Stephanie Vermillion Disney MarathonBy Gini Dietrich

We continue our series of highlighting the PR up-and-comers that were decided on by my Facebook friends and judged on by me.

And so we introduce to you today one Ms. Stephanie Vermillion.

Stephanie is a senior account executive for Wordsworth Communications and she is the 2014 Young Professional of the Year for the PRSA Cincinnati chapter.

If that’s not enough, she’s also a marathon runner, having run Disney in January (I talked her into letting us use a photo of her right after the marathon so we could see the medal!). So, when I talk about communications being a marathon, not a sprint, Stephanie knows exactly what that means.

But I’ll tell you what really brought Stephanie front and center in my brain: She asks really smart questions in the comments here. So smart, in fact, that I’ve written at least three blog posts just this year in answer to her.

I heart smart people. And that is why she sits on the Spin Sucks Inquisition hot seat today.

What is the Biggest Mistake You’ve Made in Your Career?

During the first year of my career, work-life balance wasn’t in my vocabulary. I thought bringing work home, writing through lunch, and finishing things up on the weekend would help me perform better during that 8 to 5.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

It took me an entire year to understand that to-do lists are ongoing, and even if you cross off every single item, something else will come up. 

Rescuing a puppy helped me figure this out. When I was forced to go home at lunch for dog duty, I realized lunch breaks made me sharper in the afternoon, and unplugging after work hours helped me feel refreshed and re-energized for whatever lay in store the next day.

What is One Thing about Yourself that Would Surprise Most People?

I love the outdoors. Hiking, camping, rafting, backpacking—all of that fun, grungy stuff.

In fact, through my four years in college, I was a member of the Outdoor Adventure Club (the cool kids’ club, obviously).

Since learning this about me, my boyfriend never misses a chance to compare me to Russell, the round little Boy Scout from the movie “Up.”

So, yeah. That’s me. And my super cool wilderness explorer badges.

If You Could Achieve Everything You Ever Wanted in Life, but Had to Die 10 Years Sooner, Would You Make that Trade?

No way. While I have a lot of exciting, lofty professional goals I do hope to achieve during my lifetime, they’re not nearly as important as the sheer joy of experiences such as exploring the world, leading crazy family/friend escapades, running at sunrise, and coming home to this incredibly adorable, excited, perfect face every day. (Obsessive dog mom? Guilty as charged.)

Even in a thousand years, I don’t think I’d get enough of all of that, so no way I’d give up 10!

What Industry Advice or Practice Would You Most Like to Cry Foul On?

Media impressions, especially if they’re used as a standalone success metric.

It really hit me one day when we were reporting this great national media opportunity—and the associated outlet impressions—to a client. He wasn’t excited. He didn’t jump out of his seat or pat us on the backs. Instead, he said something along the lines of, “I’m not worried about how large the readership is. How will it drive sales?”

Of course this was before we could actually report site or sales referrals because the story hadn’t yet run (which we did after publication and he was pleased!), but still, it drove home just how hollow the standalone impressions metric is.

Instead of saying, “Half a million people might have seen this article, may have understood the messages, and could have purchased product because of it” it’s important to report real results.

This lets you say, “One hundred fifty people were referred to your site from this story, 65 percent clicked through to the checkout page, and 45 percent of those translated into sales, meaning this story led to $5,200 in revenue.”

To my way of thinking, it’s not pat-on-the-back worthy until you can say that, in one way or another.

What is the Best Book You’ve Read in the Past Six Months?

If we’re talking about PR/ marketing books, I’d say “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley.

There are probably only a few people on the planet who could make a comprehensive guide to writing so enlightening, enjoyable, and easy to read.

I mean seriously, just as I was getting even close to putting it down for a Pinterest break, Ann would compare first-draft writing to barfing, and I was immediately tuned back in.

Outside of strictly PR, I’d say “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This” by Kate White, the former editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan.

Kate shares her career secrets, ranging from how to be bold to fashion must-haves for your career (great if you’re looking for a justification to buy a new pair of pumps!).

It’s a really honest, helpful read, whether you’re a new or seasoned professional.

Why Does Spin Suck?

Because spinning is lying, and lying is wrong.

But, since this belief isn’t universal, let’s try another angle.

You know the old saying, “It takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it”?

Well, in the PR world, we have so many wise pros (lookin’ at you, Spin Sucks community!) working diligently to build up external trust in the industry, showing how PR contributes to business objectives, and why PR pros need a seat at the decision-making table. We’re making major progress.

But then a PR (non-) pro lies, spinning a story to the client’s advantage or implementing a whisper campaign to sneakily hurt a competitor. Once it’s found out—and it almost always is—that trustworthy, respectable reputation crumbles, putting us back at square one.

So in short, spin sucks because it’s lying, and it double sucks because it continuously damages the industry. I believe we call that a double whammy.

Where You Can Find Stephanie Vermillion

You can find Stephanie on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.

She also writes on her own blog every week and is the co-chair of the PRSA National New Pros blog, The Edge. 

She just got back from Italy so you can ask her about her trip if you need a conversation starter.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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