Find a way to normalize and manage your stress. PR is constantly listed as one of the most stressful jobs in the world, but I never felt the full brunt of that until I started my own agency.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsay Priester.Lindsay is the owner and president of Green Light Communications. With more than a decade of experience in public relations, Lindsay has worked with a variety of clients in the lifestyle space ranging from restaurants and retail shops to healthcare providers. Lindsay’s expertise in media relations has resulted in consistent national, regional, and local coverage. She serves as a client spokesperson and develops messaging, news releases, case studies, and white papers for her clients. In addition, Lindsay creates a social media strategy and content, establishing a clear voice for each brand.
When she isn’t working, Lindsay is probably playing with her dog, Willie (she’s a little obsessed), cooking up a gourmet meal, training for a half marathon, or cheering on her Tar Heels! Read more about Lindsay and Green Light at www.greenlightcomm.com.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was always a very shy child growing up. Social situations were intimidating to me, so PR seems like a strange choice. But from a very young age I found myself passionate about two things — writing and people. Writing has been my solace since I could put pencil to paper and hearing people’s unique stories has always sparked something inside of me. I went to college with the plan of becoming a print journalist. I could write and tell people’s stories without being in the spotlight. Slowly that plan began to change. I started to come out of my shell and while writing and telling stories will always be my passion, I love the process of shaping an idea from start to finish. Journalism would have allowed me to tell a story and be done with it. PR allows me to create a constantly evolving product that adapts in real-time.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Starting Green Light Communications was both the best and scariest decision I have ever made. While I have been in PR a while, owning a company is an entirely different beast. One thing I never expected to happen was for someone to steal my identity! A hacker was using my company name to charge unsuspecting victims directly through their bank accounts. The phone calls I got were both terrifying and hysterical. One woman who found a charge on her account accused me of being in a relationship with her husband while another man called me asking if his elderly mother had been making some late-night purchases on the Home Shopping Network again!
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?
When I was first starting out in PR, before I started my own company, I worked at an agency with a client that was a prominent home and garden trade show in the South. Each year we were responsible for booking the show’s headliner (usually someone from HGTV or a similar network) and promoting his or her participation at the show, as well as managing all the on-site logistics. The first year I did this we landed a well-known interior design star. The location of the show was an old, bare-bones civic center with lackluster accommodations and we needed a “green room” for our star. There was one private room in the whole building, so we decided to put her in there. Only to get there you had to walk through the bathroom and it was housed next to the area for women to change their kids’ diapers. Our star took one look at that room and immediately turned right around! I knew it was a questionable decision when we made it, but there weren’t any other options. That taught me quickly to listen to my instincts. Today I would have known to rent a private tent or a hotel room across the street, but then it seemed like our only option on a limited budget. Go with your gut!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made me have to adjust and pivot with almost all my clients so that’s keeping things exciting! One of my clients is a children’s book author and a big part of our normal scope of work is scheduling in-person readings at schools and museums. Obviously with the current state of things that are not an option, so we’re working on creating virtual readings, as well as an online book club. It’s fun to have to think out of the box!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Find a way to normalize and manage your stress. PR is constantly listed as one of the most stressful jobs in the world, but I never felt the full brunt of that until I started my own agency. Being ultimately responsible for every single word that comes out of Green Light Communications is a huge honor and privilege, but it also comes with a lot of weight. Knowing that your paycheck depends on you and only you is heavy. Knowing that clients come and go without any reason related to you is hard. The most important thing I’ve learned is that you have to know that’s all part of the business and none of it can be taken personally. You have to take the ups and the downs in stride because that’s what being a business owner means. In the beginning I would get so upset about every little thing, but now I’ve learned to manage things better. A dose of perspective combined with doing things I know help reduce my stress level (for me, running and cooking) are essential!
2. Make friends with fellow business owners. Bonus points if they’re in your industry. I can’t stress this one enough. My friends and family are the best people on the planet, but they understand the stresses of their own jobs, not those of being the owner of a PR agency (just like I have no clue what it’s like to be the VP of a bank, a lawyer or a manager in an insurance agency). My saving grace this year has been connecting with a few other owners in this biz and shamelessly making them my best friends. In the beginning they helped answer ALL the logistical questions. “Do you have a good accountant you would recommend? Does this count as a business expense? Wait, I’m supposed to be tracking my mileage?” While the answers provided to those questions were essential, what I value the most from these relationships is being able to get together for a glass of wine after work and have someone who just gets it. Someone who reassures you that you aren’t crazy. Someone who knows this business is insane and that everything that happens — the good, the bad, and the ugly — is all a part of the gig and to take it all in the stride.
3. Fire yourself every Friday and treat yourself as a new hire on Monday. It’s so easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees when you’re working on a client project all day every day. Unless I have a client event or something that is super pressing, I unplug completely for the weekend. I “fire” myself on Friday and then come on Monday morning as a new employee. This helps me approach things with a fresh perspective, a clear mind, and new ideas.
4. PR is always about people. Get to know your clients on a personal level. Make note of their birthdays, their kids’ names, where they like to vacation, their favorite sports teams. There may be a PR angle there, there may not. But those personal things are one of the best parts of this business. I have clients that text me “good luck” when I’m about to run a half marathon or tease me when their team beats my team. I have met some of the smartest, kindest, most inspiring people through this business that I’ll be friends with for life. It’s important to remember people have lived after 5 p.m. and before 9 a.m. and that that’s where the trust is built.
5. Exhale. Give yourself grace. While our work can be extremely meaningful, we’re not doctors saving lives or soldiers going to war. Give it your all always, but know that sometimes things won’t work out as planned and that’s okay.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Networking used to be one of my least favorite parts of the job until I stopped making it out to be something bigger than it is. Networking is just talking to people. We make it intimidating with a special name and formalized events, but in the end, it’s really just talking to people. Be yourself. Ask questions, both about work and life outside of work. Don’t act like you know it all. Think of what skill set you have that can be a help to others and offer it. Actually follow up and go grab that coffee or cocktail. Know that not every person you meet will be a resource for you or someone you can be a resource for and that’s okay. Take the pressure off.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Word of mouth has been by far my greatest source of leads, but it often comes in ways you wouldn’t think of. Most of my leads don’t come from networking events or PR conferences. They come from my old co-worker whose sister is opening a restaurant and needs help with social media. Or my neighbor down the street who is having to pivot her Pilates business to online lessons and needs help spreading the world. It sounds simple, but in the end, most of my leads have come from getting to know people and listening. Be a resource and sounding board without pushing your services. Those conversations won’t be forgotten and tend to reappear as business opportunities in some form down the road.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Oh goodness, I’m a book and podcast junkie! As far as books, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s not technically PR-specific, but it’s undoubtedly helped me in my career with establishing quality relationships. My favorite podcasts change constantly, but recently I’ve been listening to a lot of the Ed Mylett Show. It provides so much content and gives tangible tips for up-leveling in both business and life that you can implement immediately.
Because of the role you play, 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be called the Grace Movement. We all just need to give each other (and ourselves!!) some grace. This industry can be cutthroat and I’ve seen some really terrible things. I wish we’d remember that there’s enough space for all of us and that helping each other will only help us all get better!
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time