Social-Media Mavens

Michele Husak, B.A.’90

Michele Husak

Connecting and Conversing

By Carol Olechowski

Michele Husak intended to major in business at UAlbany, “but statistics wasn’t my cup of tea.” She enjoyed her psychology classes more. “I always loved trying to figure people out on a deeper level,” recalls the movie and TV lover, who relocated to Los Angeles two weeks after graduation to work in the entertainment industry.

After five years assisting agents; reading scripts; and serving as a development executive for various production companies at Warner Bros., Columbia/TriStar andSony Pictures, Husak moved back to New York to do band publicity at record labels. At the advent of the late 1990s dot-com boom, she began a career in tech public relations at Jupiter Communications. The communication skills Husak had honed at UAlbany – and the “invaluable” public-speaking proficiency her former professors had encouraged by pushing her to participate more in class – were useful as she aided companies in “refining and telling their stories on a broad scale.”

She returned to California to take a role with (later acquired by eBay) in 2003. Later, as one of Pandora’s first employees, Husak helped the start-up evolve into a “very popular” music service. She subsequently worked in PR at Digg, then in corporate communications for the online video network Revision3, which Discovery acquired in 2012. Husak went on to head communications for Thumbtack, “a marketplace that matches customers seeking service professionals to assist with everything from home repairs to party planning and music lessons.”

Husak’s UAlbany degree enabled her to “manage the unique personalities of my bosses, and of the producers, actors and writers, and musicians” early in her career, and those of the Silicon Valley executives she works with now. “The entertainment-business craziness you see and hear about is not an exaggeration,” she says, adding, “the same applies to the Silicon Valley!”
A self-described “behind-the-scenes type,” Husak is “happy promoting others.” Since she began her career, “social media has absolutely transformed the public relations industry,” notes Husak, who embraces Twitter, Facebook and the company blog posts that have superseded Rolodexes, newswire services and press releases.

“Communicating directly with customers is a great opportunity to form a trusting relationship, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Consumers now look for a response in real time and in an authentic manner; the younger generation wants to connect and converse. The companies excelling at social media are the ones that are super fast, super helpful and super smart about conversing with, not at, their customers,” explains Husak.

Recently, she took on a new role, running communications at Indiegogo, the global site that helps bring people’s ideas to fruition through crowdfunding. In her spare time, Husak also does PR and social media for husband George Yatrakis’ new venture. “He creates handmade wooden surfboards (, and it’s been great fun attempting to build a following from scratch,” Husak recounts. “It’s a challenge to know what to post and when, and how to speak in the language of potential customers. Each new ‘like’ or comment is a personal victory!”

Husak, a mom of two, is a Girl Scout troop leader and started an adventure club for boys and their dads three years ago. She is also active with the parent-teacher organization at her children’s school. Husak and her family live in Pacifica, Calif., where they hike and enjoy the beach, camping, concerts, and “being outside as much as possible.”

Advice for Social-Media Users

“Social-media managers and PR professionals need to be transparent and honest in how they communicate,” observes veteran public-relations expert Michele Husak. “It’s never a good idea to respond only to positive messages or to delete negative comments. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – humility goes a long way. If you treat your customers with respect, it will pay dividends.

“Remember, when you reply to a comment, you’re not just responding to one person: Your entire customer base will see how you handle the situation, so make sure you get it right. And if you don’t, apologize and fix it.”

Next: Patrick Albano, B.A.'98