PR Pros: Chad Melis of Turn It Up Media On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
Be true to yourself. Be selective about committing to an industry you are truly passionate about. When it comes to Turn It Up and our services, we execute in the craft beverage and the outdoor/lifestyle spaces. I moved from Wisconsin to Colorado to build a life around bikes, beer, and music, and I’ve stayed committed to those passions.
Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chad Melis.
After successfully elevating the Oskar Blues Brewery brand nationally for over a decade, Chad Melis has become a brand of marketing professional uniquely his own. With PR savvy and an uncanny knack for brand strategy, Chad has an ironclad grasp on how to provide clients with a roadmap to meet their goals. Chad’s the founder of Turn It Up Media, a collective of leading brand marketers from the craft beverage, outdoor sports, and lifestyle industries.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s been a story about being true to yourself. I studied marketing in school but cut my teeth on the hustle and bustle of the marketing industry, working to secure sponsorship for living the dream of a professional mountain biker, which took me from Wisconsin to Colorado.
Following my passion of riding, I traveled the country, living mostly out of a 1998 Dodge Caravan, taking conference calls in phone booths, and at one point shipping my laptop overnight to the office because Vermont internet wouldn’t allow me to upload a presentation for my part time gig.
I landed in the small town of Lyons, Colo., and my love for riding bikes, enjoying live music, and drinking craft beer ultimately introduced me to Dale Katechis and landed me with the then-small Oskar Blues Brewery.
My first experience seeing the power of PR firsthand was when The New York Times named Oskar Blues’ Dale’s Pale Ale the “Top U.S. Pale Ale” in 2005. It was the first craft beer in a can, which was a complete joke at the time — canned beers were looked down upon as cheap swill. That New York Times piece, earned by then-colleague and now friend Marty Jones, completely changed the perception of craft beer in a can and catapulted the Oskar Blues Brewery business.
I learned a ton from Oskar Blues Founder Dale Katechis, as OB grew from a handful of employees doing everything to employing more than 850 people as CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective, representing seven breweries distributing beer in all 50 states and 17 countries. The power of PR in each of those individual markets, as well as the national stage, was a priority in our go to market strategy.
In 2018, I was inspired by the birth of my daughter and my passion for media relations to start Turn It Up Media. CANarchy became our first client.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
At a point in 2021, our small team found ourselves busy with a good mix of clients and financially healthy in our business. Surprisingly, as a group with a core of craft beer experience, we realized that we no longer had a single Colorado craft brewery as a client. It was an opportunity to pause and celebrate how our marketing experience and our company had grown, and it’s something I’m not sure I would have bet on when I started Turn It Up. That said, local craft beer is a passion of ours and we were happy to welcome a few Colorado craft breweries onboard soon thereafter.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Hmmm… my wife and I quitting our jobs, having a baby, and starting a company all during the same month was a little risky and scary, and I was nervous it might be a mistake. But the lessons that were reiterated were to trust my gut, stay true to yourself, follow your passions, and know that hard work will bring a positive outcome.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We’re working with a few cannabis beverage companies on brand development and media relations. It’s exciting to be a part of how the cannabis industry is maturing and colliding with the beverage industry to create the “functional beverage” market.
The most rewarding project is providing Can’d Aid — a nonprofit creating a nationwide movement that’s empowering people from all walks of life to become catalysts for change in their communities — with media relations focusing on smaller individual efforts to articulate their larger, widely encompassing narrative.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I’m not sure these are character traits, but they are a few concepts that come to mind when I think about the path to success for Turn It Up.
Check your ego at the door: Turn It Up is based on the culture of working hard, and doing it for your teammates. We’re a small team and we depend on each other quite a bit. Nobody is going through the motions. There is nowhere to hide, and we thrive on that concept.
Nobody wants a boss. We strive to build a team that is self motivated because we are all committed to doing what we love to contribute to the team. A mentor? A leader? A teammate? Yes. A boss? Not really. With freedom and minimal structure comes a ton of responsibility, and the team keeps each other accountable. The best teams I’ve been a part of — as an athlete or as a professional — worked together on a common vision and a shared goal.
Also, PR is an endless hustle. We like to work hard to drive results for our partners. There are a lot of losses for every win, and you can’t let that get you down. We have to find creative pitches, do that extra round of personal follow up, and be strategic to create value for everyone around us while we grind.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?
There are a ton of ways to approach this question, but I’m going to keep it simple. The main goal is to build positive brand awareness through the pillars of owned, paid, and earned. As long as you have a deep understanding of your brand, each one works individually in an effort to contribute to an intentional brand strategy and speak authentically to your audience.
Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?
