Q&A with Managing Director Laura Emanuel

An Interview With Red Thread PR’s new Managing Director

Making headlines for our clients is what we do best, but today we’re making headlines for ourselves. Brownstein Group is expanding its existing PR services and capabilities with the launch of Red Thread PR, an independent public relations specialty agency. One of four agencies within the Brownstein Group network, Red Thread PR is bringing an integrated mindset to brands to help them build connections and fuel their longevity. 

We sat down with Laura Emanuel, Vice President of Red Thread PR, to discuss the latest in the industry, her career journey, and the great debate on Nutella as a condiment.

This interview has been edited for brevity

What is your idea of the perfect public relations campaign?

The campaigns that are the most impactful and memorable were often effective because they used inspiration and creativity to change behavior, not just make headlines. Once a campaign changes our behavior and the way we go about doing things, it becomes part of our new norm. I think that’s when you realize, “Oh, wow, this was so much more than communications, this changed how people think and act,” and that’s the ultimate goal with any campaign.

What is the worst thing a public relations campaign can do?

Spin! The campaigns that spin the facts and rewrite the truth are the ones I’m emphatically against—there’s a lack of transparency and an element of misinformation there that potentially takes advantage of someone’s ignorance on an issue. Anytime I get the sense a brand or spokesperson is spinning something, I stop looking to that brand for information or thought leadership. Instead, I’ll watch them to see what the consequences for that unethical behavior is, both reputationally and in the market as a whole. That’s the number one thing I cannot tolerate and won’t do for a client.

What PR professionals would you most like to have dinner with?

In 2015, REI blazed a trail—they sparked action and change with their Opt Outside campaign, which is still in market today. It launched around the holidays, encouraging consumers to spend time outdoors with their families, rather than in stores shopping on Black Friday. They truly walked the walk, closing their doors on the biggest physical retail day of the year, and ended up inspiring a movement that lives on today—they set a new precedent for what it means to really live your brand values. It started as a PR campaign, but became a mainstream conversation and changed behaviors across the industry. I’d like to take the people behind that campaign to dinner.

What is the most overrated and underrated strategy or element of a campaign?

Earned media. That might sound odd coming from me considering it’s always the heart of our campaigns. It does deliver the highest level of credibility to a campaign, but it can’t stand alone. It is not a magic bullet—it needs other supporting tactics and channels around it to amplify it. There’s never a single tactic that can really achieve everything, it’s the compond effect of channels amplifying each other that wins.

Right to left: Meagan Sloan, Nicole Gainer, and Laura Emanuel
What was the moment that you felt most accomplished in your career?

Right now. Having the opportunity to expand our leadership team to include Nicole and Meagan has been an amazing highlight in my career, because I’ve been blessed to work alongside them for so many years—we finish each other’s thoughts yet also challenge each other. I’ve always envisioned that the evolution of our PR offering would involve both of them in a substantial way. To make that real, and to see them leading the agency they helped build is incredibly rewarding. I now know the pride Erin must have felt when she elevated me into my leadership role in 2018.

When did you most feel like giving up?

Most days throughout the pandemic were hard. There were moments when I didn’t know if our client partnerships were stronger than the weight of the pandemic; moments where we forged ahead with optimism and did incredibly bold, smart work that never saw the light of day. In those moments, I was really candid with my team—I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with any campaign, but what I was undoubtedly certain about was our team’s destiny. I knew we would figure it out together, keep the team together and succeed together with our clients, no matter what. But, while those were some dark days, it’s one of my proudest moments—we didn’t have any layoffs, we invested in employee development and continuing education, we won awards for our work, we retained clients, and any client that was forced to pause or delay all came back on line as soon as they were able. We made it through together and are now embracing tremendous growth.

What is the quality you look for when hiring a Red Thread PR team member?

There are two qualities: curiosity and being level-headed. Curiosity can wane as you get further in your career, but it’s always valuable to ask “Why?”. What’s the intention? What’s the purpose? Why are we doing it that way? It’s important to continue to question because that’s how we continuously raise the bar and innovate.

It’s also important to be unflappable. My mentor Erin Allsman, Managing Director of Brownstein Group, introduced this word to me and exemplifies this every day. She never appears rattled, no matter what is happening around her, and instilled that same quality in her team over the years. Through her example, I learned to look for people who, even in times of crisis, retain their poise and confidence and control their emotions, words, and behaviors.

What is your favorite and least favorite condiment?

My favorite condiment is Nutella, but you can’t put that on everything. You can put it on a lot of things (try it on celery with sea salt—you’ll thank me later), but some people argue it’s not really a condiment—and I’m not sure we can be friends if that’s you. My least favorite is mayonnaise. I can’t even have a jar of it in my house or even watch a TV spot with it.