“5 things I wish someone told me before I became a CEO” with Tracy Lamourie

Just do it. Yes, I should have paid attention to the message in that ad. One of the most powerful things I have learned with time is: just do it; for real. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you or give you permission or decide you can. It’s up to YOU to decide that […]

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Just do it. Yes, I should have paid attention to the message in that ad. One of the most powerful things I have learned with time is: just do it; for real. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you or give you permission or decide you can. It’s up to YOU to decide that you can, and there is no reason to wait til you’re in your early 40s like I did. Believe that you have the ability to do the things that need to be done to get you to where you want to be and just do it. I waited til I was 43 before I stopped freelancing like a kid and officially put a business structure into place.

As a part of our series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Lamourie. Tracy is a publicist who works primarily in Toronto, Canada and Hollywood, California with clients across North America and beyond. Tracy is the 2018 winner of the Hamilton Spectator READERS CHOICE awards in the Public Relations category, where she received 1st Place Platinum award for Public Relations and won the 2019 award for Marketing at the 2019 Magnetic Entrepreneur Awards in Toronto. She is the CEO & Creative Director of Lamourie Public Relations. Lamourie PR works with high profile entertainers, artists, filmmakers, public speakers, and news-makers of all kinds and has been quoted in media internationally on a variety of topics.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is it about the position of CEO the most attracted you to it?

I feel like CEO more just happened to me than me being attracted to it and seeking it out! I’m CEO by virtue of being the head of the company. If there is one thing I’m not very good at, its delegating responsibility! I often feel like I have to do it all, particularly since my name is on the company, I’m fairly well known in my industry, in the various industries I work in and communities that I’m a part of, so when people hire Lamourie Public Relations I know they are expecting me to share my vision, my strategies — so in the role of CEO I can spearhead my company and overview all operations and strategies while translating those strategies and visions to help my clients advance their projects in my other company role of Creative Director. (The role of Creative Director is) equally as important to me for some of the same reasons — my name is on the company so I want to ensure quality and continuity in all that we provide. I founded the company with my husband and business partner Dave Parkinson, but he focuses primarily on the audio/visual side of things while I am the company’s public face.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I have one that few people can top! Twenty years ago, way before I ever thought of becoming a publicist, I taught myself to write a press release to get media attention for a grievous case of injustice my husband and I had become aware of — the wrongful conviction of Jimmy Dennis who was at that time under sentence of death in Pennsylvania, an innocent man. We spearheaded what became an international campaign to draw attention to his case. A few years after that, some high profile lawyers became involved. It took two decades from the time we first got involved — but finally, in May 2017, we got the call. Jimmy Dennis was a free man. A journey that began with him on death row and me learning how to write a media release had come full circle with the guy who used to be on death row now a recording artist getting some pretty serious attention from some major industry players — and I am his publicist. That sounds like a Hollywood ending but it’s absolutely true. I couldn’t make that up — and no one would believe me if I did. Beyond that life changing story that touches both the personal and professional though, I could probably fill a series of articles with truly interesting stories! I often say the life of a publicist is an interesting one because it opens many doors — I’d almost say EVERY door. Every day is different. It’s been suggested that I start a YouTube channel just to take people on some of my adventures. For now my social media — my personal Facebook page and my personal/business hybrid Instagram page at tracylamourieprmedia are basically my diaries, and anyone who wants to know about the crazy, unpredictable, literally different every single day life of a high profile publicist should follow me there. In the last few months alone, one client flew my husband and I along with our teenage son to Jamaica on a tourism related project, 14 days after returning I was on a plane again — this time to Hollywood! Then, in a totally unexpected twist, I was sent to Washington DC two weeks ago! Because so many people pointed out they were following my socials to see what I’d get up to next (and with who!) just this last month I started a travel blog https://travelwithtracycelebritypublicist.blogspot.com/ so people can follow along with these interesting and random things that happen to me in real time! I’m hoping it leads to even more exciting adventures — but truly I’m lucky enough to have been brought on to so many amazing projects of all kinds, with truly fascinating people doing interesting and important things all over the planet. I feel lucky, but then I realize it hasn’t been luck at all but the natural result of excellent communications, hugely successful business strategies, and the high level contacts and projects that have resulted. I’m really proud of what we’ve built.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This one might only be funny to other publicists and people who deal with the media, but I would have to say it was that time as a newbie publicist where I cc’d something like 50 reporters with a press release (Tracy’s tip to newbies — DON’T do that!) that I also cc’d to the client… and then one of the reporters hit REPLY ALL — to tell me off about it (also sending his reply to the other 49 reporters AND my VERY forgiving client who continued to work with me — and for whom I ended up getting many great media successes for!

