Don’t worry about revenue early on — The pro bono clients were key to proof of concept, showing I can succeed outside of my niche
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Nemeth.
Eric Nemeth is a longtime sports and entertainment leader who launched his own agency as a result of the pandemic. Prior to starting Eric PR & Marketing, LLC, Nemeth was known for innovative marketing and publicity campaigns as an executive of the Harlem Globetrotters and Comcast-Spectacor, where he worked with the Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia 76ers and live events at arenas across the country. Through his agency, Nemeth now diversifies across multiple industries to bring results to his clients.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Growing up in South Jersey, only a few miles from Philadelphia, I was raised to love the Eagles, Sixers, Phillies, and Flyers. By high school, I was determined to navigate a future career in sports and focused on putting myself in a position to network in the industry I loved. The foundation of my career was built at the University of Massachusetts’ Sport Management department and internships at Comcast-Spectacor, which led to my first job at what is now the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In my industry, success is determined by a person’s intangible qualities. It’s about the willingness to compete for victories and understanding the best paths to get there. My first office at the Wells Fargo Center was previously a closet. I shared the tiny space with another colleague, separated by only a few feet. I was given the opportunity to quickly grow within my company if I was willing to relocate to other markets. I moved from the arenas in Philadelphia to Kansas City, MO, to Portland, OR, then back to Philadelphia (with a brief stint in Fargo, ND). This was the path I took to become the Director of Public Relations for Comcast-Spectacor. I had to relocate a combined 6,000 miles in a span of three years to get a real office at my venue in Philadelphia that was 30-feet up the hall from my original closet “office.”
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
When I look back at the last 20 to 25 years of my life, the trajectory that has led me here was a collection of powerful moments. There were moments that took place dating back as far as the late 1990s. These were moments that led to relationships with people that would later be crucial to the launch of my business during a pandemic. Unexpected relationships led to more moments that allowed me to believe I could launch my new business under these unique circumstances. I believe in the power of community and the power of moments.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I oversaw the live event publicity efforts for the Harlem Globetrotters’ North American tour, which brought more than 300 games to over 250 cities annually pre-pandemic. I orchestrated nationally recognized photo ops, including record breaking trick shots, Globetrotters’ events on rooftops and on ice, plus elaborate community initiatives that positioned the team’s brand as the “Ambassadors of Goodwill.” I worked with local and national media outlets that led to segments on the Super Bowl LIV pregame show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, LIVE with Kelly and Ryan, SportsCenter, TODAY Show, Good Morning America, BBC World News, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, SiriusXM, and more.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Some of those initial decisions were made for me. The pandemic devastated the live event industry from Broadway, to concerts, to family shows. It forced my employer of 10-years — the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters — to pull multiple tours off the road and implement mass furloughs.
When my furlough began in April, I had real life decisions to make and essentially had three options. I could wait out the furlough and hope live events would reopen with large crowds. I could look for a new job. Or I could start my own agency, which was the only option that offered me control of my own destiny. Eric PR & Marketing, LLC was born on April 28, 2020.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I knew I could make meaningful pro bono contributions in the nonprofit sector. While this approach did not bring in revenue, it did show proof of concept. If I could demonstrate success outside of sports and entertainment, the revenue portion of my business would follow with new clients. On a personal note, it was important to me to do something that could contribute to the great efforts being made by so many of our neighbors who are essential workers. Using my skills to play any role in the effort to combat COVID-19 was paramount.
I called my friend John Lynch, who started a nonprofit named The Lunch with Lynch Foundation, which is located in Wildwood, NJ. I asked John if his organization had mounted any new efforts in response to the pandemic — and that is when he told me about Operation iPad. I initiated a publicity strategy that led to national attention, including CBSNews.com, People.com, and Cuomo Prime Time on CNN. Through a variety of efforts, John’s foundation donated 135 iPads to connect patients with family members all over the nation.
How are things going with this new initiative?
