Meet the Board Members: Vanessa Yanez

PRSA SV membership represents dynamic leadership at every level. In our new Web series, ‘Meet the Board” we will feature a new Board Member and creative collaborator who is leveraging and lending their skills to help transform our Chapter. The board members featured in this new Web series possess inspiring talents and come from diverse backgrounds. Please take a few moments to get to know the distinguished talent who serve PRSA SV as they share their personal stories and anecdotes about their experiences in the field and how they are endeavoring to make lasting imprints on the communications profession and within the PR community.

Vanessa Yanez Senior Vice President and Partner, Fleishman Hillard
Past President, PRSA Silicon Valley 2012

How did you get your start in the PR profession?

I jumped industries at the age of 30, which was a rather advanced time to start in a comms career. I was in the airline business and my sister asked when I was going to use my degree and that I should be in PR. I had really no idea what that was. I was not even using a computer in my job, but it was a summer of reinvention.

On something of a whim, I started interviewing for intro PR roles. Account coordinator positions that were typically held by people just out of school. Two women I interviewed with took a chance on me, Carla Cook Thompson and Becky Igo Sniffen at Thomas Associates, now Ketchum. It was the scariest/best thing I could have done.

Who/what has influenced you professionally?

People who do this kind of job and work in the Valley in general are curious types. Everyone I meet has something to teach and I love to learn. Another excellent thing about this profession is that people genuinely want to work in team environments and play to win every day. We have goals and are always driving to meet them. I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing people throughout my career in both agency roles for Dell and Visa and in-house roles at HP and Sun Microsystems. I also had the pleasure of working on the DEMO conferences and semi-conductor design firm Transmeta when I was just starting out and it was a transformative experience and shaped the way I thought about entrepreneurship and collaboration.

Almost a decade ago, I started to give back as a PRSA-Silicon Valley board member, thanks to Ryan Donovan who encouraged me to join when I thought I had no time. That priority has kept my network strong and kept the fun in my jobs no matter what is happening in `real life’!

Also, I’ve had the pleasure working with or for some amazing women at HP (Deborah Nelson, Lynn Anderson) and Dell’s agency (Kelly McGinnis, Gretchen Miller, Sabrina Guttman, J.J. Davis, Donna Imperato) and now at FleishmanHillard (Kristin Hollins). Reporters such as Connie Guglielmo now at Forbes and others had a huge impact.

There are so many more I could name and at all levels of career. These relationships changed the way I think about `the network’ and made an impact in how I approach my career. It’s inspired me to pay it forward.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader in PR?

We are a people business. The most important decisions always come back to talent. Recruiting, retaining and encouraging the best people for both the agency and client teams. This applies with the PRSA-Silicon Valley board as well. Everyone has expertise, it’s cultivating strengths and minimizing weaknesses that set communications teams apart.

What skill do you most value in a PR professional?

One of the most valuable skill many communications professionals have is curiosity. Curiosity leads to invention and creativity is always rewarded. Be it with programs, content or organizational design. Second to that is the ability to make friends. Do not discount the ability to walk into any room and blend in while seamlessly making things happen. It’s an art, and one that sets pros apart in client service.

What quality do the best PR professionals possess?

The best professionals can read a room and play every situation like a game of double-dutch. Think about it. See the ropes turning and to time when it is best to jump in.

These are people who know when to go for it and when you should bide time. They are the same people who have had spectacular wins and failures. Most importantly, they stay in the game.

Where do great ideas come from in PR?

Great ideas come from everywhere. Curious people tend to do more than one thing and are always learning something new and are trying new things. For example, I have a blog about fitness and I prioritize meeting others in our and adjacent industries. I learn from my family, friends and everything I read, every day. Being outside is inspiring as well.

What I’ve observed and experienced is that when inspiration is recognized, you have to find a way to capture it and use it. This is why all clients say, we want you to be thinking about our business at all times and come to us when you have a new idea, regardless of where we are in the program. Game-changing concepts can amplify, reset and re-energize teams. It’s our job, thankfully.

