Find a team that acts as a team. There are days in agency life and client services that can be defeating, but being part of a team that supports each other is invaluable. If you have people that celebrate each other and the work you’ve done together, that motivation will become one of the most important aspects of your career.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Rainone, Managing Director of Demonstrate. As Managing Director of the NY office at Demonstrate, Victoria is inspired by the culture and possibilities of integrated communication. Victoria began her career in public relations immediately after graduating from college and hasn’t looked back. With a background in brand storytelling, Victoria has experience developing fully integrated PR programs with product launches, media strategy and relations, event execution, message development, and creative ideation. Today, Victoria couples her personal passion for food, wellness, and sustainability with the ever-evolving advancements new products, processes, and technology has to offer to further establish brands and work with clients on best practices for holistic storytelling.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
There wasn’t one specific pinpoint moment where I said ‘aha, I must have a career in communications’, but it was more a series of self-discovery of what I was good at. And that also probably started with recognizing what I wasn’t good at. Growing up, I was surrounded by really smart and successful people — my family, my friends, my community — I was fortunate to constantly be challenged by people who just wanted the best for me. While being a ‘good writer’ and ‘creative thinker’ seemed only supplementary to acing math tests and having the capacity to apply myself at bio and chem, I realized that those were skills to be proud of. It also didn’t hurt that my mom has been in communications (the recruiting side) a majority of her adult life, so she introduced me to almost everything I knew about the industry initially.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Since working at Demonstrate, I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled a lot for various clients and projects. Just over a year after having moved from NYC to San Francisco (where Demonstrate is HQ’d), client travel took me to Sundance in Park City, Utah. It was a nearly week-long work trip with early mornings and late nights at a well-known, well-oiled festival that I hadn’t experienced yet in my career. By the end of the trip, our team had pulled off some awesome work for a client I never would have imagined initially would have an important role at a film festival. It was then I started to see even more into the future of my life at the agency — — finally a chance to turn something unexpected into something meaningful for brands. It made missing New York a little easier, and the anticipation as to what was coming in my career more exciting. The last night of that week, as I was leaving the hotel from our last dinner of the trip, in probably a sea of celebrities that Sundance has to offer, one walked in that I was never more genuinely happy to see: Jason Segel. As an avid How I Met Your Mother fan, my way of coping with craving NYC was rewatching every single episode of the show, so when he walked in, it felt like the universe telling me that the unique experiences in my career were just beginning. I proceeded to ask him for a photo and bashfully mumble how much his character Marshall has gotten me through so many stages of my life, and now we have a super awkward selfie to show for it.
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?
At my first agency, one of my clients was a fresh produce brand, and one of my tasks was hand printing the logo label stickers that were placed on the fruit to ensure branding for media opportunities. One of my managers at the time had secured a quick media segment which meant the stickers needed to be overnighted to said location. I had just recently become buddies with the mailroom guy and was confident in the seemingly simple task to put stickers in an envelope to FedEx to an address. Well, the next day, the stickers did not arrive where they needed to be and my manager asked (in a few different ways) if I was sure I ‘overnighted’ them, and that I definitely would have known because they’d have to put a bright rush label on it and it would have cost more. I got super flush and realized that I was definitely not clear with the mailroom and there’s no way I overnighted it. My first big mistake — definitely not funny at the time! But it was my first real lesson of the chain of accountability — mailing something might seem like a simple task, but when that media segment is shared by another account rep to the client, and then it’s passed along to the brand’s CEO, and that logo and branding is not present, well then, that is a bigger mistake than it seems…
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Throughout my career with Demonstrate so far, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredible mission-driven companies. One organization that I’ve had the pleasure of supporting since my first day 4+ years ago at Demonstrate, is Cool Effect. Since its inception, the mission has not changed: Cool Effect is a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the climate crisis. Just recently, our team was able to support them in announcing an incredible achievement for our planet: nearly 2 million tonnes of carbon retired. Another mission-based brand that is carving the way for the future of our food system is Perfect Day. They are bringing a completely new category to the table and are changing the expectation of what animal-free dairy products can taste like. Perfect Day’s flora-made dairy protein is the same nutritious protein found in cow’s milk (made without a single cow) and can be used to make delicious dairy products with no compromise on taste and texture.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Find a team that acts as a team. There are days in agency life and client services that can be defeating, but being part of a team that supports each other is invaluable. If you have people that celebrate each other and the work you’ve done together, that motivation will become one of the most important aspects of your career.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for the context. When you’re just starting out in your career, sometimes it feels inappropriate to ask pointed questions to team leaders, but the more context you have, the better you’ll be able to build your own leadership skills.
- Now sometimes means now. A sense of urgency is one of those early skills you’re not so sure how to interpret. As a manager, I’ve learned how to be more direct with teams when the urgency is actually necessary.
- Careers in communications are not accurately depicted in movies. Lavish events, celebrity management, and flashy marketing presentations are how society has been accustomed to seeing ‘publicists’ on screen, but the reality of detail-oriented account management and dedicated client service never makes it on screen.
- It’s going to be ok! Doing everything we can to do what’s best for a client can sometimes be stressful — but always go back to #1 and find an amazing team that supports you!
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Just be yourself and don’t try too hard. Be confident in the experience you do have and client roster you’ve built, and you will start to build new people in your network based on that trust and authenticity.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Put the time in. It only takes a few extra minutes to double-check a reporter’s latest stream of articles or a prospective client’s latest announcement. That could make all the difference in personalizing your approach and showing you truly care.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I’m a big fan of clicking a random episode of NPR’s ‘How I Built This’. While I love the inspiring stories behind the entrepreneurship and self-starters, I also like to reflect on the fact that even if you build a brand from the ground up, there are always unknowns in the future. That might be the realist in me, but listening to old episodes from brands that may currently be dealing with a scandal, or facing bankruptcy, helps remind me (as a communicator) to be prepared for any scenario at any given time.
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. 🙂
If we could inspire more people to be good at active listening, I think we’d see a monumental change in our relationships — both personal and business. It might not seem like a movement at first, but the more carefully you listen to others, the more efficient processes can be.