PR Girls We Love: Amanda Haines, Principal & Head of Creative, Reformation

An empathetic force of nature, Amanda Haines is the creative heart of Reformation. The product of artistic vision-meets-pragmatism, she’s a charismatic chameleon with a warm smile and an infectious laugh that she’s always ready to share. With her lion-heart, “let’s-do-this” attitude, and intuition in spades, Amanda has dedicated herself to crafting brand stories for more than a decade, working with brands from Gap Inc. and Michael Kors, to Earls Kitchen + Bar, to PAPYRUS and Hudson’s Bay Company, to name a few.

That dedication has taken Amanda to blend her passion for public relations with higher education, where she currently serves as an instructor and advisory board member for the Public Relations Certificate Program at Simon Fraser University. She has also taught seminars and courses at Langara College and John Casablancas Institute, respectively, and revels in coaching, cheerleading and driving her team to personal and professional success.


Amanda Haines, Principal, Reformation
Name: Amanda Haines
Company: Reformation
Title: Principal + Head of Creative
Education: BA – University of British Columbia; Certificate – PR & Communications, Langara College; Certificate – Hospitality Marketing, Cornell University
Twitter: @amandahaines //@wereformation
Instagram: @amandahaines // @wereformation

How did you get started in PR?

Honestly, it was on a hope and a prayer! I had graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in May, and I had been accepted into Bachelor of Education program starting in September. The goal was to become an elementary school teacher. About two weeks before the program started, I got cold feet and realized it really wasn’t the right fit for me. I knew I needed a career that would be creative, versatile, and keep me on my toes. Writing was always a strength of mine, so I considered journalism – but it didn’t feel quite right. I eventually stumbled across a public relations program at a reputable local college. I didn’t even really know what PR was at the time, but I knew it sounded like it was right up my alley. I aced the interview process and began the program in January – two months later, I was interning for a local (now-defunct) agency specializing in lifestyle PR, primarily fashion, beauty, and hospitality. My practicum led to a contract role, and then a full-time job, where I worked alongside the agency principal and got a major crash course in running a public relations firm.

How did you get the job you have now?

I created it myself! After my first agency job, I decided I wanted some in-house experience, so I took a marketing manager position working at the head office of a large casual fine dining restaurant chain. I was there for nearly four years, and in my last year, I started to crave a return to agency life – there’s something about the versatility of the agency experience that’s highly addictive! You never know what each day will bring, and the opportunity to work with so many different brands and people is incredible. I began researching agencies in Vancouver, and there just didn’t seem to be one that was ‘me.’ I knew I wanted to work with great brands, ones I believed in and could represent authentically. Around this time, I started getting a few consulting offers, and I took it as a sign that it was go time. I left my comfortable corporate job in December, and by January, my agency – soon to be named Reformation – launched.

What are your primary responsibilities?

Primarily, I am the Head of Creative. I’m responsible for developing and directing strategy for all of our clients, which is a fancy way of saying that I get paid for my ideas (I know, I’m hugely lucky). A huge chunk of my job is comprised of thinking outside the box and dreaming up new and (sometimes) crazy ways to tell our clients’ brand stories. Outside of that, I lead our business development, run the day-to-day operations of the business including human resources, finance, and the like, and I serve as a cheerleader and coach to our team of amazing creatives.

There’s something about the versatility of the agency experience that’s highly addictive! You never know what each day will bring, and the opportunity to work with so many different brands and people is incredible.

Tell us a bit about how different communication departments are structured at your company.

We’re not a typical public relations agency. Part of our mission is to set a higher standard for the agency experience, and my personal belief is that the standard corporate model is totally outdated. It’s time to cut the red tape and bureaucracy that so many agencies are built on. Our industry is changing so much, every day, and I think the most important part of staying relevant amidst this change is a willingness to evolve while offering premium service to our clients. We don’t have departments, or a limiting structure in our business. We call ourselves a modern public relations collective, not a PR agency. Our business is a sum of its parts. We believe in collaboration, and a strong team atmosphere where everyone – from intern to principal – is expected to contribute creatively. Our team is multi-faceted, well-rounded, and dynamic, and everyone plays an equal role in our integrated approach to PR. In any given day, they are pitching media, creating engaging social content, planning impactful brand amplifications, facilitating influencer partnerships, and most importantly, building relationships with each other, our clients, and our network of contacts.

What is the mood like in the office?

Nose to the grindstone, happy, and excited. 

What are you currently working on?

We’ve just started working with a new client, Unreserved, which is an amazing blended wine available in Smooth White and Smooth Red. We’re also gearing up for the upcoming Vancouver & Calgary Home + Design Shows this fall, preparing for the launch of Smash+Tess’s second ‘dreamwear’ collection, and planning for the opening of three new Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria locations this winter.

We believe in collaboration, and a strong team atmosphere where everyone – from intern to principal – is expected to contribute creatively.

What are you really good at?

I really love investing my time in people. Business development is my jam – there are few feelings as good as hitting it off with a new potential client and knocking a proposal out of the park. I also love coaching our team members, teaching them new things, and serving as a support and confidant to each of them. I find it incredibly rewarding. It’s funny how life has come full circle that way – while I may have changed my mind about becoming a full-time teacher, today I am actually a part-time teacher at a Simon Fraser University. I teach a few courses in their public relations certificate program, and I really relish the opportunity to share everything I’ve learned over the past 10 years.