What’s the greatest story you’ve told?

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far programmatically. I think my best pitch is for those to join my team. We genuinely believe in what we do, like each other and have fun. These ingredients make up the industry’s best teams.

About Vanessa Yanez

Vanessa Yanez is a branding and innovation strategist based in San Francisco with expertise in integrated marketing to women and SMBs through consumer and enterprise technology.

She specializes in strategic alliances and content marketing with social. She builds integrated global, engagement-driven teams, and leads FH’s Visa Product, Marketing and Innovation Communications team.

In 2013 she was nominated to FH’s Complete Counselor program and in 2012 FH’s leadership program, ‘Win It’, where her team won the global pitch challenge. That year she was also selected FH San Francisco’s ‘Producer of the Year’ for leadership, fostering team creativity and mentoring.

She started her career with and Ketchum Public Relations’ Global Technology Practice, where she was a SABRE and Silver Anvil public relations award winner.

You can find her on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Instagram. She is passionate about fitness and writes the Fit, Savvy & Haute blog. and has fun pinning on Pinterest.

PRSA Silicon Valley Launches New Video Series: “Dose of Diversity”

Call for Interviewees

VanessaVillatoroPRSA Silicon Valley acknowledges the importance of having a strong, diverse community with members of mixed race, gender, ethnicity and sexual-orientation. Raising awareness about diversity concepts, attracting more diverse group members, and providing PR/business professional development and support to all is key to our mission as a chapter.

In an effort to highlight our diverse group, we have developed a new outlet for our members to share their personal and professional stories with the wider community. PRSA SV is delighted to introduce a new video series titled, “Dose of Diversity.” We need your help to build a great lineup of interviewees!

This new outlet will allow business professionals in and outside of our community to showcase their professional development, share what makes them unique and diverse within their communities and industries, and provide insights which will be invaluable for our members who aspire to progress their professional careers.

As a diverse chapter, we bring together different experiences and knowledge in order to collaborate, generate new ideas and spark new conversations – all key traits for a well-rounded PR professional. Help support the cause!

If you’d like to be featured, or know someone who’d be a great fit, please contact Vanessa Villatoro at vvillatoro@truila.com!

How to Win a PRWeek Award (in Four Easy Steps)

Led by SVP and CMO Blair Christie, Cisco sought to rebuild faith in its leaders, reestablish relevance, and regain its “one to beat” status. To win back Wall Street, the team prioritized transparency. Raising the profile of key executives in addition to CEO John Chambers (pictured) played a vital role.

Led by SVP and CMO Blair Christie, Cisco sought to rebuild faith in its leaders, reestablish relevance, and regain its “one to beat” status. To win back Wall Street, the team prioritized transparency. Raising the profile of key executives in addition to CEO John Chambers (pictured) played a vital role.

By David McCulloch, PRSA-Silicon Valley President and Cisco Director of Corporate Communications

Right, gather around. Here’s how you win a PRWeek Award. OK, actually, I immediately need to disavow you of the notion that I am an expert in winning those coveted accolades. Sadly, I’m not.

I did have the honor of collecting three prizes on behalf of Cisco at last Thursday’s PRWeek Awards in New York, but I’ve been writing PR Week Award entries (and Saber and Anvil Award entries) for the past 15 years and this was the first time a team of mine had won in any of the ‘big’ categories (In-House Team of the Year, Corporate Brand Campaign of the Year, and the overall Campaign of the Year).

It was a huge thrill to mount the stage (without tripping over any evening wear) and collect those trophies, but as I traveled back to San Francisco on a snow-delayed flight, I couldn’t help wondering: Did we just get lucky? Did the judges at PRWeek take pity on me after all those fruitless years, or did I finally figure out the magic formula?

