…after years in this industry, my parents and family still have no idea what I do. I don’t know what it is about public relations, but it’s always confused with marketing, advertising and even journalism. Every time my parents see a commercial that is my client, I always get the phone call or text, “I saw your client’s commercial! Did you do that? I’m so proud of you!” Or whenever I share an article, without fail, my mom says, “this is amazing — you’re such a great writer!” In retrospect, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it puts a smile on their faces.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Breanna Suden.
Breanna is President of SUDEN PR, LLC and a seasoned public relations professional with over eight years of industry experience. Beginning her career in consumer technology, Breanna has continued to build up her expertise which currently spans consumer, lifestyle, food & beverage, healthcare, wellness, sex & intimacy, fashion, beauty, travel & hospitality, making her a highly sought out individual within the industry.
Prior to establishing her own successful media relations firm, Breanna worked at some of the top global public relations agencies, including Golin, Edelman and Weber Shandwick. While there, Breanna was responsible for securing coverage within top-tier media outlets, frequently traveled the nation for client events, and assisted in the management of global media and influencer campaigns and activations.
Breanna is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and holds a degree in Communications and Psychology. She currently resides in New York City with her boyfriend and kitten, Larry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Connecticut and as a kid, I could never really live in the moment. I always wanted to be older or was too preoccupied about what the next day would bring. Fast forward to high school, and I was convinced I was going to go into forensic science to become a crime scene investigator. I took all of the necessary courses and looked at all the right schools, then one day I realized that the idea of sitting in a lab by myself all day wasn’t completely appealing.
Flash forward to college and I decide to major in communications, thinking I’ll end up working in advertising. Well, needless to say I couldn’t stand my advertising class, and my teacher and I didn’t get along too well either. Then, during my public relations class, it just clicked. Not only was the teacher bada**, but I enjoyed the work and I found myself looking forward to going to class (embarrassing, I know). It was now cemented in me that public relations would be the path for me, and I was really looking forward to where it would take me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Always remember, someone’s effort is a reflection of their interest in you”
This is one of my favorite quotes because the meaning rings to be so true in both your personal and professional life. It’s something everyone has experienced at every age, and you begin to understand it a bit more as you get older. More recently, I’ve had to deal with this a lot more in my professional life, which are interesting to navigate. That said, those relationships that are worthwhile will always stay.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’ll admit, I don’t read as often as I should, but one of my favorite books is ‘A Fairytale Interrupted’ by RoseMarie Terenzio. It follows the story of John F. Kennedy Jr. and his personal assistant — their relationship and the man John F. Kennedy Jr. was behind the icon. It’s a really interesting read if you’re looking to get into the public relations or publicist field — it’s an honest account of her day to day workings with the man, the highs, the lows and crazy tasks she had to perform. This book actually helped spark my interest in the public relations industry in the first place and I love recommending it to those who are unsure of their career path in PR or the communications industry as a whole.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Back in 2013, I kickstarted my career at one of the top global agencies, Weber Shandwick. There, I grew my media relations, reporting and analytics skills working for technology clients like Verizon Wireless, General Motors, Citrix, and Iron Mountain. Two years later, I took my career to the next level by landing a job at the world’s largest PR agency, Edelman. Mind you, my first interview was with the technology practice and the interview didn’t go as I’d hope. But somehow, I made a lasting impression on one of the Executive Vice Presidents and was invited for another interview where I ended up taking on a role on the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls account, doing everything from launching seasonal campaigns to managing budgets and fostering deep media relationships.
These relationships proved key in my next role at international PR agency, Golin. There, I was able to navigate a dual role, straddling the account management and media relations worlds for the agency’s multi-million dollar clients including JetBlue, Mountain Dew, Lipton Iced Tea, Nutella and Hyatt Hotels, among others.
Most recently, I was part of the travel and lifestyle team at a boutique agency, working on the agency’s luxury client set, including Jet Linx, Half Moon, The Lowell and WatchBox. I also assisted with event planning and management for NYLON Magazine and Socialyte.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
COVID-19 changed my life drastically.
Before COVID-19, I was working at a small agency in the travel and lifestyle division where I spent most of my days working on hotel and private aviation clients. As you can imagine, once the coronavirus hit in March and panic started to grow, businesses were making drastic decisions to try and stay afloat. The majority of those drastic decisions were layoffs, and the agency I was working for announced there would be some cuts. I, unfortunately, was not able to attend that meeting, as I had a prior engagement with a journalist to discuss a client and upcoming coverage opportunities. I was informed that evening by a colleague of what was said in the meeting, and that there would be some layoffs. The next day, I found out one of them was me.
The months following the layoff were tough, I tried to stay as positive as possible and apply to any and every position I could. I had some great interviews with some amazing public relations agencies, but as the spread of the coronavirus heightened, the positions were put on hold. Lucky for me, I have an amazing boyfriend and support system to help me get through it. I reached out to my network, past colleagues, past employers, everyone. I slowly began freelancing and working on projects again. It started to go so well, that I made it official. Today, I am proud to call myself the President & Founder of SUDEN PR, LLC, where I’m able to work on amazing clients each and every day.
I work on clients spanning the realm of food and beverage, arts and entertainment, home décor, wellness and more. While not my original career plan, I’ve been able to find success among the darkness and I am so lucky to be able to have the network of amazing colleagues, family and friends who have helped me along the way.
