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.