As of August, I officially moved forward with Eric PR & Marketing fulltime and said goodbye to an incredible run with the Harlem Globetrotters. Now, every waking moment is dedicated to over delivering for my existing clients. That includes NEST, a national retail facilities management company, Jock MKT, a new daily fantasy sports platform that turns sports into a stock market, MISS SWISS, an innovative makeup case that launches this holiday season, LineSwings, a sports gambling analytics company, and Smart Drivel, a fun and thoughtful conversational podcast.
I will continue to help nonprofits like The Lunch With Lynch Foundation and Ron Jaworski’s foundation, the Jaws Youth Playbook. If I do a great job for my clients, the rest will take care of itself. I’m off to a great start. But my company’s growth will be determined by my ongoing performance.
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?
I have so many people who supported me and believed I could do it. It started with my wife, Sara. Then, Kurt Schneider, the former CEO of the Globetrotters, who was one of the first to reach out to me. I’ve been helping him promote a new clever podcast called Smart Drivel. He was my first paying client, and we continue to work together to further grow his podcast and media company with co-host Jon Ellenthal. I learned a lot from Kurt during our time at the Globetrotters and continue to view him as a mentor.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
In June, I was contacted by 24-year old entrepreneur Ashley Piszek, who saw my story in the Philadelphia Business Journal. She was looking for public relations and marketing help to promote her new company MISS SWISS®, a revolutionary travel size makeup case for makeup users on the go. MISS SWISS is now an anchor client of Eric PR & Marketing and I’m proud to be working with Ashley. She has the intangibles to be a success — as proven by the house she flipped in college to fund her startup costs. I am really enjoying the new challenge and applying lessons I’ve learned in my career to help a new business with an inspirational founder.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I am very lucky that I haven’t hit any hurdles of regret to this point. I received a lot of encouragement and advice along the way. Key things that others did tell me early on included:
People have a need for your services in this capacity
- In a time of furloughs and cutting staff, they were right. I adopted the concept of a fractional CMO/CCO. I learned quickly that companies could benefit from an experienced executive at a fraction of the cost.
Don’t worry about revenue early on
- The pro bono clients were key to proof of concept, showing I can succeed outside of my niche
Set yourself apart from other agencies
- I make it clear that I am in the trenches doing the work. I won’t pass off an account to a junior person.
“I’ve been doing this for a couple years and you are going to love it. You are made for this.”
- This was told to me by a PR veteran who left a big agency years before the pandemic. He was maxed out in terms of his bandwidth and referred me to Jock MKT, who became one of my biggest clients.
Create alliances that can be mutually beneficial to others in a similar position
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I was more prepared than most to work from home. While travel was a significant part of my position with the Harlem Globetrotters, I was based in my home office since 2010. However, I wasn’t mentally prepared to work from my home office 100% of the time, without the frequent diversification of hopping on a plane or a train. To combat that, I schedule time to work outside on my deck, or from public gardens, or a family member’s beach house.
My wife and I also prioritize morning walks in the woods with our 8-year old daughter and 6-year old son. Whenever it’s not raining, you’ll find us out on the trails for about 45 minutes every morning. It’s a great way to start our day — for all of us.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I can’t help but think about my friend John Lynch and what he does through his nonprofit, The Lunch With Lynch Foundation. I would find ways to replicate his mission and spread it around the world. John believes in the “Power of Community.” I see it first-hand. Through his kindness initiatives, he does more than just help the underprivileged, underserved and those experiencing difficulties or challenges in their lives. He makes them know and believe they are valued and understood. John is impossible to replicate — but once you get to know him and his foundation, it changes your mentality to also pay kindness forward.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I play a lot of pickup basketball with other dads from my town. I love it. Can I trade out an element of your question? Instead of lunch, I want to invite fellow basketball lifer President Barack Obama to play a game of pickup basketball with us. President Obama likes to remind us “hoopers” that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she plays basketball. Are you unselfish, lazy, competitive, a good sport? He shot around with the Globetrotters previously at The White House. But adding him to our games for an hour or two with the dads would be pretty cool.
How can our readers follow you online?