I caught up with one of the newest members of the Enterprise Team at Highwire, Jay Ouellette, senior vice president in the Boston office, to hear more about his background in PR and how he’s helping clients evolve and succeed during the pandemic.
What’s your favorite aspect of the PR tech space?
I’m naturally competitive and enjoy the pursuit of new business opportunities, placing media stories and trying to uncover what is going to make the person on the other side of the table excited about what we’re discussing. I try to challenge myself (and teams) to not only think differently about the work we do for clients but to try something new or take a chance on a different recommendation.
What’s your area of interest and expertise?
When you’re dealing with technology companies, you often run into a lot of acronyms and technical terms most people are not familiar with. It’s important to make sure that a majority of people can understand what your client does and be able to distill down complex technical content into something digestible. Despite not being a naturally technical person, I have a propensity for narrative development and can take the overall story an organization wants to tell and boil it down to something the masses will understand.
What did you do prior to Highwire?
Just prior to Highwire, I spent six years with Text100, running their Boston office. Before that, I was with a mid-size agency for nearly 15 years. My work focused on enterprise technology at both organizations with more narrative and corporate communications at Text. What I love about the enterprise portfolio, and why I’ve dedicated my career to serving clients within it, is that it brings the opportunity to help people understand what problems technology is actually solving in our everyday lives.
What led you to tech PR as a career?
Like a lot of people, I fell into tech PR. When I started college, I wanted to be a journalist. Then I learned about PR, which allows you to do similar storytelling just in a different format.
My first job out of college was for a consumer-based marketing agency, working with beer and water brands, and then I got my start in tech PR after I moved back to Boston. When I started at my first PR agency it was the height of the dot com era and a new website was considered really big news. It was the dawn of the digital era and was a fantastic time to enter the field.
What new problems are you solving for your Highwire clients today?
Currently, I’m helping our clients navigate what a post-COVID-19 business world looks like and how they can set their customers up for success in it. No one can confidently say what the future will look like – only make educated guesses on the future of offices or conferences, etc. We are helping our clients think ahead to what’s next.
One of the other things we’re doing is bringing real-time data to the discussion. Highwire uniquely offers its clients a “Trendscape,” which looks at the rising and falling topics of interest to media as related to our clients’ lines of business and thought leadership areas. We are keeping this top of mind in all our conversations with clients and looking at the data behind it to see where we can confidently enter the conversation.
How are you adjusting your approach to PR in light of COVID-19?
We are talking to clients about where their lead generation is coming from (e.g. website, gated content, third party, etc.) and using that to inform recommendations and programs that map back to where their business is. We’re also doing more and more work across both the digital and influencer landscapes. In the enterprise space, there are a lot of influencers who have great communities that our clients can not only inform but learn from. And on the digital side, the more we know about what is driving a client’s business, the better recommendations we can make for programs that will support larger business objectives.
How do you think this pandemic will evolve the PR industry?
This has already started to bring us back to basics in terms of relationship building with reporters, influencers, customers and clients. We’re all experiencing more face-to-face interactions on video calls and real conversations off of email, Slack, etc. With the media, it’s more important than ever to truly understand what they are interested in and have supporting data and resources to make your story stand out. Ultimately I think this time is going to help our industry think much more strategically about not just how the work gets done, but what is the larger goal each program is supporting and how can we approach it in new and creative ways.
If you’d like to connect with Jay and other Highwire leaders to bounce ideas on navigating the current communications climate, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.