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Susan Veidt builds on experience, becomes leader at FleishmanHillard

Susan Veidt manages the Midwest region of FleishmanHIllard

Susan Veidt manages the Midwest region of FleishmanHIllard

By Nicole Emanuel
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Each day is different for Susan Veidt, president of the U.S. Central Region at FleishmanHillard, a public relations and integrated marketing firm. She manages the operations of all five FleishmanHillard offices within Midwest.

She said her days are split into 15 to 30 minute increments, devoting her time to serving employees and using her experience to help them be successful. Part of her responsibilities include recruiting staff, company branding, evaluating her clients’ markets, consulting on crises and general oversight of clients in her region.

Veidt’s favorite part of her job is the interaction she has with fellow employees at FleishmanHillard. She enjoys being surrounded by like-minded people who value strong communication skills. Their shared passion and interests create a fun environment where they can build powerful communication platforms.

That shared purpose is what has kept Veidt at FleishmanHillard for almost 28 years and makes every day fun.

When Veidt was exploring career options as a journalism student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, magazine journalism seemed to be a good fit. Long-form writing, publication design, editing and reporting were all areas that Veidt enjoyed.

As she made connections, however, graduate students introduced her to publication work for organizations. As she learned more about the industry and its integrated communication, Veidt liked how it combined writing and media relations to reach specific stakeholder groups.

Intrigued, Veidt believed she was well suited for these tasks and launched her career in public relations. After 12 years working as a publicist, writer and project manager, Veidt joined FleishmanHillard in 1986 as an account executive.

Veidt has several years of editing training and believes it is an essential aspect of her job. She often edits her own work but recommends having a second person look over everything, not only to proofread for basic grammar and style errors, but also for content and feedback. It is vital that whatever message is sent is clear, persuasive and on target with the audience. Feedback helps prevent misinterpretations.

As a leader, Veidt believes it’s essential to set an example of good writing and editing practices for the rest of the company. She hopes that others will see her commitment to high standards and follow suit.

“We’re in the business of communication,” Veidt said in a phone interview. “Every piece that we send out, however big or small, is important.”

Social media is a central platform in every aspect of Veidt’s work. Personally, she networks on sites such as LinkedIn. Professionally, she monitors social media channels for trends that can be used to benefit clients and uses it to listen to consumers.

FleishmanHillard uses social media to market and manage its reputation as well as to serve its clients. Online presence requires a constant education to keep learning and understanding when to engage over social media and when not to use it.

In the future of public relations, some things will never change. Veidt highlights the importance of being able to understand people and knowing how to apply communication skills to tell persuasive stories.

But one of the changes is the proliferation of channels. The communications industry is growing more reliant on tools for research and monitoring that allow businesses to listen and react in real time. Analytics and research to collect data will partner with public relations to become a larger part of the industry in the future.

The speed in which an organization communicates and reacts has become more important and will continue to be vital for successful public relations. With the 24-hour news cycle the work is never done; learning to manage that and react accordingly will be crucial. Veidt sees that as a big change.

Staying relevant in a radically changing communications field is a challenge for Veidt. Managing her time well and finding the most effective way to communicate with different people are also areas where Veidt works to improve.

Working with clients in several different industries can be another difficult task. She is required to have an understanding of unfamiliar businesses and to do so quickly to best serve each client.

Veidt’s advice for students is to never stop learning, even after graduation, and to never be content.

“If you’re doing things the way that you did them 12 or 18 months ago, you’re probably screwing up because our field is changing and evolving so rapidly … know that your training is a lifelong process and embrace that.”

Given Veidt’s career experience, she would have taken more business classes in college. Knowing how her clients’ businesses operate and being able to speak in their terms helps her to be a more effective communicator. Another area Veidt wishes she had more knowledge in is social sciences. She feels that understanding psychology and other mental triggers are important because they can be used to target audiences and engage with people. With degrees in journalism and English, Veidt said her background in liberal arts has served her well.

One of Veidt’s favorite projects that she has worked on, and her firm still works on, goes back over 20 years. The “Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery” program, sponsored by Energizer batteries, partners with local fire departments to encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks for daylight savings. It is rewarding to be part of a lasting national program that not only sells batteries, but also saves lives.

Veidt said one of the compelling things about public relations is that the best times are ahead and the most exciting projects are the ones she is working on now.

Veidt reminds students that everyone has a brand. She encourages people to be conscious about cultivating a brand of excellence and approaching everything as an opportunity to surpass expectations and add original ideas.

“Think ‘How can I distinguish myself as someone who is known for excellence and the ability to make great things happen?’” Veidt said. “If you approach your work with that degree of commitment and passion then more opportunities open up to you. You get better assignments, you get promoted faster, you get greater rewards and your work becomes more fun and success follows.”

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