Twenty years is a long time to be doing anything, particularly to be running a PR firm. But, we are still here and PR continues to evolve by the minute and is more critical to business today than when I began this crazy journey.
It was never part of my master plan – it just happened. It is has been the sail of a lifetime – stormy seas, calm waters, incredible sights along the way and fantastic crews. And endless lessons to be learned, ten of which I will share here.
After lobbying for seven years in Washington, where I worked for Mayor Koch and had served President Carter, I found myself back in my hometown of Manhattan. You would have thought I learned my lesson regarding politics, but instead, I continued to work for Mayor Koch at City Hall. And with politics, comes up and downs and after two years, our team was out and this was the true beginning of my start in the PR world.
Transitioning from the difficult issues of NYC to handling PR for British Airways, Snuggle and Wisk was certainly a challenge, but I thank PR giant Richard Edelman for that opportunity (he continues to be a great friend and sounding board for me today). If you can handle media relations for consumer products, you can pretty much tackle any product that comes your way. It’s about sticking to the basics.
NYC grew old and Marblehead, Mass., an iconic sailing town, was calling. I couldn’t get there fast enough. Rockport was the next stop where I was lucky enough to have an office next to Tony Post, who, as everyone knows, had a central role in building the Vibram brand (does anyone remember that Tony ran the 2009 NYC Marathon in Rockport DresSports shoes?).
In 1993, I found myself working out of my apartment in Marblehead with one client, Merrell Footwear; this was the beginning of CGPR. It was here that I met Casey Sheahan, my first client, and that my late friend Jacques Lavertue, who fought hard for the integrity of the Merrell brand. He was fiercely passionate about Merrell and took great care to finding a loving home for Merrell, which he did with Wolverine World Wide. The one challenge I had with Jacques was trying to get him to make a decision; but soon I learned that the best way to accomplish this was to follow him when he went for his cigarette break at Outdoor Retailer. Many PR decisions were made outside while Jacques puffed away. We worked with Merrell for 15 years. I miss him today.
From there, it was about building CGPR, one client at a time focusing on brands that were involved with activities or products about which we were passionate including: W.L. Gore & Associates (now going on our 13th year with Gore); adidas Outdoor, Birki’s, Converse, Hush Puppies, Patagonia Footwear, Outdoor Retailer, Sebago, SIA, and WSA. The list goes on and it has been our privilege to serve this distinguished group that have been part of our history.
Ah, but let’s not forget the lessons. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that today’s PR world blends traditional and social media and is 24-7. Lastly, it is definitely not forgiving.
Know your client’s business inside and out. It is not enough to know media relations, social media, or event planning, etc. You must be an expert in their category and have a grasp on the pertinent trends impacting their business. You must know their financial goals strategic growth plans inside and out.
Think globally. Staying on top of global fashion, technology and consumer trends is critical. Know what is happening in Munich, Paris, London, China, and South America, etc. There are no boundaries anymore.
Do your homework, be prepared. Perhaps this seems obvious, but this simple rule of thumb is even more prepared today.
Know your media. See number 3.
Manage expectations. Whether this is providing guidance for an interview or organizing event, be realistic with regard to the outcome.
Say thank you. This is a simple lesson, whether this is a verbal thank you, an email, or better yet, a hand written thank you note, media appreciate this.
Plan, plan, plan. PR initiatives take time and are vulnerable to more mistakes because of the never-ending deadlines and explosion of media outlets. Plan accordingly.
Know when to say no. Your client does not need to take every interview. It is okay to say no, but be prepared to provide an alternative option.
Share Information: Media and clients appreciate receiving data or trend reports, especially when this information is relevant to their category or beat.
Get up from your desk/take a break: PR is exhausting; take a walk, go outside when things get crazy. It will do you a world of good.
I am more than grateful for the clients that have been our partners, for the media that have been part of our successes and to the pros that have been part of our history. It is quite humbling and we certainly could not be here today without them.
I am hoping for fair winds and smooth seas.
Steady as she goes.