“I was pleasantly surprised when I started my business that the more I gave back to my community and industry, the more my business grew. Through donating time and energy to nonprofits, I surrounded myself with like-minded people who in turn supported me and my business. And by openly helping and sharing other PR professionals, I created a network of collaborators and referral partners instead of competitors.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Stansbury, CEO of Little Penguin PR. Michelle is an award-winning publicist whose mission is to take the same resources that Fortune 500 companies use to reach their target audience through PR and provide them to small and mid-sized businesses to help them succeed. Michelle excels at building credibility, generating positive press and media exposure, and positioning companies as experts in their industry. She uses this skill and experience to give back to the community, working with inspiring nonprofits like Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County and Wounded Warrior Homes. Michelle is also a sought-after speaker, sharing her expertise at conferences, industry organizations, and professional groups. She was recently honored as a San Diego Business Woman of the Year finalist. I am excited to have her share her story with us here!
Yitzi: Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
Stansbury: I’m originally from North Carolina and went to Duke University. My background is in fashion retail, helping Abercrombie & Fitch launch a new brand in 2008. Starting a new brand gave me the “bug” for being an entrepreneur. I founded Little Penguin PR about four and a half years ago in San Diego and have had the pleasure of working amazing organizations — from global brands to local nonprofits. Now, I work primarily with tech companies and professional services to help them grow their brand through PR. I believe that every company has a story to tell and deserves a unique narrative to communicate it!
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Stansbury: I know this story sounds unbelievable, but when I starting the new brand for Abercrombie, one of our main shipments for our first store launch got stolen by pirates — yes, seriously. As we were in with the CEO explaining why we couldn’t open the store with our full line, he told us we needed to find a way to make it work. At first we were shocked — even if we could recover the shipment, it would be tied up in customs and legal proceedings for months. But once we set our minds to the idea that we had to make it work, we found a way to do it. As crazy as the situation was, I realized that when you set your expectations high, you rise up to meet them. You can achieve the impossible if you don’t have any other option but to succeed.
Yitzi: Are you working on any meaningful non profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Stansbury: I work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County and Wounded Warrior Homes to help them share their mission and gain more supporters and volunteers through PR.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County: For more than 100 years nationally and 55 locally in San Diego, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 7 through 18, in San Diego and in communities across the country.
About Wounded Warrior Homes: Wounded Warrior Homes is a grassroots charitable non-profit chartered to provide transitional housing to single post-9/11 combat veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS).
Yitzi: Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Stansbury: Here is one of my favorite stories from Big Brothers Big Sisters. Little Brother Luis had all the tools to succeed: determination, smarts and a great work ethic. But Luis lacked a blueprint for his future and someone to show him how to build it. He grew up in a neighborhood where only 3% of adults have a college degree and a young boy from a single parent household is more likely to end up arrested than on the path to success. That’s where Luis’ Big Brother Wes came in. Wes helped Luis to make a plan for his future and follow it. With Wes’ encouragement and guidance, Luis is poised to graduate high school with a 4.5 GPA and plans to study computer science at one California’s most competitive colleges.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Practice What You Preach — In service-based businesses, often business owners are so focused on their clients that they don’t practice what they preach. I’ve found that you have to treat your own business as a client, as well. I like to block out a couple hours a week on my calendar to work on my own business. I try to keep these times just as sacredly as I would a client meeting and use it to create marketing strategy and campaigns.
2) Be Obsessed — People often ask me how I achieve “work/life balance” while owning a company. The simple answer is that I don’t. I love what I do and wake up every morning excited to start working. I’m obsessed. My friends are often surprised at how many hours I work, but to me, it doesn’t feel like work. There are so few people in this world who really love their job, so much so that “TGIF” doesn’t apply. I wouldn’t recommend starting your own business unless you would happily do your job for free, just because you love doing it so much.
3) Make Sure You’re Asking the Right Question — I get a lot of calls from business owners who ask me about specific tactics. They say “Can you get me into Forbes?” or “I need to be on Snapchat.” Maybe you’ve seen your competitor do it. Or maybe you read an article about a new trending social media platform. Whatever got you to the “answer” — we need to go back and make sure we have the right question first. Start with your target audience, where they go for information, and what messaging resonates with them. If you want publicity for your new fiction novel, yes, you should dream of getting on Oprah. If you run a lifestyle consumer brand, yes, social media is a powerful platform to connect with your audience. However, if you run a B2B company focused on engineering companies with a CTO as decision maker, you’re not going to gain market share through Snapchat. Instead, you’ve got to look to where those decision makers go for information. Is it engineering publications? Tech publications? Start with the strategy, and then go to tactics.
4) Giving Back Gets You Ahead — I was pleasantly surprised when I started my business that the more I gave back to my community and industry, the more my business grew. Through donating time and energy to nonprofits, I surrounded myself with like-minded people who in turn supported me and my business. And by openly helping and sharing other PR professionals, I created a network of collaborators and referral partners instead of competitors.
5) Be Brutally Honest — Newsrooms are brutally honest places. If the story isn’t timely, it gets thrown in the trash. If the story is overdone, it gets tossed out. For people looking to start doing PR, first you’ve got to figure out which stories are going to be interesting to the press. It’s okay if not all of your story ideas are worthy of a press pitch, but be upfront about that and turn it into a blog or newsletter instead. Questions to ask:
- Is it TIMELY?
- Does it have a UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE?
- Does the HEADLINE grab your attention?
- Does it ALIGN with your industry/business?
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Originally published at medium.com