Only editor-in-chief Steve Barrett and the judges really know the answer to those questions, but while the ingredients of Cisco’s 2013 winning campaign submissions are fresh in my mind, I thought I’d offer them up to you here:

1. Focus on Hard Financial or Societal Impact (As Well as Media Results)

Of the many award entries I’ve submitted through the years, the two most successful (Cisco included) demonstrated a hard impact on the valuation of the company. At Cisco, our stock price improved 25% during the course of the campaign period, while direct competitors saw declines. Yes, many factors contributed to that rise, but PR was among them. For NXP Semiconductors (another successful submission), the Text 100 team I led was able to point to the (then) highest private equity valuation of a semiconductor company when KKR, Silver Lake and AlpInvest bought NXP from Philips for $4.4Bn. Bottom line: if you can’t demonstrate an enhanced valuation, revenue growth, cost savings, improved customer loyalty, or something equally impactful (like saving lives or rebuilding communities), then you probably don’t have a winning entry (yet).

2. Write Your Entry Like you’ve Never Been to Silicon Valley

Most of us in Silicon Valley work in, or for, technology companies. Naturally, we all know the difference between a SAN, an API, and a CPU, but frankly the rest of America thinks we’re a bit odd…and doesn’t. That, I suspect, is why our entries lose year-after-year to campaigns run by cat food and insurance companies. Everyone understands what cat food is, and we all have insurance for something. Almost no-one knows what a SAN is. So, if you can possibly avoid it, don’t mention the technology, just talk about what it (very simply) does for customers, and how you did an amazing job bringing it to their attention.

3. Show Your Creativity

Where do you find the time? I know, I know, it seems impossible to try anything new when you’re waging a daily war with an army of press release requestors, but you have to, if you are to win awards. For Cisco, research into how consumers use the Internet (on the move, in bed, all the time…) gave us fresh ways to make our company interesting. We wrote quirky survey questions comparing managing cloud computing projects to having a root canal. Guess what? People took notice. Yes, in some cases we spent tens of thousands of dollars on research, but in other cases, all the hard work was done in-house, and the creativity was always free-of-charge.

4. Above All, Tell a Good Story and Make it Personal

What is it we always tell our executives during media training? A good story contains drama, villains, data, controversy, colorful sound bites, analogies anyone can relate to… But how often do we incorporate all of those elements into our award entries? Cisco’s journey was genuinely full of drama these past 18 months, but capturing the headlines (“Everyone Hates Cisco”); conveying how they made employees feel (by sharing data on employee sentiment), and showing our sense of humor (given Gen Y’s attachment to their smart phones, we proposed that it be classified as the human body’s 207th bone!), it all came together to make our story resonate with the readers on the judging panel.

So, that’s how we did it at Cisco. Maybe it will work for you. Of course, if you don’t win in 2014, don’t blame me. Maybe the real secret ingredient is to make sure you’re sitting at Table 82 on Awards night!

Comms Pros: Top Four Skills You Need to Get Hired in Silicon Valley

Judgment, Consensus-Building Skills More Valuable Than PR Degrees Say Valley’s Communications Leaders

Finding ‘good people’ was the dominant discussion topic at this week’s Brunswick-sponsored PRSA Silicon Valley Senior PR Leaders dinner.

As recently reported in PRWeek’s 2012 Careers Guide, Silicon Valley is experiencing a PR hiring boom with a growing junior talent pool. Chuck Byers, brand and communications professor at Santa Clara University told attendees last night that the college’s communications courses are oversubscribed.

Despite this positive trend,  heads of communications from Applied Materials, Solar City, Apple, Cisco, SanDisk, NetApp, Visa and the City of San Jose collectively lamented that few candidates have the skills required.

“The industry used to talk about wanting a ‘seat at the table’ and Silicon Valley leaders are there.” said Vanessa Yanez, president, PRSA Silicon Valley. “The world of paid, shared and owned now sit alongside the traditional earned media realm here.  Based on the many SV leaders we met over the past few hours, the communications success bar is high and it will go up as company brand influencer communities and communications tools evolve.”

