Gabrielle Gambrell’s career essentially started in her high school classroom, and it’s no coincidence that she considers learning a cornerstone of her continued success. Her roles as Senior Communications Lead at Amazon, founder of Gift of Gabrielle and respected professor are all rooted in her innate storytelling talent, a mastery that we can all learn something from, too. Whether you’re a PR pro seeking career growth or are new to the comms world, take note of her insights on the state of PR, how to leverage social channels including LinkedIn and why relationship-building will never go out of style.
How did you get your start in communications?
I often say that I have THE GIFT OF GAB, my parents appropriately named me and I am a storyteller at heart. From as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a communicator. I knew what I wanted to be very early on. In high school, I proudly served as the editor in Chief of “The Tideline,” Pacific Palisades Charter High School’s newspaper and journalism program. Though I too was a student, I had the superb responsibility of teaching the class, assigning articles, and grading other students for two years – which a child shouldn’t have been doing, but my teacher was close to retirement and bent the rules.
I attended Iona University, (M.A., Sports & Entertainment Public Relations and B.A., Television, Video Production and Film), and was president of the radio and television stations. I now have the honor of serving on the University’s board. My senior year of undergraduate studies, I interned on Disney/ABC’s Live with Kelly and was hired after my internship. Upon studying for my master’s degree, I joined Paramount/CBS Corporation and by the time I was 25, I was manager of communications for CBS.
Teaching journalism class in just high school is where I found my love for teaching communications, as today I still teach communications at Columbia University and New York University (NYU).
What does your role as Senior Communications Lead at Amazon entail?
I am proud to support one of the world’s most-loved brands in storytelling and communications, from e-commerce to smart devices, innovation, imagination, customer obsession, and beyond. I work to strengthen awareness and communicate about connectivity to our customers and employees, as well as our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and beyond.
At our Future Focus conference, you spoke on the state of traditional PR. Where do you think traditional PR fits into today’s marcomms mix?
As I teach my Columbia University and New York University (NYU) students, there’s immense power in others telling your story – their audience, credibility, and influence speaks volumes. That is why publications such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Financial Times, networks like CNN, broadcasts like ABC News and NBC News, and shows such as Good Morning America and the Today Show are so valuable. It’s important to tell your story and own your narrative and brand, but when others value your perspectives and promote them, it is so powerful. Television, news, broadcast, and top-tier publication features are absolutely significant wins in public relations and having pivotal relationships with reporters, producers, writers, and content creators is the key to success.
At the conference, you also mentioned LinkedIn as a great avenue for self-publishing. What should marcomms pros keep in mind when leveraging LinkedIn as a content channel?
The best marcomms professionals utilize multi-channel storytelling strategies and know that LinkedIn has phenomenal viewership. LinkedIn content is easily shared, with great data and analytics to monitor the strength of your content. In a very easy-to-use format, you’re able to create original content for a strategic target audience, use video and images, share branding materials, publish with vast visibility, engage with your key audience and stakeholders, utilize hashtags, observe, and even edit and adjust as needed. The platform can even be used for focus groups and brainstorming. Moreover, you don’t have to wait for someone to tell your story or feature you; with LinkedIn, you can do it yourself.
You have a super-engaged social media following; what are a few ways that marcomms professionals can distinguish themselves on social media? How important is it to mix in a glimpse into one’s personal life when building or engaging an audience?
Authenticity is imperative to sustaining an engaged community on social media. I appreciate those who have separate personal and professional accounts, however, as a working wife and mother, you get a mix of both my personal and professional on all of my social media platforms. I am cognisant that my students – former, current and, future – will see my page, family, friends, respected individuals such as faith leaders, and even current and potential business relationships. Thus, I keep that in mind before I share or post anything. My values are shown; if you follow me, you will quickly learn what’s important to me – my faith, family, career, and social justice. I welcome you to follow me @_giftofgab_ on Twitter and Instagram and @gabriellegambrell on TikTok, and let’s connect on LinkedIn.
Tell us a little bit about your work teaching marketing and comms courses at Columbia University and NYU. As our fast-paced industry continues to evolve, are there any constants you refer back to, and/or any new must-knows you hadn’t taught about before?
I tell my students on the first day of class that I expect to learn from them as they learn from me. Yes, I have experience working in the industries that they aspire to be in, but they each bring their uniqueness, diverse experiences, background, and generational values that are priceless. I learn about Gen Z from my own research, but also my students teach me daily, and I’m grateful for them. I also use this as a reminder for my students to know their value and their individual richness. As I remain a student of the industry, I too encourage them to never stop learning. Technology and industry advancements mandate curiosity and education in order to thrive. A constant that will never change is relationship-building and networking, and it’s something that they practice throughout my courses as well as identifying the brand, client story, and how to champion that as a content creator/storyteller.
What’s your advice to someone starting out in the communications industry?
Technology is a superb tool and motivator. As technology advances day-by-day, so should our storytelling. I encourage those who are early in their career to continue to utilize technology to their benefit and continuously learn. Being a student of the game of communications is truly pivotal for success. I spoke to Forbes about this some time ago. In communications you need mentors and mentees and should constantly learn from both groups. Mentees and the future generation of leaders are quite knowledgeable, especially when it comes to technology. Mentees should teach mentors new skills and be their listening ear for industry updates. Also, be sure to read and watch the news daily – know hot topics, things impacting your community, and be well-versed in an array of topics, especially your area of expertise. The communications industry is ever-changing so you must be a life-long student of the industry.
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