Behind the Screen: LSU Graduate Leads Chili's Social Media

Justin Runyon graduated from LSU in 2009. Since 2017, he oversees the social media accounts and strategy for Chili's.

Where are you from?
I’m originally from Shreveport, La., and went to Parkway High School in Bossier City, La.
 
After graduating, where did your career path take you?
I graduated in 2009 during the height of the recession, so I took a bit of a detour after graduating with a degree in mass communication, public relations from the Manship School of Mass Communication.
 
I actually worked as a clerk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Shreveport, La., right after graduation. My job was to perform quality control for all new bankruptcy cases that were filed through our court, and I also traveled to Monroe frequently as a court support staffer for our judge. After a year and a half of that, I realized I had to get back to the career field that I discovered at LSU, what I wanted to do in the first place, so I found an internship at Fleishman-Hillard in Dallas, Texas. What I expected to be a typical public relations internship turned into a whirlwind as social media started picking up in popularity for brands in 2011. My biggest adventure there was working on Chevrolet’s social media team as their social media agency of record, where I managed the Corvette, Camaro and Chevy Trucks Facebook pages.
 
In 2013, I left Fleishman-Hillard to work at The Marketing Arm, where I managed social media strategy and accounts for Dewar’s Scotch Whisky, Tostitos, Chili’s and Goodyear.
 
I’m probably best known for working to unban Pam Beesly (from “The Office”) during that time. That led to finally making the move to the client side. I now work at Chili’s corporate in Dallas, Texas

LSU graduate Justin Runyon stands in a Chili's restaurant with other employees.

LSU graduate Justin Runyon (second from the right) manages Chili's social media accounts. Photo Credit: Justin Runyon

What do you do now?
Now, I have the great honor of being Chili’s every day as I lead the strategy for how we engage with people on social media. So, if you ever tweet at @chilis, comment on an Instagram post or message us on Facebook, I manage the team that does all of that, and I lead the strategy on how we do it. I also use data and analytics to help inform what we post about on social media. Anytime you see us tweet anything funny or weird, it’s probably me that said it.
 
Why did you choose to attend LSU?
My best friend and I went on a tour of LSU while we were trying to figure out where we wanted to go to school. Just one tour around the campus made me realize it was the school I wanted to go to. Plus, being from Louisiana, I qualified for TOPS and found out I could get into the Honors College, so it was an easy decision both culturally and financially for me.
 
While you were a student, what did you enjoy about LSU? Any favorite classes or experiences? Were you a part of any student organizations?
I credit getting to live in East Laville as the best experience of my time at LSU. I met all of my best friends there that formed as the basis for all the other great experiences I had at LSU. I absolutely loved Honors College classes for their smaller class size and insightful instructors, too.
 
I especially credit Dr. Emily Erickson, Dr. Danny Shipka and Dr. Louis Day of the Manship School as professors who taught me how to think critically. I was also a member of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) at LSU, where I served as the Public Relations Director for two years.
 
Finally, I had a fantastic experience as an intern for the Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute, where I learned so much about small business, entrepreneurship, innovation and community and found my two mentors for life: Dr. Carol Carter and Mr. Jarett Rodriguez.
 
How has LSU helped you succeed?
LSU has helped me succeed in so many ways. First, I had the confidence in knowing I had a degree from a top university when it came to competing against other job candidates. LSU also gave me an affordable head start in life since I was able to graduate with a stellar degree without a lot of debt. Lastly, LSU taught me the importance of personal integrity: it taught me how to foster a great work ethic, how to connect with others to get what you need and how to see the world through the eyes of others.
 
What is something you learned or experienced at LSU that you still use today?
The list could go on and on, but I’ll narrow it down to three specific things: 1) How to use Adobe Photoshop/InDesign, 2) How to calculate the time value of money and 3) How to write a business plan.
 
Why should others attend LSU?
I’d say the #1 reason to attend LSU is because it’s the best unique and affordable university in the United States. Louisiana and LSU have such a distinct culture, so when you meet somebody anywhere in the world who went to LSU, you know you’re a part of something that’s not found in any other university.

 

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Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Media Relations
225-578-3869
rachelsp@lsu.edu