Time really does fly when you’re having fun doing what you love to do! I’ve been head-down in a state of flow since starting Trust Relations two years ago, and it wasn’t until recently that I had a chance to look up and truly reflect on how far we’ve come. In a special anniversary episode of the PR Wine Down podcast, I was put in the hot seat by my usual partner in crime, Laura Schooler, along with two other long-time colleagues, Sarah Blood and Maggie O’Brien, to reminisce on all that we’ve accomplished so far on the Trust Relations’ team.
You can check out the full episode here to catch up on everything we covered. In the meantime, here’s a summary of what stood out to me most from this interview.
1. All those late nights working have been so worth it!
Two short years ago, Trust Relations was merely a concept. Now, I’m surrounded by an amazing team who has helped me bring this concept to life. Together, we truly believe we can change the PR industry for the better. After personally getting burned by bigger agencies and hearing from others that had similar experiences, I wanted to create an environment based on authenticity and goodwill, where team members could truly be themselves and diversity would flourish. By creating the first intentionally remote PR firm, I’ve been able to hire people from all over the country, each contributing to a range of perspectives and backgrounds that allows us to understand a client’s needs and reporter’s interest from every angle — from the Midwest to major metropolitan media markets and beyond.
I also wanted to create a culture where individuals could lean into their strengths and work on projects that best suited their professional goals and ambitions. I don’t see any reason why everyone in PR should be expected to be good at everything: writing, pitching client relations, budgeting, new business, etc. Instead, it makes more sense to pair team members together based on what they like and do best. I ensure each team member works on accounts within the industries they are passionate about and does the tasks they’re best suited to do. I also always ask if someone wants to work on an account before assigning them to the team, as I’ve too often seen agencies pair people with capacity with new accounts, with little regard for whether it’s a good fit. This doesn’t lead to a happy client or team, or great results.
2. Yes, there will be bumps along the way when starting a business, so always expect the unexpected.
For one, I quickly learned to carefully vet all potential clients instead of accepting all work that comes my way. Sure it could mean more for the bottomline, but having a good client relationship based on mutual trust and respect (as with any relationship) is valued above all else. Also, it doesn’t matter how many mutual connections you have, or if you received a client referral from your best friend; always have a solid new client contract in place so expectations of deliverables are set and both parties are committed to reaching them.
One thing I didn’t expect when starting a business, and that I’m grateful for now, is the guidance and support from some long-standing clients. As startup owners themselves, they have been invaluable resources, and their “real talk” let me know how my role would change as Trust Relations grew. I’m no longer doing PR the way I was before, because now I’m in the business of running a business. This was something I struggled with at first, but as our team of dedicated “Trust Builders” grew, so did my trust in them to get things done — and do it right. While I’ve handed off the baton many times to focus on other aspects of growing the agency, I still like to roll up my sleeves from time to time and volunteer to write a byline or pitch a story — just to show that I’ve still got what it takes.
3. Where do I hope we will be in the next couple of years? Hard to say, but I’m shooting for the big leagues.
Now that we’ve tipped the scale into becoming a mid-sized agency in only two years, I’m confident we will continue to carve out a name for ourselves and build a positive reputation within the PR industry. In the next couple of years, I have high hopes that we can start swinging elbows with bigger agencies when submitting for client RFPs and attracting new talent.
4. Around the question as to whether PR is here to stay and if so, how might it evolve in today’s media landscape?
There’s a lot that I covered here during the interview, but the main takeaways are twofold:
1. When people say PR as a standalone entity is dead and it will be brought into the marketing fold, I have to disagree. PR and marketing are still separate disciplines and while various aspects of “marketing” a brand, whether it be through social media, SEO, paid advertising, etc. will continue to be relevant, so will PR. They each have their own place in the marketing mix of a company’s brand and each interface, as well as amplify one another. At Trust, we may expand into other areas in the future, but traditional PR will always be at our core. Also, even as the media landscape changes, there will always be a need for PR. I strongly believe that knowing how to message and frame things in a politically correct and concise way that shows the value, credibility and proof points of a brand is an art form that will live on forever.
2. I’m a firm believer that we as PR professionals should support media that’s on a quest to retain objectivity instead of falling into the trap of becoming propaganda puppets. What I mean by this is that the credibility of the media has been at risk in recent years due to various economic and sociopolitical factors, and we have a duty to help ensure the media is viewed as a trusted source of information. The primary value of PR in the marketing mix is that it builds third-party credibility for brands. But if the credibility of the media is compromised, the value of PR will also be compromised. In other words, as PR practitioners, we rely on third-party endorsements through the media to build brand credibility. So if there is growing distrust in the media, we won’t be able to provide credibility in building campaigns for the brands we represent via earned media coverage. This could become more problematic as time goes on, and so it’s our duty to uphold and respect our greatest asset as a free society through preserving the objective press.
I hope to delve into such topics more in a future blog post. While you’re here, feel free to check out some of our recent posts covered in the Trust Weekly blog.