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PR Rock Stars: Room & Board’s Rebecca Lechner

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Truth be told, I don’t know Rebecca Lechner all that well. I’ve never worked with her. She’s never been a client. Heck, I only just met with her for the first time a few weeks ago! But, I’m also a big believer in cues. For example, she’s one half of a Minneapolis/St. Paul Power PR couple with Matt Lechner who’s now over at HealthPartners. She’s a former media member. She’s spent time at the largest PR agency in Minneapolis (Weber Shandwick). And, she was recently hired by Amy Bear Smith, someone I’ve long thought was pretty darn smart. So, the cues are all positive. So, I thought, why not feature her here today as a PR Rock Star? Let’s learn more about Rebecca Lechner.

You have a new job! Tell us about your new role and what being an “Employment Brand Manager” means?

I have gotten that question from many people since starting my role! I’m grateful for the opportunity to showcase this unique (and increasingly growing!) role in marketing and communications.

In basic terms, employer brand is the reputation a company has as an employer. As Employment Brand Manager, I’m responsible for Room & Board’s employment brand strategy. I work to position our company as an employer of choice.

Think of it like this: consumer brand works to share the story of why you should spend your money somewhere. As employment brand manager, I work to share the story of why top candidates should want to work at Room & Board – by sharing the story of our people, culture, guiding principles and how we give back through community partnerships.

These days, there are so many ways for a job seeker to research a company when they are considering jobs  – LinkedIn and other social media sites, Glassdoor, Indeed, careers websites and more.  My goal is to build our unique brand as an employer and showcase what makes Room & Board a great place to work.

This role is connected to many communications avenues – our Room & Board Careers website, our employer-related social media channels, developing employer brand-related content for our blog and social media sites, producing collateral and more. My background in journalism, public relations, communications and advocacy has been a great fit for this work.

Employer Branding is hot topic–and need–in the business world right now. What’s the one thing more companies should be doing when it comes to Employer Branding–but aren’t–in 2020?

I believe Room & Board is truly innovative in having this role in the first place. From a very basic standpoint, I think more companies should be proactive with employer branding and devote resources to this sort of position.

I think back to a decade or so ago when most people might not have known what a Social Media Manager does. Ten years from now, I think an Employment Brand Manager will be a common part of a communications/HR team.

You are being talked about as an employer – and it’s vital to be part of the conversation.

P.S. – I would love to start a network of Twin Cities Employment Brand professionals. So if this is you – send me a message!

What’s front-and-center for you at R&B on the Employer Branding front?

As you can imagine, I have so many items on my priority list, as I’m just a few months into the job. I’m still learning and planning for 2020 – which is extra exciting as it’s Room & Board’s 40th anniversary!

But one thing that ties into so many of my upcoming projects is storytelling. As a former journalist, storytelling is a part of who I am as a communicator and I think hearing directly from staff members is the best way to showcase employer branding.

I’m excited to share the voices of Room & Board staff members and why they love what they do and find their purpose with our company. I am also excited to incorporate video into our work in a bigger way in 2020.

You were the communications manager for the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance for almost eight years after a stint at Weber Shandwick. Can you talk about why you took that role and what kept you at MOCA for seven-plus years?

I first got involved with the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA) after my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer more than 10 years ago. I was fortunate that my first steps of volunteering for MOCA eventually turned into a position there. After losing my mother, my work at MOCA gave me an outlet to turn my grief into action.

At MOCA, I grew a one-woman communications shop from the ground-up and had the ability to work on awareness campaigns, marketing efforts and media stories. We were nimble and maximized our resources by teaming up with amazing pro bono partners, like StoneArch, Software for Good and Intercross.  After nearly eight years, it was time for a new professional challenge, but MOCA’s work will always be a part of my heart.

Working at a non-profit made a major impact on me. When I was considering my next role, I knew it had to be a socially responsible, progressive company. I found that at Room & Board.

You spent much of your 20s working in media and agency environments. How do you think that prepared you for these leadership roles you’ve assumed recently?

In the past few months, I’ve often thought back to my past roles and how so much of what I learned applies to my position at Room & Board.

Working in media taught me news sense and the basics of a good story. It strengthened my writing skills. My job as a television journalist taught me shooting and editing. I learned how to ask questions and get to the heart of a story. And maybe most importantly –  how to meet a deadline!

Working in an agency gives you access to so many opportunities. From media pitching to working on white papers to planning and executing events, you have the ability to work on so many different projects. I think my media and agency experiences made me well-rounded as a communicator and helped me specialize for a role like this.

What’s did you learn from your time at Weber that you carry over into your job today?

It’s cliché, but I truly feel blessed to have landed at Weber Shandwick right out of working in news. I feel like an agency is the best training ground you can have when you’re new in communications and I am so grateful for my time there. I worked with and learned from some of the best in the business.

Weber taught me that strategy and planning is key. I am a total planner when it comes to communications and I know that ties back to my Weber Shandwick days. I also care deeply about metrics and putting a number on the impact a campaign or initiative has.

I recently came across the article in PR Daily that talked about “career regrets.” I wrote about mine last week. Part of what I found interesting in the survey is only 2% of all people surveyed said they had NO career regrets. With that backdrop, assuming you’re one of the 98%, what are your career regrets?

I’m showing my age by saying I started my career in the pre-social media days. With LinkedIn and so many other social media platforms available, these days, there is really no excuse to lose touch with former colleagues and managers.

But that wasn’t always the case – and one regret I have is I wish I had done a better job of keeping in touch with some people from the early stages of my career. Now that I spend a chunk of my time on LinkedIn as part of my job, it seems like I’m making up for it!

If you could go back to your 21/22-year-old self and give yourself one piece of career advice, what would it be?

Oh, wow – this is tough! Well, first – no matter how little you’re getting paid at this stage in the game (I made a whopping $9 an hour as a broadcast journalist in Eau Claire at my first job) start that 401K! We had a seasoned photographer at our TV station who would always share that advice with all of the reporters fresh out of college!

Next, I would say never stop learning. Read articles, listen to podcasts, attend workshops and conferences that interest you. Always be open to learning about new things. I think especially in marketing and communications, it’s vital to be an early adapter and learn new technologies.  Full disclosure: That’s why I recently embarrassed my two boys by starting a Tik Tok account!

You have not one, but TWO, King Charles Spaniels. I’m a new dog owner myself (#EddieTheMorkie)–any advice for this newbie?

Well, you’re clearly got down step one of new dog ownership – secure the Instagram tag!

Honestly, when it comes to Louis and Leo, I may not be the best at advice because they pretty much run the show in our house. We believe in lots of naps, laptime and treats. My advice is to get another dog because it’s so much fun to watch them together! My boys are totally spoiled and I’m not even embarrassed about it (and you can follow them at @Life_with_Louis_and_Leo)!

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PR Rock Stars: Room & Board’s Rebecca Lechner

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