Episode 26

Killing stories and creating categories — Shannon Brayton’s comms tips after 25+ years in tech

Bessemer CMO Shannon Brayton has worked at Yahoo!, eBay, OpenTable and LinkedIn (as head of comms and CMO). From killing stories and creating new categories, to frameworks for building relationships with reporters, Shannon shares the comms and leadership lessons she’s picked up after 25+ years in Silicon Valley.

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Transcript

Shannon Brayton: [00:00:00] You got to know your objective and if it's to get more users, the answer is not just a headline in whatever publication about look at me, we raised this money. You've actually got to tell the story of the company and what it does. And I don't think people are great at that. It's kind of natural to look outside and go, okay, well, you know, God, they got that.

Story. And they got that story and I should have a story like that, but that actually at the end of the day, does nothing for your product or your business. Now it drives some credibility and maybe makes other investors interested in the business, but it actually does nothing for me, usage perspective necessarily.

And I think that's a miss

Brett Berson: [00:00:42] welcome to in depth, a new show that surfaces tactical advice, bounders and startup leaders need to grow their teams. Their companies and themselves. I'm Brett Berson, a partner at first round, and we're a venture capital firm that helps startups, like notion, roadblocks, Uber, and square tackle company building firsts through over 400 interviews on the review.

We've shared standout company, building advice. The kind that comes from those willing to skip the talking points and go deeper into not just what to do, but how to do it with our new podcast. In-depth you can listen into these deeper conversations every single week. Learn more and subscribe today@firstround.com.

This episode of in-depth. I am thrilled to be joined by Shannon Brighton. Shannon has been working in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Most recently she spent nine years at LinkedIn first as the VP of corporate communications. And then as CMO before that, she was at open table where she managed comms in the lead up to the company's 2009 IPO.

Prior to that, Shannon spent several years at eBay, Yahoo and Intuit. It's clear from looking at her experiences that she's done an exceptional job of choosing companies, which is why her next move makes perfect sense. Shannon recently shared that she's joining Bessemer as the venture capital firms first ever CMO.

It's an exciting new chapter. And I'm so glad we were able to sit down with Shannon and reflect on the lessons. She'll be bringing with her into this new role. In addition to her advice on picking a company to join. We get into a wide array of topics in our conversation, from our thoughts on why coms is one of the most underappreciated functions inside of a company to her advice for founders, trying to create a new category and set up the comms and marketing functions from scratch.

Shannon also gets into the tactical weeds, sharing her pointers for killing stories. The framework she's come to lean on for building relationships with reporters and examples of branding moments from other companies that have, and have it impressed her recently, I loved about our conversation is how personal she gets in addition to sharing stories from her time at LinkedIn and eBay, including a move to Switzerland and what it taught her about global comms.

Shannon opened up about the challenging transition from head of comms to COO. She also shares the lesson. She picked up from Jeff Wiener and other leaders throughout her career. Of course, this episode is a gold mine for comms and marketing leaders, as well as founders who may be thinking through their career narratives, but because Shannon shares so many career and leadership insights, I think everyone will walk away with some new ideas.

I hope you enjoy this episode. And now my conversation with Shannon. Thank you so much for joining us. Shannon. 

Shannon Brayton: [00:03:41] Thank you so much for having me. 

Brett Berson: [00:03:43] So I wanted to start at the top by talking more broadly about how you think about comms at accompany and maybe how you would describe your philosophy around 

Shannon Brayton: [00:03:53] it.

So I think it is one of the most under appreciated functions inside of a company. And I think when people do it really well, you almost don't know because it means they've killed a ton of stories along the way that people didn't want actually seen it is completely critical. Especially when a company has found product market fit.

I don't always recommend doing a ton of PR before you really know you've got something that's going to take the world by storm in some way. And I feel like. Communications people for many years were sort of the stepchild to marketing. And I feel like over the last few years, people have really started to understand how a great communications person or team can really differentiate your company.

It's weird because I don't understand why it's always been that way, where marketing was more of a driver than the comms function. But I do know that some of it now that I've run a marketing team too, it comes down to the fact that it's really hard to measure. So marketing's really easy to measure.

Comms is really hard. And I think that sometimes comms got thrown out with the, Oh, you know what? This isn't something we can actually measure. We'll just figure out if it's working, if it is. And if it's not, it's not. And I don't know that that's completely true anymore. I think comms can make or break you when 

Brett Berson: [00:05:10] you were running comms or in your board work today.

And you look at a company. And you have your own internal algorithm where you're assessing, whether they're doing a poor job, a good job, or an Epic job at coms, what sort of that algorithm and what does it look like? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:05:26] Well, it's hard to know because I, like I said, I do actually think that a great comp kills a bunch of stories that we never end up seeing.

And that's hard to actually measure, but the team knows and the reporter knows, and maybe the CEO knows that the story didn't actually happen. So it's hard to actually point to a work product and say, Oh, how amazing was this? Because the story got killed or it got reshaped, or it just didn't happen because the team was able to make it go away.

If it's a story that the company didn't actually want, I think that's the highest echelon of comms right there. My own algorithm. It's interesting. People ask me all the time, what I think of the Facebook comms team or what they're doing, what Facebook has is not a comms problem. They have a business problem that the comms team is constantly trying to chase.

So I don't love when people point to comms and say, Well, it's a PR problem. We don't have great people. It's usually the comms team. That's actually trying to deal with a business issue. And so you use lots of different inputs. You said algorithm to figure out if something's working or not. But really it's hard to say I read USA today this morning and it said something negative about Facebook.

It's not fair to point the finger at the PR team. The PR team is trying to make something that the business decided. To go away. It's super challenging. So 

Brett Berson: [00:06:41] how do you go about killing a story that you don't 

Shannon Brayton: [00:06:43] want out there? I think it depends. Sometimes you get reporters who call you and they already have a story in their mind what they want to write.

And you know, that, that, that point it's probably almost pretty done and very hard to kill. They'll call for a quote at the very last minute, as opposed to doing all the research with the company upfront, especially if it's a negative story, right. Or they have some type of evidence that makes them excited about writing something negative.

So I think if it's already kind of a bake story, it's a little bit more challenging to try to kill. If you get a call from a reporter who said, Hey, I'm kind of exploring this thing. I was at a cocktail party back when we used to go to those and I heard this thing and I'd love to know more, those stories are easier to kill because they don't have an opinion potentially formed all the way.

