…Do things that scare you because that’s when real discovery and growth happens.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Tan, the Communications Manager at Button, the mobile partnerships platform that is building a better way to do business in mobile. Stephanie leads the communications strategy at the company and brings a personable approach to public relations. Consistently ranked as one of the best places to work in New York City, Button partners with the world’s leading brands including Expedia, Walmart, Uber, Foursquare, Hotels.com, Ebates, and Groupon to give users what they want at the tap of a button.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! Sure, it started back in college when I led publicity for our dance group pulling all guerrilla marketing tricks out of the hat to drive interest in our shows. I realized that I enjoyed the challenge and art of persuasion and discovered my knack for communications. Several sold-out shows later, I decided to give PR a shot by interning at agencies before starting my career at a boutique agency where I got to work alongside the co-founders and learn the ropes from them firsthand. A few years later, I was given the chance to build the first in-house PR program from scratch at Influenster, the product review platform. That was when I knew that I had found my career sweet spot — establishing a compelling narrative for a high-growth company and telling its brand story to the world. Now, I couldn’t be more excited to take on the opportunity of a lifetime — helping to shape Button’s unique position in the mobile landscape as it paves the way for the future of m-commerce.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Well, my most interesting story to share was actually on my first day on the job (I started at Button less than a month ago). As part of Button’s Nourish speaker series that invites personalities from different industries to come to our office to share new ideas, we had Amy Padnani, creator of the Overlooked obituaries project at The New York Times, share her journey with us. Her mission is to bring to light the lost tales of women and minorities who made a mark on the world. What had started as an idea exploded into multimedia and multi-platform series at The Times that’s advancing the conversation on injustice and discrimination in a meaningful way. To be able to actively soak in diverse perspectives, learn from reporters of the whole nine yards of beats, and consume content of all forms is at the heart of why I love what I do.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Your question takes me back to a time early in my career — I showed up at one of my first client meetings dressed in business formal when everyone else in the room was comfortably clad in jeans and colorful shirts. After that faux pas, I learned a valuable lesson in adapting and adjusting my professional style to the client and/or reporter that I’m meeting. It’s important to consider your audience each time so that you don’t create a distance, but instead, make people feel like they on the same page and naturally in sync with you.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
As Button approaches its fifth year of building partnerships that drive commerce, the biggest project I’m working on is to position Button as the industry leader at the forefront of mobile commerce. That includes sharpening and communicating the story of how we bring value to brands and publishers. We’re also introducing Personalization by Button which enables our brand partners to offer audiences personalized content and tailored experiences that drive greater value for consumers, brands, and publishers alike. Last but not least, I’m collaborating with the People Team to elevate the visibility of our workplace culture and people-first initiatives that make Button the best place to work at in New York City.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Study the career trajectories of people who inspire you and see what they did to get to where they’re at. Read about them, follow the content that they publish, listen to their interviews, and you could even consider reaching out to them to connect. Attend networking events and career fairs and talk to professionals in the industry. Get involved in extracurricular activities like PRSSA and communications-related organizations, or you could also take on a leadership position spearheading publicity for your student group. Most importantly, go out there and pursue an internship, shadow the best in the field, make and own your mistakes, and never stop learning.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Some may call it networking, I call it relationship-building. If you find some way to connect with even just one person on a personal level versus a dozen people in passing, that interaction could evolve into a meaningful relationship that lasts a lifetime. There’s a something special in a conversation over coffee (or iced matcha latte) rather than twenty email exchanges. While it’s important to follow-up with new people that you meet to build good rapport, the face time that you put into those relationships is even more important no matter how busy you get. And while it may be easy just to breeze through life sticking to your routines, there is beauty in diversifying your networks by spending time with people outside your world. Some awesome connections that I’ve made have sprung from ridesharing in the city to solo-traveling in a foreign country to attending a wedding where I knew no other guests. Be real, be honest, be human, and people will gravitate towards you.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Yes, Radical Candor by Kim Scott. This is a great read for anyone looking to build, lead and inspire teams to do their best work. It also aligns with Button’s value of speaking boldly and honestly — encouraging the exchange of tough conversations because that ultimately leads to growth for everyone involved.
As for podcasts, as with all other forms of content, I tune into different genres to inform my thinking and approach to work and life. My current obsession is Conversations on Dance where I get to learn how a choreographer finds his voice, how an editor-in-chief of a ballet magazine tackles topics like occupational stress, how a lighting designer brings an honest approach to support a dance piece’s concept, and more.
Because of the role you play, 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? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Arts education — to develop a society of critical thinkers and remind us of our humanity.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1) Learn to deal with rejections with grace because that resilience is not only going to take you far in your career but in all aspects of your life.
2) Build strong and robust relationships and you can count on people to have your back.
3) Do things that scare you because that’s when real discovery and growth happens.
4) Be adaptable to change because of that is essential to innovating and staying ahead.
5) Celebrate the small wins because making progress in meaningful work is powerful.