Adapt and Evolve, The changing landscape of Outdoor PR with Alycia Cavadi [EP 228]

Adapt and Evolve, The changing landscape of Outdoor Media and PR with Alycia Cavadi

Photo by Kristjan Kotar on Unsplash

How were you introduced to the outdoors?

I was really introduced to the outdoors by my dad, which is pretty unlikely. He grew up in New Jersey and not fancy New Jersey. So any exposure he really had to being outside was probably limited to playing in the streets. They're very close to Manhattan. And then when he started his business in Boston, so the White Mountains of New Hampshire really became his respite. He raised me from a very young age skiing up there, spending weekends skiing up there, occasionally hiking in the summer. So anytime I'm outside, I'm just really especially grateful and aware that, my dad really stumbled into the outdoors. He was a commercial real estate developer in Austin for decades. I think he really hammered down during the week and loved to escape to the mountains. I feel I was really lucky because I don't think he understood the passion that he was sparking in me at the time, it really shaped my life.

Tell us how Momentum Media PR came to life.

Momentum's inception was complete serendipity with a bit of a twist. So my first outdoor industry job was as a shop kid on the retail floor at Eastern mountain sports up in North Conway, New Hampshire in the white mountains. I also went from that kind of corporate retail setting to working for an independent specialty retailer, Bugaboo Mountain Sports. At the time it was owned by Kai Shane, who I have to mention she was my most benevolent employer and friend. Just a really amazing role model women business owner. So I had some retail experience under my belt, both, in bigger corporate retail and this mom and pop shop.
We were all college kids spending time in Yosemite and the Sierra on the weekends. Eventually, California ran its course because I'm an East coast kid. And I decided I was going to go back to Boston. Moving back to Boston I was thinking, I really want to stay in this outdoor industry, but wondering what else was out there beyond retail. I have always been passionate about writing. I really enjoy writing and that communication style. So I was looking for that intersection and I did move back to Boston and I started freelancing. Doing some contract work for some PR agencies in the Boston area. So I was getting a little bit of PR experience.
I was going to the OR shows and passing my resume around. And a friend of mine who was working for Polartec at the time, Ruthann Brown, was in the Polartec booth and this woman walked in with her resume and passed it to Ruthann. Ruthann ended up passing it along to me. She said, Hey, this woman works in PR. She lives in Boston. And maybe you can get in touch with her. Maybe you can collaborate on some projects. Maybe she has some work for you. It turned out that this woman lived literally one block off the street behind me in the neighborhood of Boston I was living in.
So I gave her a call. I said, Hey, you know, I'm working in PR too, I'm working in the OR industry that's my passion, maybe we can work together. We sat down for coffee and she said, you know what, I'm ready to transition out of PR. I'd like to give the two clients that I have right now, a good strong referral, and refer them at least to somebody that can, that can take over and, she was just absolutely handing over the account. I said, okay. And one of them was Eastern Mountain Sports.

How has your role evolved over the years?

It's been a great ride. I think one thing I always touched back to was the woman at the cause-related PR firm I worked with, she introduced me to the concept of the entrepreneurial myth that entrepreneurs get into. They start their businesses around something that they love to do. And I loved PR I loved the communications. I love media relations. I loved getting results for our clients and seeing those grow. Then you become a business owner and you kind of go through this growing pain of like, “Hey, I didn't get into business to be a business owner. I got into business to do PR”. We all do the books, Manage people and, and become better at all of those things. So, fortunately, managing books can be outsourced. But your role really evolves into, business development, client service, business owner prospecting, all of those things. And I was raised by two entrepreneurs. So I feel like learning on the job is really the only experience that I've seen, and you know, we're all still learning and refining the skills in our roles.
We started in Boston. We're now really based in Boulder, Colorado, where there's much more of the industry is centered, where more of our media is centered. But we really started with clients that were very endemic to outdoor, kind of those core outdoor clients. And as an agency, we have evolved into a broader consumer market space. And so what we've proven successful at is, bringing these outdoor brands, but also some more crossover brands and active lifestyle brands like Icebreaker from what started in the outdoor market to a much broader consumer mind share by reaching those more concentric circles of media where there's just a natural crossover. We've grown from being an outdoor endemic agency to really being an active lifestyle agency.
The lifestyle crossover has been coming for some time. I remember speaking one media, editor, in particular, I've known for a long time, but it was many years ago. It was over a decade ago. When all of these sorts of more lifestyle brands were joining our space and lifestyle was kind of like a four-letter word a bit back then. I remember this editor looks at me and says, “you know, like it or not, this is the way the industry is going”. And we already had a couple of lifestyle clients on board and absolutely it has been great. I think it's added a lot more inclusivity as far as market share and hopefully bringing more people into our space.

