Today’s Five Minute Mentor features Loyalist College grad Robin Luymes, now working as Public Relations Manager for Quixtar Inc., based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Loyalist PR: What’s the coolest thing about working in PR at Quixtar?
Robin Luymes: I've been with the Quixtar and Amway companies for 16 years and the best thing has been variety. I view my job here to be the chief "story teller" for the company with public audiences, employees, our business partners, and more. We tell those stories through our interface with news media, but also through web communications, our sponsorships and philanthropy, and so much more.
Loyalist PR: What do you enjoy most about blogging?
Robin Luymes: As a professional communicator for nearly 20 years, I'm always seeking feedback on what I write. With a blog, you get that immediately. If your readers think you're off the mark, they let you know. If they agree with you, they might even elaborate on your points with their own experiences, adding depth and meaning to your views.
From a PR perspective, it’s an excellent tool to achieve for your clients the “mutually beneficial” relationship that is at the core of our profession, provided they’re willing to be open, honest and transparent. A true blog, to be respected, has a true “voice,” an identified author, a unique point of view, and a willingness to publish comments that are not always flattering.
Loyalist PR: What's the most innovative advancement in social media you've come across lately?
Robin Luymes: There are lots of innovations for which the most appropriate use has not yet been discovered. I’ve met the creator of Twitter, for instance, who also developed Blogger, which later was bought by Google. I like to say I know the guy who created Blogger and Twitter, but I have no idea what deep, human need Twitter solves yet. I’m sure someone will discover it.
My most recent fascination has been with Facebook. For most students, this is probably a funny thing. But for all of us who graduated from college some 20 years ago, Facebook only became open to us in the past year or so. It’s been a great tool to reconnect with friends from long ago. Sadly, I’ve had the least success reconnecting with old friends from my days in Loyalist’s Print Journalism program.
Loyalist PR: Looking ahead two to three years, where do you see the growth in jobs for the field of public relations, both in the U.S. and in Canada?
Robin Luymes: I’ve been in the U.S. since I graduated from Loyalist, so I’m not as familiar with the Canadian business scene. I think it’s probably true that the Public Relations profession has made tremendous strides in Canada, as it has in the U.S., over the past few decades. Companies are beginning to understand the tremendous value of PR to achieve business results. The fact that there is a PR program at Loyalist is a key indicator (to me) that the profession has made great gains in Canada. I didn’t even know what PR was when I went to Loyalist in the mid-‘80s.
Advertising does a good job of delivering a message. PR is better at creating a dialog and creating trust. With the boom in web communications and social media plus the heightened awareness of the value of Corporate Social Responsibility, the PR profession is well-positioned for continued growth.
Loyalist PR: Have you had a mentor during your career, and if so, what impact did he/she have on you?
Robin Luymes: My mentor is my boss, with whom I’ve worked 16 years now. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about our relationship in terms of “mentor/mentee,” but that’s essentially what it has been.
When I joined this company in 1991, I had no background in Public Relations. I was a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and covered a lot of major companies based in the West Michigan region. When approached to make the switch from news media to public relations, I did so because the pay was better.
While I could already write, there were aspects of Public Relations I needed to learn from scratch. That’s why having a mentor in the workplace worked well for me. I also became a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), through which I received accreditation in 2001.
These days I’m always thrilled to help younger practitioners and students learn more about Public Relations as a profession and a career.