To close out an amazing 2018, the social media team at Barracuda PR, in El Paso, Texas, dedicated themselves to additional training and certification. We are proud to announce that this fantastic organization recently became the first agency in Texas to achieve the SMS certification through the National Institute for Social Media.
Committing to training and certification can be challenging for agencies working for clients that keep them busy with billable hours, but the dedication to continued professional development only benefits the clients they serve. Today we look forward to getting to know those on the Barracuda team and their experiences with social media and certification.
Marina Monsisvais, Owner
What was the motivation for Barracuda PR to have its team certified in Social Media Strategy?
As leaders in our industry, the professional development of our staff is a vital component to our success. I believe investing in our employees is the best investment for our team, and obtaining NISM certification helps us to stay on top of our craft.
We couldn’t agree more and love that you are investing in your team. How does it feel to be the first agency in Texas to be NISM certified?
We like being trailblazers! Texas is a BIG state and knowing that Barracuda PR from El Paso, TX is the first agency in our state to be NISM certified is a nice feather in our cap.
What can your clients expect as a result of certification?
Our clients can expect to have a thoughtful social media strategy implemented on their behalf, which magnifies their values and voice and helps them meet their goals. At Barracuda PR, we believe that social media is an intrinsic part of your overall public relations strategy. It’s a way for you to continue to share your story on a consistent basis while maintaining control of your message and voice in a manner that is instant, fun and brief.
Thank you for your insights, Marina. We are excited to have the Barracuda PR team in our network of certified agencies and look forward to seeing the great results ahead.
Crysti Couture, SMS
Hi Crysti. Great to talk with you today. You have been working in the industry for quite some time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your work in social media?
I officially began working in social media in 2012 for El Paso’s Destination Management Organization, Visit El Paso. The work was immensely fun; I got to create visual content for all the wonderful attractions in our city, I networked with fun and memorable folks and spent a lot of time outside of the office. I developed a soft spot for working with nonprofits along the way, and much of my freelance work has been dedicated to assisting nonprofits, small businesses, and causes.
I’ve been working for Barracuda for going on 2 years now and it’s been an absolute blast! Working in social media is already a fast-paced career, but when you’re working for over a dozen clients, the learning really goes into overdrive. Every day, I make sure to stay in-the-know with developments in the social media world and try to think of how I can stay fresh in our strategies.
You were the first on the team to be SMS certified, what drew you to this certification?
I took the time to read more about the NISM certification and how it differed from other certifications on the market today. NISM’s preparation materials are peer-reviewed and nearly exhaustive in terms of providing foundational knowledge. This made choosing NISM as my education source a no-brainer for me. No other certification on the market is at the level of academic prowess that this certification has achieved. The requirement for CEU’s is also appealing because it continuously challenges me to take additional classes that expand my learning.
It is great to hear how you chose the NISM certification. In what ways has the certification helped you in your work life?
Working in social media makes it very easy to get stuck in a routine. I imagine this is the same in nearly any field; you do something for a while and you just get stuck in a flow of ‘this is how we’ve always done it’. The SMS Certification has helped me remember to set schedules to reevaluate my work, to recalibrate our strategies and to reflect on our successes. There are a lot of standards that we should adhere to as we continue our work with clients and an interest in social media continues to increase and the SMS Certification helps with setting those standards.
You mentioned the need to get “unstuck” from the potential of a routine. This past year, you took a huge step that keeps you learning and growing while helping other social media professionals, by becoming a NISM certified educator. What do you love most about teaching for NISM?
I absolutely LOVE being a Certified SMS Instructor. I think what excites me the most is meeting young entrepreneurs that understand social media on a professional level and give the field the respect that it deserves. I also enjoy the experience of teaching because it reinforces my own learning.
As both an SMS certified professional and a NISM educator, what advice would you give to those thinking about obtaining the certification?
I definitely recommend taking a Blended Course (digital/real classroom) offering. Although the entire purpose of our curriculum is to teach the process of digital strategy and online communications, there’s no comparison to organic, face-to-face communication. The interactions that happen during class are just as valuable as the curriculum itself!