And so I think those are the ones that you have an easier time making go away or reshape. And. I think one big piece of this too. There's a lot of time. There's actually no evidence. It's just an opinion. And so if you can provide evidence to the contrary of an opinion, it can help reshape a story or make it go away altogether because the reporter realizes there's no headline there.

And 

Brett Berson: [00:07:47] this sort of intersects with one of the things that I've been interested in, which is the role and interplay between press and technology over the past 10 or 20 years. And I think you have a really incredible vantage point, both sort of in the last.com, but most recently you had 2006, seven, eight, nine, and 10, where I feel like press was looking for every story to build up technology.

And certainly the story of the last three to five years is a story that everything comes at it with a critical eye. And I'm sure some of it's for good reason and a lot of it's not, but I'm curious what your observation is about the fundamental role. Of press and how it's changed as it relates to technology, how that influences the role of comms today?

Shannon Brayton: [00:08:32] Well, it used to be a lot more copacetic. I would say there was much more partnership and can holding, I would say in some ways between tech and press, but I think to your point in the last five years, I think it's changed pretty dramatically. I think most reporters call up when they've got something that they.

Really want to potentially expose because that's great for them. And it's great for their outlet. And the PR person is immediately on the defense. When you get that kind of phone call, I've sort of counseled people lately. Anytime there's a privacy or security question, that's going to come in from a reporter.

That story is very likely not going to end up great. You have to just sort of know that as you're dealing with it, when it first comes in, it is not necessarily ever going to be a benefit for the company, but you've got to play ball to some extent, but those stories are completely in the press as mine and I, by the way, support the free press I have.

A million great examples of reporters who do an incredibly thorough job and are incredibly balanced in the way that they approach these things. So this is not to paint the overall tech press with the bad brush, but I think there's so many times that they feel slightly burned or they really are looking at.

Stories where they think the company has not acted in the best possible manner. And they're excited to write an expos a about it. And so I think that relationship between comms teams and some exec teams too, in the process has just gotten really fractured over the years. 

Brett Berson: [00:09:55] So if you're running comms today versus running comms seven years ago, what does that mean for how you should be operating or approaching your role?

Differently. 

Shannon Brayton: [00:10:06] So I'll go back even further. I think about taking a call on a Friday night when I was at Intuit, then like 1997 from the wall street journal. And they wanted to write a story that kind of compared Quicken and Microsoft money, which ironically at the time were complete competitors. And these were software products, not cloud products.

These are the ones you had to buy at best buy and then go home and install that type of story. You would get a phone call about it. And in your mind, you knew it would take potentially three months to actually maybe see the light of day. There's tons of back and forth there's software. You've got to ship to the person to actually do the review and look at it.

And it is so not like that anymore. You get a call on a Friday night. That story not only could run in the next 20 minutes, but actually you could have tweets all along. And that thing is gone. From the minute you get on the phone, the social media piece of this for reporters is much more scary to a comms person.

And it's also much more stressful because instead of having to wait for the paper to show up, you know exactly what's going down between you and the reporter and you are just out of control on a much more palpable way than you were previously. So, how 

Brett Berson: [00:11:18] does that inform the way that you would run or structure a comms team?

Because it sounds like in some ways you could be more proactive historically, and now I'm sure there's in an ideal setting, you are being very proactive and thoughtful about your long-term strategy, but there's all this firefighting that goes on along the way that maybe is a little bit 

Shannon Brayton: [00:11:35] different.

Absolutely. And it's a complete whack-a-mole too. I think one of the things we did well at LinkedIn is we talked about a follow the sun model. So because we were a global company and we had global comms teams in most regions, one team could actually go to sleep and not be completely stressed because they would pass it to the Europe team.

And then when the Europe team went to sleep, they passed it to the Asia team. And so we always had somebody senior that was. In the function to pay attention to whatever was happening. And that was really helpful. But previously it was just much harder to do because it's like this reporter is sitting there typing up a new story with no way to make it go viral.

And so I think that the follow the sun model works really well when you're a global team. And so I always recommend having international presence. When in fact you potentially have a crisis driven business as not something you want to invest in. Immediately, but over time as you become a bigger entity and you've got international potential crises, you've got to have senior people in those regions to help really ease the burden from whatever team you're being impinged upon.

So going 

Brett Berson: [00:12:45] back to something we were talking about at the beginning of our conversation, when you meet with founders that are like in that like a 50 or 60 person company, they have product market fit. They're really starting to scale. Maybe they don't even have a comms person yet. And they're deciding they're going to be much more intentional about this.

What's the advice that you give them, or what's the coaching that you give them to hopefully help them sort of fast forward through a bunch of mistakes. 

Shannon Brayton: [00:13:09] If they've got product market fit, to your point, I feel that a lot of founders will automatically think that they need corporate PR. They need stories about funding.

They need stories about themselves. They don't necessarily focus on what really drives the business, which is potentially if it's a consumer business, a consumer. Press story. Or if it's B2B, depending on what trade they want to go talk to that type of PR really helps drive the business. Corporate PR really doesn't.

And I feel like sometimes egos get in the way and people want the big story about them that does nothing for your actual business. And so I feel like when I get on the phone with people who are kind of struggling with this, I always. Tell them, you've got to figure out what you're trying to achieve.

You've got to know your objective and if it's to get more users, the answer is not just a headline in whatever publication about look at me, we raised this money. You've actually got to tell the story of the company and what it does. And I don't think people are great at that. It's kind of natural to look outside and go, okay, well, you know, God, they got that story and they got that story and I should have a story like that, but that actually at the end of the day, does nothing for your product or your business.

Now it drives some credibility and maybe makes other investors interested in the business, but it actually does nothing from a usage perspective necessarily. And I think that's a miss. 

Brett Berson: [00:14:31] So if a founder wants to do the work to really tell their story, are there exercises or frameworks or things they should be doing to really help crystallize it?

Because obviously the internal story, the employee's story, the ad hoc stories they've been telling fundraising stories may be quite different than the ideal story. As you start to be more open and louder as a company, at least as it 

Shannon Brayton: [00:14:52] relates to coms. Yeah, completely. And I get on the phone a lot with people pitching me for investments.

And if I don't have a pretty good idea of what the company does in the first 10 minutes, I get a little bit lost and I'm not as excited about what they're doing. You've really got, I know the elevator pitch is such a cliche, but you really do have to get it super crisp and clear. What are you doing? Who are you targeting?

