Alumna Q&A with Jenny Petty
Reynolds School of Journalism Alumna, ’05
Sequence: Public Relations & Advertising
Track record of web and digital work
Integrated Marketing Specialist: Server Technology
Marketing Specialist: Windspire Energy (formerly Mariah Power)
Web Content Specialist: Renown
Editor: Science Network WA, Perth, Western Australia
THE FUN STUFF:
Q: Let’s start with the most recent (and exciting) news—Reno Mom’s blog (RMB), which you co-founded, is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month. Congrats! Can you talk a little bit about the growth RMB has seen over the past year?
A: Oh thank you! It’s been amazing to see this passion project come to life and grow so quickly. Over the last year we’ve had 40,000 unique visitors on the blog and 140,000 pageviews. Our social media community on Facebook is growing every day and our contributor team has grown to 16 local moms from varied backgrounds who write each month for the blog.
Q: What was the catalyst for the blog?
A: My former blog partner, Annie McFarland, and I had always talked about doing something like this. Both of us had been bloggers for a long time (even before we had kids) and we didn’t feel like there were any local blogs that connected local moms with each other. We didn’t just want a resource site or something focused on family events – which are both really important – we wanted moms to share what their world is like for them here in the Biggest Little City. Pretty quickly I realized that this was becoming much more than a blog. What started as a small group of moms sharing online has turned into a community.
Q: Do you have a favorite post from the past year? If so, what’s so special about that particular one?
A: It’s really hard to pick just one post. My friend Aramelle wrote an amazing post titled, “I Am: A Special Needs Mom.” I’ve had experiences this year where people have said to me “your little mommy blog.” It’s offensive and I now point people to Aramelle’s post. I want people to understand how cathartic blogging can be and how it can help remove some of the isolation that can creep into motherhood. Mommy blogging can be incredibly powerful.
I also loved a post one of our contributors wrote about post-baby body image and reclaiming her body for herself. Fayth was incredibly brave to share this with our readers and I hope our community felt as inspired by her as I did.
I could go on and on here, but I know you just asked for one post (and I already cheated and gave two!). We have such an amazingly talented group of women who write each month. I look forward to reading the site every day.
Q: What is it like managing a blog and how do you think your education at RSJ contributed to ability to do so?
A: Managing a blog of this size is fun, exciting, and time consuming. It really has become like a second job, but in the best way possible. I never expected the blog to grow this quickly and this community of moms has become so incredibly meaningful to me personally.
My education at the RSJ shaped me in a lot of ways. Bob Felten challenged and shaped my writing, Paul Mitchell and Rosemary McCarthy gave me an incredible course in Ethics, Bourne Morris pushed me to submit only my best work, and Alison Gaulden taught me critical thinking and how to apply it to the PR process. All of these are skills that I use in managing the blog.
Q: Advice for anyone out there thinking of starting a blog?
A: I think it’s important to have the right motivation for blogging. Some people enter the blogging game with the goal of creating a revenue-generating site or getting a book deal. I think it has to come from somewhere deeper than that. Maybe you want to share your passion or connect with people like you or share your knowledge. Blogging can be incredibly powerful, but it has to start organically. Otherwise, people see through it. If you’re blogging for business it’s all about sharing value and knowledge. I don’t think you can underestimate the value of a good editorial calendar either. Even if you’re just writing for fun, coming up with a solid plan for your blog publishing is a good idea.
Q: What goals or milestones do you hope to accomplish with RMB at this time next year…or, I should say, by its two-year anniversary?
A: We definitely want to see our social community on Facebook grow. It is the gateway to the blog and the place where local moms are connecting online for advice from other local moms. We’d love to double the site traffic and we’d also love to connect moms more offline. We’re slowly moving into doing more events. We’re working with Saint Mary’s for a few mommy meet-ups and we’ve started a monthly Park Hop where we choose a different Washoe County Park the third Saturday of every month and have an informal get together.
As we continue into the next year, my partner, Lynnette Bellin, and I hope to add a few more positions to help with social media and community outreach as well.
Q: Moving on from RMB—it looks like your work outside of RMB has been focused in web and digital. Can you talk a little bit about how you ended up in this sector?
A: It was totally by chance. My plan had been to do traditional PR and media relations. I moved abroad after graduating and scored a role that required managing a website. I had to learn HTML and a content management system quickly. It turns out I had a knack for learning the technical side of the web and each position that I’ve had since then has grown those skills more and more. Eventually, I moved into more digital strategy and social media and less content management, but that early immersion in running websites has been invaluable.
Q: You’re currently the Digital Marketing Specialist for IGT. Sounds exciting…and a little intimidating. What’s the position all about?
A: My current position at IGT is split between two segments. In the digital marketing space I help to manage our online advertising and B2B (business to business) and B2B2C (business to business to consumer) social media strategy. My other, larger role is Brand Manager of Megajackpots. This is the B2C segment and it keeps me very, very busy. In this role, I work closely with our advertising agency and other IGT groups to raise awareness about Megajackpots. On average, IGT awards a Megajackpot every 30 hours!
