Some of your clients could turn into lifelong champions. Some of my best clients along the way have turned into some of my closest friends and allies. They have been my colleagues (when I worked for a corporation) and then my clients after I moved on. The most amazing thing is they are my cheerleaders, champions, friends, allies, and referral source. You just never know whom you might meet at 25 that could end up playing a big role in your career.
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 Paige Donnell.
Paige is the founder and CEO of Paige PR, a PR, and marketing agency serving Houston’s core industries such as energy, aerospace, healthcare, and real estate development. For more than 15 years, Paige has helped clients strategize and identify key messages, then build successful campaigns surrounding those efforts.
Her core competencies include strategic communications and planning, content development, and media relations. Prior to starting her own agency, Paige handled marketing and communication efforts for oilfield services companies. She is well versed in the onshore and offshore industry and regulatory bodies and regulations.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Texas State University-San Marcos and is a member of Pink Petro and the Women’s Energy Network of Houston.
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?
My first recognition of knowing I wanted to write as a career path happened when my second-grade teacher gave me a glowing review of a short fictional story I wrote in front of the entire class. I had a similar experience over poems I wrote in high school with my high school English teacher. The gift of writing (I think…) has been with me since some of my earliest memories! And I decided to carry that strength, confidence, and passion over to journalism as a degree in college. The PR component came after a brief summer internship where I supported crisis communications for one of the largest energy companies in the world in the early 2000s.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Ha; this is one I share all the time! As I built my agency, I routinely called a close friend and past colleague and would beg her to come over to Paige PR and help me grow the firm. I think the fourth or fifth time I asked her she sounded really interested and maybe as though this might be the right time.
The next day she called me after her company holiday party, where ironically, her employer had hired a tarot card reader for entertainment. During her reading, the card reader told her she should take the job offer on the table. And she started working with me about two weeks after that holiday party! We’ve been working together and growing Paige PR ever since!
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?
On my first day of work, my boss was traveling and asked me to book a car service for her. Well, 24 hours later she called and was furious that I had messed up and the car service was a no show, leaving her stranded at the airport. I was terrified I was going to lose my job over it.
The next day she apologized and said the driver had informed her he had made the error.
Well, two weeks later she asked me again to book a car service for her. She insisted on using the same driver because she knew he would never leave her again after the verbal beratement she gave.
Fast forward a few days and he left her at the airport, stranded again.
Lesson learned? We’re all human and we all make mistakes, but how you treat people really, really matters. I’m convinced the driver intentionally left her at the airport the second time because of the way she treated him.
It also shaped the way I now lead. Accountability and exceptional work is incredibly important, but equally important is the way I speak to employees and lead by example.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Gosh, I’m not at liberty to speak on a lot of them, but a few things to share:
· One of our clients produces ventilators and N95 masks and has been literally helping the world get through the pandemic. It’s made me really proud to know and work with a company with such integrity. (They also provided ventilators and safety equipment to the dive team that rescued the soccer team out of the caves in Thailand a few years ago!)
· We work with the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH). They are a partner to the NASA Human Research Program and have been tasked by NASA to find and fund breakthrough science and medical technologies to help put boot prints on the Mars surface. A lot of discoveries in deep space apply to our day-to-day lives (think blue light protection on your glasses). Helping bring these research programs to life and then sharing them with NASA is such a unique audience and project!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. You’ll work really hard for not a lot of money in the beginning. And then you’ll reap the rewards years later. I remember making 28k dollars/year at my first PR gig in Houston and thought I was crushing it! Then I realized all my friends got out of school making twice as much! (What?!) Hard work pays off in the long run and each person has to run their own race!
2. Grammar matters. In a world where we live and die by the written word and communicating in general, missed punctuation or spelling issues can ruin a company’s credibility in an instant. Apps like Grammarly or the AP standards were developed for a reason and we need to abide by them.
3. The work is the easy part. It’s all the background things (payroll, managing employees, motivating people, etc.) that make being a CEO challenging! The role of the CEO has pushed and challenged me to grow in areas where I would’ve never considered working. But a successful company needs all of the elements to run like a well-oiled machine; not just great publicists.
4. Some people aren’t worth your time. No matter how much success you achieve, there are simply some people that won’t see the value in what you do — and that’s ok. Look for the people that understand the effort and the work you’re putting into your craft. Some of our best and long-standing clients are those that we had to educate on public relations along the way.
5. Some of your clients could turn into lifelong champions. Some of my best clients along the way have turned into some of my closest friends and allies. They have been my colleagues (when I worked for a corporation) and then my clients after I moved on. The most amazing thing is they are my cheerleaders, champions, friends, allies, and referral source. You just never know whom you might meet at 25 that could end up playing a big role in your career.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Funny, I don’t necessarily know if I’m a master networker at all. I try to focus on smaller groups where I can connect with people more one-on-one. I also try to connect with people in the industries we serve, where I can be of value and provide solid advice.
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? Most of our leads come through word-of-mouth or connections from existing clients. We try to vet clients and provide transparency to make sure that they’re a great fit for the agency, but also that we can deliver real value to the potential client. In public relations, our value comes from our media contacts and our ability to pitch our clients’ stories. If a potential client approaches us and we don’t feel as though it’s the best fit, we will pass on the opportunity. In my opinion, I think this is why we get strong word-of-mouth referrals. I think our honesty and integrity are refreshing and perhaps our reputation precedes us.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Gosh, I love reading. I’m not sure that one book or thing in particular really fueled me, but I love the book, Grit, and the “How I Built This” NPR podcast. Being in the energy industry, I also really enjoyed the Boomtown podcast by Texas Monthly.
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. 🙂
Most of the public relations field is women and what I’ve come to learn about myself is that I LOVE motivating and inspiring women. When I was young in my career, I learned a lot of ‘what not to do’ from the women above me, so I take my role as a mentor and leader very seriously. We have a LOT of fun at Paige PR, but mostly, I want to treat others right, serve, inspire, and encourage those around me as much as I can.
If I could inspire a movement, I think it would be the — have your cake and eat it too, movement. Young women face the choice of working or being a stay-at-home mom far too often (as was my case!) and I wish I could encourage companies, bosses, senior leaders, and CEOs to let women work-from-home as much as they can while they have babies. Women are such hard workers and get so much done, we’re losing such a valuable workforce if we make women choose. I also recognize this is evolving but I hope by the time my daughter’s a mother she won’t have to choose between a beloved career or her children.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.