How do you make money? How do you tell that story in 10 minutes? The more that you can crystallize that story, the better your PR is going to land. You don't want to diffuse the message you want to have it very. Tight. And you want to be able to tell that story literally in a 10 minute period to somebody, the big thing, of course we all see is all the tech gobbly goop that people really have a hard time understanding.

You've got to be accessible. You got to actually explain what it does and use language where people understand what it is. And I think that's a mistake. People default to. A lot of technical API, this, and it's not for the average person. And if it's a consumer product, you really have to be able to tell that story 

Brett Berson: [00:15:50] about telling your story as it relates to trying to dominate an existing category versus trying to create a new category and then own that category.

Shannon Brayton: [00:16:02] When you're an upstart, trying to unseat somebody's major, you obviously have to take a little bit of a different approach. I definitely see much more guerrilla tactics and things that are a little more fun than maybe a stodgy older company wouldn't necessarily do. I think if you're trying to create a category, you really take a very, a different approach.

And that CEO ends up becoming a huge spokesperson and mouthpiece for the company. And. For that category. And so you've got to have somebody who's got credibility and who actually is comfortable in that space. 

Brett Berson: [00:16:36] Are there stories that come to mind for you, of people that have done this exception while obviously probably the best example in B2B would be Benioff with no software and sort of owning that entire thing.

But I'm curious, are there other areas you've 

Shannon Brayton: [00:16:49] been genius when it comes to that? This is going to sound a little bit trite, I think too, but I think what Eric and zoom have done too, and we're able to capitalize on. Video as the default communication. I mean, that brand literally changed overnight. That does not happen to brands.

Brands take years and years to build, and then really become household names. I mean, that sometimes takes decades what they were able to capitalize on about video being the default communication to keep the world kind of running. I thought was really impressive. Watching that happen over literally like a week or two period where my mom was calling me, telling me she was doing a book club on zoom.

I was stunned. So I think they've done an incredible job. One of my old stories is when eBay and PayPal were competing before they were combined and before they were split, PayPal came to one of our events and went up to the eBay sellers and we're handing out $20 bills and trying to get people with t-shirts and stuff to try to.

Switch over from eBay bill payment to PayPal at the time. I mean, this was maybe 2002. It was a pretty innovative tactic to capitalize on a competitive were that way, but they were thinking much more innocent scrappy way than an eBay ever. Would've been able to think about now. Of course it turns out a few months later we ended up buying the company, but they got our attention in a major way.

And it's ironic, of course now, because I worked for Reed for 10 years and. I know that Reed had a lot to do with thinking about how to be pretty interesting and innovative when it comes to disrupting your competitors. 

Brett Berson: [00:18:20] If a company is competing against sort of a gorilla, kind of, as you've been talking about, are there ways they can be thinking or approaches that are most effective or is it generally kind of sitting in a room and just trying to be creative and think about where are you strong or what can you do that?

The other company 

Shannon Brayton: [00:18:37] can't. Yeah, I think creativity obviously is huge. And I don't think that kind of thing that I just described from 2002 would happen necessarily now in the same way, but I think being creative on digital and I think really understanding their weaknesses and Achilles heel and really pushing against those is an awesome way to try to get them in a PR.

Since you also want to make sure too, that you're not overboard about it either because you don't want that gorilla company necessarily to go build that exact same thing. That is the thing that may be the Achilles heel was pointed to. Here's actually a great example. Handshake is a. College version of LinkedIn essentially, but LinkedIn is not necessarily a brand that college students love for a whole variety of reasons, but handshake has really owned that market and they have just doubled down on the message that handshake is for college students.

And LinkedIn is for your mom or your dad. And I think that that's going to be a hard thing to kind of climb out of when a brand gets that cemented. With an audience and handshake just did it really quietly for a long time, but then they really figured out what do college students want from a site that LinkedIn isn't giving them.

And they did a brilliant job at building an incredible business on the back of that. It's 

Brett Berson: [00:19:59] interesting sort of in that example, that it always seems easier to go to sort of create a brand that talks to a younger customer and age it up over time than it does sort of in the inverse. And I guess that. You know, Facebook started out on college campuses and then eventually people's parents were on it, but if it started out in the inverse and people's parents were on it, it would be highly unlikely that it would go sort of downmarket from an 

Shannon Brayton: [00:20:23] age perspective.

I can't even think of an example of where that's happened. Well, maybe zoom in some way. Right. It was kind of the hipper version of blue jeans, essentially. Right. And now because of the pandemic, I mean, my mom's using it for her book club. 

Brett Berson: [00:20:36] Yeah, that may be one of the only examples, but you normally see something that key point of differentiation is you target a younger population and then it moves.

Shannon Brayton: [00:20:44] Right? Absolutely. But I mean, handshake's done a great job, like really thinking about how do they just own this market in this brand? How does it make sure it continues its resonance among college students where LinkedIn has had a harder time cracking that code. Now LinkedIn has a great product for college students, but the brand is more associated as a.

Older brand where a handshake is just own this really important and lucrative college market. Curious 

Brett Berson: [00:21:09] what you've changed your mind about as it relates to comms, sort of over the course of your career or their beliefs you had, or points of view you had. That you found to be incorrect or you've kind of updated your mental model?

Shannon Brayton: [00:21:22] I feel like because in my 10 years at LinkedIn, the first five years I ran communications and the second five years I was the CMO and the comms person in me actually really didn't understand why marketing had to do anything with comms. So it was like, well, those are two totally separate disciplines. We don't have anything to do with each other.

We're very different people. I actually didn't want the job initially because I felt like they were such. Opposite ends of the spectrum. I mean, 20 years ago. Marketing people bought ads and PR people took reporters out to lunch. And I think now one of the things I've massively changed my mind on is you really get a lift when the comms and the marketing work in concert with each other.

And they're not that far off. And the way that the world is now, it's all one big thing. I mean, the narrative for the company, those two disciplines have to rely heavily on each other. And that's something I've really changed my mind, not in just the last five years. So 

Brett Berson: [00:22:14] what does that look like? More pragmatically?

Like if marketing. And comms are working in harmony. What does that look like? And maybe when they're out of sync or whether they're more functionally oriented, what does that look 

Shannon Brayton: [00:22:27] like? So when they're in harmony, here's something interesting that happened during the pandemic. And I've used this example a couple of times, because actually it's also internal communications, employer, branding, HR.

