At this year’s Publicity Club Bell Ringer Awards, SHIFT Account Director Matt Trocchio was honored by the New England PR community as PR Practitioner of the Year. In this part 3 of 4 in our interview series, we talk about what’s working, mistakes made along the way, and 10 years of change.
What tip or trick in your toolbox consistently delivers great results for your team’s efforts, or what recipe is consistently successful? You’ve previously mentioned talking to the right people.
This is one of those things where if I give away the recipe, then the chef is out of a job, so I won’t give away too much. But from the time I was an AC until now, the most success I’ve had on the editorial front has come by tying my pitch into something with a broader audience, like big movies or TV shows. Pop culture never goes away no matter what industry you’re in.
In your journey from Account Coordinator to Account Director, what would you say has been your greatest career success?
I was asked this once before, and I remember saying “You know, if I had my greatest career success before thirty, I have a long and boring life ahead of me.” Now I’m 33, and I still feel the same way. But, there are a lot of things that I’m proud of.
From a client standpoint we worked very hard with the Christian Science Monitor for their centennial and with their news about slowing down their print model and focusing everything online. That to me was unique because you were taking a story about journalists and pitching it to other journalists. That was a huge win in terms of the amount of coverage and how happy the client was on a very tactful scale.
Personally, what I’m proud of when I look back on the past 10 years is that I’ve stayed at one place that I’m really happy with, and I’ve worked hard at. I’ve grown a team of 12 people. I remember sitting as an Account Executive on a 1-on-1 with Todd Defren and saying, “In 5-6 years I’d love to be an Account Manager with a team of 2 or 3.” I remember him teasing me about it being an “aggressive goal”. Now at the 10-year mark I’m managing 12 people with full account loads and, that’s the aspect I love; you can actually work with the team and grow it. That’s what I’m proud of: the team I built and the people I work with daily.
You have a new AC on board who looks at your success over 10 years and says, “I want to do that.” What mistakes and mis-steps did you make on your way to the top that you advise them to avoid?
Don’t fall into the habit of thinking all snowflakes are the same. Make sure you look at every person’s situation differently. You can learn from the past, but it’s not always going to be the same every time. In that same vein, caution yourself against saying, “We can’t do X because client Y will just say no.” Our job is to push the client and always remain creative. Avoiding offering an idea to a client because they often say no doesn’t help that client. That doesn’t help you learn to grow either, because you end up growing stale. If you’re doing the same thing every day, you probably hate your life — and your client probably isn’t very impressed with their program.
What do you wish that people outside the PR profession understood most about PR? On the outside looking in they’re like, “Uh… what do you do again?”
That’s the answer. I wish people just really knew what we did. I think it’s very funny how many people still equate it to advertising. I’ve had friends that I’ve known since high school that will see a commercial and say, “Hey, if you ever make a commercial like that I’d smack you,” and I say, “Well, if I made a commercial like that I’d be in a different industry.”
I think it’s difficult for people to grasp what we do. With the adoption of social media, I think the communications field is getting a little easier for people to understand. Overall, maybe we need to do a better job in explaining to people what it is we do.
What do you think PR professionals need to learn the most from the world outside PR?
I think the answer holds true to every industry. I think we probably look at it too much through our own lens and say, “this is wrong” or “that’s wrong” or think about it a different way. “That’s wrong” is the silliest thing you could possibly say, because we all come at it from different angles. We all have different skill sets and priorities. I suppose I would recommend listening to everyone else and finding the middle ground.
What other things besides the aforementioned have contributed to your success in the last 10 years that have earned you this well-deserved award?
There are two things that I’d attribute to success. One is the ability to work hard and play hard. I think you can get very lost in the job and taking it seriously; you should take it seriously – there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it and clients have expectations – but I think what’s helped me the most over time is being able to stop and laugh with peers, pull a prank, or walk into my office and see it’s been covered with Nick Cage photos (A colleague actually did this to me.). It makes a difference and allows you to see the world in a more positive light. It also helps you stay creative with the pitches you’re trying to do.
In addition, use every person you work with as a resource. I don’t mean that in a negative taking-advantage-of-them way, but you have so much brain power around you at an agency that if you don’t pick your head up and learn from your coworkers, it’s the biggest waste. A big part of why I’ve grown and why I’ve succeeded is because of our wealth of talent, not just at the VP level but all the way down to AC and even interns. Just as interns come to us to learn about the industry, you can also learn from what they’re taking out of school. You can learn from everybody just as much as they can learn from you, and I think that’s the biggest take away you can have. Tap into everybody. I know there are three or four VPs that I consider key mentors in different areas for their peer groups that do that across all three offices. Never stop learning.
Where do you see the profession going in the next 5 – 10 years?
I actually had an AC candidate ask me this recently, and I remember thinking that it was a great question because we do change so rapidly. I’m probably the only person who thinks this, but I wonder with all of the technology advancements and everything being in the limelight if there’ll almost be a regression to how much will go back behind the scenes. Does face time versus social become important again? Is it more video, even if it’s just video because it’s the visual connection vs. the anonymity of Twitter or different web pages? How much of the older ways of doing things will sneak back up in a different format? I really don’t know. I wish I did, because then I’d be making a lot of money getting ahead of things.
In next week’s conclusion, Matt will share his perspectives on SHIFT’s 7 core values and why working at SHIFT might be for you.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
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