Stephanie Tan heads in-house PR at Influenster, an NYC-based product discovery and reviews platform that offers users rewards-based opportunities from consumer brands. Stephanie’s thoughtful media strategy has helped to drive the startup’s growth and positioning as the go-to destination for product discovery. The Influenster community currently boasts more than 2 million members who’ve written more than 7 million reviews about more than 1.5 million products. In April, the company announced it had closed an $8 million round of funding from Ebates.
When she isn’t putting in long hours identifying and pitching story opportunities, this former dance and psychology major still makes time to practice her moves with regular dance training and yoga. When it’s time to stop moving, she’s on a constant hunt to discover the latest ramen spot in the city.
“The only way to figure out what you’re best at is to step out of your comfort zone and try everything.”
How did you get started in PR?
I was a double major in psychology and dance at Cornell and first discovered public relations as a potential career path by promoting shows on campus and pursuing my honors thesis on the intersection of dance and advertising.
How did you get the job you have now?
After internships and positions at a few PR agencies, I realized that what I really wanted was the opportunity to focus on transforming a single brand from the inside out. Influenster offered not only the challenge of creating a communications strategy from the ground up, but required that I diversify my skill set as a well-rounded marketer, while extending my media relationships and expertise to encompass lifestyle, business, and tech PR.
What are your primary responsibilities?
I help to tell Influenster’s story to the media and develop our brand identity through the news. Since we’re a startup, we all wear many hats to make the magic happen. I work closely with the co-founders as well as the content, research and design teams to strategize and craft new ways to position the company.
There are limitless ways to tell the Influenster story — that’s part of what makes this job so fulfilling. One of my approaches is working collaboratively with our research and design teams to survey our member community regarding on-trend topics, e.g., millennial holiday gift preferences, back-to-school shopping etc., and making the data come alive through insightful, thought-provoking yet simple infographics. It’s all about creating persuasive content that ties seamlessly back to Influenster’s capabilities.
The Influenster office dogs take work very seriously. From the left and working clockwise around: Chaplin, Beau, Dr. Watson, Rex and Cooper.
What is the mood like in the office?
It’s very much a work hard, play hard environment at Influenster. The team consists of some of the sharpest minds in the NYC startup scene, and we get to collaborate and bounce ideas off of one another on a daily basis. Our open floor plan fuels the creativity, and the dogs brighten up our day! We bond over Thursday Tastings of each team member’s food & drink culture, Summer Fridays, catered lunches, monthly company outings, holiday celebrations and much more.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, we’re in the process of planning the 2nd Influenster Reviewers’ Choice Awards, stringing the creative assets together for a millennial beauty trend report and conducting a research survey on the Summer Olympics.
Generally, I’m always looking to raise awareness about Influenster through lifestyle press and business award recognitions. Thought leadership is another big focus of mine; working to position our co-founders as experts in digital marketing and entrepreneurship. It’s been an exciting year thus far, we’re the runner-up as NYC’s Best Tech Startup in the Timmy Awards, and we’re on our way to achieving many more company “firsts.”
What are you really good at?
Anticipating the needs of reporters. I’m always thinking one step ahead and surprising them with my preparedness.
What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?
We recently entered a strategic partnership with Ebates, which was a milestone achievement for Influenster. Being able to break that story to the national media was exhilarating.
I’m always looking to raise awareness about Influenster through lifestyle press and business award recognitions. Thought leadership is another big focus of mine; working to position our co-founders as experts in digital marketing and entrepreneurship.
Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?
Starring in YouTube videos for the Influenster channel. I got to reveal the latest products to our community of 100K+ subscribers.
Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?
Carrying crates of bottled water samples from a truck to a storage room all day for one of my first jobs. I ended up straining my back and visiting my physical therapist to get it fixed. This experience taught me strength, tenacity…and better squat form!
What’s a big challenge facing communicators right now?
Keeping up with the pace and flux of media innovation is a challenge. There are so many layers to promotion these days e.g., native content, influencer marketing, mobile media, etc. It’s essential for communicators to be versatile and well-versed in platforms and tactics that go beyond media relations – digital strategy, content marketing, research, and analytics are all a part of the evolving landscape that help to shape brand identity.
PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?
Rejection is part and parcel of a career in PR. Whether it makes or breaks you depends on how you deal with it. I believe in not taking things personally and instead, I redirect rejections as fuel for my determination to turn a no into a yes.
What are three must-have tools, apps, or products that are essential to your job?
- Muck Rack: for media intelligence
- HARO: to know what journalists are looking to cover
- The News: print, digital, word of mouth and beyond
What do you wish more people understood about your job?
Earned media is much like ballet. We have to make it look smooth and easy on the outside, but there is so much hard work and precision put into achieving each milestone.
Team Influenster works hard and plays hard
PR trends are always changing – how do you keep up?
Immersing myself in media in all forms possible. I read on my subway commute to work, catch up on industry news at work, and watch the news on television at night. I’m also an ardent student for life, I’m constantly learning, whether it may be on Coursera, General Assembly or attending industry workshops and conferences. Keeping up with professional development is the only way to stay relevant and in tune with emerging trends.
Earned media is a much like ballet. We have to make it look smooth and easy on the outside, but little do people know how much hard work and precision is put into achieving each milestone.
What would you tell someone who wants to be you when they grow up?
Experience life! The only way to figure out what you’re best at is to step out of your comfort zone and try everything. Read, travel and study what you’re most passionate about. Intern or job-shadow at your favorite companies and the rest will follow.