I mean, these functions all now are highly dependent on each other where before and companies, they were all super discreet. And now I feel like. They're all kind of knitted together in a way. So weight Watchers is a lifestyle brand. Hey, we make you happy. We make you thinner. We make you healthier. They are all about that.

We treat people amazingly well. They are a lifestyle brand that people hopefully love and get some success from. They did a layoff. They did a layoff over video. They did a layoff that took two minutes. They had all these people on LinkedIn posting about how poorly it had gone. And the note that the CEO who I really respect and admire sent out, I think was not particularly compassionate and didn't necessarily resonate very well with the employees who had been laid off.

And there were people posting on LinkedIn that said, you know, I'd been here 12 years. I literally got laid off in a two minute phone call. If all of those things, marketing comms, internal comms, employer branding, executive comms had been more knitted together in a story like that, you would actually have realized you can't lay people off for a lifestyle brand in a two-minute phone call.

These things all have to really be dependent on each other now more than ever, because now employer branding, they're going to have a harder time recruiting from a retention standpoint. I think people thought it did not go well at all. And as a user, you look at it and think, do I want to work at a company that treated people that way?

And that is a completely new dynamic HR. Did they treat people well on the way out? Because now people have a voice to go say, Hey, I was treated really poorly. So I feel like all of those things, really now, if you're deciding on a layoff, like all of those people need to be in the room where before it was like the CEO and the HR person.

Brett Berson: [00:24:22] And so is that the simplest way to weave these things together is to be in the virtual room when you're discussing all of these things. Are there other ways in which the company or the org structure needs to be set up? Such that these things can click together. 

Shannon Brayton: [00:24:37] And I gave that example to a CEO is because I had been doing some coaching of his marketing person who felt like comms and HR were off running, doing their own things and not pulling the marketing person in because by the way, The headline on all of that is that that story really kind of impacted their brand negatively.

And so that's a CMOs concern. Absolutely. So I really believe in companies, marketing and comms should be part of one team I'm completely agnostic about who runs it, even though it was me at LinkedIn and I had a comms background. A comms or marketing person absolutely has to have a seat at the table and should really own most of these levers, not necessarily HR, but certainly internal comms because those comms now are public.

And those are comms that are now driving headlines. And so I think the, any comms and marketing functions should really be up under one person. And I see it in lots of different ways. And I talked to lots of different founders and I always. Coach them at the very least comms and brand should be together if you're not willing to put everything together at once, but comms and brand.

Absolutely. And then over time, somebody should be running all of the different levers that impact the way that people think about and potentially want to use a company's product. 

Brett Berson: [00:25:47] When you think about your journey going from a super successful career in comms, and then taking over the CMO role in the way that you're talking about, where you're responsible for both, what did you have to learn?

Or how did you keep from seeing everything through the comms lens? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:26:03] It's a super astute question, because the reality is as long as I had worked in the Valley and been part of marketing teams, and even at open table, I reported to a CMO. I've always been around marketing, but I just wasn't interested in learning about it.

So all of a sudden, when I land in the CMO job, there were so many things I literally thought to myself, okay, I'm never going to be an expert, any of these things, but I have to understand them in order to make decisions about everything, head, count, and budget and how we're going to do it. And what are we going to cut?

And what are we going to add? I took a list and I. For two weeks made a list of all the things I knew, nothing about when I would go into meetings and all my new team would drop phrases to me and I'm thinking to myself, okay, what exactly is demand gen? I mean, I'm being somewhat facetious, but literally I had a list of 12 or 13 things.

I literally did not know anything about pricing, a whole list of things. And so what I did, and I actually wrote a post about this, but essentially I. Created these little pods of reverse mentoring. I basically brought junior people from those teams into my office. They had to have four slides only. So tell me what you do.

Tell me what's working. Tell me what's not working. And if you had a magic wand, what would you change about this function? And it allowed me in a great format to meet more people on the team that were not the most senior people. And for me to ask really dumb questions and have them educate me. And they did it in such a pure way that I literally, after an hour, I was like, okay, I understand demand gen.

I understand what we're here to do. I understand how to measure it. I understand what's working. In this function and then what could actually be really improved and that helped so much. I can't even tell you. And there's some vulnerability there, right? I'm like the new boss, I'm the most senior woman in the company.

And I'm like, I don't understand anything about these things. And I'm now going to be responsible for also, you know, I think my comms team at times felt like I had abandoned them because I really tried to become much more of a marketing leader than just a comms leader. But I felt like it was really necessary for me to get smart about those things and also for them to really start to work well together so that we could get the lift of a comms and marketing combination team.

Brett Berson: [00:28:05] In general, if you're sort of merging the comms and marketing role into one C-level exec, do you think it's easier to come from a comms background and learn marketing or have a marketing background and learn comps? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:28:17] I think it can go either way. I'm starting to see a trend. A lot of comms, people are ascending to the bigger job and there's a couple of reasons.

Number one, I think the comms person tends to be closer to the CEO just because of the stuff they deal with. So their relationship tends to be a little bit tighter. And I think because everything now, like my weight Watchers example, it's a narrative thing and a comms person that is their expertise, that's their bailiwick.

And so I think a comms person does an awesome job knitting the stuff together. If they're honest about, okay, here are all the things about marketing. I don't understand. So I think it can happen both ways, but I'm for sure. Seeing a trend where comms people are ascending more often. The latest example is Christina Smedley just became the COO at Robin hood and she.

Had primarily had a comms background like mine, she's the recent example, but there's plenty of them around 

Brett Berson: [00:29:07] switching gears a little bit. I find that when you spend time with senior executives and they reflect back on their career, there's often a small number of stories or inflection points that kind of changed their trajectory, changed the way they thought about their work changed the way that they worked in general.

And a lot of it is when things maybe didn't go their way or when something got screwed up or maybe something worked exceptionally well. Are there any kind of pivot points or stories that come to mind that kind of had an out-sized impact on the way you approached your job or thought about yourself or thought about your 

Shannon Brayton: [00:29:39] role?

The biggest one was when I was 29, I was working at eBay. I had been there about four years and I had a random skip level with my boss. And I basically said, you know, I think I'm kind of done here. I've been here four years. I'm not really sure. Learning that much more. I feel like I've done everything I wanted to do here.

That was a Friday. And he came back to me on a Monday and he said, why don't you think about taking the. Global job. And I said, Oh, well, okay. But what I have to move. So he explained to me that international is not us and that yes, a global job meant that I needed to leave the country. And I moved to Switzerland by myself, not knowing one person and ran a European comms team for two years.

