Member Profile: B. Mikael Wagner
April 18, 2016
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Meet B. Mikael Wagner,
Director of Public Relations & Marketing, Promotions West
We periodically feature veteran and new PRSA San Francisco members, and tell the story of their public relations career. If you would like to suggest a PRSA San Francisco member for a profile, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why did you join PRSA and what is one of your favorite benefits that the organization provides?
Joining PRSA was one of the most exciting opportunities. As a young man working in the field of communications I longed to meet others with similar interests. Working in broadcasting at KSFO in San Francisco with older professionals who took me under their wings and introduced me to PRSA. I was taken to a number of Meet and Greet events, lunchtime meetings and other great activities. I was simply thrilled to meet so many like-minded individuals willing to share their experiences.
One of my favorite benefits that the organization provides is the great opportunity to stay on the cutting edge of our profession and to meet so many other great professionals in the field. I have always looked forward to the topics and discussions that are available so that I can continue to grow and learn from others. It continues to be a great way to build and develop relationships with communities. It also continues to enable me to better understand and be aware of the pulse of the community, knowing what’s in and what’s not, keeping me current.
You have been in PR for several years. Share a few ways it has changed over the years and where you see it going.
I have been in the field of Public Relations and Marketing for 15+ years and probably before I even knew the name for it. I started my Public Relations career in the broadcast media where I was taught to do everything, more like a generalist. During that period, I was taught about public affairs, community relations, promotions & advertising, how to write news, producing talk show, being a talk show host, writing editorials and reviewing movies. So happy that I was young because just reading the list is exhausting and I am sure that I have left out more than half of those duties. Most importantly, it was all fun. During that time, PR was mostly traditional and formatted, extremely concise. As I grew and moved out of broadcasting and into the real world of public relations and communications, the changes started to occur, good changes. Over the years it was has been exciting to watch the positive changes. Learning to think outside of the box was one of my most favorite lessons. It involved promoting events in ways that were different and much more targeted towards a specific target audience instead of blanketing an entire market. It provided the opportunity to learn more about your audience and being able to interact with them and to hear their needs and desires while reaching successful outcomes and results.
Positive changes have been in the area of how we disseminate the message for our clients and for your agencies or organizations. Social media is one of my favorite ways to reach the media and larger audiences through accuracy and critical thinking skills that forces one to think, plan and to act successfully. It’s one of the things that I love teaching organizations and stepping back and watching them excel in creating outstanding networks of people looking at and talking about their product. Social Networking is dope, ah it really rocks.
One of the other things that I enjoy is mentoring your people who are interested in the field of Public Relations and Communications. Learning the traditional ways is extremely important and can provide a foundation for our future leaders. My young interns and students also teach me how to stay sharp and to think of creative ways of reaching different audiences faster and with more impact. They also teach me about the next slang of language as I teach them about traditional language and how to use it when needed. Definitely a win-win relationship.
I often ask the question, “What’s Next” in the field? Now that we have Apple Watches and Communication Devices that we call mobile phones, Face Time, Skype and so many other methods of communications – I sometimes hope and wish for a bit of the old to return. I can see the need for professionals in the field learning to communicate with each other face to face and not having a device between us in order to build strong professional relationships instead of superficial networks. I conducted a workshop a year ago to teach potential leaders how to talk to each other without their devices. Everyone was terrified of each other and weren’t sure how to communicate with each other or someone they didn’t know well. I truly believe that the future of communications and public relations is already here, just not equally distributed to all. I think that we will see incremental improvements in the future making everything even smoother.
Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences during your career.
Wow, now that’s a hard one. I guess that I have too many memories. One of my most memorable experiences was not that long ago. A year ago I returned from a dream job. I was invited to work for the White House in Washington, DC for 2 years and believe it or not, I didn’t want to go at all. I was too happy living and working in San Francisco. After a lot of pushing and shoving, I finally said YES just to check it out. The position was with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, an Executive Office of the White House. The experience changed my life in so many ways in how I conduct business, how I communicate, how I make decisions and taught me how to respect the talent of others. My job was to manage all communications, social media and public relations for a national anti-drug youth campaign called, “Above the Influence. Ever thought that you knew everything about public relations or your field of expertise and then learn that you were wrong? I had a choice to make; I could run and hide or stand tall for the tough challenge of dealing with the bureaucracy of government public relations and communications. I chose to learn as much as possible in order to excel, grow and share my knowledge with anyone interested in learning it. The experience was so great because of what was achieved. I watched the project excel in the area of social media from not having a social media presence to reaching over 1.5 Million fans in short period of time. I was taught how to manage advertising and public relation firms and develop strong partnerships that exists today. Understanding policy and learning the map of politics was the hardest but once achieved it’s inside of me forever. My favorite experience of all of this was learning humility and being humble.
What’s your best advice to the new generation of PR professionals?
My best advice to the new generation of PR professionals is to learn all you can from those that have been in the field successfully for a long time. I also would advise those who have been in the field of PR for a long time to spend time with young professionals. The field of Public Relations has always been a 2-way street of information and for the sharing of knowledge. Learning from everyone has always been one of my biggest assets.