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PR Rock Stars: Tressa Robbins


Today’s Rock Star interview is with Tressa Robbins. Now, Tressa is one of those folks I don’t know all that well. We’ve never met in person. I’ve never heard her speak. But, I still feel like I know her a bit. Tressa has commented on my blog many times. We’ve went back and forth on Twitter. We’ve participated in Twitter chats together (back in the #journchat days!). In fact, now that I really think back, I’ve “known” Tressa for probably about four years now. But, I wanted to get to know her a bit better–so I asked her to participate in this interview. Let’s hear what she has to say about working for BurrellesLuce, PRSA and telecommuting…

You’ve been with BurrellesLuce for almost 12 15 years. In an era where people switch jobs every year, what’s kept you at Burrelles for all these years?

The nature of this industry lends itself to always having to learn new things. I think that’s the key to reducing burn-out…no two days are the same!

You’re also very active in PRSA. In fact, you’re the president-elect for the PRSA St. Louis chapter in 2013. What have been the biggest benefits of being involved in PRSA for you?

I’ve been a member of PRSA for nearly 10 years but only got really active in the past couple years, when my alma mater (SEMO U) PRSSA chapter asked me to be their professional adviser. I knew that the only way I could do that position (and them) justice was to become more involved with PRSA—so I can keep the students abreast of professional development events, networking opportunities, job openings, etc.  I’ve been super involved this past year but it was still a bit of a surprise when I was asked to consider the President role!  I’ve met lots of new people, made new friends, and learned from local speakers as well as national PRSA webinars.

On that note, what do you think the future holds for professional associations likes PRSA? Do they hold value for tomorrow’s PR pro?

I do. I think professional organizations in general are struggling a bit right now—not just from the economic point-of-view as many companies have slashed budgets (and are not reimbursing employees for professional association dues or activities), but also as the entire communications industry is shifting. So, let’s say my job is marketing as well as public relations which includes social media—do I join AMA, BMA, PRSA, SMC? Or, my job is both internal and external communications, do I join PRSA or IABC? Or perhaps I’m doing PR in a creative shop, do I join AAF, Ad Club or PRSA?  Many of us belong to more than one group, but as we have to spend our money (and time) more selectively, something has to give, and I think we’re in a state of flux at the moment. Regardless, I do believe there’s both personal and professional value in belonging to and participating in these kinds of organizations.

You’ve been active on Twitter and other social networks for a while. We connected out there a number of years ago, in fact. Yet, many in our profession continue to shirk tools like Twitter as a waste of time, personally. What would you tell those people?

Yes, Tuesday was my 4 year Twitterversary (11/21/08)! As with all social media, it can definitely be a time-suck. You’d never know it now, but I came into the social media age kicking and screaming. I resisted joining Facebook. I really resisted joining Twitter because of how public it is. (I was old school and was used to keeping my private life and my professional lives separate.)  I’m a bit surprised now (and little suspicious) if I can NOT find someone on social media! We are communicators and we have to be wherever our audiences are, or we are not doing our jobs effectively.

You’re also an active blog commenter–I know, because I often see you commenting on this blog! When so many people are just scanning blogs, why do you continue to take the time to comment? And, do you comment as part of your job–or do you do it for more personal reasons?

Both. I do scan hundreds of blogs, but ones that teach me something are the most valuable and I try to let the writer know that. Or if I feel that I can add to what another reader takes away from a post, I’ll take the time to share.

I know it’s cliche to ask this, but what’s been your biggest professional accomplishment? And why?

Oh my! That’s not something I’ve thought about a lot. I remember the first successful media relations pitch where I garnered front page coverage for our client (while working for an agency in St. Louis)—even though that’s been years ago, it was definitely one of my most exciting accomplishments. The other thing, more recent. As much as it surprises people who know, public speaking has never been my forte; however, I challenged myself once I became more involved with PRSA and PRSSA and last year began pitching myself as a speaker. Since then, I’ve spoken at a few local PRSSA events, four PRSSA regional conferences, and most recently co-presented at the national PRSSA conference.  It still scares me, but I’m proud of myself for pushing through the fear J.

You telecommute from your home office in St. Louis–and you’ve been doing that for 10 years. What’s been your secret to success?

Yes, and more and more as I’m talking to PR pros, I’m find they’re doing the same. I’m actually not even in St. Louis anymore—I’m down in the southeast Missouri Ozarks now—although I’m in St. Louis at least every other week. It’s no secret, but in order to successfully work remotely, you have to be disciplined–and like what you do! You have to be a master at communicating and utilize all the tools available (instant messaging, email, phone, social networks, etc.) to make it work.


You serve as a community manager for Burrelles on Facebook and other social networks. Without giving away too many trade secrets, what have you found works well–and what hasn’t–in terms of connecting with PR professionals across the web?

Our marketing department manages the brand pages and feeds. By extension, I suppose I am a brand advocate for BurrellesLuce and do respond to company-related questions (and leads) but I try to keep my feed industry-related. I think that’s why I’m able to connect, converse and add value to my followers. Do I sell a service you may need? Sure, but I’m also a voice for the industry–not just my employer.



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