Notes from NYC: Four Things You Can’t Do To Your Customers

I was a panelist at the American Society Of Journalists and Authors annual meeting in NYC last month. Thanks to Lynne Golodner of Your People  for recruiting me! I was honored to be part of this group:

Photo courtesy of Dorri Olds

Our fearless facilitator Lynne Golodner, chief creative officer and owner of Your People; Lisa Brody, editor of Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield; yours truly and journalist and author Peter Zuckerman. Photo courtesy of Dorri Olds

Our panel was “So You Want To Be a Publicist/Public Relations Specialist”. Lynne facilitated, and we talked about transitioning from writer to PR person before participating in a question-and-answer session with the 50-or-so attendees.

I was fascinated by and cringing at stories about PR folks missing opportunities or straight up messing up with the editors in the audience and the one sitting on my right, Lisa Brody from Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield. Even if you aren’t a PR person or have a PR person supporting your business, you can use these examples of no-nos that apply to all of us trying to do business, period:

1. Not following through.

A PR person offered a story to an editor. The editor liked it and emailed a few questions and … nothing. The PR person never responded. The editor won’t likely forget that. How does it apply to doing business? Maybe someone calls you after receiving your direct mail piece, and you’re so busy you never call back. If someone takes time to reach out to you, make time to follow up.

2. Not doing your homework.

A PR person sent a story idea to an editor that had NOTHING to do with what the publication covers. Another sent a calendar item to a publication, not realizing the pub is a monthly and the deadline was long gone. How does this apply to doing business? Our digital society puts so many resources in your hands, there’s no excuse for not knowing your customer. Let’s say a businessperson asks about your product or service. Take the time to go through his or her website to understand the perspective. What’s the point of pain? How can you or your product help?

3. Lollygagging.

Speed is of the essence in most business practices. In PR, if an editor needs a source and you can’t get back to them the same day, maybe even the same hour, he or she will often move on. If a prospect sends you an inquiry about your product or service but you don’t look at your email until the end of the day, they might very well be long gone. Can you afford to be casual in your follow-up?

4. Not being honest and managing expectations.

One of my favorite moments during the panel was when an opinionated and animated author told fellow panelist and book publicist Kathleen Schmidt of KMSPR that he didn’t want to work with his 20-something publicist; how could she possibly have contacts and know what she’s doing at that age? Kathleen politely pushed back, leading with her policy to always be straightforward with her clients. She then explained the expertise and insight that 20-something publicist was bringing from her publishing house, and urged him to give her a chance.

We’ll all run into clients, customers and associates who are going to tell US what we’re going for them, instead of listening. I have a choose-my-battles approach with difficult folks, but that includes always speaking up when they’re going in a direction that is not in their best interest, even at the risk of vitriol. You would want someone to rein you in when you’re going down the wrong road, so we owe it to them to do the same.

What’s on your no-no list?


Failing: Own It, Fix It and Move Forward

A few months ago, the super-networked Nikki Little shared her Fail Detroit post on Facebook. I was intrigued, and after poking around on the site, referenced a big FAIL from earlier in my career. One thing led to another, and the post below appeared on Fail Detroit, which tells us, “We all fail. Learn from it.” Shout-out to Brandon; keep up the creative, courageous work in the D!

The Attempt

I was the client manager in an agency team working on a brochure. We had the usual process of creative meetings, copywriting, design and client approvals.

What Went Wrong

Photo Credit: Boston Wolverine via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Boston Wolverine via Compfight cc

After delivery, the client sales manager called me to tell me that there was a mistake on the cover. The cover, which had a grand total of eight words. We had repeated a word in the title. There were three lines of copy wrapping around an image, and at some point during the design process, we had been trying out different combinations to see what looked best. The problem was it balanced best with the extra word, so everyone somehow focused on that, instead of actually reading the copy.

Eight people needed to sign off before it got printed. Eight. All of our initials were in a row on the proof. Obviously as the client manager, the one that mattered was me, and I blew it. I can feel that “ugh” feeling in my gut as I type this, and that was 10 years ago! Oh, the pleasure of apologizing to the client and everyone else, and then reporting the incident during our 50-person staff meeting.

Lessons Learned

I did not run screaming for the hills, as I’m sure I wanted to at the time. I’ve worked my way up through the communications industry, and now work as a public relations consultant. If eight people can miss a clear mistake, it is all the more important that I check and double-check. It’s all on me. You NEVER have to push something so fast through production that you can’t take the time to make sure everything is correct.

One of my mandates when I’m producing material for clients is that the copy has to be final when we go to design. It’s not fair to ask designers to play with words; that’s not their area of expertise, and you’re just asking for trouble.

No one’s perfect. The best way to arm yourself against those mistakes that will happen is to create your own system of checks and balances, which will boost your confidence and reduce your stress. When that mistake does happen, I guarantee that 99 percent of the time, you are more upset than the client is. Own it, fix it and move forward. That’s what will keep your client’s trust.

Do you have an example of a fail? How did you power through?


Welcome to my new home

I decided there aren’t enough public relations bloggers out there, so here’s my blog!


I’d like to thank bloggers including Nikki at Essential Elements and Shonali at Waxing Unlyrical for encouraging me to go ahead and jump in this busy pool of public relations professionals. I’m not going to proclaim I’m THE innovator. However, I’ve been in the business for 15 years. Before that, I was the journalist on the other side of the pitch, so I’ve seen lots of interesting stuff, good and bad. I’ve had victories and gaffes, and I own everything that’s helped me get where I am now: A public relations consultant with a diverse book of business and a network of smart, cool colleagues that I’ve molded into Jemef PR.

I’ve been on my own since 2011, and was a home office advocate a few years before that. I rolled into Detroit in 2009, and it turns out it was NOT good timing. Auto companies and suppliers stripping down and starting over meant the market was flooded with communications folks looking for new opportunities. It turns out, I found the right one: At the encouragement of new friends from PRSA Detroit, I decided to take a partner and we made a go at running our own business, which evolved into me running solo. Things were going great, then I found out I had to take the show on the road: My husband’s in the hotel biz, so moving is also part of my world. In the summer 2012, I started calling Dallas-Fort Worth home. It’s a testament to my great clients and the strong partnerships I’ve forged that I’ve continued to work with my two biggest, both of whom are based in Metro Detroit.

I expect the Jemef PR physical location will change again, and my geographical home base will inform/inspire/infiltrate my posts from time to time, along with my perspective on the home office thing. You can see in this pic what Jemef PR looks like 99 percent of the time. Most of my stuff will come from where I’m the most comfortable, but I’m going to be coming at you with a lot of different stuff. I’m excited to talk about what I see in the world of communications, to hear what you have to say and to get smarter from it!

Welcome to my new home. I look forward to connecting with you! What would you like to talk about?