And I would say it was. Truly the biggest change of my entire life, both personally and professionally, I was living in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language and running a team of people who one guy actually said to me one day, Oh, you're the most American person I've ever met. And I was like, Oh, thank you so much.

And then a year later we laughed so hard because we realized it actually wasn't a compliment. I had to adjust my style majorly going over there. And then personally I was by myself, homesick as can be. And. It was a little bit tumultuous, but man did it changed me for the better, like in all ways, not just the style piece, but realizing that not everything runs out of Silicon Valley and that the rest of the world in a global company actually matters dramatically.

And they have viewpoints about the U S that aren't exactly accurate either. And that I could help bring that bridge together a little bit. What did it 

look 

Brett Berson: [00:31:12] like to be less American or to sort of change your style and approach? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:31:17] My behavior really had to change in a couple of different ways. Number one, I really had to slow down at the rate that I spoke.

I was really a fast talker, fast Walker, fast eater, or fast gum chewer. I think that when they said I was really American, it came down to the fact that I really just needed to kind of slow down and be a little more European and not show up at the office at seven o'clock in the morning and not. Speak as quickly as I was always speaking or respond to email in 20 seconds.

So I really had to learn to kind of modulate that. And I got feedback shortly after I was there that people felt like my email style did not match my personality. So when they would see me in person, we always had a great chat. They felt like I was warm and friendly, but my email style in Europe did not go as well.

It was really received, I think, to be way more direct than I think people appreciated. 

Brett Berson: [00:32:02] What did you observe in terms of the way that. That group thought about or executed on comms versus your world view, coming from the U S and coming from Silicon Valley 

Shannon Brayton: [00:32:13] in Europe, I think London really had a much more fractious relationship with the press.

You know, European reporters, particularly British ones can be a lot more prying and a lot more direct and really negative and harsh. And so it was hard for that team to. Feel good about the stories that they were placing and getting on the phone with the reporter? I think there was a lot of nerves about it all the time.

And so, you know, figuring out how to kind of navigate that was really fascinating. Of course. And then you go to a place like France and the reporters are incredibly polite and incredibly deferring to the spokesperson, but then write this like terrible piece. So it was really interesting just watching all the different teams be experts, absolute experts in the way that they dealt with their.

Constituents in a very different way than I was used to dealing with a tech reporter in the Valley. You 

Brett Berson: [00:33:02] think about your job as a comms leader and how it relates to reporters and potentially building relationships with reporters. There seems like there's a lot of gray area there. And I think that a lot of newer people don't get that a reporter's job is they're not on your comms team, right?

They're not running your corporate blog. And at the same time you want to build a warm and productive relationship. But there seems to be some interesting sort of dynamics. 

Shannon Brayton: [00:33:30] Yeah. I always tell new to comms people just remember that reporters are not your friends. They're not there to do you a favor. It's totally fine to go have a drink with them, but you guys are both on different sides and I made a pretty clear.

Rule early on that I would get to know the 10 top reporters that covered whatever company I worked at. These are all still people who I would consider now, friends that I'm not in a comms job anymore, but even people who I socialized with and had dinner with and had great relationships with, I always remembered that they were there to potentially.

Have something fall out of my mouth, that would make an amazing story about my company. It's super nerve wracking, but you build that trust over time. Trusted, great relationships are okay, but they're not people that are there to write something that makes you look good. That's not there. 

Brett Berson: [00:34:20] And is there any way that you would advise or coach people to build those relationships outside of the sort of normal way that we think about building business relationships?

Shannon Brayton: [00:34:28] Yeah, my biggest one. I constantly tell people this too, is you really want to make sure that you're really not screwing a reporter. So one of the worst things that reporters absolutely hate is when you say, Oh yeah, you're the only one writing about this, but actually you're working on a story, a similar story with someone else.

I think lying to a reporter is one of the absolute worst things that a PR person can do. And it can take years and years to rebuild the reputation with that person and other reporters that they've told like, Oh my God, I got completely screwed by this person at Twitter. As an example, I think that you have to always be really honest and you have to lean into some stories like I've had to.

Call people and say, Hey, I know you were working on this, but I've also got this thing happening and they asked something sort of similar. And I just wanted to make sure you knew it's a really fine dance, but what I always operated around was never screw or reporter. You've got to deliver on what you say you're going to do.

So when you set up the terms at the beginning of a. Feature story or something. The rule has to be, look, if someone similar comes and wants to do something, I'll make sure that it doesn't happen. You actually have to deliver on that. You've got to follow through on what you say you're going to do. And I think that's how you build the trust with the reporter.

Keeping in mind, they're not your friend. Switching gears 

Brett Berson: [00:35:38] a little bit. Are there frameworks or things that you found yourself saying over and over again, as it relates to coms, maybe there are exercises, concepts, things that you brought in and up new comms, people that you found yourself saying all the time or that you found particularly 

Shannon Brayton: [00:35:57] impactful.

One of my favorite quotes is that I coach a lot of my team back in the day to say, okay, it's fine for you to close a door, but you always have to open a little window when dealing with a reporter, which is nobody just wants to hear. No, we won't work with you on that or no, we have no comment. You've got to be pretty clear on the closing a door.

Always open a window, which is, Hey, but in a month, we've got a great story that I'd love to work with you on. And to my earlier point, make sure that you follow through with that person and do it. If you say you're going to a month later, write yourself a note. So you don't forget to call them. I think it's really important to make sure that they feel like you're not stymieing them.

You're not actually there to try to block them, but in fact, you're doing the right thing for the company, but you're also trying to help them and help the company get some type of story. That's one of my favorite frameworks, one of the 

Brett Berson: [00:36:45] topics that. We shared going into our conversation was the different pieces of managing through change.

And I'm curious what your overall approach or lessons learned around that is. And maybe we could start with negative change. We'll have to do a riff or something. Negative happens. What I always find so interesting about that is that so much of these things are wrapped around narrative and once. A narrative is set either internally or externally.

It's incredibly hard for anybody wanting to change their mind or to not lens everything through that narrative. Meaning at this point, Facebook has a very specific narrative as it relates to privacy, for example, or misinformation. Facebook could take the exact same action that LinkedIn, or pick another somewhat quasi social product, and everyone will lends it in the most negative possible way because there's a very specific narrative.