So 20 years of evolution in PR and branding, what are some of the other changes you've seen in PR?

It's been a lot. Speaking with my coworker and basically my business partner, Bethany we talk about it a lot. When we got started in PR, she's also been in PR for 20 years and she's been with momentum for 10. There was a big delineation between paid media and what we call earned media. Now the lines are much more blurred. Brands are turning out their own content, creating their own content, the lines between advertising and editorial are very blurred, there's advertorial. And now we have affiliate marketing, which I'm sure is working out well for a lot of our media partners, media outlets and brands as well. So the landscape has really changed and evolved. Digital changed everything and everyone had to adapt and evolve. And so what we've found is it's been great because we're working a lot more collaboratively and a lot more closely with our client's marketing teams to make sure all those moving parts are aligned.

And what are your thoughts on the future of events?

We're learning by the seat of our pants. We knew at the inception of this event, this digital media showroom series, that this was going to be something that we would keep doing, even once we're able to gather in person again. So it will be another media touchpoint throughout the year, it won't eclipse in-person events, but it will be a hybrid model of moving forward where we're absolutely doing both.

Are you seeing anything exciting on the trade show side of things?

I haven't attended a virtual trade show as of yet. And as I mentioned, you know, when we're speaking to media, they often want just the highlights. So our digital media showroom series is a much shorter format. I think the most exciting thing that I saw coming out of our event was engagement. There was actually a lot of banter going back and forth. There was a lot of humor injected. It was very conversational all while the work was happening. So it'll be interesting to see how things that try to mirror a longer form conference pan out.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for folks wanting to get into the outdoor business?

I think from my own experience and how one connection led to something is one thing. But as then a thriving business for us for two decades now it is working hard, work hard at networking, be a connector, and be real about it. If you're asking for someone's time, I get a lot of like, I'd love to pick your brain and you know, then offer something in return. And know that you do have something to offer, and finding good mentors, and mentoring others, and really believing in the power of stumbling into something, or for the stars aligning so to speak. It can be that singular connection or that singular moment that launches something amazing.

What is your favorite piece of outdoor gear under a hundred dollars?

I'm using a Stanley COFFEE MUG WITH CERAMIVAC™ every single day, with their ceramic vacs.

If you could have a huge banner at the entrance to the outdoor retailer show, whether it's physically or virtually, what would it say?

It would say what's next?
Next is here, right? And what I've observed as our industry has been trying to have this conversation about what's next for, for years. And 2020, however, we think of it in every way. It's a catalyzing year, no matter how you look at it. So things are gonna change and they're gonna change much, much faster than our industry has typically evolved. Or sometimes we were willing to, and there's not much more time to talk about it. So I think right now, with everything that we're seeing in our political climate, in the outdoor industry, trying to embrace inclusivity, we have so many reasons right now to finally take real and meaningful action. Inclusivity is just a must, doing things the way we've always done them, like events, and like how we reach customers and consumers, that's in the rearview doing things the way we've always done them. “So the moment and the opportunity to move forward is here right now.”
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