The Latest

Celebrating My Independence…Five Ways Starting My Own Business Changed My Life

Happy Independence Day!

To me, this holiday has a dual meaning. Yes, like many other Americans, I celebrate our country by attending a parade, having a picnic with my family and enjoying fireworks. But, this holiday is also a time to celebrate my independence as a businessperson.

More than 15 years ago, I “liberated” myself from the day-to-day grind of working for someone else…and started doing it MY way. When I launched my consulting practice, I believed I could:
• Find companies who needed my help
• Provide excellent counsel and execute to bring results
• Offer them services at a reasonable price
• And do it all on MY terms

What has this meant for me? Well, it’s changed my life in a number of ways:

• I now work on a schedule that fits not only my clients’ needs, but MY needs. Sometimes, that means getting up early, staying up late or working weekends. But it’s done on MY terms. I was doing this when I worked for someone else, but it no longer feels like a sacrifice, because it stems from my passion and commitment to my clients, to what I do and to making my business successful. It’s a completely different feeling when you’re so closely invested in the success (or failure) of not only your client’s businesses, but of your business.

• I also enjoy the collaboration with other independents. I love meeting and connecting with other consultants and then being able to offer my clients resources for the kinds of projects I don’t do (and no, I don’t try to do it all…there’s plenty of work to go around for all of us!).

• And, I believe I’m more productive on my own. Without the meetings, the commute and the office politics, I can actually get more done. I believe that doing the actual work to get results is more enjoyable—and really what serving clients is all about. I can work anytime, anywhere productively. The whole telecommuting movement is something I tried to get my bosses to agree to years ago…without much success. For some reason, they just didn’t believe that employees could work productively outside the office. After 15 years of working on my own from wherever I want, I beg to differ.

• Not to mention the wonderful clients I get to work with. I think I’m extremely lucky to get to work with smart, talented (did I mention very nice?!) people. It’s a pleasure to work with my clients because they truly trust me and are a joy to serve.

• Then, of course, there’s the personal pride I feel in helping my clients succeed. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting a media “hit” for a client or knowing they have new prospects or sales because of PR initiatives they undertook. It’s a true “high” that I still get whenever this happens.

So this 4th of July, I celebrate my freedom and the ability to do the work I love for clients I’m committed to serving. Happy Independence Day to all!

What Matters Most In a PR Practitioner?

Today, I was thinking about what matters most when it comes to PR. If you’re considering PR for your company, product or service, what should you look for in a PR practitioner? Of course, there’s always a great deal of debate about what qualities and credentials are most important. Here’s what I think matters most: passion.

Is your PR practitioner passionate about:

  • Your business?
  • Getting you coverage?
  • Helping you understand the process?
  • Keeping up with current trends and tools in the PR industry?

There are a lot of choices when it comes to PR, as with anything else you might hire an expert to help with. Credentials and experience matter. But if the passion is lacking, it’s going to be tough to get where you want to go.

For those of us who are truly passionate about PR, we eat, sleep and breathe it. We can’t even turn it off when we’re at a restaurant, because we notice typos in the menu! When we watch TV, we have to comment on the ads–are they effective? When we read a magazine or newspaper, we wonder if the headline could’ve been worded differently to attract more readers or if our client might be a fit for this reporter’s beat. When we see a posting about an event, we notice the date is missing. We can’t help it. It’s just part of our DNA.

Ideas strike us at all hours of the day–and sometimes, even the night. I’ve had dreams about how to help clients that have led to a new story idea to pitch. I’ve taken a walk that spurred an idea for a publication we could try pitching. I’ve been reading the Sunday paper and noticed an article that led to a great idea for a blog post for a client. Many times, when I’m least expecting it is when an idea will come to me for new ways to help my clients.

