Business & Tech, Features

Media manager Oskolkova on company narratives, including own

Anya Oskolkova is a managing partner and director of media relations at Zazil Media Group. PHOTO COURTESY OF ZAZIL MEDIA GROUP
Anya Oskolkova is a managing partner and director of media relations at Zazil Media Group. PHOTO COURTESY OF ZAZIL MEDIA GROUP

In the eyes of Anya Oskolkova, the business world’s cold façade is more than a stereotype: it’s an act. A Boston University alum, she runs media relations and is a managing partner at the Boston-by-way-of-New-York-based PR firm Zazil Media Group. Oskolkova spoke to The Daily Free Press about the group’s aim to tell its clients’ stories as it works to rewrite its own.

The Daily Free Press: How did you get here?

Anya Oskolkova: My story’s a bit unique because I am not from here. I was born and raised in Russia, and I went to school there. I went to Moscow and got my bachelor’s degree in international relations and diplomacy. I was working for the ministry of foreign affairs for a little bit of time, and I just realized that it was not a 100 percent fit for me. I liked the communications aspects of it, like people watching and working on putting your message and strategy to work. That’s how I decided to get my master’s degree in the communication field.  I also wanted to get a study abroad experience, so I applied to a bunch of schools and got accepted into BU, the graduate PR program. I came here in 2009, and I just really loved Boston. I just decided to change my life and stay here. I entered into the BU in L.A. [Los Angeles] program and worked for two PR agencies there, and then I worked in telecommunications based here in Boston in consumer PR. After all that experience, I found Zazil. After working there, I worked my way up to managing partner and realized that I really love tech PR and working for a smaller agency. It’s a completely different environment.

FreeP: How does your IR and diplomacy background play into your work today?

AO: It’s actually helped me a lot because we, at Zazil, have a lot of international clients.   That’s kind of our specialty. That’s how the agency was started. We wanted to help companies from overseas, such as manufacturers from France and Germany, to market their products here in the states. I’ve used my ability to speak Spanish, Russian and also just understanding how different cultures work. It’s definitely very helpful to not have to learn from surprise. Having that background is very useful.

FreeP: Can you tell me more about Zazil Media Group? What’s the mission of the agency?

AO: The agency was founded in 2001, and, like I said, the whole purpose was that we wanted to help clients overseas who had a lot of awesome products, but didn’t know how to market them in the U.S. From there, we grew into servicing clients in tech PR and trying to break into a different market. We’re really good at product PR and product launches. We understand what it takes to tell a story about a product. We help our clients tell their story in a language that would be clear to their future customers. I feel like companies sometimes are so involved in their own manufacturing process that when they talk about their product, it’s sometimes unclear. We help them translate that to the right audience. We try to integrate ourselves into their whole marketing strategy, and, by doing that, we are helping them and they are helping us to understand what their needs are. It’s not like you do it and we’re done. It’s more like, ‘Let’s go into this partnership so we can help you in the long term.’ We’re a small agency. There are about 10 to 12 of us, so it’s very important that the people we work with are all on the same page. Even though we’re based in Boston and New York, we meet every day. It’s very important to have that and make sure that we’re making decisions as a team whenever possible. Then there’s our personal best. That’s probably our biggest value. If we are fully engaged in our relationship with a potential client and we understand them, then we’re going to do our personal best on that project.

FreeP: You said Zazil helps clients tell stories for their products. What specific services do you provide in order to make that happen?

AO: Part of our mission is getting your product in front of the right people. [It’s about] your company, your name and telling the right story. So our clients work with us and refine their message to the right audience. Some examples are, for PR strategy and tactics, we would develop campaigns that help products reach the market. So, that would include a big media relations outreach. We would take our time, do our homework to come up with the right media target. We don’t just blast people. We really spend a lot of time on that element because we don’t want any backlash from talking to the wrong people. Then there’s a constant follow-up. We have this almost sector-like approach in place with how we deal with the media, how often we talk to them and how often we remind them of us. That’s the media relations part of it, and there are other aspects of product launching, obviously communications and getting a client’s message out there, promotions, awards. We do all of those things.

FreeP: Bringing this strategy into the big picture, how do you see the role of partnering with clients functioning in the future of your field?

AO: You have to understand your client. You have to understand their nature. You have to understand their product. You can’t just pitch something to the media without understanding what you’re talking about. In order to have that understanding, you have to be more or less integrated into their product roadmap. I hope we’ll see even more of that in the future.

FreeP: As for your team, what’s Zazil Media Group doing currently? Any updates?

AO: We’re actually in the process of rebranding our own brand. A lot of things are happening with us client-wise, and we’re definitely on the path to growing. We just want to make sure our brand actually represents who we are right now.

FreeP: Lastly, do you have any advice for prospective women in your field?

AO: Especially in technology, it’s such a male-dominated environment that things can be intimidating at times. We’re learning more and more that gender in this field doesn’t really matter when you provide an excellent service that you’re being hired for. Just be bold. Be brave. Do your own thing, and don’t feel limited. It’s all about what you can bring to the table.

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