We sat down with Tyson Greaves, Account Supervisor, Health in our Washington, D.C. office, to chat about how he merged his love for connecting with communities and storytelling into a fulfilling career in Health PR.
How long have you been at Edelman?
I've been working in Edelman’s Washington, D.C. office for about five and a half years now. I was actually an intern for a female executive at Edelman while she was at a different firm. I was reaching the end of my internship there, she had just made the jump to Edelman. I shot her a note to let her know, "I'm applying for places. If you see my name, put in a good word for me." Literally 12 hours later, I got a call from HR for an interview.
What is your background in, and how did you decide to take this career path?
As a student, I studied marketing in undergrad. I graduated in 2009, so it was in the throes of the recession. A lot of the interviews that I was getting with my degree were all sales jobs. The interviews went well, but they were for jobs that I would not have taken.
So I spoke to one of my mentors at the University of Miami about the opportunities getting thrown my way, but weren’t really fitting what I was looking for. I was looking to do more of connecting communities and storytelling. A lot of jobs that I got were just pushing units.
During my time at Miami, a lot of the courses that I thought were very interesting were PR for nonprofits, specifically. Through that class and through a relationship with the professor, I got an internship with Miami Children's Hospital Foundation. My first day on the job, I walked in, there was this giant machine sitting in the lobby that had this giant red bow on it. Next to the bow was a little easel that had a sign, "Thank you to the donors. As a result of all the fundraising that you did last year, we were able to get this machine that's going to the NICU." That was day one. I was like, "Okay, so this is actual, real world impact."
The ability and the tangible real-world impact that I was able to get and knowing that you don't have to be a doctor to save a life. Your work in helping bring communities together and getting messages to the right audience, your work to influence behaviors, to get people to act a certain way can really have profound impact on people. That opened my eyes toward health and my current role on the health team in D.C.
What clients do you work on?
One of my largest clients right now is Cigna, I am part of both the corporate communications team and the brand team. For the last several years, I've been working on the CEO's thought leadership platform, which is all centered around mental health and wellbeing. In year one, the work really focused on what Cigna as a corporation can do to address and to fight the national opioid epidemic.
In year two, we decided to keep the focus on substance use and opioid use disorders, but really narrow the focus a little bit to specific populations. We looked at the veterans' population. They're particularly underserved, and really feel the burden of the opioid epidemic a lot as a specific micro-community.
This year, still, within the mental health/mental wellbeing angle, the focus was on loneliness.
How do you describe what you do to your friends and family?
That is the most difficult challenge that I've had, working here. I always try to narrow it down like this: all of our clients, to some degree, want to help shape and influence behavior. My job, as the PR consultant, is to help them gather the insights, develop the campaigns, and execute against that to help them actually move the needle in the way that they want to.
What's been your favorite project you've worked on at Edelman?
TV Doctors is fun, because insurance can be so bland. When I heard that I was doing a consumer push, Cigna, I was thinking “what is that going to do?” The way that the campaign was able to so effortlessly take a very serious subject, like your health, and take a spin on it that, one, got consumers engaged, and, two, did it in a way that was lighthearted and fun.
There's so many different aspects of the campaign that we went through. It wasn't just the ad. There was a social push. We had in-person influencer events. We got to do these phenomenal media days. Kate Walsh was a spokesperson and her personal connection to the campaign was so gripping. She was able to get ahead of a brain tumor diagnosis because of, just, the relationship she had with her doctor.
It's just going back to the first thing I said, it's the real-world impact of some of the work that we do. Getting people to pay attention to their health and not just think of it like a chore or something that they do against their will, but be active participants in it. I think that's just awesome.
How did the HP #MoreLikeMe program come about?
Being an African American male in PR, the program really struck me. I can say that, so far in my career, I've only worked with a handful, maybe three or four, other African American males.
I loved the title, "More Like Me", because I think about that all the time. It's like, "Okay, am I an anomaly? Are there people all over the place that I just haven't met yet?" That's what I wrote about in my submission.
I grew up in the South and I had a lot of Black male mentors. Then the older I got, the fewer of them that I saw. Where I am in my life now, I realized that going forward, I'm going to have to be a mentor for people, because I know I can't be the only one.
There's just this innate motivation to demonstrate worth, the people who look like me, think like me, who talk like me. I know Edelman is really committed to diversity and inclusion and making more diversity hires. In order for that to be successful, then people like me need to be successful. Not only be successful on my own account, but also need to be reaching out and not opening doors, because the door's already open, but taking the step to actually invite people in. I just think that's so important.
In your time at Edelman, you’ve also attended the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. How was that experience?
Cannes was nonstop, running from panel, to networking session, to lunch. It was just such a great opportunity to be exposed to great work all over the world. A lot of the campaigns that were awarded were from South Africa, Brazil, China and Japan. Growing up in the U.S., I always think of everything from a very Western, American level. Being exposed to creativity, and thought, and storytelling that wasn't U.S.-centric was such a huge eye opener, and such a good benefit.
Probably the coolest part about being there was that they set up so many one-on-one mentoring sessions with us. People from all over the world would sit down and talk to us about how they got started, what their day to day is like now, giving us advice for how to get through the weeks.
What have you learned about yourself managing people?
I learned that I'm really good at talking people off the ledge. Especially when you're a junior staffer, anything that goes slightly off course seems like a huge deal. Being able to communicate to people that not only are you going to make mistakes, you're expected to make mistakes. You're supposed to learn, and you're supposed to ask questions. Not knowing everything is not the end of the world.
That's a skill that I didn't realize I had, just because I am the baby. I'm the youngest of six, so I never had to be that mentor type, never had to be that coach.
On a personal note, what are you watching right now? What are you listening to? What are you reading?
I just picked up Charlamagne Tha God's first book, "Black Privilege". I follow his Brilliant Idiots podcast all the time. He has such interesting takes on pop culture and life in general.
Right now, I'm watching a show called "Counterpart" on Showtime. It has a sci-fi element, a spy element. It's really good television. I'd put it up there with "Breaking Bad", for that level of intrigue.
As for what I’m listening to, I'm rediscovering "Awaken, My Love!", Childish Gambino's last album. Every time I listen to it, I just imagine that's what being at Woodstock would've been like. The artistry behind the music, it's all over the place. It's great.
Inside Edelman is an ongoing series that spotlights our colleagues who are doing extraordinary work across our network.