Bruce Wawrzyniak is a communications professional with a background that has ranged from marketing to broadcasting to public relations and promotions. He has served industries such as sports/entertainment, radio/TV, and full-service advertising public relations) agencies. He has secured media placements in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Sports Illustrated, among others.
Today, Bruce is the president of Now Hear This, his own promotions and PR agency based in Tampa, Fla.
Connect with Bruce Wawrzyniak
Bruce’s Podcast “Now Hear This Entertainment”
You come off like someone who goes after what he wants in life. As someone who pursues his interests.
Does that explain why you’ve worked in sports, in broadcasting and now helping to promote musicians and entertainers?
Yes, he answered. Bruce grew up a sports fan and so to work in the industry was a “dream come true.”
“My career path, I think, has really been parallel to my own personal beliefs and values.”
I wanted to start with this question because no matter what it is you have a passion for — whether it’s breaking into public relations, picking up horseback riding, or whatever it is — you shouldn’t shy away from it.
Has this always been natural for you or do you occasionally feel fear and doubt creep in?
“No, if you let fear and doubt creep in then you’re just going to set yourself even further back.”
What he means is that Bruce feels as if he’s always behind because he is such a hard worker and has so much he wants to accomplish.
“But I do it because I believe in the people that I work with. I’m very passionate about what I do.”
In college, Bruce studied media communications with a focus in broadcasting but ended up in public relations. Still, Bruce has managed to be a broadcaster along the way.
At the root of what he does, he’s a communicator. As a Christian, Bruce believes that this life isn’t about “us” but about God, and he enjoys carrying that mindset into his work; as he puts it, it’s not about “me” but his clients.
How do you combat that fear and doubt?
When encountering any obstacle, Bruce turns to people he trusts. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all it takes to get past a roadblock.
And an outside opinion doesn’t have to come from a PR professional.
Tell our listener more about your agency. Who it serves, what services you provide, etc.
Now Hear This offers public relations, media relations and social media marketing. Originally intended for musicians, Bruce now also serves authors, an Olympic athlete and small businesses.
And you’re a podcast host yourself these days with Now Hear This Entertainment. You can find it on iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
What is the basis for the podcast AND how does it help your business?
The podcast interviews successful musicians and is targeted to other singers and songwriters who want to learn something.
When Bruce first launched the podcast, it was with the idea of creating a marketing tool for his agency. But his approach has completely changed.
For example, one of his guests would later become a client, and that opportunity came about strictly because of the podcast.
While the podcast indirectly promotes his agency, the greater value comes from the fact that every guest becomes a new contact for Bruce. In effect, he’s expanding his network which is vital in finding new business.
Let’s stay with this theme of using multimedia as a promotional tool. Like you, I’ve created my own video resume.
While it’s certainly not required, how can a video resume help someone like our listener stand out on his/her job search?
His idea behind creating his video resume (which he admits could be updated) was to showcase his creativity. And seeing is believing, so what better way to demonstrate his experience than to actually show him in action hosting a press conference, broadcasting a sports contest and serving as a spokesman.
“And I really think it helps you stand out because so few people really understand the concept of a video resume — someone’s going to look at that twice.”
Hiring managers, recruiters and human resources professionals sift through so many resumes that’s it difficult to find one that stands out.
“So if all of a sudden they can sit back and in the same amount of time it takes them to read through two pages of resume, just watch a short video instead, I think that will be something that they will appreciate.”
Plus there’s the benefit of having your video resume hosted on YouTube which is the second most-used search engine and thus increasing your chances of being noticed.
“If it’s not on YouTube, you’re missing out on a huge, huge, huge audience.”
The same concept applies to a podcast. The website for his “Now Hear This Entertainment” podcast may not get much search traffic but a query on iTunes will. In fact, that’s why Bruce hosts his show on SoundCloud because it’s a haven for musicians.
I’m getting a kick out of talking with you because we share some parallels for instance both of us managed our college radio station. Of course, we both do PR.
So take us back to that moment when you had to decide what to do with your life. How did you come to public relations?
In college, Bruce believed his good grades were going to be all that were needed to get the jobs he wanted. But his professors insisted if you’re going to pursue a career in broadcasting for money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons because you’ll start at the bottom for long hours and terrible pay, and have to work your way up while never getting rich.
