Let your “gut” lead you on whether or not you want to take on a particular client. I had to “fire” two clients in my career because they ended up being unpleasant and rude and difficult to work with. One even tried to micromanage me when he knew nothing about PR, and call a reporter to make sure she had the facts correctly! She called me to tell me he was very rude, and she was sorry I had to work with him.
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 Julie Whitney.
Whitney is a public relations professional with more than 35 years of experience, having worked on both the agency and client side and also in the television industry. Her company, Phillippi-Whitney Communications, LLC founded in 2000, represents both large and small clients in a wide variety of industries. She has promoted dozens of authors throughout her career, often supplementing the efforts of the internal PR teams of their publishers. She also works as on-camera talent, appearing in both television commercials and video podcasts. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband Dan, a corporate pilot, (Captain Dan in the book), who as a naval aviator and USNA grad, flew the P-3 Orion on active duty, and who has flown a Gulfstream G100 (Astra) for the past 13 years.
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?
I was an only child raised by a single mom who believed in me, and who taught me that I could do anything. I was very shy as a young child, but came out of my shell after I began attending school, and was the lead in many plays and musicals throughout elementary school and into high school. I love to sing, and it has always been a passion of mine.
A little known fact is that I was an Extra in the movie “Grease” which was shot on location in summer of 1977 in Los Angeles. I was chosen in a nationwide talent search sponsored by Paramount Studios and Federated Department Store.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Kill Em With Kindness.” I preach to others and try to remember this every day. I try to be kind to each and every person I have ever met, and help others through various charity endeavors. Right now I am orchestrating a Christmas present drive for area foster children. I have helped them out the past seven years with various projects, and it fills my heart with joy. And if someone is mean or rude to me, I give them a big smile and am kind as can be. Life is too short for negativity and we need to all that we can to help one another — especially in this uncertain time in our world.
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?
My mother took me to see “Gone With The Wind” on the big screen when I was about 12 years old. I have seen it over a dozen times. It resonated with me because it’s truly how life was in our divided, at war nation. And it depicted a divisiveness and racial injustice that is unfortunately still present today in many ways. And although this movie has been banned from the big screen, it is imprinted in my brain. Progress must be made.
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 think I covered most of this above. I am a PR professional with more than 35 years of experience. I have been self-employed since 2000, and been blessed to work from home since that time, many of these years as a single mom. I have worked on the ad agency side, client side, and also in the field of TV. I have promoted the books of dozens of authors, and never dreamt I would write a book myself.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Astra The Lonely Airplane, is based upon an idea that came to me after my husband’s job as Chief Pilot of a G100 came to a grinding halt during the COVID-19 pandemic. I sat in her beautiful interior one last time and openly wept, feeling sick to my stomach wondering what would become of her, and how long she would sit there in the hangar before being flown again. Thankfully the real-life Astra has a happy ending as well.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
My husband lost his job on May 5th, and I started writing the book that night — literally!
How are things going with this new initiative?
I started submitting the book to literary agents and publishers in May, and signed with a publisher (Brandylane/BelleIsle Publishing in Richmond, VA) on August 1st. I anticipate that the book will be out in Spring, 2021.
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?
YES! I was in the movie Grease as mentioned earlier in the summer of 1977. I have stayed in touch with a few of the other people who were Extras in the movie with me. One of them, Connie Bowman recently published a children’s book. I asked her who her publisher was, and she gave me their name and they signed me! I am so very grateful to her and hope to connect again in person when this pandemic is over.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Probably the fact that at the time I signed with a publisher, my husband got a job that very same week!
The stars were all aligned. He started his new job August 1st, after being unemployed nearly three months, precisely the same time it took me to write the book and sign with a publisher.
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.
Before I started my PR company:
- Make clients sign an agreement regarding your fees and payment terms. I had to take a client to small claims court once in my life, and have never had to do that again. (Actually I was featured in a story in the
Wall Street Journal called “Making Them Pay” after this happened.
- Let your “gut” lead you on whether or not you want to take on a particular client. I had to “fire” two clients in my career because they ended up being unpleasant and rude and difficult to work with. One even tried to micromanage me when he knew nothing about PR, and call a reporter to make sure she had the facts correctly! She called me to tell me he was very rude, and she was sorry I had to work with him.
- Make sure your barking dog is put away before you get on a Zoom call or phone call! If the mailman has not come yet, then put him away somewhere to be safe! No explanation needed here.
- If a reporter shoots you down on a story, then be gracious and thank them and try to find out exactly why the pitch wasn’t on target. Promise them the right story the next time! Although most of my long-time national media contacts have now retired, I developed very many wonderful connections but probing a bit and being courteous. And if a reporter sent back a rude response, remember my motto? “Kill Em With Kindness!” I have gotten quite a few apologies from reporters who went on to know and trust me.
- Fifth tip is before I became a children’s book author: Don’t get hung up on the rules about how long a book should be — how many words, how many pages, and if you should or shouldn’t rhyme. I did initially, and this really threw things off with my story. I am glad I “marched to the beat of a different drum,” and did what I knew was right in my heart.
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 do Yoga each and every day — whether at home or in my gym. I just told my teacher yesterday that I could have never made it through this year without it! It is vital to my mental health and physical wellbeing.
The book has also kept me so very busy on top of my day job that I try to focus on that — it’s an excellent distraction.
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?
Help one another! Volunteer. Be Kind. Open Doors. Push Shopping Carts. Say Thank You. Write Notes.
Be Passionate About Making This A Better World.
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!
Donny Osmond. One of the kindest, most genuine people that I have ever met. We met on very many occasions in the 1980’s and have since lost touch. I would love to catch up with him. Such a great guy who loves everyone! So happy for his continual success — proving that the 60’s rock! Here’s to #secondacts
How can our readers follow you online?
Bus Website pwcommunications.net
Astra Website astrathelonelyairplane.com
Facebook Julie Phillippi Whitney
Facebook Business Phillippi-Whitney Communications LLC
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!