I’ve definitely learned to not get discouraged. At the height of the pandemic, it was so difficult to find freelance work or any work at all, and you can become disheartened, fast. Make a plan for yourself and set some goals, it gives you something to look forward to and something to track against. Building a business takes time, nothing happens overnight. Be patient, set realistic goals for yourself and try not to stress! Everything will happen in due time.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I spoke to it a bit in the question above, but at the height of COVID-19, it was nearly impossible to find a job. Job postings were put on hold and companies had hiring freezes as the world continued to be uncertain about the virus and its effect.
I had thought about freelancing but was unsure about the unpredictability and didn’t know where to start. I decided to reach out to a past colleague who freelances full-time to ask for advice, and the conversation went really well. It was the confidence boost I needed and started to reach out to my network, past colleagues, past employers, everyone. I slowly began freelancing and working on projects again. It started to be a success, so I decided to make it official and file for an LLC. And just like that, SUDEN PR was born.
How are things going with this new initiative?
This new venture is going really well. I’m learning a lot about myself in addition to how to run a business and all of the hard work that goes into it. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and some days are really tough, but I’m proud of myself that I’ve been able to create something that has continued to be a success.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I owe a lot of my success to my mentors and colleagues; I wouldn’t be who I am today without a lot of them. I am especially thankful for one of my old managers, who I like to say taught me everything I know. Everyone who knows us is no stranger to the fact that that we didn’t start off on the right foot, and it took a lot of work on our relationship to get us to where we are today. But I wouldn’t change it — she taught me how to think quick on my feet, how to take initiative and the lead on projects, how to successfully manage a team and a lot more. She took me under her wing and invested in me, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I don’t know if it’s more interesting than it is surprising, but I can’t believe how much business I received just from reaching out to my network. People always say how important it is, but you don’t realize until you’re in a situation where you’re in need of some assistance.
I definitely owe a lot of my initial success to networking. When I was starting off on this venture, I wasn’t completely sure where to begin as far as obtaining clients, so I decided to reach out to my network to see if they had any leads or knew of anyone in need of PR support. I also joined a ton of freelancing groups and constantly responded to people in need of support. And before I knew it, my client roster was slowly starting to grow, and I was being connected with all of these amazing people within the industry. Even if a connection didn’t directly lead to a client or a job, it led to another conversation with another person who was able to connect me. To this day, I’m still constantly engaging with my network to see what’s out there and who needs help with what. It’s very beneficial to keep conversations going, you never know what’s out there or who you’ll meet.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You’re going to have a lot more admin work than you think. When I decided to open my own business, I had no idea how much admin work I’d actually have to do on a daily basis. Sure, I knew I’d have to invoice and track my expenses along with other tasks, but what I didn’t realize was how time consuming it could be to learn new programs that are supposed to make those tasks easier! But once you master that, it’s a walk in the park.
- You’ll have to re-learn time management. I’ve always prided myself on being organized and great with managing my time, but I’ve also always had someone telling me how many hours to spend on each project. Now, that someone is me. I’ve had to learn how to adapt and break out my hours per client while ensuring I’m spending an equal amount of attention to each. I’d like to think I have a pretty good system going.
- Sometimes, clients will ghost you after a new business proposal or meeting. And that’s okay. One of the first handful of new business proposals I sent out, a client completely ghosted me. We had already completed a video call, they had a proposal in hand and said they’d be in touch. Then, nothing. I followed up, still nothing. It was like they disappeared into the abyss. Instead of being disappointed, I tried to turn it into a positive, into a learning experience. For my proposals moving forward, I tweaked my approach a bit, tried a different format, and it’s continued to work. Just because one client doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean another won’t.
- There are going to be really difficult days, but the really great days make up for them. I work with a lot of clients who own small businesses, and spending money on public relations can sometimes be a lot for them. If you’re in the industry, PR isn’t an exact science. What media are writing about one day they may not be writing about another. So, as you can imagine, I’ve gone through periods where I’ve struggled to get coverage or have been pressured to get coverage in a certain outlet by a certain time. Which can understandably be stressful. But those days make up for the days where I’m able to share an amazing piece of coverage with a client or share an amazing opportunity or journalist interest. Not every day can be easy, but the rewarding feeling from my job is always worth it.
- That after years in this industry, my parents and family still have no idea what I do. I don’t know what it is about public relations, but it’s always confused with marketing, advertising and even journalism. Every time my parents see a commercial that is my client, I always get the phone call or text, “I saw your client’s commercial! Did you do that? I’m so proud of you!” Or whenever I share an article, without fail, my mom says, “this is amazing — you’re such a great writer!” In retrospect, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it puts a smile on their faces.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
The pandemic has taken a huge toll on mental health, especially during the mandated quarantine. I struggled with it just like everyone else, and still struggle with it from time to time. But I’m lucky enough to have a strong support system to lean on, and between my boyfriend, parents and friends, I was able to get through those rough times. But I understand some people may not have that, so it’s important to be aware of what’s making you not feel your best self.
I know people who have turned to therapy, started working out, began crafting or took up other hobbies to help. It really depends on you and turning to activities and people that make you happy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
That’s a tough one. There are so many causes and so many initiatives I believe in, it’s impossible to pick just one. That said, something I can always get behind is kindness and being kind to one another. Life is to short to be upset by the little things, you never know what someone is going through until you’re in their shoes. If everyone just gave one person a compliment or a smile a day, I truly believe it will catch on. And who knows; that one compliment or smile may make someone’s entire day.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
J. R. R. Tolkien — I love the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’d love to be able to speak with him about his inspiration behind the series and if he expected it to be such a huge success.
And, of course, Harry Styles.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m the most active on Instagram (@sudenpr) as it’s the platform I use the most to share client wins and coverage. I can also be found on my website (www.sudenpr.com), LinkedIn, Twitter (@prsuden) and Facebook (@sudenpr).
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!