“And I kind of listened to that and said, ‘Well, I’m going to be the exception to that.’ And lo and behold, the radio jobs that I was getting I was at the bottom of the totem pole, I was working terrible hours and getting terrible pay.”
You can never have too many contacts, he says. And you’re never too young to start developing contacts.
It was while he was interning for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres that he was recording stats every game and sitting next to a graduate of the very college he was attending. Through that relationship Bruce started a practicum and served as his marketing assistant. Because the internship was under the Sabres’ public relations and communications department, it exposed him to the industry.
Bruce soon realized that his skills and interests would serve him well in the PR industry.
“And as I started to, at the same time, see that broadcasting really wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be, [PR] was just kind of a perfect intersection of the two where I thought, ‘Ok, this is something that I really want to pursue.'”
He stresses that while his experience is counter-intuitive to the following advice, college students should be understanding that an internship does not automatically entitle you to a full-time job at that company.
“The employer owes them nothing other than a good experience and some education along the way. They don’t owe you a full-time job when you’re done.”
Even though Bruce secured a job with the team, it wasn’t in the PR department to start with. In fact, Bruce started full time in the ticket office. But he bided his time and when a position opened up, he was promoted immediately.
Obviously, this podcast is about breaking into the public relations industry. But for the person who wants to practice PR in the sports industry, a tough industry to crack, what advice do you have?
When Bruce worked in sports he would always say, “It’s a very tight-knit fraternity.” If you want to work in, say, the NBA, if you do the math, there are 30 teams with approximately 2.5 employees doing PR. As a result, there are roughly 75 jobs across the country. That’s a lot of competition.
When starting out, you have to be ready for any and all opportunities.
During his time with the NHL’s Buffalo franchise, a professional lacrosse team would come to town and Bruce was asked to be its PR director. This was in addition to his duties for the Sabres and all for the one paycheck. And he didn’t know much about the sport at first.
So while it was double the work, it was an incredible opportunity and he fell in love with the sport. Sellouts in its inaugural year and a few championships highlight his run with the Buffalo Bandits professional lacrosse team and he loved the experience.
Eventually he became the league’s vice president of communications. Years later he would relocate to Florida and through his connections from his time in Buffalo, was asked to be a broadcaster for the new Orlando Titans lacrosse team.
How does your broadcasting experience help you as a public relations professional?
It’s helped in many ways including the fact that Bruce knows what the broadcasters are looking for, what they need, what they want and what they like.
And being a broadcaster is a great way to show you can be a spokesman or spokeswoman for an organization, and that you understand a broadcaster’s needs.
Not to say broadcasters are naturally cut out for PR, but if our listener today is a broadcaster currently, how can she/he market those broadcasting skills and showcase to a hiring manager that they have the ability to do public relations?
While it seems logical in theory, with respect, sometimes a hiring manager — and especially a human resources professional — has no clue that the skills of a broadcaster would translate to a PR career.
So if you can circumvent the hiring process and connect directly with those in the department for whom you’d be working, you’d have a better shot. Even if the application states to email your resume and cover letter to HR, don’t be afraid to also send it to the appropriate contact within the organization.
Utilize LinkedIn or ask around to discover who you should be connecting with. That person can then send it to human resources with their blessing.
You have a tremendous LinkedIn profile. Talk to our listener about the value not only a LinkedIn profile provides, but to the extent that it’s 100 percent complete with a summary, job history and description, links to YouTube videos, etc.
Ironically enough, before this interview Bruce was using LinkedIn to find people.
Bruce strongly recommends including your email and/or telephone number in your profile. Make it as easy as possible for people to reach out to you or else you could be losing opportunities.
While LinkedIn has its InMail feature, it’s not free so provide opportunities for people to connect with you.
Also, while it’s important to fill out all of the fields of your LinkedIn profile, it’s what you enter in those fields that is of the most importance.
If you’re currently a broadcaster and seeking a public relations career, “well you darn well better” have the phrase “public relations” in your profile. Otherwise, you won’t appear in search results.
This is why Bruce lists all of the skills and functions he provides at the top of his profile thereby increasing the likelihood of someone finding him.
You’ve traveled the world. Organized press conferences. Serves as spokesman on TV. Worked for the National Hockey League. What’s been your favorite aspect of working in public relations?
Landing the prominent media coverage.
The Wall Street Journal. USA Today. Entrepreneur.com. Securing placements like these are the most gratifying.