I also think that anyone who’s on the fence about taking this certification should just go ahead and get it done. Even though NISM is in the process of getting this curriculum added to existing programs at institutions of higher education, it isn’t widespread yet. NISM provides very niche knowledge and investing in a NISM SMS Certification is an investment in oneself.
David Acosta, SMS
Prior to working for Barracuda Public Relations at the beginning of 2018, I worked as a bar and nightclub DJ for more than 10 years and worked at the El Paso Times for six years, first as a copy editor, then as the entertainment reporter. I dabbled in social media in both, promoting parties, promoting stories, live-tweeting events, etc. Most of my social media knowledge comes from trial and error.
It’s it crazy how social media is entwined in a wide variety of organizations? Now that you are working in PR and social media, what do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy sharing our clients’ stories with the community. I like being part of a team that is just as passionate about our city, it’s growth and development as I am.
Since you just finished up the training and certification this past fall, what was it that surprised you the most about the process?
I was surprised by the fact that all the trial and error I went through to learn how to use social media effectively has an actual theory behind it and defined ways to implement that theory.
Now that you know the theory and ways to implement, how do you feel the certification helped you in your daily work?
I feel like learning how to define everything we do has helped me refine what I already know and put it to use even more effectively. It’s also helped me talk to clients more substantively about how to effectively use social media.
Are there any recommendations you would like to provide to individuals or agencies considering the SMS certification?
I recommend getting certified because it not only reinforces the knowledge you may already have but you’ll learn something new, as well. You may also learn that you know a lot more than you thought you did, you just didn’t have the theory or terminology behind it. It also signals to a client that, not only do you know what you are doing, but you will be able to help them understand their social media strategy and how/why it is or isn’t working so the strategy can be continually refined with confidence.
Thanks for sharing that, David. Let’s close out our conversation with a fun question. What is your favorite social media platform? Why?
My favorite platform is Instagram. I think the tools they provide for businesses are very effective and easy to use and understand. They’ve done a good job of providing users with different ways to share content, without going the Facebook route of trying to be everything to everybody.
Regina Garcia, SMS
I am a 2016 graduate of Texas Tech University with a Master’s degree in Communications. I have been working at Barracuda Public Relations for over a year and a half, where I began as a Social Media Intern. Following my second three-month term as an intern, I was offered a full-time position as a Social Media Coordinator.
We love seeing the transition from an intern to a full-time position. That growth shows that Barracuda invests in its talent. What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
I enjoy the fact that Social Media is changing every day. And how every client’s social media page is different in one way or another, different voice, images, videos etc. I also like that I get a chance to look at a variety of industries (retail, housing etc.), as well as the amount of work that goes into organizing or coordinating a client’s social networking page. I also enjoy the team that I work with, we are always able to collaborate and we often tend to have a set of goals in mind relative to our client’s pages.
Teamwork is a great benefit of an agency like Barracuda PR. How has your approach to your work changed, if at all, as a result of certification?
As a result of the certification, I would say that the way I look at the work I do is different than before, specifically the planning and research portion that I go through when looking at my accounts. Going through the SMS material reminded me to look at everything that matters most when analyzing in order to determine when changes need to be made.
What was your first reaction to the idea of getting certified with your team?
My first reaction to the idea of getting certified was that I really hadn’t considered it. But the fact that I had the opportunity to take part in the class and really dive deep into the communications industry really brought on a challenge that has helped me continue to grow.
I am so glad to hear that you found it valuable once you were involved in the class. What would you recommend to folks considering the SMS certification?
If you are considering the SMS certification, I would recommend that you place a certain amount of time to the side to study and prepare. Also, if you are unsure talk to a team member to see how this certification can help you and everyone in the organization or company grow.
Thank you to the Barracuda PR team for their time and insights. It was great to learn more about each of you and we look forward to seeing you online.
Do you have questions for the Barracuda team? Ask them below or connect with them online.