CXO

Jasmine Teer: Director at Small Girls PR. Tech storyteller. Salsa dancer.

Jasmine Teer tells TechRepublic about learning how to tell stories for tech companies and finding unexpected intersections between tech and anything from barbecue to fashion.

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Image: Nican Robinson

Jasmine Teer was hoping no one was going to get electrocuted.

It was her senior year at Stanford University, and she was the director of the Stanford concert network, the organization that brings bands onto campus.

It was an outdoor show, with a major band booked, and the rain was rolling in — the pinnacle of crazy, as she put it.

But, the band kept playing, and no one got fried. She had an oddly serene moment in the middle of the intense chaos.

"I just had a silence come over me and realized that I absolutely loved what I did and I knew that no matter what I did going forward, that was always going to have to be a part of the formula," she said.

So far in her career, she's been able to hang on to the love, despite the chaos.

Professionally, Teer started off earlier than most. At 16, she got a job as a reporter for a local news station. The station had an initiative to reach out to teenagers, and she was one of 10 students from around southwest Louisiana who got to report a story every month.

After high school, she stayed on at the station for the summer, before starting her freshman year at Stanford University.

"It was a really great way to cut my teeth in the world of media, cut my teeth in the world of digital and really start to understand stories and the way that they resonate with people," she said.

After college she worked for an agency that handled enterprise software and open source technology. It was a chance to get to know organizations like the Eclipse Foundation, the Apache Foundation, and the Linux Foundation, learn about that section of the tech industry, and figure out how to tell those stories.

"I really like telling the story of people that take something that is freely given on the internet and build upon it and make it their own and introduce the world of commerce to that," she said.

In 2006 and next few years as she was starting her career, social media was still very new. She appreciated the experimental nature of the time. The agency, Page 1, which was later bought by Lewis, ran early large-scale social media campaigns for events like Google I/O.

In the five years she was there, Teer moved up the ranks and was able to spend even more time learning about topics like data analytics, Q and A, and complicated technologies that aren't always easily communicated through storytelling.

A little more than a year ago, she joined Small Girls PR. Small Girls is a New York-based PR firm that, in part, prides itself on avoiding things like sending press releases to BCCing reporters. In short, they try to be non-traditional.

As director, Teer works with brands like GE to help come up with storytelling approaches that are, indeed, non traditional.

Frequently, that means taking two things that don't really seem to go together and finding an unexpected intersection.

For example, for New York Fashion Week, they partnered with Tumblr, and sent two of their most popular science bloggers to about 20 different shows over the course of about five days, and had them write about where they saw the influence of STEM.

"It was really fantastic to talk about a jagged line in a dress mirroring what an EKG line on an electrocardiogram looks like," she said. Or, the beads and rope on a dress looking like Gordian Knots.

At South by Southwest this past March, they wanted to talk about GE's research and development centers. R&D might sound like a pretty dry topic in the middle of all the hubbub at South by Southwest. What's not dry is barbecue. Unless it's dry rub.

They set up a barbecue science lab where people could taste test different types of barbecue, take an EEG and see how their brains and bodies reacted to them by watching brain waves in real time. Another station combined chemistry and icecream with barbecue-inspired toppings. They also had a 12-foot smoker with data reads so they could essentially use science to figure out how to make the best possible barbecue.

"It's not everyday that consumers are going to sit down and really dive deeply into healthcare or neurological imaging, so we wanted to give everyone a really tangible way of understanding how science is playing a role in what we're doing," she said.

Part of the way she finds these intersections is taking an approach to client work that balances thinking like a consultant and acting like a human. It's also the advice she gives to startups she mentors on the side.

"That means finding something that is an emotional connection, finding something that excites them personally and really figuring out how to bring that into the brand," she said.

In her own words...

How do you unplug?

"That's pretty easy for me. There are two things. I travel a lot. I love exploring new countries, new places, I've actually charged myself with going to at least ten new countries by the end of this year — my birthday is in December, so I want to make sure that I see ten new countries. That's one. For the times when I can't get out of town, I actually am an avid salsa dancer. I've been salsa dancing for about 15 years. In a former life, I was actually a part of a professional dance company, back in the Bay Area in San Francisco. Salsa dancing has been a huge part of the way that I spend my time when I'm not at work or not sleeping, or with friends. Interestingly enough, it's taught me a lot outside the world of dance and art, but also in business. There's really a beautiful balance between leading and following, and it really teaches you to pay attention to detail. It is as relaxing and as creative in the way that I unplug, but it also teaches me all these other things about the world. The two bridge together because one of my favorite things to do is to show up in a new city that I haven't researched in terms of the dance world and find someone who salsa dances, and it's interesting because it's a global community and it's kind of like having family anywhere you go. I remember a time I went to Prague for a few days, and the concierge at the hotel, she happened to be a salsa dancer. She told me where to go that night and I ended up making like twenty friends."

If you could try another career, what would it be?

"I think if I ever changed careers or tried something new, it would deal with art. I love art directing. I actually have art direction parties with my friends. Basically, I'll set up photoshoots and I'll have everyone come in with full costumes or outfits to wear. We do hair, we do make up, we stage it, and we'll spend eight hours on the photo shoot, just for our own creative output."

Is there a website or a social media account you read for fun?

"I spend a lot of time on Artsy these days. I really love digging through that site and finding new artists and looking at the stories that they are telling through the work that they do."

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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