Day in the Life: Zehnder's PR Manager, Elliot Hutchinson
“I’m always on and I’m always around, because I have to be.”
That is Zehnder Communications’ Public Relations Manager Elliot Hutchinson’s professional mantra. He joined the agency in October 2011, and since that time has worked on a myriad of client accounts, ranging from healthcare to hospitality and from oil and gas to the legal industry.
To date, his client roster includes a North Louisiana-based financial institution, a leading independent physician group in suburban Chicago and Bourbon Street’s only luxury hotel, Royal Sonesta New Orleans, along with its associated on-property food, beverage and entertainment outlets—Restaurant R’evolution, The Jazz Playhouse, Desire Oyster Bar and more.
The following is a day-long diary tracking Elliot as he moved through his more-than-full schedule on Friday, February 9th. The day coincided with Mardi Gras weekend kicking into full gear, including Royal Sonesta New Orleans’ yearly premier signature event to celebrate the Carnival season, the 48th Greasing of the Poles! Greasing Of The Poles is a one-of-a-kind experience and is considered by many the official kick off to Mardi Gras weekend.
The ritual of greasing the hotel’s support poles began as a practical means to deter overzealous revelers from shimmying up to the coveted Bourbon Street balcony space. Nearly five decades later, the practice has evolved into a star-studded and music-filled event, even spawning its own international fan club that hails from Switzerland. Elliot and the Zehnder PR team planned the event, and helped to assure everything ran as smoothly as possible.
6:00 a.m: I wake up, grab my iPhone and immediately check for overnight emails. I also check the Weather Channel app. Chances of rain are pretty much diminished and temperatures are mild. This is a godsend after the last few days of New Orleans nastiness and frigidness. It’s a Mardi Gras miracle! Let’s do this.
6:15 a.m.: I make my final decision on the day’s attire, which is important. When you look good, you feel good. I am doing a high service for both my self-esteem and my general appearance. My favorite part of my look today: the subtle check print pattern on my suit actually reads, “You’re way too close.” Very tongue in cheek chic! Also, I have decided to forego my usual pocket square and instead place two dip-dyed quill feathers in my lapel pocket. The fun and the love are in the details.
7:00 a.m.: I am all ready and set to head out to the French Quarter to arrive on site. The day is off to a suspiciously smooth start.
7:35 a.m.: Wait, I spoke too soon. WVUE FOX 8 has just arrived on property at the hotel and needs an interview about Greasing of the Poles. They’re set to go live at 8:00 a.m. sharp. I’m not there yet, but it’s time to spring into media-relations mode and get this quickly coordinated.
7:50 a.m.: After a little iMessage magic with the hotel leadership team, I find the perfect interview subject and we have our filming plan set—without a moment to spare.
8:00 a.m.: I meet my colleague, Zehnder’s Senior Public Relations Manager Tambry Slavich, at the office and we hop in an Uber to get to the fun and frenzied French Quarter. The commute is pretty smooth and we arrive without issue. Here we go!
8:30 a.m.: Now the fun starts. Our Greasing of the Poles crew, which is comprised of team members from Zehnder, Royal Sonesta New Orleans and official event partner-sponsor Moet-Hennessy, has approximately an hour and a half to receive 125 VIP guests at the event’s pre-party inside The Jazz Playhouse before the show starts at 10 a.m. Easy enough.
8:45 a.m.: The fun continues, because now we have a little over an hour to also set up a stage in the middle of Bourbon Street, review any and all program script edits or changes, manage logistics with on-site media and photographers and remember to hydrate. It’s actually a blast. I’m never scared of multitasking. The more moving parts, the better.
9:00 a.m.: The pre-party is officially open and kicking off with a bang.
9:30 a.m.: It’s controlled chaos, which is exactly what we want to see, believe it or not. All Greasing of the Poles participants, including the contestants and guest judges, are arriving like clockwork and the crowd is gathering. Carry on.
9:50 a.m.: I check my watch and start tapping people on their shoulders. Let’s get into position, folks. This is not a drill. It’s 10 minutes to full show time!
10:00 a.m.: Greasing of the Poles begins and I am watching the crowd, the script, the AV team and the brass band like a hawk. I feel like Sean Payton and might have to call an audible at any moment. I know we have a winning team, so I’m not too worried.
10:30 a.m.: We have sailed through the script and run of show almost perfectly and the crowd is potentially at record attendance size. Win-win!
10:40 a.m.: We did it! Greasing of the Poles 2018 is a wrap. We’ve crowned a winner, we’ve laughed, we’ve danced and we’ve pulled off one of the most beloved Carnival traditions yet again. Go team! Let’s unwind with a celebratory champagne toast back inside the Jazz Playhouse.
11:30 a.m.: Cheers to the team, indeed! We’ve been recapping and reviewing all the elements of the event. Months of planning result in a 40 minute show. It’s magic.
12:30 p.m.: Time to head back to Zehnder headquarters on Poydras Street. I have to switch hats and jump into banking mode for another 1 p.m. team meeting for the financial institution client.
1 p.m.: The banking client team reviews the design, layout and wireframes for a shiny new branding campaign and provides key insights and opinions. The work looks great. Wasn’t I just on Bourbon Street slinging champagne and directing adults in costumes on where to be and when? All in a day’s work, y’all.
2 p.m.: The branding campaign and design meeting wraps, and it’s almost time to call it a day.
3 pm.: I do a final sweep of my email inbox, it's time to head home. In PR, you have to be ready for anything, so my cell phone is with me at all times. But for now, Mardi Gras weekend beckons!
A day in the life of PR Manager Elliot Hutchinson seems a bit hectic, but with that jam-packed schedule comes endless fulfillment. Knowing that you’ve just pulled off a major event (without a hitch) for your client is an inexplicable feeling of joy.
A day well spent, Elliot Hutchinson.