5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Colleen Dunn

Last week we welcomed Assistant Account Executive Colleen Dunn to the Soda Pop PR team and also to Los Angeles. Colleen joins us from a boutique PR agency in San Diego as a talented wordsmith with a shared passion for the food and beverage world. Take a peek at our interview with Colleen below to learn all about her San Diego favorites and wanderlust inspirations.

FullSizeRender

1. As a newbie to LA, how do you look forward to spending your free time out of the office?

I’ve kept a running LA “to-do” list since I started visiting a couple years ago! I’m excited to hunt down street art, try out some restaurant recs, visit the LACMA again and of course spend plenty of time posted up in one of LA’s many awesome coffee shops with a book.

2. We know you’re passionate about travel. Tell us about one of your most memorable trips.

I just came back from Ecuador which was an especially memorable trip for me because I decided to conquer my fear of heights… by jumping off a 330 foot bridge. Part of why I love traveling is because it helps me to get out of my comfort zone and be much braver than I am in my day-to-day life. This trip was also special because I had the chance to celebrate New Year’s Eve and my best friend’s birthday with her. She lives in South America now so I don’t often get to be with her on big days like that!

3. What excites you most about working in the PR industry?

PR is exciting because every day is so different and we are always doing a million things at once. This isn’t a job where you find yourself watching the clock tick! I love being behind the scenes or being the person a reporter calls when they need a photo of a client. It’s so exciting to see great media coverage of a client that you made happen! Sometimes I feel like Olivia Pope and I have to refrain from saying “it’s handled.”

4. After spending 7 years in San Diego, what are the top 3 things you’d tell everyone to see or do while visiting?

San Diegans love to be outdoors (see #potatochiprock for the perfect instagram-worthy hike). My favorite way to get a daily dose of sunshine is a little beach-front yoga with instructor Namasteve. Steve offers a donation-based class in Pacific Beach every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.

With nearly 100 breweries in San Diego, beer has to be number two on the list of things to do. My favorite is Modern Times, a kickstarter founded spot that just opened a second tasting room. Check out the Lomaland Fermentorium for art including a Michael Jackson mural made of sticky notes and my current favorite brew The Universal Friend.

Finally, it’s time for some food. Local haunt OB noodle house is my favorite spot for pho and gives you a chance to check out Ocean Beach, San Diego’s own Venice. Pho should always be followed by ice cream so bring cash for a fresh waffle ice cream sandwich at Lighthouse.

5. We love listening to music during the work day (Dyan is infamously known for jamming out to 90’s rap). What are a couple tracks you’ll be adding to our playlist?

I’ve been listening to a lot of The Avett Brothers and the Head and the Heart lately but my favorite question to ask at a cocktail party is “What three albums would you want to be stranded on a desert album with?” So I’d definitely have to add in a selection from my three choices: Fleetwood Mac Rumors for that Friday feeling, The Shins Wincing the Night Away with extra plays of Sea legs and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA because that was the soundtrack to my childhood.

(For more from Colleen, you can find her on Twitter at @colleenadunn.)

5 of the Coolest Places to Stay in Palm Springs

Palm Springs Modernism Week took over our Instagram feed with a sea of colorful mid-century architecture snaps from some of our favorite bloggers: Kelly Golightly, Design Milk, Studio DIY, 100 Layer Cake and more. All this eye candy has gotten us in the mood for a little weekend getaway and it just so happens to be the best time of year to visit Palm Springs, before the desert heat takes over. For anyone in need of a little R&R in the desert here are some great places to kick back and relax (mojito in hand):

pinkdoor

(Picture Credit: Carley Rudd)

1. The Saguaro – Bursting with colors at every corner, the Saguaro is one of our favorite Joie de Vivre hotels and a must visit in Palm Springs. Relax by the pool and don’t forget to take one of their complimentary bikes out for a cruise around the neighborhood. The infamous #thatpinkdoor is just around the corner (pictured above)!

psrings2

(Picture Credit: Carley Rudd)

