications are disrupting legacy thinking and age-old hierarchical organizational structures to ensure their teams are set up for success. When core disciplines in the brand management function are truly integrated, great things can happen. By streamlining creative operations in this way, teams can create, communicate and collaborate more fluidly. Ultimately, they can deliver better quality and meaningful business value faster, cheaper and better than ever before. Integration is the new silo – it can be a competitive advantage.
You work with both in-house resources and agency partners to complete projects. What are the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing?
Though “outsourcing” sometimes carries a negative undertone, it has its clear advantages. First, it can be cheaper. When you hire an agency to complete a project, you agree on terms, pay for services rendered and that’s about it. Second, it can be easier. If things don’t go as planned, you can sever ties with greater ease and move on. Third, it can be smarter. Agencies employ talent with many different specialties and can scale more effectively. This usually means you can access a stable of experts to fulfill project needs…and quickly. Additionally, agencies bring objectivity to the table, which can enable better decision making. Still, our agency friends are the “outsiders.”Members of in-house staff experience the company’s culture, norms and values every day and are generally more committed to the organization’s success – they almost inherently do what’s in the firm’s best interest. Agencies are in business to make money, too, and – in that pursuit – can sometimes let their agenda drive their behavior. In-housers usually are more connected, too, and can be more resourceful in managing day-to-day activities. They can leverage the institutional knowledge they’ve amassed, the political insights they’ve gained and the relationships they’ve developed. In the end, companies need to weigh the pros and cons, and do what’s right for them. Both sides offer immense value, but there is no silver bullet.
What advice do you have for young professionals that want to succeed in the field of communications?
The reality of doing more with less has never been more sobering. To level-set even further, communication practitioners do not generate revenue for the company. That’s not to take away from the purpose we all serve, but it’s good to know upfront that your journey in communications may very well be predominantly uphill. Strategically, be a diligent student of the business. Learn the vernacular and use it when advising executives. Align yourself with the right people, build diverse networks, and keep their interests and frame of reference in mind. Operationally, be resourceful, efficient and economical in all that you do. Be known not as the proverbial “communications guy or girl,” but instead as the one who gets stuff done. Measure only what matters, hold yourself accountable, and listen carefully to what’s being said and what’s hiding between the lines. Personally, balance work, family and life in general. Stretch yourself, but don’t ignore your limits. Manage your time meticulously and expertly decipher what’s truly “urgent” and what can wait – there’s always tomorrow. And remember to take breaks (I often forget).
If you could travel to any place in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
As part of my training in the military, I learned how to speak Serbo-Croatian. Though foreign language is indeed a perishable skill, I’ve always wanted to order a meal in Croatia. I also would like to trace my family’s roots back to the town in the Ukraine where we came from. Iceland, Australia, Hawaii and Bora-Bora have caught my interest, too – they’re just beautiful places.