And so I'm curious when you think about managing through change, maybe the role of narrative or other things that you've learned, or sort of part of your toolkit to make that. Go, hopefully in a more positive 

Shannon Brayton: [00:37:50] direction. So not all leaders, I think. Well, agree with me on this because I know some don't because I've had these conversations with them, but I am a very transparent person just in general.

And in fact, when I would do a new hire orientation with all the new people, to the marketing and comms team, we ended up having about 800 people. So I did these pretty regularly where I would get together with call it the 12 new people. And I would always share this. Two slide deck, which was mutual expectations.

So here's what you can expect from me. And here's what I expect from you. And one of the things on my list was transparency, which when you put out that you're a transparent person, you actually really need to be transparent. It turns out. So if I was thinking about potentially doing some type of reorg, I would actually make sure that people knew that this was something on my radar that I wasn't sure where it was going to land, but that I'd have an answer by this date and then really deliver on when I said I would do it.

And if I didn't have an answer, I would go back on that date and say, I need another week. I never was the type of leader who wanted to just completely do this massive reorg and then just dump it on the team. I would be pretty honest. Through the process. And it bought me a lot of credibility because people felt like if something was going on in my mind, that was really rattling in there about something I wanted to do.

I felt like I wanted to bring people along with me. That was the narrative is like, I want your input. I don't want you to get this email and be completely surprised by this crazy change. But I actually want to share with you my thinking and the steps along the way. And it helped enormously. And I think any time that there's negative change, the more that you can do that, the less freaked out people get.

Sometimes you can't always do it. Right. There's personnel implications. There's legal implications. There's sometimes you can't be as transparent as you maybe would like to be, but even telling people that is super helpful. And I don't think people are always comfortable. It's like, I'd love to be able to tell you more, but I really can't, but here's what I can tell you again, to my point on closing a door, but opening a little.

Yeah. Are there 

Brett Berson: [00:39:44] other things that you found when you think about a reorg or some change? One is kind of what I'm hearing you say is bringing people along versus dumping something on their lap. Are there other things that you've found 

Shannon Brayton: [00:39:54] useful? I think the personal touch is really helpful. I mean, to my weight Watchers example, you know, putting 50 people or however many, I think it was quite a bit more on a phone call and just announcing that they were going to be, let go is an absolutely terrible experience.

Anytime we did a reorg, we would have literally a tick talk. That showed, okay, this person's going to talk to this person on this day and then that cascaded to be 

Brett Berson: [00:40:20] clear, this is not a tick talk video. 

Shannon Brayton: [00:40:22] The reason that I paused is because I have two children obsessed with tick-tock and it gave me PTSD to say it out loud.

No, like an Excel spreadsheet that basically said, okay, Brett's going to talk to Jesse. And then once that happens, Jessie's going to talk to Ashley Carson and John essentially. And we really tried to make sure that people had one-on-one conversations and that we didn't do mass communication about challenging news.

And I think that is something that a lot of companies really miss it's super hard. It's super, time-consuming, it's way more emotional, but that personal touch goes such an incredibly long way and it's completely worth it. If someone's job is being changed or impacted in any way. Yeah, 

Brett Berson: [00:41:01] that's an interesting one.

I think that's a super powerful idea. If you can coordinate that and not have some mass email or have some all hands and you have that sort of cascading comms, 

Shannon Brayton: [00:41:10] we made it a real thing. I had an awesome HR business partner who would help these tech talks come together for me. And then we would literally follow and we would actually go in there and then say, okay, this conversation was done and it went.

You know, sort of, well, or this person's not upset or we all share the notes and then we just make sure that we are continuing to execute and do that. One-on-one it made all the difference in how these things landed. And I don't understand why people don't get that. It's like breaking up with someone, you know, on text.

That's another 

Brett Berson: [00:41:37] practical piece of advice for anybody that's listening. Yeah, for sure. The breaking up via text is not 

Shannon Brayton: [00:41:43] enough. So recommending against that. Correct. 

Brett Berson: [00:41:46] I wanted to spend a little bit of time and hit some kind of quick fire topics, maybe 30, 60, 90 seconds, sort of whatever comes to mind. So the first one is can charisma be taught or someone is either charismatic or not charismatic.

Shannon Brayton: [00:42:01] I do not believe charisma can be taught is not a terrible thing to say. I just feel like, and I think that such a Valley thing, like, Oh, they're amazing, but they're not charismatic. They can't be a leader. I also think that is completely lame. You actually can be an incredibly effective leader. Even if you are not charismatic, but you're a great communicator and you're super smart and you care about your team.

And I think we just completely over-optimize on charisma. And I just don't know that that is the right barometer for people. Not everyone is born charismatic, not everyone wants to be. And when you try to teach it to someone, I just don't think it lands well. I think it comes across really fake and wrong.

How 

Brett Berson: [00:42:40] should a CEO prepare to be interviewed by a reporter? No 

Shannon Brayton: [00:42:44] matter what the topic is, you should always prepare, even if it's something that you think, you know, incredibly cold and well, you should absolutely prepare. So reviewing whatever your calm scene put together and those talking points, but actually doing a mock interview is one of the most important things that you can do.

Jeff Wiener. And I did mock interviews for every single interview he ever did, where I would play the reporter and he would answer the questions. And then we would correct in real time. It's incredibly important that you're not surprised. And that you are comfortable. I think it makes people less nervous.

CEO's for sure when you get on CNBC and you're like, okay, this is familiar because I practice with Shannon this morning and I understand how quickly they're going to go. And I also understand if they get sidetracked or ask me about something from five years ago. So I think it just gives a lot of comfort.

And I think it's a mistake when CEOs don't. 

Brett Berson: [00:43:32] What do you look for when hiring a comms person? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:43:35] I look for someone who is creative. In the way that they think. So, as opposed to, Oh, we have a launch, we're going to put out a blog post. And you know, when I do ask people about this, when I interview people need to come up with really cool, innovative things.

Now there's so many outlets and levers that can be pulled to launch something or make something go. And I just love people who think a little bit outside of, well, this is what I've always done. I can't stand people that haven't sort of evolved past the PR function from 15 years ago. And there's quite a few of them out there.

Brett Berson: [00:44:09] How do you become an effective board 

Shannon Brayton: [00:44:12] member? I took one board seat when I was still an operator. And I think that operators have a hard time not walking out of a board meeting with a list of, Oh, these are the 20 things I need to do in the beginning. I think that's a hard shift to make for a lot of people.