2. AirBNB – This Wexler house is all over our Pinterest Decor + Design board and we’re dying to check it out. It’s mid-century modern heaven!

wexler airbnb

3. The Parker – If you’re looking for a little modern luxury, the Parker Palm Springs won’t let you down. The hotel restaurant Norma’s has one of the tastiest brunches in town. Think Banana-Macadamia Nut Flap Jacks, house made doughnuts with lemon custard and blueberry jam, and for big spenders, the “Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata” served with Sevruga Caviar.

psprings

(Picture Credit: Carley Rudd)

4. The Ace Hotel – We’re big fans of the Ace Hotel chain and spent our last company retreat at their DTLA outpost (more on that trip here). Complete with retro furniture and their signature photo booth, it’s a fun, hip hangout with a year-round pool party scene.

ace ps hammock

(Picture Credit: Wallpaper Magazine)

5. Del Marcos Hotel – For peace and quiet, you can’t beat the “no-kids allowed” Del Marcos Hotel. This quaint vintage locale is just one block from downtown Palm Springs and opts for subtle fifties music over the DJ party scene you’ll find at the Ace Hotel. Pets are warmly welcomed and receive amenities of their own, including doggie treats, toys and food and water bowls.

del marcos

(Picture Credit: Emma Krasov)

Happy travels!

-Team SPPR

Now Hiring – PR Account Coordinator

Soda Pop Public Relations is seeking a full-time Account Coordinator who is interested in working as part of a team in a dynamic, growing company. Candidates must be driven, creative, confident, organized, witty, and have a love for food and travel.

Core Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Draft, edit and distribute press materials
  • Build, update and maintain media list and contacts
  • Create and update clips and client reports
  • Prepare call agendas and event recaps
  • Monitor press coverage
  • Assist Account Executives in day-to-day client work
  • Assist management in client correspondence
  • Assist in maintenance of and updating social media pages
  • Track and maintain all samples sent out
  • Support account team in planning media events
  • Research trends, pitches
  • General office duties: faxing, scanning, conference calls, booking travel, etc.

Desired Skills and Experience:

  • College degree majoring in PR, communications, digital media, advertising, marketing, journalism
  • Previous PR/marketing internships and/or 1 year of professional PR experience
  • Excellent communications skills, written and verbal
  • Capacity to think independently, work both collaboratively and autonomously
  • Ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and Internet research
  • Understanding of social media tools and platforms
  • Interest in working in a social, casual and fun work environment with openness to an untraditional approach to agency structure

Team members will be part of an exciting time in the agency’s development. Please send résumé, brief cover letter, writing samples and your favorite blog and why to sayhi@sodapop-pr.com.

*This is an entry-level job with opportunity for growth. Resumes without a thoughtful cover letter, writing samples and favorite blog example will not be considered. 

5 Questions with Travel Expert Mary Cecchini

Where do we begin? Mary Cecchini has been a colleague, mentor, inspiration and most importantly a dear friend to all of us at Soda Pop PR for many years. How could you not love a girl who makes it a point to create a life bucket list and cross off everything on it?

In September 2014, Mary launched Living Big, a travel company dedicated to crafting unique trips for small groups of women who have a passion to see the world, make new friends and indulge in new experiences. Her inaugural Living Big trip was to Costa Rica where she led a group of nine women zip lining through the jungle, trekking through mountains, cooking traditional Costa Rican cuisine and more. We highly recommend visiting her site to learn more about upcoming adventures including Switzerland in June and Spain in August.

We asked Mary to share some of her holiday and international travel advice in our latest 5 Questions Series. Enjoy!

Safe travels,

SPPR

IMG_2981

1. If you could travel anywhere in the world for New Year’s Eve where would you go and why?

New Year’s Eve is always a really reflective time for me.  I use the holiday to reflect on successes and learnings from the past year and an opportunity to plan adventures for the year to come. So, I generally look for a quiet place to be among friends with delicious food and drinks to ring in the New Year. That being said, I’ll hop on a plane any day to ring in the New Year with either a glass of raki in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey; yoga at sunrise on the beach in Nosara, Costa Rica; a small café in Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower, or listening to a Spanish guitarist while sipping sangria and snacking on pintxos in San Sebastian, Spain.

