BABE #51: OLIVIA WILSON,
Senior Publicist @ X Games / ESPN
Olivia and I met during college in the PR department at The Zimmerman Agency, where she took me under her wing, recognized my (sliver of) potential and made me feel like less of a useless intern. I admired her boldness and her ability to take charge and manage clients like a boss... and then I found out she's a year younger than me (and graduated a year before I did.) Now she's living her actual dream and I couldn't be prouder to know her. Thanks for chatting with me, Liv. You're a babe.
Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Current city: Los Angeles, CA
Alma mater: Florida State University
Degree: B.A. in Public Relations, Minors in Sociology & Business
Hustle: Senior Publicist @ X Games & West Coast Publicity / ESPN
Babe you admire and why?
I really love Chelsea Handler. One of my favorite things about her is that she admits when she doesn’t know something. I think it’s awesome that she dedicated an entire series on Netflix to educating herself (and the rest of us) on some pretty important topics. She’s also never afraid to speak her mind, that’s for sure!
How do you spend your free time?
Lately I've been exploring my new city, Los Angeles! From museums to hiking to good food, the list of things to do and explore are endless. When I catch myself feeling exhausted, I’ll pick up a good book and take to a bath with a LUSH bath bomb. I’m hopelessly addicted.
Favorite app, website or blog?
I’m a huge fan of The Hustle for my morning news. It seems like lately everything I see on Twitter or Facebook is relevant to politics so it’s not as hard to stay in the loop in that area. The Hustle is more business and entrepreneurial centered – it makes me feel like I could start investing soon or at least have a better understanding of how the business world works. I’m also addicted to podcasts and listen to This American Life, How I Built This, and Freakonomics every week.
Go-to adult beverage?
Bulleit Bourbon with ginger ale.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Casey Neistat. I was following him back when he created his Make It Count video for Nike and now he’s blown up beyond belief. He once tweeted back at me and I screamed.
What game/reality show would you win?
Cash Cab (#throwback.)
Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Space Jam, Mary Poppins, Mystic Pizza, Good Will Hunting.
Reading the comments section on BuzzFeed and Huffington Post articles. (I NEVER respond, but it is too damn amusing.)
Tell us about your hustle:
A few months ago I joined ESPN’s PR team for X Games and West Coast Publicity. We work on media relations for X Games events, in addition to promotion of the overall Global X Games brand and West Coast shows and initiatives. This includes programming on ABC each week for our World of X Games content, licensed X Games events outside the U.S., SportsNation and other LA-based shows, and one-off events like the ESPY and College Basketball Awards.
What does your typical workday look like?
Working in PR has taught me that a “typical” day-to-day doesn’t exactly exist. Right now I’m working on recapping much of the press coverage from Aspen to show our department and potential sponsors how far the brand reaches. I’m also working on putting together potential meetings for us to take in Minneapolis in preparation for our first year in the Twin Cities!
When did you get into PR and what’s your background in it?
I entered Florida State University thinking I wanted to major in journalism (after being the editor-in-chief for my high school newspaper,) but was surprised to find FSU doesn’t offer it as a major! I applied to the PR program thinking I would learn some AP Style writing, and if nothing else, understand the relationship between PR and journalism, but actually became pretty fascinated with the industry. After taking some basic classes and working on some SGA and on-campus initiatives, I scored a Junior Account Coordinator position at The Zimmerman Agency. There, I worked with clients like Pilot Pen, Nature’s Own, and Party City, and got my first taste of how huge brands can interact with media and bloggers. I was hooked. Next up, I flew to San Francisco to intern with Ketchum’s brand team, supporting Frito Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” campaign and Mattel’s annual trip to Comic Con. I went back to FSU for my final semester thinking I wanted something a bit smaller for my first job, then moved to Austin, TX to work for a boutique PR agency called Giant Noise and fell in love with event logistics and hospitality. While working on Circuit of The Americas, I got a chance to work with ESPN’s team on X Games Austin, was subsequently invited to work as event staff at X Games Aspen, and as the rest of 2016 played out, I was offered (and accepted) a full-time position with their PR team!
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job?
My favorite by far is the people I work with. I have the best boss who really values work-life balance, and our team truly works hard and plays hard. Working for the World Wide Leader in Sports was a lifelong dream, traveling to huge events throughout the year is amazing, and being owned by the Walt Disney Company and receiving free access to Disney Parks is definitely a perk. Least favorites? LA traffic, and the occasional red tape of working for a huge company makes approvals and processes a bit more complicated. Overall, I have very minimal dislikes.
How has being a woman affected your work and professional experience?
