Interview: Stephanie Agresta, EVP, Global Director of Digital Strategy and Social Media, Porter Novelli


Stephanie Agresta joined Porter Novelli this past June, after more than 15 years in online marketing with brands including Microsoft, PepsiCo, iVillage, Barnes & Noble, and SpaFinder.

In addition to running her own consulting business, Agresta is known to many for hosting “The Techset” social media parties with PR 2.0 blogger Brian Solis. This is Agresta’s first agency gig, so we spoke with her about her first 90 days on the job (“It’s been extremely busy and very reflective for me of what’s happening in the industry.”), how her consulting work fits in with Porter Novelli (“…my work and all of my time is spent on Porter efforts.”) and her take on what should be handled by an agency and what should be handled internally when it comes to social media (“It really depends on what point in the process the brand is at.”)

You joined Porter Novelli in June as EVP and Global Director of Digital Strategy and Social Media. How have the first 90 days been?

The first 90 days have been very exciting.

It’s been extremely busy and very reflective for me of what’s happening in the industry. I see this role at Porter and my transition into PR as a reflection of what’s happened in larger landscape in the media. It’s kept me on my toes. What’s most exciting for me, is coming into this as someone who with a background of 15 years digital marketing but never having worked at a PR firm. There has been a lot of learning both ways. The most exciting part of this role is the merger between traditional PR and the social media / digital space.

You joined PN, but have kept your consulting business going. Do you view that as a new business conduit for PN?

I think that’s more along the lines of, they all fall under the umbrella of, ‘Yes, I still have a personal brand.’ My professional focus is work for Porter. I didn’t shut down my business nor my personal brand. They are both reflective of the fact that as social media influencer – whatever you want to call me – I do have a personal brand that coincides with Porter Novelli brand, but my work and all of my time is spent on Porter efforts. I don’t have much time for side consulting. Also, anything I would do would always be non-conflict to Porter.

PN has signed the Blogworld Expo and Rackspace as clients since you joined. Did you work on the new business team for those pitches and will you be advising on those accounts?

I did for Blogworld. Rackspace, as far as I know, they’ve been a client for a while. I did not work directly on that. I have been getting to know our accounts and supporting them, everything from HP to all of the accounts in general. I have a longstanding relatationship with Blogworld Expo, and helped build the show from its initial year. In combination with the experience we [Porter Novelli] have as AOR for SXSW and my experience with Blogworld, we though it was a really good fit.

In a blog post announcing the move, you said, ‘Yes, large companies bring security and money. Honestly though, talented and experienced independents that know how to execute (and sell) do very well in this business.” Who are some of the “independents” that you think are doing well?

People like Chris Brogan, who has done a phenomenal job with New Media Labs. Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, and Deb Shulz and what they’re trying to do with Altimeter Group. They provide great strategic value and are top notch folks. I’d also throw VaynerMedia in there as well.

In terms of digital and social strategy, what are some tips you would give as to what should be handled by an agency and what is better being handled internally?

I think that the agency and the brand have to work together on evolving social media strategy. It really depends on what point in the process the brand is at. For someone who has no experience or no knowledge base, an agency has strong role to play in that, and can work with brand to evolve its social media presence. Roles like community manager are often shared between brand and agency using tools like co-tweet for example. The work Ford has done with Ford Fiesta is a good example of that. What I’ve also seen out there is as that the role tends to involve into internal role with support from am agency. A resource shift happens as the company becomes social media savvy.