IMG_5365

IMG_5376

2. What’s one piece of advice you would give travelers to prepare for holiday and winter travel?

If winter weather has delayed or is likely to cancel your flight, be proactive in finding solutions for yourself. Rather than just wait in line with everyone else to get help from the ticketing agent be prepared to jump on the phone or start an online chat with your airline’s customer service department to get help. They can often help you faster than the ticketing agent at the counter. Ask about alternative cities you can fly through to reach your final destination. And if you’re in this situation, don’t even attempt to check luggage. The likelihood of your luggage making all your connections, especially last minute ones, is pretty low when crazy winter weather is in the mix!

IMG_3109

IMG_8723

3. What is the best way to fight jetlag?

The best way to fight jetlag is to get your body accustomed to the local time as soon as possible. The classic example is it’s 9AM and you just landed in Europe. DO NOT try to take a nap and then wake back up. That’s a great band-aid, but what you’re really doing is prolonging the affects of jetlag. Have a plan to keep yourself awake: drop your bags at your hotel and then go on a guided walking tour, create an experience that you’re really looking forward to (and will keep you stimulated) such as a trek to the top three spots in the city to try an Irish Coffee. And when the time comes to fall asleep (when you know you’ll sleep through the night) set your alarm so you wake up the next morning at 8AM. You’ll be spry and awake (like a local) in no time.

IMG_5233

4. What is one hidden gem destination you’ve come across throughout your travels? 

Built onto the side of the mountains 5,000 feet up is a small rösti house called Berggasthaus Aescher Guesthouse. In the Appenzell region of Switzerland, this place is unlike any corner of the world I’ve visited. It’s an epic journey to get there, full of trains, cable car lifts, hiking along the edge of a cliff, through a cave and past a 400 year-old church used by hermit monks; but once you’re there the warmth of owners Claudia and Benny, the amazing mountain views and their out of this world rösti (a traditional Swiss potato dish) will make the journey worth your while.

IMG_6481

5. Any tips on how to find a local favorite or undiscovered restaurant in a new city?

Hands-down: talk to locals. I’ll often ask the hotel concierge or my airbnb host if there are ‘must-eat’ restaurants in the city that require advanced reservations. Also, spend some time reviewing the international message boards on Chowhound.com. Once I’m in the city I’ll ask people I meet at the local coffee shop or tour guides for their go-to place to try the local specialty. And as you walk around pay attention to restaurants that are full of locals vs. tourists. Always ask for the house specialty. Walk well beyond the core tourist area. And please, skip restaurants that have menus with pictures and don’t be afraid of menus that aren’t in English. With a combination of these tips you’re likely to experience an undiscovered corner of the city and a meal you’ll remember for years to come.

IMG_8963

IMG_9146

Living Big

For more of Mary’s travel tips you can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

The Importance of Taking a Break

Yesterday, my friend and I had a conversation about traveling when you have a demanding job. She is itching to travel abroad but is worried that she doesn’t have enough vacation time or that her company will not approve her time off. In the same conversation, she mentioned needing to move outside her comfort zone to be inspired and take stock at what she really wants to do with her life. My first thought: TRAVEL. NOW. DO IT!

I should admit I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I didn’t travel abroad or take a proper vacation until I was 35. That’s not entirely true. I did take time off for my honeymoon but I was in between jobs and didn’t have to worry about coming back to a full inbox and a laundry list of to-dos. Now that I’ve traveled abroad, I realize how important it is to experience different cultures and slow down a bit – especially in a fast-paced and creative field like Public Relations.

This blog was originally slated to be a recap of my recent vacation including my recommendations for food, culture, and shopping in Paris, Florence and Rome. But, my friend’s concerns got me thinking about how many other professionals out there have the same concerns. So instead, I put together a list of things to consider the next time you make excuses instead of travel plans.

unnamed

(This was about a week into my recent vacation. Yes, the lighting was delicious but that glow is also the result of a proper break.)