Since PR is a field largely dominated by women, it’s been pretty empowering, to be honest. X Games is a bit of a flip-flop, but luckily I also work with another kickass babe on our team.
How do you stay organized and on top of deadlines in such a high-stress career?
I am a huge fan of an app called Todoist. I started using it when I was an assistant in Austin and it changed my life – I categorize everything by project and deadline. It helps me professionally and personally.
What is your current office culture like? Is it everything one would imagine for ESPN?
Since ESPN is headquartered in Bristol, CT, our culture here in LA is a little bit different. We have shows being produced, and they do film the iconic “This is SportsCenter” spots, but there isn’t as much going on here as there is in Bristol. Everyone who starts at ESPN does kickoff their job with a few days of “Rookie Camp” at the headquarters to tour campus and check out the legendary cafeteria, though.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
People think it’s all fun and we just watch sports all day long, with unlimited access to athletes and ESPN talent - but we really do come in and work all day. Yes, we are often covering exciting topics or events, but sometimes we're not. When we are on-site working at events for two weeks at a time - although we do find time to have fun and get to see world-class athletes - it is still exhausting, chaotic, hard work.
Which women in your field do you most look to for motivation?
One of my biggest mentors over the past few years is also a dear friend of mine, Catherine Nissley. From reading cover letters to editing pitches of mine, she’s been there to help mold me into a kickass babe like herself, and I'm really grateful for it.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
I think the biggest and most difficult thing in Communications of any kind is learning to read each person you work with. Everyone has a different communication and management style, and it’s clutch to know when to throw in a joke on your pitch and when the journalist you’re working with just wants straight facts.
What have some of your favorite clients or projects/campaigns during your career been?
I really loved working on Frito Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” – it’s so interactive, I love that they let the consumer get to be part of the process. Working for SoulCycle was also a dream come true! I’m addicted to cycling, so it was a great fit for me.
Who is your dream brand to work with and why?
I would LOVE to work with Nike one day. I think they do an impeccable job of translating products to experiences. When you think Nike, you don’t think about shoes or clothes, you think about running faster, jumping higher, and being better.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Time management; namely having too much to do and not enough time. When working at an agency, it's extra hard to keep everything straight and make sure all of your clients stay happy at all times. I've found that a solution for me is to use ToDoist, the app I mentioned earlier, to organize my “to-dos” by project and deadline.
What advice would you give to a Babe who is trying to break into your industry?
Don’t sweat the small stuff – which I mean in two different ways. First, don’t ever think a task is too small for you, or that what you're doing isn't helpful. Even if you think your supervisor could do it faster, you are probably taking something off their plate they don’t have time for, and that's huge. Secondly, if you don’t get your first job or absolutely nail a project, don’t get too caught up in it. On to the next one!
What motivates you every day?
Gratitude. If I’m ever feeling down or unmotivated, I try to remind myself of the opportunities I have each and every day that I am so grateful for.
What does success look like to you?
I think success is a moving target. I’m at a point in my life where I’m not asking myself “what’s next?” – but since I'm so young, I still feel like I should be. Instead, I’m focusing on other things: eating healthy, working out, and seeking out ways to improve myself from a personal standpoint versus a professional one, and it feels really good.
How do you find a work-life balance?
I think work-life balance definitely depends on where and who you’re working for. My current boss is super understanding of that and makes it easy. If you don’t feel supported and stable outside your job, how are you supposed to focus and do good work when you’re on the clock? For me, this means working out three or four times each week and listening to Podcasts, reading, etc., in order to stay grounded.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
I look forward to my 40 minute drive home every day where I listen to Podcasts, zone out, or talk to my mom. If I’m feeling frustrated, I usually just need a distraction to remind me that PR isn’t brain surgery and at the end of the day, I did my best and that’s what counts.
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, intense) experiences you’ve had on the job?
A few off the top of my head: I once worked a photo pit for the legendary Willie Nelson and met Lena Dunham working at a Bleachers concert. Meeting countless Olympians at X Games and realizing how down to earth they are (despite having more talent in their big toes than I do in my entire body) is pretty wild. Working on Neiman Marcus & Refinery29’s SXSW activations for two years in support of celebrating women was also really cool.
What are your goals for the future?
I’m currently trying to focus on the present. I’ve spent the last 23 years of my life worrying about what’s next. For now, I’m just grateful that I’ve managed to get my dream job at age 23, and I'm trying to adjust to my new life in LA.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
No task too small. This applies professionally and personally – bringing coffee to your boss or to your boyfriend could mean the world to them, and the little things do matter.