Member Profile: Ellen Butler
Meet our members! We will 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 the membership benefits you enjoy the most?
It is so easy to get consumed with the day-to-day of our jobs and the demands of our employers/clients. Membership in PRSA nudges you to re-focus on yourself and your career...not just your job. I strive to continuously deepen my expertise and gather best practices with my peers, so I particularly value the access I gain to through my membership to educational events/forums/workshops.
You have been in PR for many years. Please tell us about your work at VMware and the industries you’ve worked in over your years of experience in the field.
My most recent job was at VMware, a $6B global software company. I oversaw thought leadership communications and content, with a focus on broadening the perception of the company with CIOs and other C-level decision makers. This involved repositioning VMware from a virtualization solutions company to an industry powerhouse that's capitalizing on a legacy of innovation to help customers transform their business through next-generation IT.
I took the VMware position because it married both the corporate communications/PR and marketing experience I've gained over the course of my career. My journey has led me from PR agencies to client-side communications and marketing roles, and across diverse industries including consumer packaged goods, travel, telecommunications, Internet services, consumer electronics, and enterprise technology.
Please share a few ways the industry has changed over the years and where you see it going.
There's an increased focus on integrating marketing and communications strategies more effectively. Not just because it's good sense, but also because there are so many overlapping objectives, activities and channels [e.g. social media, brand journalism/content marketing, events]. I'm currently looking for a new job and have noticed an increase in senior roles that combine the corporate communications and marketing communications functions. For this reason, I'm grateful that I've gained hands-on experience across the marketing discipline.
Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences.
I'll never forget an experience during my first client-side job that went from "15 minutes of fame" to a years’ worth of 15 minutes. I facilitated a news story with an angle that resonated with the recession and the ramp-up to a Presidential election. An interview I did with the local NBC affiliate, led to a CNN interview, which led to appearances on Nightline, Good Morning America, and more CNN interviews. The momentum continued with global print and radio coverage. [This was before social media became big]. I seized on this interest with follow-up stories that led to more coverage over the course of a year. For a while, I was recognized by strangers in restaurants, cabs, etc. which was both odd and slightly exciting.
What’s your best advice to the new generation of PR professionals?
While it's important to have focus and cohesive areas of specialization, you'll increase your value and marketability if you broaden your knowledge and skill-sets in related areas. This will also make it easier to adapt your career as the PR/communications profession continues to evolve.