Misty Espinoza is the Vice President of Communications of Entertainment Industry Foundation, (EIF), a leading charitable organization of the entertainment industry that harnesses the collective power of the entire industry to raise awareness and funds for critical health, educational and social issues in order to make a positive impact in our community and throughout the nation. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, she moved to California to major in Communications at Stanford University. Misty used her degree and love for entertainment to pave a road to success- one which leads to working with companies such as Disney during the rise of the social media empire. A true social entrepreneur, she is a key member of EIF’s renowned programs such as Stand Up to Cancer and Think It Up. Outside of work, she enjoys seeing artists such as Justin Timberlake and Sia perform live and is an avid Harry Potter fan.
Q: One of your responsibilities as the VP of Communications is to develop social media strategies for the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Can you tell us more about that aspect? What other responsibilities does your position hold?
A: I am responsible for drafting press releases, talking points for key executives and spokespeople, and thinking through which materials we would need for launch programs and initiatives. We cover events like shoots, interviews, and PSA campaigns, and I am in charge of making sure the message is correct and goes through properly. We have various PR agencies and we look at the PR strategies they put together and give feedback on it. A lot of it is core communications work in terms of always looking out for opportunities to get our message out there in the right setting.
Q: A lot of Millennials use Social Media. What role do you think Social Media plays in society? Can you tell us how Social Media is beneficial for companies?
A: Communications work starts with what your call to action is. How do we communicate with an audience who is important to you? I see social media as an extension of any communications work. Social media is a tool in your toolbox to get your job done. What’s interesting now is that we are entering a world where social media gives everyone an opportunity to become an influencer. I think that a lot of the big companies have come around to see the importance of social media and how important it is for them to engage with their audience. It’s been a big shift for the celebrity world. Before it was like, everything was on People Magazine or US Weekly, but now anyone can follow them on every platform to see what they’re doing.
For us it ties into PSA campaigns we do where we ask ‘how can we get these to resonate in Social Media?’. Developing strategies with EIF, I work with a team who creates assets for our Social Media accounts. They find content that resonates with our audience and engages with our community online like Twitter Trots and Facebook Lives. My job is to make sure the messaging is consistent. For example, for a Facebook Live we need the right stats in front of the presenter or if it was one of our celebrity ambassadors we decide when we want them to post and how they can post it.
There is a lot of opportunity with social media as well as challenges. Having camera phones, for example, became a big worry of ours. In events, people used those small flip phones and leaked exclusive pictures. Now everyone has a smart phone and everyone is online. It’s definitely an important tool in our toolbox.
Q: Growing up, were there things you did that indicated you would thrive in this career?
A: I’ve always been passionate about storytelling. I’ve always been an outgoing person who loves engaging in conversation with people. I was never shy. In my field, you have to constantly approach people you don’t know and ask questions or talk to them. Those characteristics definitely serve me in this world.
Q: Tell us about your career story. Did it start when you were young? After college? How did you get that first foot in the door?
A: I went to high school in Phoenix, Arizona, then moved to California to enroll in Stanford University to study communications. I was the first person from my family to move away for college. For the longest time I actually thought that I wanted to be a lawyer (laughs). But you know, I really enjoyed storytelling and journalism seemed like a natural fit. I also minored in drama. My senior year I took a true broadcast journalism class; then I realized this is not what I wanted to do. I started to explore my major and decided it was not for me. So what did I want to do? I really liked storytelling. A professor suggested communications. I worked as the head of marketing for my school newspaper as a new alum. It was a really good experience that resonated with me.
I spent a year thinking what I wanted to do next. I’ve always loved entertainment. Since I was young, I loved TV and journalism. It’s funny because growing up I always wanted to work for MTV (laughs). And then learned the business side of publications with Stanford Daily. I decided to do be an Entertainment Publicist so I moved to Los Angeles. There was a lot of pasta and ramen involved (laughs). I ended up interviewing at one of the biggest PR firms in LA. For three months, I worked as a receptionist. You know all of these experiences humbles you coming out of school and teaches you a lot of life skills. I observed a lot of important people. Eventually, I was exposed to the world of event PR as an assistant. It was like the Wizard of Oz; the curtain was pulled back and I was able to see what was behind things like red carpet premiers. Eventually I worked at another arts and culture PR firm. I worked with a lot of museums in LA. It was a total 180 from the work I was doing. It definitely shook up my status quo. I ended up working with a subsidiary owned by Disney during the early days of social media. It was this ‘brave new world’ experience. After that, I worked for EIF, who I have been with for five and a half years.
Q: What skills do you believe are important for someone to pursue a career like yours?
A: You need to be tenacious and proactive. I know those traits resonate in every career but it is especially important for this one. The biggest advice I can give someone to get into this industry is to push yourself to develop a thick skin. It’s hard to do at first. You need to be resilient. There were a lot of things that weren’t easy. Looking back, I am grateful for the experiences I went through. There were a lot of times when I questioned whether or not I could do things in a fast paced world but I am really glad that I stuck with it. It’s intimidating to feel like you’re not excelling at something. You have to be confident. The best advice I got was ‘fake it til you make it’. (laughs) It’s silly, but in a sense, if you don’t believe what you’re saying, then no one will as well. Not that you shouldn’t be authentic, but you have to walk it like you know what you’re doing and that you are calm and cool under pressure. That’s a big part of what we do.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
I love the opportunity to learn about new things. Everything from how to run a red carpet to finding the curing edge research in cancer research. My favorite thing is that I am right in the intersection of the nonprofit world and the entertainment industry. I work with people who are very committed to use their power for good so people can have someone to look up to and say ‘wow, my situation can change’, that’s important.
Q: Do you have any words of advice for our readers who want to pursue a similar career?
Keep getting out there and keep pursuing it whether it’s an internship or informational interviews. You have so many tools! You have so many ways to connect with people now and to do the research on what it takes. The sky is the limit!
A very big thank you to Misty Espinoza for taking the time for this interview. Learn more about the Entertainment Industry Foundation.
By Joseph Fortuno, Gladeo League Program Director