Cooking Up Some Serious Talent: Deanna Segrave-Daly
Apr 16, 2014
I met Deanna over 10 years ago when we both worked for the dairy council. She was based out of Philly and I was in Chicago, but we worked together as national media spokespersons for the National Dairy Council and also on various projects that our regional dairy councils combined efforts on. I was always impressed with her work and she became a great mentor and friend. We stayed in touch and, years later after we had both left the dairy council to pursue other career opportunities, she was the first person I went to for advice about starting my Sound Bites biz. Today, she is still an incredible inspiration, mentor and friend, and I hope you enjoy her interview!
MELISSA: Deanna, how did you become interested in a career in food and nutrition?
DEANNA: I think the love of food was always in my genes growing up in an Italian-American family on my mother’s side where my Nana was always cooking amazing dishes in her kitchen. My grandma on my dad’s side was also a wonderful baker.
When I was about 6 or 7, I remember my mom putting out flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, etc and would let me just mix up whatever I wanted in order to create my own “cake.” It always turned out like dry hockey puck but I always loved the independence and confidence that that kitchen activity gave me at an early age.
I was a business major at Penn State when during my junior year I decided to learn more about healthy foods as I wanted to lose my Freshman 15 weight. I took a nutrition course as a free elective and loved it. Though the science courses scared me a bit, I ended up graduating with two B.S. degrees, one in Marketing and one in Nutrition.
MELISSA: What a great way to get kids interested in food – you are lucky to have had so many “foodies” in your family to look up to! And I love your double whammy with Marketing and Nutrition – what a powerful combo!
Tell me about your food/nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
DEANNA: I usually describe myself as a “food-loving dietitian” as more often than not our profession gets labeled as the food police. My mind set is as a dietitian you must be comfortable with cooking and hopefully enjoy cooking and food prep because how can you communicate positive and nutritious food messages if you can’t give tips on how to make healthy food taste good? The Food & Culinary Professionals dietetic practice group became a second home to me – finding like minded dietitians with this philosophy. It’s also where I made amazing work connections through networking opportunities, took advantage of leadership opportunities as well as found some of my best friends in the field.
MELISSA: That’s wonderful! I really admire your culinary talents because that does not come naturally to me. I was always more focused on the science and the communication/education aspect. It wasn’t until I worked for the dairy council that I really began to look at the enjoyment factor of food!
What inspired you to start your own biz?
DEANNA: Starting my own business was kismet as two other food-loving dietitians, Bonnie Johnson and Serena Ball, were at similar crossroads in their careers. We all had worked for our local dairy councils and were interested in branching out on our own to work with a portfolio of food clients. Plus it was less scary taking that step with two other colleagues and friends vs. just myself. We founded Teaspoon Communications in 2009.
Starting the blog, Teaspoon of Spice, with Serena a few years later, was a logical next step since blogging was becoming a legitimate form of food/nutrition communications and we knew we had to understand both the blogging and social media channels in order to continue to do progressive work for our clients.
MELISSA: Teaspoon Communications has been wildly successful! What an outstanding brand! I love the name, tagline, logo, blog and everything you do (which is a LOT!). What are you working on right now?
DEANNA: In addition to learning how to navigate this world of social media and blogging constantly (everything seems to evolve and change overnight!), a lot of my focus has been on The Recipe ReDux,
a community of healthy food bloggers, founded in 2012 by myself, Serena and one of the most innovative dietitians in the blogging world today, Regan Jones. We started ReDux as a way to find other bloggers who highlighted healthy eating in an appealing and delicious way.
Each month, we pick a food theme with a healthy twist and all of us post recipes relating to that theme (for instance, recently the theme was healthier pizzas.) All the posts are linked together so readers get to see a plethora of recipes on a certain topic and our bloggers benefit from the exposure and traffic. We have seen our group grow from 30 to 150 bloggers from around the world and we continue to look for ways to help our blogger members improve their blogs and, as a result, their food and nutrition communication efforts. We’ve been offering more and more opportunities for our bloggers through sponsored recipe contests, educational webinars and more. If you are a RD food blogger, we’d love for you to join the community. Check out how to become a member here.