So you may be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how can I tell if this person is truly passionate about PR?” To help you evaluate your choices, here are real-world examples of this passion in action:

  • Your PR pro should have a passion for spreading the PR “gospel”: Do they frequently speak on PR, helping others learn about its power and how to put it to work for them?
  • Your PR pro should have a passion for helping small businesses get on the map: If they own their own small business, as do I, they understand the challenges and rewards involved. A practical, no-nonsense approach is what works best, because as all small business owners know, we don’t have time for the extras.
  • Your PR pro shouldn’t always be focused on the clients who can pay the most: Does your PR pro love PR so much that they charge reasonable rates? And do they often help out non-profits on a pro bono or in-kind basis? I usually have at least a couple of organizations I’m working with on a pro bono basis at any given. I truly enjoy working people who have a passion for what they do AND express their appreciation my help, so those are the folks I tend to gravitate toward on these projects.
  • Your PR pro should have a passion for specialization—but also see the bigger picture: There are many firms who claim to offer it all, from marketing to advertising to events to PR, but do you want to skim the surface? Or do you want to work with someone with specializes in getting your name out there? While it’s a good thing to work with a PR pro who has some experience or background in more general marketing, you may want to stay away from those who claim to do it all—because they may not do it all well.

Let’s face it, there are plenty of folks just phoning it in these days in professions across the board, but those with passion stand out. So, evaluate your options carefully and look for the passion–if it’s missing, it might be wise to look elsewhere.

Celebrating 15 Years of Bliss!

When I set own to start my own public relations consulting business 15 years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect. My first solo venture was both exciting and terrifying…I’d laid the foundation for months, even years, prior to hanging out my shingle. I’d talked to other solopreneurs about how to set up an office, organize financials and even find clients. Everything was in place. But, the big question was, would they come? 

Even before opening my doors, I managed to line up two clients who were there the moment I stepped out on my own. I was also fortunate that the agency I’d been working with hired me back to work on an account. The thing I’d worried most about became less of a worry, as I focused on delivering great service to my clients at reasonable rates. 

15 years later, I’m proud to say that’s still my focus. Over the years, I’ve successfully worked with companies large and small to provide them with results-based solutions to their PR challenges. The more I get out to speak about PR, the more I understand that people need help. It need not be over-priced, but it does need to deliver results. People are looking for someone they can partner with to accomplish their objectives, someone who can show them the value PR can add to their marketing outreach. 

Going solo isn’t for everyone–but it certainly was a great choice for me. 

Everyone Could Use PR

In my work as a PR specialist, I often notice things perhaps others don’t.

For example, walking through a mall on my way to meet someone for a lunch appointment, I noticed a sign about an upcoming event that would appeal to parents in the area. I thought, “Hmmm, why haven’t I seen/read/heard about this before?” The event happened to be coming up that very weekend…and I’m just now seeing it. So how many others who’d be interested won’t see/read/hear about this before the weekend? This happens to me frequently, leaving me to wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone see the value of PR?”

There are many situations where I think a little PR could’ve helped an organization or event immensely. Here’s another example: I recently attended a local charitable event—a major undertaking to plan and prepare–that would’ve benefitted from better communications. Meaning that after folks signed up to participate, they should’ve heard regularly from the organizers. I signed up and received only one email confirmation. I never heard back before the event with any buzz-building messages or updates. Did it affect the turnout? Yes, unfortunately, the event suffered from a poor turnout, despite all the planning and preparation that went into it. Better communication would’ve yielded much better results and helped the organization reach its goals.

These are just a couple of examples of how better PR could help even the smallest of organizations. There are, in fact, many instances that take place in our day-to-day lives when I’m left wondering why someone didn’t do a better job of promoting this event/product/service? It’s plain to see that a lot of time and effort went into the initiative; why didn’t someone spend just a little more time getting the word out to the masses?

PR is getting the word out about your event, your service, your product, your customers, your new hires, and so on—it’s spreading the news about your company or organization. Oh, and here’s another key point: Other than the time it takes to create the message or content and contact those who publish the news (or self-publish it via social media channels and your site), PR is free. That’s right, FREE! If that doesn’t get your attention, than what will? Unlike paid advertising, you don’t pay for the space. PR also goes hand-in-hand with your marketing efforts, so that any content created can be tweaked and repurposed, meaning you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

So, if you’re taking the time to plan an event, launch a new product or service, hire someone, or do something else newsworthy, why hide your light under a bushel? Get the word out—shout it from the rooftops if you have to!–but make sure to include PR in your planning efforts.