In the Game: Chatting Xbox PR and More with Henry Kenney III

Image: Yurii Hlei via Pexels

One of the great things about pursuing a career in public relations is the opportunity to work with some of your all-time favorite brands in an industry you love. For those of you who know me, my favorite industry is without a doubt the video games industry. I hope to one day use my storytelling talents to support my favorite brands in gaming.

Being the complete video game nerd that I am, throughout the past few months I’ve been following any and all news related to the new video game consoles set to launch this November. As part of this research, I stumbled upon Henry Kenney III, a recent graduate who now works for Xbox PR as a member of Edelman’s Assembly team.

I decided to professionally slide into Henry’s DM’s to ask if we could chat about PR and games, two interests we happen to share in common. Henry happily agreed and recently we were able to talk about a variety of topics including but not limited to tips for graduate school, standing out when applying to Edelman, diversity within PR, and of course, all about the exciting things happening over at Xbox PR. Without further ado, here’s some highlights from our conversation:

(answers edited lightly for clarity)

When did you decide you wanted to be a PR major? Was it an instant connection or something you gradually moved towards?

It started back in high school. I was a big social media user back then (used it more than I would care to say). When I got to my senior year I started to look into jobs that related to social media and that’s when I found PR. My undergraduate degree was in digital communications and it was definitely right up my alley.

If you were a high schooler today, do you think you would have been a big TikTok user?

I can’t say I would’ve been (chuckles). I wasn’t big on Vine back then and don’t think I could do the dances today. I could see myself playing with the graphics and transitions though! I really enjoy those.

Why did you decide to go for a master’s degree? Any tips for students considering graduate school?

I’ve always wanted to get a master’s degree. It’s always been a personal goal of mine. I thought that getting my master’s from a school like Georgetown would be great for the name recognition. For those considering, I would suggest making sure it’s something you really want to do since it’s a really big investment.  If you have your bachelor’s in PR/Comms, I would say switch it up for your master’s. Consider an MBA or something else that would be additive.

Tell me about your experience at Edelman. Starting with your internship and now at your current role, how has the journey been so far?

I didn’t know anyone there when sending in an application, so it was a lot of cold applying starting out. I ended up being an intern at the Edelman D.C. office and it was a really great experience! There was a class of 25 interns from all across the country. I was on the Employee Experience team handling internal communications. The work was diverse, and I was able to really make the experience my own.

Now for Xbox Game Pass. What’s it been like working to create a brand story for this new product?

I’ve only been on the Xbox team for about 8 months now, but it feels like it has been a year with the amount of work we’ve been doing. The brand story can take months to plan or it can take weeks to plan, it all depends on how big we want to go with it. I mainly work with the media relations team, working with journalists to make sure they understand our brand. Sometimes it starts with a simple story, like announcing Xbox Game Pass subscriber numbers. Then we look to see how we can use something like that to tell a broader brand story.

What’s been the most interesting part of your experience at Xbox PR so far?

It’s been a wild, wild 8 months! A highlight for me happened two weeks ago when we announced the Xbox Series S. I was enjoying my weekend, not taking in any gaming news and staying away from email. Then I logged on after Labor Day and saw that everything was on fire. It was crazy, we had to scramble really quickly to pitch/publish a series of news stories a week early. It seems like the news landed really well, though. Members of my team that had been working there for a long time said they had never seen anything like it before

Advice for someone looking to do PR for video games one day? 

For me, being a part of the Xbox PR team was a dream ever since I was in undergrad. To see it happen is crazy. Networking and talking with people in the space helps. Multitasking, being a critical thinker, having an eye for detail, being flexible, being curious, and being confident all help you stand out as well.

Moving onto diversity, as October is Diversity Month for PRSA/PRSSA.

I see that you worked as a PR Fellow for the National Association of Black Journalists. Tell me about that experience.

I worked as a PR fellow during their national convention in 2018 in Detroit. We were a part of the student newsroom. As a PR fellow, I was essentially one of the PR people for the convention. I would write press releases for the sessions, take pictures, and do live reporting for some of the events. It was really cool work and I encourage anyone interested to apply for it (once the convention comes back in a post-pandemic world). They pay for your flight, hotel and your meals as well.

How can the PR industry improve on diversity and inclusion?

The PR industry has a lot of work to do in terms of diversity and inclusion. One of the main areas to start with is hiring practices. Adjusting the criteria for employment. Setting goals for diversity. Changing where companies look for new candidates. As an industry we have to make sure that Black people and people of color are shown and seen internally. Making sure diversity and inclusion are represented in leadership as well. I don’t have all the answers, but those are some places to start.

To end things off, personal branding…

How would you describe your personal brand? Also, any advice for students for developing their personal brands?

You are more than just your work and it is good to show different sides of yourself outside of your experience. You are a whole human being. For my personal brand, open-mindedness, integrity, and being approachable are all things that are a part of my brand. People have negative thoughts when it comes to PR and I really want to stand out as someone who wants to do the work but also do it ethically. That’s a big part of my personal brand.

Speaking with Henry was a really great experience. I realized that he and I share some things in common and it was really cool to see someone just a few years older than me at a position that I would consider a dream job. Another thing I love about this industry is the willingness of people to give back and share their knowledge with peers and up and coming pros. Henry was kind enough to spend some time with me and for that I am grateful. I can’t wait to see what he continues to do at Xbox PR and who knows, maybe I will end up in a similar role one day.

Zach FerenchakZach Ferenchak, 2020–2021 vice president of brand engagement, is a senior at Capital University, a private university in Columbus, Ohio. He is majoring in emerging media with an emphasis in public relations and minors in journalism and marketing. In his free time, Ferenchak can be found obsessing over the latest gadget or video game, exploring a coffee shop with friends, or going on a trail run. He hopes to elevate the voices of all PRSSA members through the organization’s various brand platforms. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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