April 2023: Sandra Ericson
Sandra, you are the Executive Vice President, Leader of Energy and Renewables practice, and Partner at rbb Communications, can you share with us the scope of your work and how it contributes to energy?
It’s such an exciting time to be working as a communicator in this sector. I’ve been working with utilities and energy companies for nearly 20 years, helping them communicate with customers and stakeholders about topics like storm preparations, energy efficiency tools, infrastructure resiliency methods and community partnerships. Now, in the clean energy revolution we get to be on the front lines of shaping the way forward for emerging technology companies and companies looking to make the transition to renewables responsibly and affordably. Our experience and results in this area has helped grow our practice to within the top five in the country.
You graduated from UF with a degree in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication. When you graduated did you imagine yourself working with big energy companies such as FPL?
Not necessarily in the energy sector, but I was always interested in communications as well as emergency response. This likely stems from my experience with Hurricane Andrew in 1992. We were in the Southern area of Miami and had to rebuild our home, after riding out the storm. Since then, I’ve always been drawn to serve the community, understanding what it’s like to go through such an event. I’ve been privileged to work with several clients who provide services during and after storms, and I’m proud to be part of FPL’s storm communications team. This industry really pulls together in times of crisis and is an excellent example of how critical it is to have a well thought out and tested crisis plan. No one does it better.
In 2022, you were an honoree for Top Woman in Communication. Congratulations! You’ve had great opportunities to work on different high profile marketing initiatives. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional career and how you got here?
I’ve only worked for two companies in my career, and that’s the way I like it. rbb is special because we have highly above average client tenure. The average client have been with us more than nine years, and several more than 15. The reason our clients stay is because of our extremely long staff tenure. I love to dig in and really learn our clients’ industries, their processes, opportunities and challenges – as well as they do. I feel the same way about my teams and colleagues. Because we’re invested in both clients and staff, the work is better (we validate this by constantly striving to do nationally recognized, award-winning work) and the results are more meaningful.
You are a part of many leadership organizations, what is the best advice / biggest thing you have learned about being a leader?
Dive right into new areas, learn as much as you can about them, and get uncomfortable. When I began my career, our agency was much smaller and very focused on public relations. Think of how much the communications discipline has changed, from the media environment to the number of channels to communicate with stakeholders, to digital marketing and social media. Now, we are a completely integrated firm able to offer clients a one-stop shop for strategic counsel. Our CEO always says, we’re platform agnostic – so we don’t have to worry about everything looking like a nail because all we have is a hammer. As client advocates, we’re able to advise objectively on the best path forward and bring in the right strategists to execute.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your role at rbb Communications?
As I said earlier, leaders always push themselves out of their comfort zones. Just because you’ve done it that way before doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it again. Communications is a dynamic and rapidly evolving field. The pandemic showed us we could pivot, adapt and create faster than ever. And while “done is better than perfect’ – quality must come first. Balancing all these elements is a real juggling act.
You have been a part of rrb Communications, one of the best energy public relation firms in the U.S, for over 17 years. What advice would you give a second-year college student looking to start a career in energy?
Don’t wait to work. While education is certainly important, in many sectors, on the job experience is equally critical. I tried many different types of internships while I was in college to learn what I liked, and to get as much experience as possible. Even if it turns out that field or industry isn’t for you, that’s a learning in itself – plus now maybe you’ve picked up working styles or organizational tips that will serve you no matter where you land. I’d also like to invite any students or recent grads interested in learning about
communications in the energy sector to check out rbb’s website for details on our paid internships. We love our interns and as many as half of our hires comes directly from that program.