And I've talked to other board members that have gone through this too. What you realize after some practice is you're there. On a board to help strategically guide the company, ask the difficult questions, ask the easy questions, support the team, and really you're there because you have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and investors essentially, but you don't have to go do anything.

So that is a big shift that people have to make is you don't walk out with a list of like, these are the eight things I need to go make happen. And obviously in board meetings, I offer to do certain things and I'll take a note, but I don't have to go connect dots inside of a company and execute anything.

And that shift is an important one for operators to make when they become board members. Absolutely. You can be an effective board member by offering to help close candidates, providing context from your network, talking about your experience. I often talk about my LinkedIn experience or my eBay experience in my board meetings.

And I have examples that I bring, or I have pattern matching from things that I've seen before. And I think that is really helpful to a CEO building a company. When you can get outside perspective, especially if you have a board full of investors only. 

Brett Berson: [00:45:32] What is the advice you generally give to people who are becoming a manager for the first time?

Shannon Brayton: [00:45:39] think laying out for a new direct report here. So things I don't really know, here's the things that I really do know. And here's how I work best with someone. How do you work best with someone it's not rocket science, honestly, but I don't think a lot of people do that. I think it's like the manager gets in the job and starts and just like goes and doesn't necessarily have the conversation with the person about how should we work best together.

What do you prefer in terms of style? Are there things about me you've observed that I should be thinking about? It's it's really that big our kind of heart to heart on the first day that could literally set the relationship up for total success as opposed to a disaster. And 

Brett Berson: [00:46:15] lastly, what are sort of the tenants of an effective meeting?

Shannon Brayton: [00:46:18] I always like to start meetings by something that LinkedIn used to do quite often at the beginning of a meeting, we would say this meeting will be a success, if so that helps anchor people and okay. We're all here for a reason. This isn't a waste of time and we need to come out of this with an outcome.

Because this meeting should be a success. If we get around this topic and get to an answer, then okay, then this was not a complete waste of time, or at least identify a very clear next step. Cause sometimes it's too early to get to a decision, but at least we know exactly what should happen as a result of that.

I think laying that out at the beginning can literally change an entire meeting. I also always recommend to people do not. Bring slides and read from them. That is the most sure-fire way to lose your audience within about two minutes. It drives people. Absolutely crazy. So I think those two things, once you kind of nail those that, okay, we're not going to, we're going to have a discussion.

We're not going to read these sides and hopefully people have read the sides beforehand and we've all agreed and locked arms on how this meeting is going to be successful in what we're going to come out with. I think meetings end on a way higher note and are just so much more effective. Excellent.

That 

Brett Berson: [00:47:24] was a good, quick fire round. Did you like that? I thought it was great. Your succinctness really shines in that format. Who are the folks that you've learned the most from in your career and what specifically have they taught you? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:47:38] I mean, I'm so lucky. I've had amazing mentors along the way. I've always had a bit of a personal board of directors.

So when I'm struggling with something, a career decision, a comp decision, a move to somewhere, a different role. I have like four or five people in my life and I can literally call and just be completely honest with and get there really. Honest feedback. And that is so incredibly helpful. I've learned the most probably from Jeff Wiener as a CEO and as a very close friend, he just being part of that journey with him for 10 years.

And watching him really evolve was completely a joy. He's an incredibly effective CEO and. Really was open to learning. He always took the feedback to heart and really incorporated it and then wanted to make sure it was working. It was really amazing to watch. I've told the story often that I had a really terrible boss one time.

And I learned more from that boss almost on how to be a manager than I did from even the best ones, because I woke up every day. Literally making sure that my team never had the feelings I had working for this person. And it was the first time I ever cried at work. And it was also the last time because I realized that I was never going to be in a job where a person I worked for made me cry.

Brett Berson: [00:48:51] Were they doing that was so corrosive. And then how did that influence the way that you behaved as a manager? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:48:56] She was highly manipulative. She was highly secretive. She was a gossip. She was clique-y. She was everything about a manager you don't want to be. And I really thought about how do I not be that person?

So when we talked about transparency, a huge chunk of learning about that came from her. You know, she was the type that I was secret meetings. She was big into blind copying. I mean, I couldn't stand the values that she stood for. You never knew where you stood, terrible emails, you know, please see me. One of those, this is not good.

Please see me. And then you wouldn't run into her for five hours. So you're literally like sweating for five hours. I would always write to someone, Hey, we should talk. Here's the time I can talk. I just want to give you some feedback on X, Y, and Z. I would always just try to make sure that I never sent an email where the person had to stew or not sleep because of what I sent you 

Brett Berson: [00:49:46] instantly realize that there was something to be learned.

From this situation or how did you flip your mindset? Because mine would be one of just frustration and not being able to see that this is a gift of something that happened much later on. 

Shannon Brayton: [00:50:01] You know, when you give career advice to people and they say, are you running from something or are you running towards something?

Well, I was really running from something and I was running from her and I left and I landed at my next job and had an incredible manager. And that's when I realized, wow, what a gift I got from that other person, because she was so bad. I learned how to be great at this. And I so appreciated my great boss.

So that turned out to be a gift. And then I always appreciated bosses along the way, who are wonderful. So I would give it a bit of a, it was both, it was a blessing and it was a huge curse, but at the time I was so in it, I didn't realize how much I was learning until I left and then had the perspective and had an experience with an awesome boss and realized, Oh no, everyone should be more like that.

How do I be like that? 

Brett Berson: [00:50:46] A few minutes ago, we're talking about Jeff and your experience working with them. I'm curious if you could share more of. What are the things that you've learned throughout such a long partnership, and maybe how did that show up in the way that you chose to lead or operate? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:51:01] I think the biggest takeaway probably for people who are maybe listening and wonder about this, I made sure that when I said something to him, because of our partnership, that it really had data behind, it, it wasn't just a random opinion because when I would say something, he would kind of cement on it because he trusted me so much after 10 years that if I said, Oh, I don't think that person's very effective.

I never wanted him to get an opinion about somebody. Just because of something I said, so I'd have to make sure that if I shared something like that, that I was really grounded in reality and truth about something. So I think that can happen in a partnership it's like, well, Shannon said that, so it must be true.

I was really, really cautious of that. And I think sometimes. People get really close to CEOs and they don't think as thoroughly about that. And they can really harm people's careers because of comments that they make. And so it's just be really mindful when you've got a partnership like that, and you really can influence someone that you're doing it thoughtfully and with credibility.