What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?

We launched our new brand this past May. It was such a big project, literally 15 months in the making. Seeing my vision for Reformation come to life was absolutely amazing. It took a village to get us where we are today, and I couldn’t be grateful to everyone who supported us along the way, or more thrilled with the end result. You can read more about our new look here

Most memorable and meaningful moments in your career thus far?

I’m not sure I can pinpoint a specific moment, but looking around our office and seeing our amazing team working so hard for our clients is incredibly gratifying. I am so lucky to be surrounded by four other strong, smart, beautiful women. They teach me new things every day, and I wouldn’t be here without them.

Reformation Team, PR Girls We Love, Amanda Haines

The Reformation Team. Left to right: Mallory Oudendag; Amanda Haines; Pam McMeekin; and Krystal Wiggins. Image credit: Whitney Krutzfeldt.

Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?

To be honest, there haven’t been many! I don’t mean that in a bad way, but there’s definitely a misconception out there that PR is this glamour-filled field. That’s false. We all have our moments, but the majority of our work is behind-the-scenes, in the trenches, grinding it out to get the best possible results for our clients. One of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do – and hopefully this qualifies as glam! – is meet and work alongside quite a few well-known television personalities. I’ve had the pleasure of spending a day with fashion stylist Brad Goreski, accompanying Drew & Jonathan Scott, Bryan Baeumler, and Colin & Justin to media appearances, and working alongside Jillian Harris as her publicist. I’m a very lucky girl, and the best part is, all of them are the nicest people in the world.

Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?

Literally every day there is a least glamorous moment. I do my fair share of dirty work alongside my team – I think it’s important. From stuffing envelopes to 4AM wake-up calls to running wild and crazy autograph signings with celebrities, I’ve done – and seen – it all.

What’s a big challenge facing communicators right now?

Staying relevant and on top of today’s communication tools. The PR landscape is changing every single day – newsrooms are shrinking, print opportunities are decreasing, broadcast opportunities are becoming increasingly affiliated with ad buys, social media is becoming more and more dynamic, and influencers have become a very real and very valuable new source for exposure. We approached this challenge head-on at Reformation, first and foremost, by changing our name. Our business started as Reformation PR, and while our manifesto has always been the same (we believe there is power in change — in challenging the status quo, and setting a higher standard for the agency experience), the industry continues to evolve. It’s gotten to a point where I believe modern public relations goes way beyond media exposure – it involves social media, influencers, brand amplifications, and content – and a lot of people don’t understand that. By dropping the PR from our name, and offering an integrated, full service offering, we’re able to maintain control of what we do, and how we do it – sort of define what modern public relations is for ourselves, without worrying about preconceived notions of what it is.

It’s so important to remember that as long as you do your best work possible, the results will follow.

PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?

One of the most important things about a career in PR is relinquishing control. We don’t work in an industry where results are guaranteed. It’s so important to remember that as long as you do your best work possible, the results will follow. Maybe not all the time, and maybe not always the way you want them to, but if you do excellent work, you have every reason to be proud.

What are three must-have tools, apps, or products that are essential to your job?

  • We’ve totally revolutionized our inter-office communication with an app called Slack, which you can download to your computer or from the App Store. We use it in place of internal email, and it has been a total game-changer. It allows you to stay in the loop on everything, categorize your conversations, and most importantly, reduce your inbox clutter.
  • I honestly couldn’t live without Pinterest. It’s such a great resource for ideas and visual inspiration. I use it all the time for work and pleasure – brainstorming new ideas, styling photo shoots and content, and uncovering trends. It’s a bottomless source of creativity.
  • This is a bit old-school, but I have this notepad from Indigo that really helps me get through my days, especially those days that are really stressful. It’s got big sheets and at the top it says, “Fresh day, fresh start.” It always gives me a good jolt of optimism in the morning, and I use it to do my ‘brain dump’ as soon as I get into the office. I always have a lot on the go, and tons of things in my head – ideas, to-dos, deadlines, etc. – I find it really cleansing to write everything down as soon as I get in and rid myself of the stress that comes with a busy mind.
Breez App Launch, PR Girls We Love, Amanda Haines

Client event – Breez App Launch. Image credit: Britney Gill.

What do you wish more people understood about your job?

I wish more people understood what PR is. There’s a real misconception that PR equals parties and glamour, which is not at all the case. It’s all about hard work, determination, and creativity.

PR trends are always changing – how do you keep up?

Personally, I’m constantly learning. I read blogs (PR Couture being one of them!), business publications, articles, listen to podcasts, watch TED talks. I keep a close eye on what other brands are doing, and I’m always looking to get ahead of trends and blaze a path for our clients.

What type of person thrives at your company?

Someone who is creative, driven, hard-working, detail-oriented, and loyal. If you want to contribute, be part of something bigger than yourself, and be part of the modern public relations movement, we want to hear from you.

What would you tell someone who wants to be you when they grow up?

To roll up their sleeves, dig their heels in, and work their ass off. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, take chances, and make connections – you never know who you’re going to meet that might change your life. The PR industry is a tough one, but it’s also one that rewards hard work. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it will most certainly pay off, as long as you persevere.

 

Thanks, Amanda!