So what exactly are the Valley’s PR leaders looking for? Here’s are four tips from last night’s discussion:

  1. Write persuasively, effectively and with versatility: Take a journalism class, they say. Know how to construct a complete persuasive story in every context: Internal meetings, announcements, presentations. You also need to know social, headlines and lead paragraphs too, of course.  The whole story matters more than ever.
  2. Be curious: Research your company. Ask thoughtful questions. A deep business understanding is required. Think business first, and a communications professional second. Do you understand the business? Do you know what its goals are? If you don’t, ask questions based on what you know.
  3. Use good judgment: How does a college student develop the skills and judgment needed to know what to do in a crisis situation? Work in a restaurant or a call center and handle unhappy customers, say the Valley’s leaders. With the elevation of our profession, the ability to build consensus and manage conflict are more valuable than any academic qualification. Broaden your horizons!
  4. Learn about and appreciate complementary communications functions: In an age of instant, transparent and fluid communications, the distinction between external, internal, executive communications, advertising and marketing lines are blurring. “We expect internal memos to leak in minutes” said one leader. “The integration of all communications disciplines has become a prerequisite in our organization. Any silos are purely artificial.

Motivated? Confused? If you’re a communications or public relations up-and-comer and you’d like to get more first-hand advice on the skills sought after by Silicon Valley’s PR leaders, then contact Mar Junge, mentorship chair, PRSA Silicon Valley or contact us your local PRSA Silicon Valley Chapter.


David McCulloch
President-Elect, PRSA Silicon Valley
Director, Corporate Communications
Cisco Systems Inc.

PRSA Silicon Valley Hard at Work for You in 2012

Hello Silicon Valley Communications Pros:

Following is an update on how PRSA Silicon Valley is working for you. This year our goal is to define PRSA Silicon Valley’s brand voice and value through:

  • Fewer, quality signature events
  • Invigorating the board and committees
  • Inspiring action and discussion via the PRSA online and social experience
  • Preparing for and participating in the PRSA Silicon Valley 2012 conference

We are pleased about the results so far:Silicon Valley Future of PR, Leader Dinners, Networking and Inside the Newsroom hosted (90-175 attendees per event and more on the way)

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New sponsors and sponsorships

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13 active board and committee members:
Both in-house and agency strongly represented (33%increase y/y)

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Chapter mentor program: Let chair Mar Junge know if you can participate.

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Join us on Facebook, LinkedIn and @prsasv.

Tickets are on sale now for AllThingsD at Facebook HQ. If you would like to sponsor an event or this year’s MEDIA PREDICTS: 2013, please Tweet or email Ellie Javadi.

The PRSA International Conference is this October is coming too. We’ll be there. Will you?


Vanessa Yanez, @vanessa_yanez_
President, PRSA Silicon Valley

Keep your edge sharp with PRSA Silicon Valley Professional Development workshops

Three Friday morning professional tune-ups coming up

David Vossbrink, PRSA Silicon Valley Past President, Director of Communications for City of San Jose, david.vossbrink@sanjoseca.gov, @dvossbrink

Seasoned PR veterans and up-and-comers can sharpen their professional edge with three great workshops from PRSA Silicon Valley starting Friday, August 3.

We live and work in a fast changing and hard charging world, but we still must take time to learn new skills, and relearn the basics, to do our best for our companies and our clients.  After all, as Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Our first workshop in the series is this Friday, August 3, when David Metz, partner at survey research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, will give us practical advice on a variety of formal and informal research tools that can help us plan our programs and evaluate our results.

Metz will talk about how to ask questions and design surveys; the differences between market research and political research; measurement for PR campaigns; and value of alternatives ranging from casual “dipstick polls” to formal survey research – as well as the use of surveys by PR to generate news.

If you ever have had to answer your boss’s question, “how do we know that?” – you must be there.  Anyone who is considering PRSA accreditation should sign up, since research and evaluation are among the fundamental elements of solid public relations. And just to be better equipped to interpret the vast array of surveys and statistics that fill media channels these days, this workshop will be invaluable.