MELISSA: That is such an exciting concept and I love the way it promotes dietitians, cooking and healthier eating. I have to add, that Regan is ALSO a former dairy council RD, too!
Tell me about the types of food/nutrition communications you are engaged in.
DEANNA: The bulk of my career was based on traditional media delivery – TV segments, print articles as well as presentations, food demonstrations and other spokesperson work. In the past few years it’s switched to social media communications including blog writing, online recipe development and reaching the public and professionals with healthy, delicious food messages/recipes/images through social media channels like Twitter,
MELISSA: Wow, you are really on top of this social media stuff – very impressive! What comes naturally for you, and what does not, when it comes to food/nutrition communications?
DEANNA: What comes naturally is that I really do love all things food – reading about food trends, recipes, food blogs, cookbooks, etc. so coming up with recipe ideas is super fun for me. And I love to grocery shop and cook (plus the husband does the dishes!) I also like food styling and taking photos for our blog – all with my iPhone.
As far as the actual communications, I really have to work at my writing and speaking – I never was a natural writer and while I find writing blog posts is a tad more enjoyable as you can use more of a casual voice, I’m often leaving it to the last minute or staring at a blank page. For doing any type of presentation, interview or TV spot, the preparation is definitely work for me – I have to practice a lot to appear to be polished and knowledgeable when the mic is finally turned on! Tying the nutrition science back to the key message is another part that I have to research and practice a lot. On the other hand, throwing in some cooking tips and anecdotes about food is the fun part of any speaking appearance for me.
MELISSA: Well, you make it all look easy – so you’re doing something right! And all that training and experience is paying off. You are an amazing role model for all RDs. Speaking of experience, please share your CNN Cheese interview story with us. I remember hearing about this when we were National Dairy Council spokespersons, seeing the clip, and being so impressed with your media skills!
DEANNA: It sounds cliché but try to always remember who are you communicating to – who is watching you, listening to you, reading your words? Years ago, I was doing a remote TV interview for CNN
(which means you are staring at a camera in a random studio with an earpiece to hear the anchors.) Despite it being a fun piece (“Give your Valentine the gift of cheese this year”) I was still a nervous wreck waiting to start. The interview started and I was feeling OK about it when a few minutes in, one of the anchor just bluntly stated that she hated cheese. She went on to say it wasn’t because she was vegan or had an allergy – she just plain disliked it. After a few pauses (of my mind thinking, are you kidding?) I realized she wasn’t the audience I was talking to and the majority of those watching the spot really did love their cheese so after a few fumbles, I responded with some statistic that proved the point before the interview ended.
But remembering the audience is something Serena and I both try to think of every time we write a blog post.
MELISSA: I wish we were able to share the actual clip so everyone could see how well you handled that! Please share your top 3 tips for other RDs who want to improve their communication skills.
DEANNA: Practice – Whether in front of a mirror for a presentation, or whittling down an article to your 3 key points. Writing for a blog is a great way to practice because you have to do it often!
Engage at least one social media channel – If you are overwhelmed with the thought, pick just Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter to start. Social media is here to stay and is constantly becoming more and more important in getting your messages out there. If you are in the field of communications and aren’t participating on some level in social media, you will be left behind.
Get at mentor or a mentee – Get a younger RD/RD-to-Be to teach you about social media or look to other RD food bloggers that you look up to in the communications field (whether it be a PR professional a spokesperson or a blogger).
MELISSA: Excellent tips – thank you! And thank you for sharing these pictures of your family – your daughter, Mia and husband, Jim. I understand Mia takes after mom and enjoys cooking in the kitchen.
Please join me in a standing ovation for Deanna and her pioneering work in the area of food and nutrition media and social media communications, and for sharing such inspirational and practical advice with us. Be sure to check out all her social media sites and try to implement at least one of her suggestions – and get YOUR voice out there, too!
Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!
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I’m the Guilt-Free RD® – “Because food shouldn’t make you feel bad!™”. So, on my Food for Thought blog I’m exploring the secret ingredients needed to enjoy your food with health in mind. I’m also a “Dietitian Enthusiast” so I’m showcasing interviews with dietitians. My “How To” Series shares practical advice to help boost communication skills and gain more visibility, influence and success.
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