Managing Director of Red Thread PR, Brownstein’s PR specialty agency, Laura Emanuel is responsible for the operations and management of over 20 team members, strategic campaign planning for global and regional brands and business development.
A 15-year veteran of Brownstein Group, Emanuel, disrupted the PR landscape in 2022 by founding Red Thread PR. The agency leader redefines communication strategies with seamless integration by filling a need for dynamic specialists who bridge paid, earned, shared, and owned channels.
Emanuel left her first PR job after one year to join another agency she admired. Following that change, she received advice to embrace being a leader who surrounds themselves with individuals who are more intelligent and skilled. This advice, in part, has resulted in the PR pro becoming a stronger and more effective leader.
We caught up with Emanuel to get her take on the future of the communications industry.
What book, podcast, or other media do you recommend to other comms pros?
Emmanuel: There are loads of podcasts I never miss (The CMO Podcast with Jim Stengel or Ad Age’s Ad Lib are two unmissable ones), but nothing has served me better than the business acumen of Harvard Business Review. I think the best communication pros are business pros who communicate exceptionally well. As such, the more we can level up from communication outputs to tangible business outcomes, the more valuable we are.
What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for work?
No other tool has helped us prove earned media’s true ROI and direct impact on sales like Onclusive. Using this tool has allowed us to stake a claim within the media mix modeling conversation – a discussion that previously excluded PR — and has changed the PR conversation from one of awareness to one of conversion. We’ve used Onclusive’s data to turn even the biggest PR skeptics into believers, as we’ve finally demonstrated PR’s revenue-driving impact on consumers’ decision-making.
What excites you most about the future of communications?
PR has never been more integral to brands’ viability than it is today – and PR’s stock will continue to rise, especially when you consider its responsibility for creating and sustaining cultural relevance. At a time when relevance is often short-lived, effective PR can be the difference between a moment of buzz and a movement that captures hearts and changes minds. The latter’s potential impact on business growth is why PR is increasingly invited to the board room and the C-suite. It’s also why I am so bullish on PR’s future.
What communications challenge keeps you up at night?
Cancel culture. Consumers are right to cancel a brand or an organization when it misbehaves repeatedly, but what about people and brands that have been canceled simply because they offer a viewpoint that some subset of society doesn’t agree with? That sort of culture keeps me up at night because it suggests that our communication preferences have become so myopic and splintered that we can easily choose to shield ourselves from views that oppose our own rather than seeking to understand them.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
As our PR team grew in size and skill sets over the last five years, we increasingly found ourselves missing out on meaningful opportunities we were seemingly made for (after a good fight, of course!). The reason we heard time and again was that our PR expertise was lost amid the full-service capabilities offered by our integrated agency. After much analysis, it became clear that creating a standalone PR specialty agency under the Brownstein flagship was the answer: PR specialists with an integrated mindset who can operate independently or snap together with the broader Brownstein agency network when needed. But considering Brownstein’s longstanding, stellar reputation as a leading independent, full-service agency, the notion of stepping out of that umbrella to raise the ceiling for a new agency was a challenge that both scared and excited me. While intimidating, overcoming this challenge and successfully establishing Red Thread PR by Brownstein in August 2022 has proven to be a launchpad for growth and a reminder that everything happens not for a reason — but for an opportunity.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I resigned from my first PR agency job after just one year to take a new job at a competing agency that I desperately admired (and hey, 15 years later, I am still with that agency and admiring them!). After I resigned, the agency president sat down with me to understand my decision, and he nodded as I explained the leadership I craved as a very young PR pro. He then advised me that in agency life, which is often fraught with egos, to be a leader who surrounds themselves with people smarter than them; people who intimidate you, give you sweaty palms and are so empowered to leave their mark that it scares you. That inherently drives you to level up as their leader, so they wake up every day choosing to make their career alongside your leadership.