How one PR manager turned her hobby into a dream job

Brittany Luiz’s creative pursuits outside of her nine-to-five make her an expert at telling Tombow’s brand story.

If you could craft the perfect version of your dream job, what would it look like? For many of us, it might involve finding a way to monetize lounging beachside with a cocktail in hand. In this age of inspiring side hustles and the “never not working” mentality, it can be hard to believe that your dream job could actually exist within the confines of an office.

Brittany Luiz, PR and media relations manager at Tombow, felt like the “stars aligned magically” when she found her job at the office and craft supply manufacturer in 2015. Finding her dream job involved learning about the work she didn’t want to do and pursuing a trendy creative hobby that she’s now an expert in.

The Georgia native studied English at Kennesaw State University before transferring to the University of Georgia to study journalism. She’d always been drawn to writing and storytelling. Today she’s considered a social storytelling expert, and her passion for Instagram earned her team top honors in PR Daily’s 2017 Digital PR & Social Media Awards.

Learn more about Tombow’s Instagram influencer strategy in this exclusive interview with Ragan CEO Mark Ragan and Brittany Luiz.

How does one become a storytelling expert? Luiz’s time as a journalist actually inspired her to pursue a career in public relations. As a general assignment reporter fresh out of college, she had to learn how to tackle any story.

“There were days when I first started where it was snowing a lot and I had to go out and do a ‘man-on-the-street’ interview and ask people how they felt about the snow,” says Luiz. “I was actually pretty shy when I started and just needed to break out of that and be more outgoing and not afraid to talk to people.”

She later transitioned to the business desk, taking a different approach to telling stories about local organizations.

“People look at business reporting as pretty dry—looking at numbers and earnings reports—but I really looked for human interest business stories. I wrote a story about a 50-year-old salon and all these little old women who had been going to the salon once a week for 50 years,” she says. “It was a real ‘feel good’ kind of story. As a reporter, I think I really learned how to make connections with people, listen to their story and learn what obstacles they’d overcome.”

After almost two years covering local news, Luiz was looking to make a move. She’d been living in Chattanooga, Tennessee and wanted to move back to her home state. While considering her options, she felt a switch to public relations was the natural next step.

“It was natural for me because I’d already been on the other side of things,” says Luiz. “I knew what journalists were looking for when writing a story. I knew the challenges they come up against when writing a story and trying to find the right source. So my approach when pitching journalists was to give them everything that I already knew they needed.”

Challenges are inevitable when changing careers in any industry. For Luiz, overcoming those challenges meant unlearning some of the key lessons she’d been taught as a journalist. Shifting her mindset was key to finding success in PR.

“When you’re in journalism school, you’ve been taught to eliminate bias and to be objective. In PR your objective is to get the best possible story. Not that you’re trying to lie, but you want your client to be portrayed in the best possible light,” Luiz says. “Journalists love to get the ‘struggle stories’ or to find things that aren’t the best because that’s what interesting. Having to be objective and not accept gifts to becoming the person who’s like, ‘Hey, let me send you some free product,’ was an interesting change.”

Finding her way to Tombow required Luiz to try out a few different roles in order to discover what she really wanted out of her career. Creativity was her calling, but she learned this only after she took on a job that didn’t allow her to pursue that side of PR.

“After the newspaper, I spent a little bit of time at a PR agency,” she says. “It was not the right fit for me. So I went into marketing at a construction consulting company, which doesn’t sound super glamorous or creative, and it really wasn’t. But it allowed me to figure out what direction I wanted to take. I was able to take classes—I learned InDesign and Illustrator. I started managing our social media accounts at that company.”

Finding herself creatively also helped Luiz find her way to Tombow, seemingly by accident.

“I was gearing myself up for [my role at Tombow] without even realizing it,” Luiz says. “I had gotten really into graphic design, and was seeing hand lettering pop up all over the place, and wanted to take a class on it. When I did, the instructor recommended pens by Tombow, so I went out and bought them. I noticed a posting for a social media specialist at Tombow on LinkedIn. I started following them on social media and decided to apply. I got the interview and walked in with the biggest goofy grin on my face because I was so excited to be there. I was totally fangirling. I got hired and was super excited. People at my old company said, ‘You’re going to get paid to do the stuff that you love and do on your own free time already?’ Since I’ve been at Tombow, I’ve been promoted several times. It’s been fantastic. It’s totally my dream job.”

A post shared by Brittany Luiz (@brittanyluiz) on

Since joining Tombow as a social media specialist in 2015, Luiz has been promoted to social media and content marketing strategist, social media and content manager and is now media and public relations manager. This year, she was named Employee of the Year. Her accomplishments are well deserved after building Tombow’s social media presence nearly from scratch.

“We’ve been in the U.S. since the 80’s, but people on social didn’t know who were,” Luiz says. “We didn’t have a lot of visibility in stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby like we do now. We had maybe 2,000 people following us. A lot of what I did was focus on educating our consumer. It worked out really nicely because I fall right into that category of people who are interested in the product. It comes back to how I got into PR to begin with. I understood the other side of things.”

Looking ahead, Luiz is excited about Instagram updates, like the ability to schedule content on Instagram and add fun details like GIFs and new fonts to stories. Tombow is using BeLive to host live interviews on Facebook, using their network of brand ambassadors who use and talk about their products on broadcasts.

She continues to pursue her love for hand lettering outside of the office as well. She’s now a published author of a book, “Lettering with Purpose,” which serves as both a Tombow product guide and an instructional manual for hand lettering beginners. Writing the book was an exciting venture for Luiz, who felt like this was an opportunity to merge her personal hobby and interests with her work life. She also teaches hand lettering classes online with Brit + Co. and in person at various events and conferences.

Career missteps, hobbies and passion projects all guided Luiz’s pursuit of the perfect job. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

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