Happy Tuesday to you.
I am super excited to hand over the stage to Sarah Danzl, Head of global comms at Degreed, today so she can tell us more about her business, how she recruits her team, which is pretty relevant today, and the mottos she lives her life by.
Tell me about you and your business.
I am the Head of Global Communications and Client Advocacy at Degreed. I have been actively involved in the learning space for over 12 years, leading marketing and communications efforts in both corporate and startup capacities. When I’m not working on spreading the word about Degreed globally, I like to experiment with new recipes, I’m on the board of several nonprofits, and getting outside with my two
Degreed is the workforce upskilling platform for one in three Fortune 50 companies. Through Degreed, business leaders can connect all of their workforce’s learning, talent development, and internal mobility opportunities to intelligence on the skills that their business needs next. And this is done through one simple and fluid skill-building experience that’s people-centered and powered by their expertise and interests.
Founded in 2012, Degreed is headquartered in Pleasanton, California, with additional offices in Salt Lake City, New York, London, Amsterdam, and Brisbane.
What is your morning routine before you get to your desk?
This largely depends on my meeting schedule as supporting a global audience often sees me working at all hours, and at different times every day. Either way, I tend to start it with a strong coffee, I let my dogs out to roam around our yard, and I have my green smoothie. I try to workout… but I am not always successful!
What’s the first thing you do when you get to your desk?
I turn on my music and put my dog in her chair next to me, then I’ll check Slack for any messages that have come in from my colleagues in India and Europe, and I’ll go through my emails. Then I spend some time in my Degreed, learning new things for a few minutes – if I don’t get a chance to do this at the start of my day then I’ll usually do it in my lunch break. I’ve recently been learning a lot about how to develop a high-performing team and how to support my (and my team’s) mental health through sleep, psychological safety, and clear boundaries.
Tongue in cheek question, what does a typical day look like for you?
Busy! Honestly, it’s very mixed and no two days are the same at all. One day I’ll be overseeing a press launch for a new piece of research we’ve completed, the other I’ll be working on the speaker line-up for our upcoming annual event Degreed LENS.
How have you kept your business on track over the past year and dealt with the impact of COVID?
The last few months have been unpredictable and in many ways, we’ve had to quickly adapt, change our PR strategy, and react to the market. We’ve focused heavily on only providing value to our audiences and journalists. We didn’t want to add noise to an already loud media landscape. Degreed was fortunate in that it could offer unique advice, data, and insights on remote working, virtual learning, supporting remote teams and upskilling. We were also fortunate because, practically speaking, not much changed for our team. Degreed is a remote-first company, so working from home was already commonplace.
Yet, I was aware that the pandemic wasn’t ‘business as usual’ for many people and in newsrooms especially, it was extremely busy. It felt like breaking news came every day, so to support our journalist contacts we really made sure everything we sent out was ultra-relevant and useful. We also went over and beyond our usual PR offerings, we sent small gifts to cheer people up, and we arranged kids’ activity books for working parents (to give them a much-needed break!).
What do you see as the biggest challenges for PR at the moment?
It’s a challenge to cut through the noise, there’s so much happening and it’s difficult to plan ahead because the media landscape is changing daily (if not hourly). It can also be disheartening to be working on a campaign or launch for months, only for it to be overshadowed by some breaking news. In this situation, I’ve focused on always adding value and helping Degreed’s journalist contacts – even if the story doesn’t pan out, at least your relationship with them has had a boost.
What are the non-negotiables for you in your business?
Kindness. I hire my team for this over skills. I truly believe (outside of very technical skills like being a doctor) most skills could be learned fairly quickly. But you can’t hire personality traits like hard work and resilience.
Leadership at an organization that cares about PR and Marketing. It’s impossible to defend your team and your belonging, while also trying to hit your success metrics.
We know working in PR can be stressful, how do you look after yourself, as well as your clients?
I’m lucky enough to live in Boulder, Colorado that has some amazing hiking trails. When I feel the need, I take my two dogs for a long explore at the foot of the Rockies.
What plans do you have for 2021?
Degreed has ambitious global growth plans so I’ll be honing in on that, focusing more regionally instead of aiming purely on general brand awareness.
What advice would you have for someone looking to start a PR career?
Relationships will make your career. Build strong relationships with journalists by always being helpful and reliable, and internally you need to become a champion for PR and how it helps your business succeed. Take the time to have coffees with journalists and colleagues, you never know how this will pay off in the long run (people will be more willing to help you with last-minute requests, for example).
I’d also advise that you never stop learning. The world is ever-changing and PR especially is a fast-paced sector. You cannot find the best angles and the most compelling stories if you aren’t constantly learning new things. And think outside the box, some of my best ideas have come from learning something completely outside my role, drawing on my experiences sitting on the board of a local non-profit, for example. Skills and knowledge can be built from many avenues, obviously, you’ll want to keep up-to-date with the latest articles but also look at videos (TED Talks are a favorite), podcasts, books, stretch assignments, volunteering, and short courses.
What motto do you live and work by?
I have these 3 saying taped up in my office:
“Progress not perfection”
“We can do hard things”
“Integrity: choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun or easy, and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” (Brené Brown).
I also love “Fake it till you make it, never let them see you sweat.”
Thank you to Sarah and if you would like to appear on the Visibility Edit, do let me know.