Meet 3 Tampa Bay area women redefining communications within new media

Thanks to the advent of social media and 24/7 Internet access, the local media landscape looks very different than it did a decade ago. In the Tampa Bay region, these visionary thought leaders are staying ahead of national trends and propelling communications full speed ahead.

Here’s a closer look at three Florida women who are growing audiences in local online communications and new media.

Caity Kauffman: Social Media & Digital Marketing Manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning 

If there’s one woman who understands the branding power of social media, it’s 25-year-old Caity Kauffman. With a loyal 6,000 Twitter followers, she represents the rising millennial voice in Tampa Bay.
It seems fitting that Twitter has been a driving force in her career. After graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2011 with a degree in journalism, she landed her first PR job at a South Florida firm by way of a tweet.

“A connection I made on social media got me my first job out of college,” says Kauffman, who reached out to the social media director at O’Connell & Goldberg Public Relations after he tweeted about a job opening. “I’d seen this tweet from this guy I’d met two years prior at a Tweet Up at a Florida Panthers game, which led to an in-person interview two days later.”

Upon graduating, Kauffman made it her goal to score a job at the NHL within five years. Luckily for her, it only took about 18 months. After her time at O’Connell & Goldberg (where she did PR and social media for everything from Japanese museums to local pizza shops), she went on to apply for a gig at the Tampa Bay Lightning last year. As fate would have it, her now-boss was someone she already knew from the Twitterverse.
The takeaway here is that, if leveraged correctly, social media can be a powerful branding tool for individuals and companies alike. But the truth is that the budding industry comes with a tremendous learning curve. 

Five years ago, Kauffman’s job didn’t even exist. The newness of it all can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Kauffman is sort of writing her own rules since no one has really done this before. On the other, she admits that she’s very much learning as she goes.

Back in 2009, when Kauffman was a college sophomore interning with a minor league hockey team called the Florida Everblades, she literally created the team’s Twitter account.
“Twitter wasn’t really mainstream yet, and brands didn’t really know how to wrap their heads around it,” she says. “So I jumped on it and started live tweeting our games, and it really took off.”

Kauffman has since carved out a spot as one of Tampa Bay’s media trailblazers, heading up digital marketing and social media for the Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm, as well as events at the Amalie Arena. She was recently recognized as the best local social media sports personality by Creative Loafing, but it’s really her witty, on-the-mark hockey tweets that keep her followers so captivated.

Patricia Courtois: President of Clarke Advertising and Public Relations 

With over 30 years in the media biz, Patricia Courtois is a PR force to be reckoned with. Her roots trace back to Chicago with her first gig working with brands like Tropicana for a large conglomerate called Beatrice Foods. The job served as a springboard that eventually launched her into marketing leadership roles for major brands like Sara Lee, Sweet ‘N Low and Mary Kay.

In truth, it was vacation – not work – that brought Courtois to the Tampa Bay area back in 1988.

“My husband and I came here on vacation after having our first child and needing a little break,” says Courtois with a laugh. “We came to Sarasota for the first time ever, fell in love with it an said, ‘Why are we in Chicago freezing?’”

This was long before the days of LinkedIn, Twitter and the like. Instead, Courtois had to network the old-fashioned way to land a Florida-based position. Staying in touch with the folks she’d worked with at Tropicana ultimately got her a local job here with the orange juice super brand. For six years, Courtois did corporate PR and brand PR for Tropicana, even helping to launch the Pure Premium brand in Argentina.

From there, she spent three years reverse commuting to New York every week to lead brand and health communications for a boutique PR agency.

“I loved my clients and the agency, but I had two young children at the time and just had to make a family choice,” says Courtois.

After joining Clarke Advertising and Public Relations in 1999 as principal and chief operating officer, she actually bought the agency in 2004. The company has since garnered many awards, including a national ADDY award for its work with All Faiths Food Bank. And Courtois herself was a 2013 finalist for BusinessWoman of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

When she’s not at the office, you’ll likely find Courtois taking an active leadership role within the community. She regularly works with many Sarasota area nonprofits.

Teena Cordozo: Owner/Founder of BrandMunki, a corporate advertising and branding company 

Young entrepreneur Teena Cardozo, 28, is living proof that hard work and hustle pay off. The once-upon-a-time graphic designer is now the president of a thriving corporate advertising and branding company called BrandMunki, which she launched three years ago. 

It was her first job out of college that brought Cardozo from Jacksonville to Tampa back in 2008 (a graphic design gig for a local marketing firm that worked predominantly with government agencies). While she loved the people she worked with, Cardozo ultimately longed for something more creative.

“My heart was in entertainment marketing and working in graphic design and social media for a diverse mix of clients,” says Cardozo.

She created her own logo and started brainstorming ways to break into the industry. When she eventually pitched her ideas to the president of the marketing firm she was working for, BrandMunki was born as an entertainment marketing and design division of the firm. After leading the division for a year and loving it, Cardozo branched off on her own as full owner of BrandMunki.

“At that time, I only had about five clients,” says Cardozo. “But every year since, we’ve doubled in sales.
Cardozo says the secret to her success was putting herself out there, attending events, reaching out to potential new clients and faithfully following up with emails and phone calls. Today the growing company has 45 clients, including The Ryan Nece Foundation and American Idol star Jared Cotter. The client list ranges from restaurants, to nightclubs, to musicians and more.
According to Cardozo, social media has played a large role in her success.

“At least 80 percent of my business comes through Facebook,” says Cardozo, who adds that her life is a bit of an open book on social media. “No one’s going to care about your brand if they don’t care about you.”

Cardozo regularly posts information about both her business and her private life. The efforts appear to be worth it – photos she posted to the company’s Facebook page from a recent BrandMunki event reached 10,000 users, Cardozo says.

In mid-November, Cardozo was recognized as a 2014  “Up and Comer” by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. While that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, Cardozo says her biggest accomplishment was meeting President Obama in 2012 while representing female minority business owners in Tampa.

Marianne Hayes is a writer, wife, mother and bookworm in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. You can read about her adventures in motherhood on her blog, With Kids in Hand. Twitter: @HayesMarianne. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Marianne Hayes.

Marianne Hayes is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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