“[These are] moments for me that I think I’m as happy as the client is — sometimes even more than they are!”
People say all the time that you need to network when you’re trying to break into the public relations industry. But what does that mean to you? What are the tangible things people should be doing?
Bruce starts by describing what networking is not which is going to a networking event and seeing how many business cards you can collect, bringing them home and doing nothing with them.
The same can be said about going to a conference, getting filled with enthusiasm, learning new tips and tricks, and taking a dozen pages of notes to only throw them in a desk drawer without ever implementing them.
His recommended approach is to have conversations with people and if it appears there’s a connection being made, then pursue a professional relationship.
Again, it’s not only about getting that person’s business card. Approach every meeting with an open mind and decide if there’s a reason to do business or connect with him/her.
Just as important, you don’t want to go to a networking event with the intent of “selling” with people you’ve never met before.
“If you’re going to them asking them for something, then they’re going to smell that a mile away.”
You have to remember that everyone who attends a networking event has something they want to promote or gain. If everyone pitched to each other, no one would benefit.
If the people with whom you are speaking with take an interest in you, they will ask “What are you doing now?” And if that question comes up, be honest.
If you’re working at Panera Bread, for example, don’t hide that fact which is to say even if you’re not currently working in PR, give full disclosure and be an open book. Of course, do stress that you’re actively trying to get a job in the PR industry and that is evidenced by you attending the networking event. [Editor’s Note: And you better have plans to try and do something while you work part-time or full-time somewhere.]
And you never know: hypothetically, that professional that you’re speaking with could have a daughter who also works at Panera Bread and now you both share a commonality. This is also a fact that you can later reference in a follow-up note or LinkedIn invitation so that he/she remembers you.
Mark recommends maintaining a Google Sheet that outlines a new contact’s name, occupation, where you met and any noteworthy conversation items. This can be done from your smartphone and rather quickly at a networking event or after job interviews. Again, this information is valuable in following up later.
Bruce also has some great tips. Right after you step away from meeting someone new, make a quick note on the back of the person’s business card about what you spoke about. Likewise, there are plenty of voice memo apps for your smartphone which let you say the person’s name and a key talking point you both shared. You can refer to these voice memos later when corresponding with them again.
The biggest thing to remember is that your interactions at a networking event are meant to be the beginning of a relationship. Put your intentions to the side. If you go into these events with the intent to be yourself, engage in conversation and display how you can provide value, a relationship can follow.
It is at that point that you can approach your new contacts and ask if they can connect you with someone or refer you to a job posting.
Carl W. Buehner once said, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” That is to say approach every interaction by being of value to others before they can be for you.
What do you most attribute your own success to?
Hard work. Plain and simple.
Bruce advises potential clients to be wary of agencies and professionals who guarantee coverage. In this industry, there’s no way to guarantee coverage.
That’s why the only guarantee Bruce provides is that no one will work harder, and he stands by that notion.
“I’m not someone who, come 5 o’clock, could just walk away from my work and say, ‘Time to watch TV; time to eat dinner,’ when I know that there’s other work that needs to be done that can be done. And I feel that it helps me get further ahead because I’m able to do more work than the people who do watch the clock and say, ‘Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, that’s it for me.'”
Do you have any final advice to our listener who is prospecting about a career in PR?
“Meet as many people as you can. Make an impression on them.”
“As much as you want to go into PR, as much as you want to go into promotions, don’t be a self-promoter.”
If you ask yourself, “How am I supposed to get experience if every job requires that I have experience?”, the answer is volunteering.
Don’t get hung up on the fact that you worked for free or if the organization(s) isn’t the biggest or the best. The main thing is you want to take the initiative and point this out to someone who can hire you.
And of course, demonstrate that you’re a strong writer.
“If you can’t write, then you’re really nowhere [in public relations]. People will dismiss you right away. It’s like discrediting a witness in a courtroom.”
You have to keep in mind that in PR, you represent the brand. And if your writing is lacking, you’re practically cheapening the brand that you’re writing on behalf of.
We’ve come to the final question. Something I call “The Pitch.”
Just like a pitch to a journalist, pitch that person listening on why they should seriously consider a job in public relations.
Public relations puts you in a position to professionally voice and articulate a brand in a way that even the president or CEO couldn’t.
“You have the ability to build a brand, to create an image and to tell a story, and to be proud of where you took that company to.”