Public Relations Tactics

Home Improvement: Katrina Blauvelt, APR, on Customer Service and Communications at The Home Depot

April 3, 2017

Katrina Blauvelt, APR, is senior director, associate communications, The Home Depot. She is responsible for engaging associates to live The Home Depot values and deliver excellent customer service through strategic two-way communications programming, including HDTV and myApron.

She rejoined The Home Depot in 2007. Prior to that, she was director of corporate communications for Philips Consumer Electronics, North America, where she led the public relations, internal communications and community outreach functions for the company. Blauvelt’s prior Home Depot experience includes managing public relations for the Northeast, Expo Design Center and Villager’s Hardware divisions. She also was a business reporter and home editor for Gannett’s Pensacola News Journal.

Blauvelt earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University and received a master’s degree in communications management from Syracuse University. She lives in Marietta, Ga., with her husband and two daughters in a 1910 farmhouse that they have been renovating. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, sailing and gardening.

What was your dream job as a child?

I wanted to be a reporter. In fact, I had my own newspaper at age 6 — The Daily Growl, dedicated to my dog Ginger.

How did you first become interested in public relations and get your start? 

I was a journalism major at Boston University and had friends who majored in public relations. I was intrigued by some of our discussions about the profession. So I decided to do an internship to see if I liked it. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing three internships before I graduated.

What are some challenges and exciting things you face in your day-to-day role at The Home Depot?

We are a values-based company and two of our core values are delivering excellent customer service and taking care of our people. I love inspiring and engaging our associates to do just that through strategic communications programs every day.

What are some of the top tools and platforms for engaging the social workforce with so many digital stimulants out there?

While there are a number of solid internal social platforms in the marketplace, the key to success is being less dependent on technology and more dependent on the dedication of resources supporting it.

The Home Depot’s internal social media platform, called Warehouse, is a voluntary-use feed-based community that has been connecting associates since 2008. Warehouse brings associates together across stores, departments and time zones. It’s a place to discuss everything from customer questions to community service projects. It’s a forum where associates can collaborate, solve business problems, share best practices, recognize exceptional performance and build relationships. We have three group categories — run the business, my Home Depot life and miscellaneous social media that includes everything from recipes to woodworking, cats and even bacon. We know what associates are thinking because they tell us.

With a company that is 400,000 associates strong, internal social media is a phenomenal tool to support the business and get to know people you would not get to meet in your day-to-day job.

What do you think are some of the keys to implementing strong, strategic storytelling?

It all starts with the story. I see my team as an internal newsroom that is looking for the best stories to tell. Once we identify those stories, we tell them in an authentic way that is true to The Home Depot voice and culture. Measurement also is key. Through sentiment analysis and our associate engagement index, we know what stories resonate with our associates.

How would you describe your leadership style and what makes a good leader?

I surround myself with creative and talented people, and I am very fortunate to work with one of the best teams in the industry. My job is to connect the dots between our company strategy and communications to support great results. Good leaders provide the information, environment and opportunities that enable others to do their best work and that’s what I strive to do.

What advice do you have for new professionals looking to break into public relations and/or corporate communications?

Writing is the foundation of our profession. Take the time to hone your writing skills and write something every day. Networking is also key. Ask for informational interviews — you will make a lot of connections that can lead to the job you are looking for.

What do you think the benefits are of being Accredited? Why did you decide to take the APR exam?

I took the APR exam eight years into my career. My husband had been in the Navy and he gave me good advice — always get your qualifications. I really enjoyed the process and believe in lifelong learning. From there, I went on to get my master's in communications management from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. I believe the APR shows a commitment to your career and profession. When I was hired by my former employer Philips Consumer Electronics to run communications for North America, the recruiter told me that they put all the résumés with APR certification in a separate folder to evaluate. So my husband was right — you should always get your qualifications — it sets you apart.

Why do you think it’s important to be involved in organizations that focus on networking and continuing education?

We all have so much we can learn from each other. It is a great way to share the industry’s best practices and learn more about new technologies, strategies and common experiences.

What are some trends you see on the horizon for public relations and/or corporate communications in the coming year?

Measurement and proving ROI will play a larger role in our profession. But for measurement to be truly effective, it can’t just be an outcome at the end of a program. It must be an ongoing process to inform future programs. The communications cycle both begins and ends with measurement.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your 26-year communications career?

Writing is the foundation that everything else is built on. Build a strong foundation and the rest will come.

What’s the best part of working at The Home Depot?

Working with our associates. Whether it is interviewing them for a story or putting on my orange apron to work alongside them in the stores, it is always a great experience. We have amazing people who are passionate about our business.

 


 

Getting to Know… Katrina Blauvelt, APR

Any three dinner guests — past or present?

Carrie Fisher, Audrey Hepburn, Gabby Bernstein

Favorite movie?

“Star Wars”

Best advice ever received?

“Get your qualifications” — from my husband David

Best place to travel?

France

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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