1. Time off is good for your health: Studies show that vacations are just as important as exercise. They help cure burnout and chronic stress that’s epidemic in today’s 24-7 culture. The catch, it takes two weeks to take full advantage of these recuperative benefits. If two weeks away sounds like crazy talk, consider traveling during slow periods. I like to travel during Thanksgiving when things tend to slow down in the media world. It’s also the perfect time to travel to Paris and Italy if you like to avoid crowds and travel on a budget like I do.

2. Time off refuels your work: For me, this is reason enough to travel. My livelihood is based on staying fresh and creative. Visiting cities like Paris, Florence and Rome and truly immersing myself in the culture of these cities – touring the Louvre, seeing the David and St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time, spending the day learning more about The Roman Forum and Colosseum, eating gelato, pasta and drinking wine daily – jolted my creative thinking.

3. You’re not alone: Even though it was a client that originally pushed me to start traveling abroad, one of the most unnerving aspects of taking a vacation is letting my clients know I’ll be away. But that’s why you work in teams. I’m very fortunate to have a team that is willing to put in extra hours or take on more responsibility while I’m away. It helps to build vacations into our plans at least three months ahead of time to be extra prepared. In the end, your teams and clients will benefit from your renewed energy and perspective post-break.

Safe travels,

Dyan

5 Reasons You Should Visit Nicaragua

Our very own Carley Rudd recently traveled to Nicaragua and returned home with nothing but rave reviews for a country that is emerging as the new “must see” destination in Central America. Here she shares five of the top reasons you should add Nicaragua to your 2015 travels:

1. Untapped natural beauty

Much of Nicaragua’s land has been beautifully preserved, leaving lush jungle rainforests, deserted beaches and dozens of volcanoes, rivers and lakes. This reason alone is worth visiting.

Nica1Gq2ZQ9ySraYpwPSVQHbD_MA49HCBzvfTbPWxfhp0sNg

2. Beaches and surfing

Although Costa Rica has dominated the surf tourism in Central America, Nicaragua offers up excellent conditions without the crowds. Just north of San Juan Del Sur, Playa Maderas is one of the most popular surfing beaches with serene white sandy beaches and consistent surf for beginners to pros.

63lChxMgkBavuWidP8To2EvA_JdIe4vPqNsdvdQVh6c

3. Colors

Nicaragua is bursting with color, from their old colonial architecture, to the local fashion, art and the indigenous flora and fauna. One of my favorite days was spent wandering the streets of Grenada, the oldest colonial city of Nicaragua filled with beautiful Spanish architecture and bright colorful buildings.

tKoaJIGlnXNS2VwlBdgLyg_XJ96Z69rLSZd1xnZwxkIjhCwwfRnhvsOYkGmiTHcC_vNJQghfdIPFk-v0J-cD_4

4. Ceviche and coffee

It’s impossible to leave Nicaragua without becoming a ceviche-lover. Nicaraguan ceviche is made with local raw fish, onion, peppers, lime juice and cilantro. So fresh and delicious! And the coffee, some of the best I’ve had. Café Las Flores is Nicaragua’s top coffee producer and has been in the family for over three generations.

Go77sYjtgujwsCghWCfoPt1WMe-pZy495fZHmX_yd_o9tHQ3lNluDDFhzTCUjwtlXYeM2hZdPt9CDiXmS_6MzE

5. Off the beaten path adventures

The activities are endless for anyone looking for a fun adventure and include everything from hiking up and ash-boarding down volcanoes, zip-lining, kayaking, surfing and more!

10289854_10100295179230431_5840402753812636822_n3a99T7BIMWvH3jKXUSCU8yLWBl-9gHvvoavWs-zmV_U

A few of my favorite places:

Be adventurous! You never know what you might find.

-Carley

ESWqPYtcQkoEs4OY2xza8KSpQ-7wZH4GMAWoIjfI57s

For more of Carley’s photos be sure to check out her Instagram @carleyscamera and visit her website: www.carleyrudd.com.