Specifically, what is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

In terms of my job as a CEO of your own company is probably what a lot of people discover about the reality of being your own boss. Sure it’s nice that you theoretically answer only to yourself, but in reality, though the dynamics of the relationship are different, is that every client is a boss of sorts; if you don’t make them happy you won’t be retained or they won’t buy your company’s services again.

Additionally there are is a great quote I have heard recently that encapsulates the reality of being CEO: “You get the freedom to choose which 14 hours of the day you work!” My days are often closer to 17 or 18 hours — I often say without much exaggeration that if I am awake I am working. Also it’s amazing to me how much of my day is taken up in conference calls. Then I still have to do all that work we have talked about in the calls, which accounts for those 18 hour days!

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Number one is be confident. Believe in yourself and your abilities and then believe in the capabilities of the awesome people you hire. Mentor young people in your industry; talented young women (and men too) who could use some guidance and encouragement to launch a stellar career in your industry. Remember there were people who helped you get to where you are and there are still people helping you advance and you should fill that roll for others too.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Collaboration not competition should be encouraged within the team. Encourage people to speak up and to listen to each other. As my client Toni Dupree who counsels businesses on etiquette and the difference it can make in the workplace speaks of in her seminars, the way we treat each other and workplace culture makes a dramatic difference in retaining customers and in employee well-being building a more healthy corporate environment. Something we should all keep in mind during our business interactions.

Who inspired/inspires you and why?