Q: I heard you’ve managed some Facebook campaigns in this role. What was the goal (or goals) behind those and how did that particular channel (Facebook) help IGT reach that goal (or goals)?
A: Social media marketing is a huge part of our strategy for Megajackpots and Facebook is our number one channel. Early on in the revitalization of the Megajackpots brand, we saw an opportunity to reach slot enthusiasts and slot players through Facebook. We began in the fall of 2012 with 130 Facebook fans and as of today we have 750,000. This year our goal is a million fans – I’m excited to reach that milestone! Facebook really gave us a way to create a community and raise awareness about the Megajackpots brand while geo-targeting to the regions that made the most sense. The reach and engagement on that page stay consistently high and the churn is low – our fans are really interested in learning more about Megajackpots and hearing the latest winner’s story. It’s a super fun community and I love watching it grow!
Q: Though web and digital are new, emerging segments of strategic communications, can you talk a little bit about some of the basics (or, maybe not-so-basics) you learned during your time as a student at the j-school and how those help you currently in your work with digital?
A: I think the strongest skills that were reinforced in class after class are planning and strategy. I use those every single day and paired with the writing skills that I developed while at the RSJ and the various internships I held, I walked away on graduation day with a solid set of skills that helped me build a career.
To put this into perspective, my first taste of HTML was from designing my Myspace profile – social media marketing was in its infancy when I graduated from the RSJ.
Q: Is there a task or an aspect of your current position with IGT that people may be surprised to find out you’re responsible for?
A: We host quarterly contests on the Megajackpots Facebook page. We’ve given away trips to Vegas, New Orleans and Atlantic City and gift cards worth thousands of dollars. I think people might be surprised to know that I am the one who notifies our contest winners. Those phone calls are definitely one of the most fun and interesting things I do in my job. I love hearing how excited people are!
Q: If your position with IGT was a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, which would it be and why? I’m guessing it’s nothing close to vanilla.
A: It would be Everything But The… because digital touches almost every piece of the marketing mix these days
Q: I’m going to ask you to put on your Miss-Cleo hat here and predict the future for all of our students: What kind of changes do you think strategic communications will see over the next five years? No pressure.
A: I think, in general, we’re going to see more and more remote and contract type work become available – especially in this field, where many of us can do our jobs from anywhere. Digital, mobile and social channels are going to continue to develop. I might be playing with fire here, but I think we have to start preparing for life after Facebook. Where’s the next place where we will connect with our brand advocates? What emerging social networks will have staying power? How can we connect with people in an authentic way?
Digital work in particular will become less of a specialty and marketing communications professionals will be expected to have those skills in their toolbox.
Q: Enough about work. How do you get out of work-mode once you leave the office? What calms you down and takes your mind off of RMB and IGT and any other acronymic organizations you may work for or with?
A: Early in my career I interned for Erin Wallace at the RSCVA. She told me often that life was all about finding balance. I am still trying to do that. The thing about motherhood is that home life can often be just another type of work so I’m trying to get better at making time for play and rest. I love to read and I try to keep healthy by working out with the ladies at Kaia FIT Sierra. I wish I could say that I can get my mind to turn off or that I spend my free time teaching yoga, but with kids this small (3 and 7 months) it still feels like survival mode on most days. I am a work in progress.
Q: Our 2014 graduates just walked in the commencement ceremony last weekend. (Way to go, guys!) If you could share with them one sentence (advice or not), what would that sentence be?
A: Be open to where the world takes you.
Q: This is cruel, but I’m going to ask you to pick favorites. Was there one particular professor at RSJ whose advice/lessons you still reference to this day?
A: I have two. Bob Felten opened my eyes to the world of PR. It was in his first PR class that I knew I had found the right place for me at UNR. Bob helped me get my first internship at the Marketing Communications Department on campus and, to this day, he’s the reason why I can’t use the word utilize. Bob pushed for excellence in his classes and it taught me to keep trying, keep revising until the work was the best it could be.
The second is Alison Gaulden. Alison was my professional partner through PRSSA and shortly after that I was in her first PR class that she taught at UNR. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I adore Alison. To this day I still reach out to her for advice on everything from my career to my living room paint color (seriously). She is so talented and genuinely cares about her students. What I remember from Alison’s class was how she incorporated real world experience into the course work. We didn’t just learn public relations philosophy; we learned how to apply what we were learning to our future jobs.
Q: Lastly, and definitely most importantly, I heard you were a huge Real Housewives of O.C. fan. If you were stranded on a desert island with one OC housewife (current or past), who would it be and why?
A: First of all, I’m a tad bit embarrassed that I’ve outed myself as a RHOC fan. It’s a guilty pleasure and total brain cheese.
Current season – Heather Dubrow. She’s no nonsense, has four kids and balances a career. She and her plastic surgeon husband might have more money than God so she might be the best pick for getting rescued too.
Past season – Gretchen Rossi. She’s witty and tells it like it is. At the very least she could keep me entertained with stories about Slade Smiley.
And wow. I just wrote that.