On Friday, August 17, Carla Oakley, partner at the San Francisco law firm Morgan Lewis will cover PR and the law.  And there is no shortage of legal matters relevant to public relations, such as copyright and fair use; the rights of media, disclosure requirements, privacy and technology; the constantly changing challenges presented by new media; and the relationship and sometimes tension between the lawyers and the PR team within an organization – especially in the face of a crisis.

The best organizations recognize that advice from both the legal and the PR teams is essential for success. Oakley will help us understand the issues and the ways we can work with the lawyers to navigate the treacherous waters of communications.

Our final workshop for this year’s professional development series will be on Friday, September 21 when Jim Balassone from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University will discuss Ethics and Public Relations.  He will give us an overview of ethics and ethical decision making; ethical organizational cultures; new challenges and issues emerging from technology; conflicts of interests; telling truth to power; and distinctions between ethical requirements, legal requirements, and perception requirements.

We’ve seen no shortage of organizational meltdowns in the past few years because of ethical breakdowns. PR has a critical role to play to steer a right course that can help prevent and correct them.  Balassone will give valuable insight on how PR professionals can provide this leadership.

All sessions will be held at Friday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Microsoft’s Mountain View campus at 1065 La Avenida (thank you, Microsoft, for providing the venue for PRSA!).  Your registration fee includes continental breakfast.  Go to http://www.prsasiliconvalley.com/Professional-Development-Events to register:

members (and partners) – $25; non-members – $40; students – $20.

You Don’t Need HBO to Get a Look Inside the Newsroom

by Matt Ceniceros | Applied Materials, Director, Media Relations | @mattceni

I’m excited to announce the next edition of the Inside the Newsroom series will feature staff from top technology, Internet and media web site, AllThingsD on Aug 28 and hosted at Facebook in Menlo Park.

Our presenters will include Kara Swisher, Mike Isaac, Ina Fried and Liz Gannes will discuss the trends driving the latest technology, Internet and media investment cycle, their approach to building stories and how they prefer working with PR professionals. And, just maybe a story or two about Yahoo!

The PRSA Silicon Valley “Inside the Newsroom” series provides a unique look inside an outlet’s editorial curtain to reveal the behind-the-scenes environment of some of the biggest, most influential media companies.  Just last month PRSA Silicon Valley hosted the editorial staff at Bloomberg BusinessWeek  discuss how journalists from the online, print and broadcast disciplines come together to provide its audiences comprehensive coverage of the top stories in business. I’d like to again thank our sponsors BusinessWire and our host, Microsoft, and the many companies and agencies who joined us including: Oracle, Intel, Facebook, Global Foundries, Applied Materials, and Fleishman-Hillard, Edelman Access PR, Airfoil and JagWire Group.

With an amazing venue, captivating roster of journalists, there’s not much you can’t “Like” about the program. THE event will be Aug. 28 at will kickoff at 6pm with time for networking, eats and drinks. The panel discussion will begin at 7pm. Information on registration and group discounts can be found on the PRSA Silicon Valley website. You can also follow the conversation on our Facebook page and Twitter feed @prsasv.

The Inside the Newsroom series requires a dedicated group of professionals who take time out of their busy work schedules and personal time to bring this amazing programming to PRSA members. I’d like to especially thank:

  • Emelyne Interior, Katie Sarro, Tim Rathschmidt, Fleishman-Hillard
  • Clark Hsu, Edelman
  • Amanda Crnkovich, Citrix
  • Julie Strong, BusinessWire
  • Ellie Javadi, Stanford Research
  • Camelia Gendreau, Borders + Gratehouse

I’d like to extend a special thank you to our host at Facebook and lead for the AllThingsD panel, Ashley Zandy.

If you appreciate this effort, show it. Attend the event, contact us and volunteer. The industry and your resume will “Like” it.

Thanks for your time and support. I look forward to seeing you in August. Check back here on the blog or any of our social network accounts for updates.