This is going to sound like PR spin but in truth I am incredibly inspired on a daily basis by the people I am privileged to work with. From artists and musicians to people working for change within the criminal justice system, to filmmakers to authors to inspiring public speakers I am continually amazed at where my work brings me and a front row seat to watching these amazing people do such things on a daily basis is the essence of inspiration. I’m also continually inspired by the example set by my mom when I was a kid growing up in the 80s — to learn to do for yourself and be a power woman — create your own career and income so you don’t have to depend on anyone but yourself.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father taught me not to take crap from anybody and my mother taught me to be a strong self-sufficient woman. In my person life as a child John Lennon inspired me in calls to action to speak out as a public advocate for causes in which I believe and that was probably what set me on the unexpected path that somehow led to a life as CEO of my own PR and media company helping other amazing people find success and make a difference too.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I think my career trajectory is kind of interesting in light of that trajectory. Initially I wasn’t at all focused on career or on any kind of personal success. I first used the media to advance issues I people whose causes I cared about when I had the opportunity to co-host a Toronto radio show on CIUT with this guy named Dave I met who was part of a social justice oriented on air collective. (I ended up marrying him nine months after we met — that was 25 years ago and we are still living, parenting and working together today — but that’s another story!) We were engaged in work against racism and a few years after that we fell into the work advocating against wrongful convictions with the death penalty. It wasn’t until I saw the success that I had achieved getting front row stories that were starting to make a difference, that I decided to turn that into a career and started taking on clients for pay. I continue to use any platform I have, any connections I make, in the service of the good causes and good people doing good work that cross my path any given day.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Just do it. Yes, I should have paid attention to the message in that ad. One of the most powerful things I have learned with time is: just do it; for real. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you or give you permission or decide you can. It’s up to YOU to decide that you can, and there is no reason to wait til you’re in your early 40s like I did. Believe that you have the ability to do the things that need to be done to get you to where you want to be and just do it. I waited til I was 43 before I stopped freelancing like a kid and officially put a business structure into place.
  2. Don’t be afraid to network. At networking events realize that ninety percent of the people in the room are likely as uncomfortable going up to strangers to introduce themselves as you are. Be the one that breaks the ice and makes others comfortable, and you’ll reap the benefits. In real life, tell people what you do and ask them to refer you to others in their networks. On socials, reach out to people — I’m not telling you to cut and paste a generic message about what you do and send it to them — I’m telling you to look at your contacts, understand what it is they do and if there is legitimately a place you can add value, reach out in a friendly and professional way. Recently, I’ve accompanied a public policy client across the border just to attend professional events in New York State, leading to potential new partnerships. I’ve also been amazed at the quality of projects and extremely high level connections I’ve been able to develop into professional relationships and friendships with industry folk I initially met online. I won’t namedrop here, but if I did, some of the people I’ve been able to connect with online leading to real life professional projects and paychecks — and some pretty stellar celebrity parties! is pretty jaw dropping!
  3. Put yourself out there. This is about more than networking. This means if you hear of a big project you’d love to work on in your industry for example, a good opportunity or a new position if you’re in a corporate environment, or even if you want to jump into a new industry and you know you have the skill set to do it. Just like I tell my entertainment world clients, don’t wait to be discovered like it’s the 1940s and you are Lana Turner in a drugstore. It’s a crowded marketplace, and if you’re not out there hustling and letting people know you can do something, someone else is and they’ll get there ahead of you. Have faith in yourself and show what you can do — then others will come to you and ask you to do it for them! — building your client base. I’ve learned to do this on the regular and can point to many examples where it has led to success for me, like the time I reached out to a big name producer who had friended my on LINKEDIN and got my first cross country business trip out of it, or the time I was speaking to a major TV personality at a business conference we were both speaking at (who I would have assumed already had a publicist) about a new project he was involved in, and asked him “Who’s the publicist?” and he laughed and hired me…put yourself out there. You never know what can happen!
  4. Put your business processes in place before you start your business! I know this one might seem obvious but for those of us who started out freelancing our services before moving into a small business structure and then sometimes into the world of incorporation, it’s often an after-the-fact no-brainer. In my case, I started getting clients so quickly I got caught up in their businesses and their successes and to this day I haven’t sat down to put together a current website reflecting all my recent professional successes (something I would never allow a client to slack on!) Also things like accounting services, CRM software, you will make your life a lot easier if you set it up first instead of going backwards and trying to implement procedures when you already have clients.
  5. Engage a media expert like myself to help tell your story and reach your demographic in ways ads never will. Here’s one I knew from the beginning but, that’s because I was a publicist before I was a CEO, and from my experience working with other executives and business owners I know that this is often one that never crosses the mind of most CEOs or executives. Many people think having engaging a publicist or being quoted in the media is only for celebrities or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. That’s just not the case. Did you ever wonder how all those sources you see on TV manage to get quoted? I’ve had people reach out to me wondering why the media might be quoting a competitor instead of them, maybe even one with less industry presence.The secret? Instead of buying advertising, that executive probably invested in a skilled publicist or commissioned a media release to be written and distributed. Voila! On the air with the credibility than an ad can’t buy. If people see you quoted in the media, it’s natural for them to assume you’re the best at what you do and that’s why the media came to you — that might be true — or you might just have an effective publicist!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the largest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Now this is an incredibly difficult question for me. Why limit ourselves to just one movement? This is a hard one for me to answer. I start thinking of all the different causes I care about, things I have worked on for decades, new things I hear about every day that really need the attention of activists and advocates. In my day to day, I continue to use my skills and access to the media to help individuals and groups working on important things amplify their messages. But if we’re in the realm of what would bring the most good to the most amount of people? It’s simple and profound. If we could encourage a world where kindness is the motivator, where collaboration instead of competition is the norm, where conflict and killing are the rarest of rarities, where we work TOGETHER to solve our problems and where more of us look at the similarities we all share with each other, instead of looking for and amplifying the differences.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The Beatles have a song that starts “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done and goes on to say “there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy,” before the resounding familiar chorus, “all you need is love,” chips in. That all you need is love message is pretty powerful, though of course we all need a little more than that to get through real life…so when you need a little push and a little inspiration to push through, do what I do and remember that line “nothing you can do that can’t be done…” and remind yourself you can totally do it!

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I know a lot of celebrities, so a big name doesn’t impress me — it’s those that use their platform to change the world, or do good things that inspire me. Of course, the kid inside me would love to check off that Meet A Beatle box, so I’m gonna say Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr. Ultimately, though, I’m interested in talking to anyone doing good things who has an important message that the world needs to hear.

About the author:

Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 350 works in print. He is the author of two books, I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business, and Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke

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