Founder and Principal
Length of PR career (so far): 154 dog years.
Your most memorable campaign: I was lucky enough to run PR for online broker optionsXpress for about eight years. Got to partner with them pretty much from day one through their IPO and beyond. They were eventually acquired by Schwab for $1 billion at a very modest valuation. A dream client in so many ways.
Most poignant professional moment: In PR we always want to make an impact, but it can be hard to measure or capture it in its entirety. That said, optionsXpress had a slide in their pre-IPO roadshow presentation, and it explained how they got funded customer accounts at such a low spend compared to competitors like Ameritrade or E*Trade. PR was one of the three factors they listed. Awesome feeling when I saw that!
Number of 2 a.m. calls from a client this month: Zero. I think it’s in large part for two reasons. First, we’re in pretty constant communication with our clients, so there’s little left that needs an urgent call. Second, we only work with clients who make PR a priority, so we don’t get bumped to after-hours when other, “more critical,” issues have been handled.
Best thing about working at your agency: Client variety and employee freedom. We focus on “startups,” which to us means companies that are founder-led, innovative and fast-growing, and this is really exciting. Gives us a chance to have a real impact. The freedom is that we don’t track personal days, sick days or vacation days. Need to take a day? Go for it. Need solo time at home to get work done? Go for it. Want to visit the folks back east and work remotely for a week? Cool.
Last time you didn’t do any work all weekend: I can’t stand PR people who boast/complain “I work so hard.” You know who works hard? The people serving you coffee at the O’Hare Airport Starbucks at 5am for $9 an hour. I’m lucky to be able to keep my weekends filled with family and friends. If I work, it’s typically just here and there and largely by choice.
Most misunderstood thing about PR: That it’s a great sales tool. There are lots of anecdotal examples of an article leading directly to sales, but we advise clients that if they don’t have a sales process in place – not to mention some sort of customer service operation—PR might be an expense to hold off on. We’re great for credibility, visibility and conversion—just don’t compare PR to Adwords.
Most interesting thing about your job: It’s the variety. When I started Propllr I could have focused on financial services, the vertical I had the most experience in. I felt I’d be bored though. So instead I looked at my favorite client experience and thought about how to get more clients like that. That’s why I picked startups.
Number of meetings you were in last week: 23!
Your nightmare client in 3 words: Pay for Performance
Rate your math skills from 1-10 (10=best): 8.453
Best advice to a PR student: Don’t study PR. Find a major where you’ll write a ton about something you care about, learn about PR basics online or from your school’s comms office and find a local business to do free PR for. If you do it for a bar you’ll get free beer. Win win.
Favorite way to de-stress: When I get stressed it’s almost always when the results we’re expecting for a client aren’t quite there. Ultimately the de-stressing happens with time. As long as you keep chopping wood, it all works out.
The moment you realized PR is more fun than you thought it would be: It’s easy to get excited over a great placement, but when optionsXpress earned the number one online broker ranking in Barron’s, the most influential online broker ranking, it was a transformative moment. We beat out Ameritrade, Schwab, E*Trade and everyone else, and held that ranking for four years.
Worst PR crisis in the news this year so far: Theranos. Zenefits was bad too, but they weren’t promising such a revolutionary benefit to people’s health.
Brand that does the best PR/communications: Stripe. I worked with their head of PR, so I’m biased, but they do a fantastic job given that what they do is inherently niche and boring. Payments? Really?
Last book you read: Finished? The Martian. Reading (slowly)? Hamilton.
Cocktail of choice: Bourbon, neat.
Childhood “dream job”: I once read that investment bankers could make $60,000. That sounded awesome. Also zoologist.
Three people you’d love to invite to dinner: I’d want my two teenage daughters to join us, too, and to keep them engaged and to get them inspired, I’ll go with Sheryl Sandberg (I work with startups and she has great advice for women), Lin-Manuel Miranda (lots of family in the theater and my oldest is all-Hamilton) and Michelle Obama (because, Michelle Obama).
Your next big adventure: Norway in July – Oslo to Bergen and points in between. My mom was born there and gets to show the grandkids her old stomping grounds for the first time.
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