Are there 

Brett Berson: [00:51:59] any specific lessons that he taught you? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:52:02] Oh, I mean, countless ones. He is so effective in so many ways in my first year. One of the things that he would do, and this is such a small lesson, but it's really important. So people will go to him and say, well, a lot of people are saying this about blah.

And he would say, okay, well, how many people and who and what, and explain why they said that. And why do you think they said that? And. I think that happens often where people go to CEO's or execs and they just say, well, all these people are saying these things about this, and then the person walks away going, Oh my God, this is a complete train wreck.

He would never let anyone get away with that. He would really tease apart. Okay. Really? It turns out it's one person who was upset about this thing, or doesn't think this is going well because of. Y. And so it really helped me change my language too, about how not to just take that when someone says that and let it cement, but actually really tease apart what's going on here so that you know exactly what you're dealing with.

Brett Berson: [00:53:01] That was kind of one of the first lessons. Can you remember sort of one of the last ones that you picked up and working together? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:53:07] I was there in the room when he shared with the board that we probably needed to think about selling the company to Microsoft. And I watched him walk through. The story about the landscape and the business and why Microsoft is the right partner.

And it was just like a piece of eloquent art. And it was so amazing to see this fine balance that he had to walk, which is they had to be completely on board. No pun intended with it. But ultimately he really felt like it was the right thing to do. And he had to present it in a way that was neutral, but that got people to really see the light.

It was a thing to watch for sure, because by the end of the meeting, we had all sort of decided this is probably something that needs to happen for the long Jevity of LinkedIn, which is now doing incredibly well, but it was such an emotional time for people. And to watch him be so objective and to share the story really.

With a neutral voice in mind, it was really impressive. What does that mean 

Brett Berson: [00:54:06] to share this story with a neutral voice in mind? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:54:09] I think instead of saying we've got to do this and here's why, and he really just said, okay, here's what the landscape looks like. And he kind of walked through and he did it in a way that didn't have emotion tied to it.

And he wasn't forcing his opinion down people's throats. And I think sometimes people don't always do that in meeting super effectively, especially high stakes ones. It's so clear what you're trying to do, but he did a wonderful job bringing them along with him and understanding why this was the path we needed to pursue.

Brett Berson: [00:54:34] You mentioned that you sort of have this personal board of directors or advisors these four or five people that you've leaned on for quite some time. Is there anyone else that you can mention that's on that board and maybe some of the things that you've learned from them? 

Shannon Brayton: [00:54:47] I have an old boss named Henry Gomez who ran corporate communications at eBay for many years.

And he was a constantly Harry to Meg Whitman at HP as well too. So they've had two jobs together and Henry is someone that knows me really well. He's also the person I told the story about moving me internationally. He's someone that knows me well as an employee, but also is really direct and doesn't pull any punches will just really hit me in the face with like, why are you doing this?

Or. Why did you say it that way? I need somebody like that. Sometimes I don't call him if I'm in an emotional spot, because I need to be in a good head space when I call him, because sometimes he'll punch you with a velvet glove, but I have found him to be really honest and direct and tries to really get at the root of what's going on.

As opposed to, with the story that I'm telling him is going on. And that has proved incredibly 

Brett Berson: [00:55:41] valuable. Do you in turn then play that role for 

Shannon Brayton: [00:55:43] other people? All the time I'm on many, many people's personal board of directors and I take it really seriously for sure. I've got lots of mentees and CEOs. I coach and founders.

I think most people that call me for advice will tell you that I provide advice in a very honest way, but I'm also pretty compassionate too. I'm not as direct as Henry. It's not my style. 

Brett Berson: [00:56:09] I wanted to end by asking you about. How you think about picking companies to join? It's clear if you look at your set of experiences, you've done an exceptional job choosing which companies to work at, and I'm sure you get all sorts of folks who are growing maybe in their comms careers, and they're like seven or eight years in, and they're thinking about different opportunities or different companies.

What do you sort of share with them or what's your own framework or what sort of coaching do you provide to help people make the right decision? Which is an important one, right? The time you have on earth is the most scarce resource. And so betting that on a company and investing in a company with your time is the scarcest 

Shannon Brayton: [00:56:47] resource.

Absolutely. I think it's really kind of twofold. I mean, number one, it's the person. If you have any bad vibe about anyone on the exec team, especially the CEO or anybody you met with that you don't feel like is a gender equality person or someone that listens or someone that's ethical or someone has high integrity.

If you got any vibes of those people that is usually not a company you want to work with because you've got that person to deal with and a CEO is potentially enabling it. So that's not. Great. So I always tell people to really pay attention to those signals and interviews and conversations along the way.

And then I think it's really important. You actually work at a company where you care about what they're doing, and I'm not going to go down the in house to have a mission. And we're changing the world. Cause I don't want to say that, but you don't want to work at a company where you literally don't understand what they do or don't care what they do.

Because as a PR person, you actually do need to use the product. Do you need to like it? And you need to be able to understand it and the story about why it matters in the world sing. And if you can't do that, because you're literally like I'm going to go work at this random widget that I don't care about.

That's a huge mistake. So it's really it's people and it's the type of business. And then you get into the nitty gritty on, well, the interviews I took too long to respond to me and the comp isn't great. And the commute's too long. And I mean, there's a million factors that go into these things, but I think you can take companies off your list really quickly.

If you get bad vibes on any of the senior people, or if you're completely uninterested or uninspired by what they do, 

Brett Berson: [00:58:07] do you think there's an ideal stage for that person? That's kind of maybe cut their teeth in a mid-level role at a larger company where there's a certain sweet spot of company or scale that really tends to 

Shannon Brayton: [00:58:18] work out.

I think building up a team like that and helping build a profile for the founder and talking about what it is that they do and why it's interesting. And you know, it's kind of, usually in the company is like maybe, I don't know, 75 to a hundred people has some revenue is proven market fit. It's a great time to hire a PR person to help really figure out the narrative for this company.

What is our brand going to be? Who are we as an employer? All that stuff like really starts to matter at that stage and a mid-level person at a company can easily. Step out of that mid-level job and be a top person at a smaller company. As long as they've got people to lean on, when they run into stuff, they don't know what they're doing.

Great. Well, 

Brett Berson: [00:58:53] thanks so much for spending the time with 

Shannon Brayton: [00:58:55] us. Thank you so much for having me. I super enjoyed it