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  • Madison Whitney

Auburn Grad excels in his dream ‘grown-up’ job: a duck and a reality TV super-fan

As he picked up the phone, before speaking more than seven syllables, he said, "I remember doing stuff like this, interviewing cool people in our field, so this is amazing. I always used to think 'I really want someone to do this on me someday, and here we are.'"

Tristan Watson knows a little about wishing upon a star. He always seems to know what stars to wish on. Whether the star is a soapbox on social media through accidentally becoming a superfan of “The Bachelor” franchise, or communicating to fans at sporting events as the Aflac Duck.

Auburn's College of Liberal Arts prides itself on maintaining the country's third-best public relations program. Each equipped graduate confidently enters the workforce as a public relations practitioner that stands apart from the rest. Watson is just that.

"When I was at Auburn, I was involved in the University Program Council and assisted in campaigns every year and that helped me realize that I really liked the networking aspect and working with people. I found it was a fun way to do events and to see so many people on campus. It really brings people together," Watson reflected. These experiences made him wonder, "How could I do this after college?"

After landing an internship in Atlanta with Melt, a sports marketing agency, "I realized this was exactly what I wanted to do. This was what I was doing back on campus but was just the grown-up form and I got paid for it," he said.

Watson said he understands the importance of family, connection and human touch reflected by the Auburn Creed. After his internship and post-grad job at the agency founded by Vince Thomspon, a fellow Auburn grad, Watson continued to build a foundation for meaningful relationships.

Unconsciously, he used his humorous and energetic personality to make "stupid videos" during his lunch breaks to connect with co-workers. While at his desk, he would eavesdrop on others talking about the dramatic, guilty-pleasure reality show, The Bachelor. As an outsider, Watson became a weekly viewer of the hit show so he could be in the know and "have something to connect with people on," he said.

He didn't expect the joy he would bring to his new 16,000 followers once he discovered his passion for recapping episodes of The Bachelor on Instagram in 2019. Although Watson later left this agency, he credits this past employment as stepping stones towards his rise as an influencer.

A few short months later, Watson created a friendship with Natalie Joy after grabbing lunch with fellow Auburn grad Mallory Morris.

"Natalie and I clicked. We became really close friends," Watson shared. "She was dating Nick Viall and she wanted me to meet him. I was like, okay, well duh, he is a Bachelor Nation icon, absolutely!"

Perhaps instead of wishing on a star, Watson picked off rose petals, reciting, I will be a part of Bachelor Nation, I won’t be a part of Bachelor nation.

Nick Viall was a contestant on seasons 10 and 11 of ABC's “The Bachelorette'', season 3 of “Bachelor in Paradise” and was later the lead in season 21 of “The Bachelor.” Two years later, after a failed engagement from the show, Viall started his podcast "The Viall Files" in 2019, where he would invite guests to help recap the previous night's episode.

Watson picked the rose with just enough petals.

Watson was invited on to the podcast in July 2021.

"Nick said that he really loved my Instagram stories and would love to see my take on a recap," Watson shared, "Recently, it has sparked my interest in having my own podcast and what it would be like one day. He was really motivating and shared my excitement when he gave me the chance to test the waters."

As a 2018 graduate, Watson agrees that his world is moving fast. Every time he blinks, it is as if a new door opens and a genie grants him another wish, sometimes a wish he didn't even know he had.

"I go back and forth. Part of me loves having a nine-to-five job, going into the office each day and viewing my Google Calendar. I think I will have this for a while, but a dream of mine would be to be self-sufficient with a team of people supporting me, either having an agent or manager," Watson said.

His experience on "The Viall Files" was the sneak peek he needed into his probable future. "I got to go into the studio and witness the live editing of the podcast as I am saying stuff. They sent out promotional items with my face on it and clips of me talking," he recalled with a laugh. "It was so weird that for once I wasn't behind the scenes, but instead people were promoting me."

For now, Watson continues his nine-to-five job and has no regrets as he reflects on his previous projects at his second agency. At the agency Dagger, Watson was a public relations professional and creator for large, notable brands like Aflac.

"While at Dagger, I was actually the voice of Aflac and spent a majority of my time making content as the Aflac Duck," Watson said.

"At Final Four I got to see all of the Aflac commercials come to life while watching the game and responding on social media as the Aflac Duck. It was an instant gratification of joining these conversations. You press tweet, and it is out there forever. People will either love it or hate it," Watson said.

After nearly two success-filled years at Dagger, a genie granted Watson another wish.

"I have always wanted to live in L.A. I would come out here for a month at a time. It would really excite me, the energy, the people, they would share what makes them successful and it was really comforting for me," Watson said.

His dream out West became a reality.

Three weeks later, Watson is now a resident of Los Angeles, working as a social media manager.

"I never really had the intention of leaving my job at Dagger, but it made me excited to see what was happening at Dispo and thought that it could also help me with connections, going to events, meeting all these people and putting my personality out there," Watson shared.

"It is funny that in college, I put myself in uncomfortable situations and forced myself to meet people. Instead, it was uncomfortable for me to leave the job I loved so much. But, at the end of the day, I needed to do something that scared me a little bit: take a job across the country, leaving my southern roots," Watson said.

Watson flashes caution lights for those about to enter the workforce.

“Starting off is really weird,” he said. “You’re in this weird balance where you are young, you have a degree and understand what you are talking about. But at the same time, these agencies and corporations have been functioning fine without you for years.”

Public relations is full of surprises. It is truly like a box of chocolates, every single day is not like another. Some days are super sweet, like working the Final Four. Other days are filled with nuts.

“You have to be prepared for any type of crisis,” Watson warned again. “Working for an insurance brand during the midst of the pandemic taught me how important it is to have a crisis control plan and having to come up with scenarios in my head.”

It is not easy.

“Always remember, you were hired for a reason. Feel comfortable in your ideas. Few people in the entire world want to see you fail. I am always rooting for you,” Watson encouraged.

Now, as a social media manager at Dispo, Watson is confident in his ideas and has a fanbase and team of his own rooting for him.

Dispo is a camera app created by famous YouTuber David Dobrik. This invite-only app provides themed presets where you can take pictures with a retro experience. Unlike a modern camera, the app will develop the photos from the night before and have them ready the next morning.

Just three weeks into his new role, Watson has been able to collaborate with French luxury brand YSL.

“I am really lucky that I get to work with such large brands and can really make this role whatever I want it to be. It’s rewarding to work with our product managers and engineers that are building the app and receiving feedback from customers,” Watson said.

As rewarding as these brand collaborations have been, Watson enjoys his day-to-day routine.

“First, I have a status meeting with the marketing team and figure out any major action meetings that we need to get done. Then I will go through social feeds and see if there are any trending moments that I can make some content out of,” Watson said.

As an emerging influencer who has begun to receive PR packages himself, Watson said he enjoys “working on PR packages for influencers and making sure to engage with them on social media, so they feel seen.”

Much of Watson’s life has been foreshadowing. Soon, more PR packages will be arriving at his door, maybe even a collaboration with Dispo with a Watson inspired “Bachelor” themed camera.

Watson had no idea the success of having fun and fooling around during his breaks. “It started off as such a joke,” he laughed. “But I don’t want to say that because I am very proud of my brand and mentality.”

“I am energetic, a hard worker and you won’t catch me taking things too seriously,” Watson shared.

Keep your eyes peeled for what may become your favorite podcast. If there is anything Watson has taught the world, it is that dreams can come true — even if you want to be a famous duck.

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