While publicity offers social proof, the final outcome is understandably in the hands of the media. If you’re looking to send out a control message in a designed space or time, then advertising is the way to go.
Welcome to another installment of our PR Strategy Series, where you can learn directly from top industry experts on how you can leverage media attention to grow your business.
Today we are talking about how you can grow your PR career by highlighting parts of a conversation I had over at Authority Magazine with April Margulies.
Trust Relations was founded by public relations veteran April (White) Margulies, who has nearly 20 years of experience counseling and implementing campaigns on behalf of clients across various industries, from Fortune 100 companies to startups.
April worked at several top PR agencies, including Weber Shandwick, Edelman, Rubenstein Public Relations, and Spong, before starting her own firm. Clients she has counseled include MasterCard Worldwide, MetLife International, Sotheby’s International Realty, Hyatt, Rosetta Stone, and Petco, among many others.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you got started?
I knew early on that I wanted to become a writer. My parents encouraged me to study journalism in college, figuring it was a practical way for me to earn a living as a writer, while I pursued creative writing outside of a “real” day job. This appealed to me, as I did (and still do) get “in the zone” when writing without noticing any time has passed. Another draw to becoming a journalist was the idea of being a “watchdog of society.”
My first job was at The Des Moines Register newspaper. However, being the people pleaser that I am, I struggled with writing objective stories that told both sides of a narrative with equal weight. I found that I often disappointed my sources who only wanted their side of the story told. It was then that I realized advocating for one side of a narrative as a public relations professional would be a more natural fit for my personality. So I left the Des Moines Register in pursuit of PR.
My first PR job was at Two Rivers Marketing in Des Moines Iowa. I was hired as a technical writer and spent my days writing stories about contractors who were using our clients’ construction equipment on their job sites across the country. I loved it. I began buying and reading countless books on PR to figure out what I didn’t know. I studied them tirelessly. After a couple of years, I pursued my dream of living in New York City and got a job as a media relations specialist for Carmichael Lynch Spong (now Spong), in the agency’s Manhattan satellite office. I thought I was in heaven.
My ongoing curiosity about PR and how it ultimately fits into the integrated marketing communications mix continued. And so, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree at Columbia University in Strategic Communications. This resume line helped me land a job at the biggest PR firm in the world, Weber Shandwick, where I was suddenly thrust into pitching the executives of the largest Fortune 100 companies to top-tier business media outlets.
After working at Weber Shandwick, then Edelman and later Rubenstein Public Relations in New York City, I followed the love of my life (and now husband) to Los Angeles and began my next chapter as a PR freelancer. Over time, my freelancing career took off and I found myself at a major crossroad: Either turn away work due to my limited capacity or take the reins, bring on more support and evolve what I was doing into an actual company. I opted for the latter and formed Trust Relations in February 2019.
As a successful business leader, which character traits do you think were most instrumental in getting you to where you are today?
Adaptability. My husband always marvels at, and is sometimes alarmed by, my unending adaptability. I will endure inhospitable work environments, bad ergonomics, long hours, technical mishaps, trying situations, and the like — and either be unphased or not even notice. Instead, I will somehow come up with mental, physical or technical workarounds to keep going long after most people would have said “enough” and stopped. I think this is a quality that has been instrumental in my being able to push through many of the challenges a startup presents without them slowing me down, and in working around obstacles until they either disappear or can be fully addressed without losing momentum.
Endurance. I’m often told I’m one of those people who can outwork just about anyone. What I can’t solve through wit I will solve through work. This has been imperative to my success as the founder of Trust Relations, as I have frequently worn so many hats at once that even the greatest clown couldn’t keep up. Wherever there is a gap in the company staffing-wise, I jump in and play that role — regardless of how challenging or basic it is. This means I usually need to do the job of three or more people on any given day, which is where my endurance has often saved me — and the company.
Empathy. I am naturally empathetic, but I also work hard to stay empathetic even when I am stretched thin. I think being able to put yourself in the shoes of other people, whether team members, prospects or clients, is inextricably tied with being a good leader. If you can’t imagine what others are thinking and feeling, you will be surprised by their responses and accidentally ignite conflict where it could have otherwise been avoided. However, if you tap into your empathy, you can usually foresee and predict what someone is going to do next, and prepare accordingly.
Wonderful. What 3 media strategies would you consider being most effective in generating more business for a national brand?
The three strategies most effective in generating media coverage for businesses growing a national brand revolve largely around its business and marketing goals.
Report Major Expansions — For example, is the company looking to expand into a new market or region? Then announce its new location(s) to the media. Is the company looking to expand its product offerings? Share its new products or features with the press. It is looking to break into a new vertical? Create and pitch case studies of companies within that new vertical who have already benefited from the brand’s products or services, to encourage others to follow suit.
Offer Free Demos and Product Samples to Media — It’s imperative that brands offer demos and/or product samples to national media, to ensure they have an opportunity to experience the company’s offerings first-hand and then write about it. This tactic requires more patience on the part of the brand, as it can take some time for reporters to test the product, platform or offering before writing about it, submitting it to their editors and then, finally, publishing the story. Not every reporter who tests a product will write about it, but it’s important to work with PR professionals who can steer the company clear of gifting products to reporters who are notorious for not producing stories, to ensure you do not waste budget.
Leverage Case Studies, Partners and Customers — Do you have a famous or notable customer? Leverage this person or brand, if possible, to generate media coverage about how he/she/it is benefiting from your company’s offerings. Do you have a big-name client or partner? Let the press know how your key audiences will benefit from the synergistic relationship. Do you have a great case study of how a brand or person used the solution or product you offer to achieve a goal? Offer up this story as an example of your offering in action.
Outstanding. One more before we go: If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would like to create a movement that reinvigorates a commitment to objectivity in the news. I’m bullish about rewarding the media for truly objective reporting by financially supporting outlets and reporters I think are doing great investigative, non-partisan work. In some cases, I have been a founding subscriber of substack newsletters created by iconic, heroic journalists who have absolutely nothing to do with my clients, but whom I admire greatly and want to support.
Strictly unbiased reporting functions as the true “watchdog of society” and is not beholden to any corporation or political stance. It is not told through any specific lens or with any identifiable agenda or slant. And it is among the most valuable services we have in the free world, as information is power.
Thank you for sharing so many insights with us!