Anyone can suggest getting a degree in public relations, communications, or journalism, and those are clearly a good start. That said, I don’t have those degrees and have been fortunate to have success in PR, so I’ll focus on additional attributes that we utilize to find success in the PR space.
Regardless of your studies or experience, understanding the entire marketing mix can provide context as to what role PR should play in achieving your company goals.
One crucial thing is to always find a hook: be sure a press release is worthy of a writer’s time, because they’re bombarded with story ideas every single day. Don’t waste your and others’ time distributing a press release or pitch that doesn’t provide value to the writer or their audience.
And be timely, all the way around. Be responsive to your clients, coworkers, and especially with reporters and influencers.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
I’m not actually, and I acknowledge that it’s something that I need to force myself to do.
I’ve found it to be helpful to align your networking efforts with something that you authentically enjoy doing. Attend events with friends or contacts whom you enjoy working with. Heck, if you enjoy working with a connection of mine, chances are we’ll enjoy working together as well.
At some point you need to get out of your comfort zone, but doing what we love is something we take beyond networking — it applies to everything we do.
We work in the craft beverage and outdoor space, so we typically like to put on social events hosted by a brewery, or attend events that we’d like to be at anyway, without the added pressure of networking. It makes the interaction more natural and authentic, and that creates value for everyone. It’s about having some fun while collaborating on what we might be able to accomplish together.
If you’re looking to pitch an idea, be creative and prepared for who you’re planning to meet, and deliver a killer pitch with a takeaway that’s memorable or something they can easily reference later.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Relationships are how we built Turn It Up. That comes down to being accountable, responsive, and timely with follow through every single time there is an opportunity.
Be sure that your actions and your strategy drive value for everyone in the room, and then deliver. Instead of talking about what we are doing, or what we are going to do, Turn It Up typically prefers to focus on the success of our clients and the value we drive for them by merchandising results.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be true to yourself. Be selective about committing to an industry you are truly passionate about. When it comes to Turn It Up and our services, we execute in the craft beverage and the outdoor/lifestyle spaces. I moved from Wisconsin to Colorado to build a life around bikes, beer, and music, and I’ve stayed committed to those passions.
- Provide value to others. Any effort that doesn’t do this is a waste of energy, a distraction, and ultimately, a loss. Enable others to find success.
EXAMPLE: Turn It Up is driven by this concept. We execute four core services (they have a lot of different deliverables) and each service is headed up by a specific person that owns that department. I do not lead any specific service or department. The thought there is that my focus is to provide the vision and support for everyone at Turn It Up to be successful. If they are successful, the company is successful and the clients are happy. I don’t have to worry about a specific service, a client issue or a deliverable if everyone is positioned to win.
- Be timely. When a writer has a deadline that has snuck up on them, I want to be the person they reach out to for help. You need to be focused on being strategic about what content you are pitching and to whom you are pitching, being sure you are creating value for them, and being super timely so you become a trusted resource for the media. For example, Jaime Bogner had someone drop out of a Craft Beer & Brewing Podcast, and he asked if we could recommend someone of value to fill this spot quickly. Tim Matthews, CANarchy’s VP Global Brewing, stepped up, and we made it happen. This goes back to earning the media contact’s trust that you will provide value and do it in a timely manner. (You can listen to the podcast here.) It was confirmation that those fundamentals that I was passing along, or preaching, were serving me well, and I was executing on them.
- Stay curious. Engaging people and asking questions is the best way to learn, network, and build relationships. This goes back to the networking topic to some degree. When I’ve forced myself to submit proposals to speak at industry events and engaged in the surrounding conversations, I’ve gained valuable insights and relationships. For example, after speaking at Brewbound’s winter session in 2019, I shared a cab to the airport with Nancy Trigg from Arryved, whom I’ve known for a decade on a personal and professional level. That ride gave us the opportunity to be curious about each other’s businesses, and it turned out to be a cab ride that landed a new client
- Speaking of “stay curious”: Watch Ted Lasso.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It’s exciting that you use the word “movement”, as I serve on the philanthropic board of Can’d Aid, which I mentioned earlier and is a pretty powerful movement. I aim to inspire others to volunteer their time to build bikes for youth, participate in a river cleanup, make a donation, or simply spread awareness about “the movement”.
For many communities Can’d Aid serves, mental and physical health are key priorities. Many underserved school districts recognize a growing need to combat mental health issues exacerbated by social distancing and the stress that COVID has had on students and their families. Other communities see that young students need resources and supplies to encourage them to step away from their screens during a time that virtual learning is contributing to the growing amount of screen time.
It feels good to be able to contribute to communities in meaningful ways.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.
PR Pros: Chad Melis of Turn It Up Media On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.