A Taste of PR: Corporate Communication to Consumers [National Conference]

Photo by Christina Riviere, Louisiana State University
Photo by Christina Riviere, Louisiana State University

Editor’s Note: The PRSSA 2013 National Conference was in Philadelphia from October 25-29. All National Conference posts can be found here.

Arianna Stefanoni knows that people love food. As communications manager at Pepperidge Farm, she understands the connections that people of all ages have to the company’s many products. Pepperidge Farm is a commercial bakery and maker of many iconic items, including Milano cookies and Goldfish crackers. In a session titled “From Cookies to Crackers to Breakfast and Beyond: Learn an Insider’s Take on Food PR,” Stefanoni explained the food public relations industry.

Stefanoni described Pepperidge Farm as being part of the unique class of corporations that are in the consumer product category. In this kind of corporation, public relations professionals must keep two publics—customers and consumers—in mind at all times. Customers are the national or regional stores—like Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, or Publix—that buy the product directly from Pepperidge Farm. Consumers are the individuals who then buy and actually consume these products.

While these things distinguish food PR from other industries, Stefanoni encouraged interested PRSSA members to look into the field even if they don’t have this background.  “PR is PR,” she said. “Don’t narrow yourself. If you are good, you will be able to transfer your skills and go anywhere in your career.”

In her role as communications manager, Stefanoni has a variety of obligations. She told attendees that she has media relations, internal relations, event, and corporate social responsibility duties. Her advice to students covered a broad range of PR knowledge. Here are the main tips she shared for all young PR pros:

  • Listen to determine your next steps, and make decisions that keep your company relevant. Pepperidge Farm recently released Goldfish Puffs, an extension of its classic Goldfish product. The new snacks are gluten free, meeting a recent and popular consumer demand.
  • Get your hands dirty. Be the person in your organization to work hard and do whatever it takes to be successful. PR is hard work—weeks of planning can go into a media event that lasts a mere hour.
  • Have a plan B… and C…Then, know that there will be moments that you can’t plan for, requiring you to think on your feet.

Audra Hartges is a senior and Chapter president of PRSSA at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich. She is majoring in Public Relations and is hoping to find work in the nonprofit or corporate sector after graduation. She is also the vice president of operations for GrandPR, the university’s nationally affiliated student-run firm. 

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