Reserve some time for you so you are a well-rounded person. Exercise. Plan trips. I made the mistake of not going on a vacation for 8 years and it’s been a hard pattern to change.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lori De Waal. For twenty-five years, Lori De Waal has remained strongly committed to the mission of personalized public relations, representing a prestigious roster of clients in entertainment, architecture, and design. De Waal’s notable clients have appeared in such films as Saving Private Ryan, Get Shorty, Austin Powers, 2010, Snatch, Empire Falls, Air Force One, Miss Congeniality, Ghostbusters, Midnight Run and What Happens in Vegas, along with starring in television series such as Will & Grace, Deadwood, Crime Story, The Simpsons, American Dreams, Baywatch, Magnum, P.I., Oz and Law & Order. In recent years, De Waal has expanded her firm to include the representation of architects and interior designers. Her clients have worked on esteemed projects such as the Staples Center, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, Lucky Strike Lanes, Typhoon Restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport, Miller Park Stadium in Milwaukee, The Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, The Grill on the Alley chain and many high-end private residences. She also represents feature films, directors, authors, world-class restaurants and non-profit organizations. Following graduation from UCLA with a degree in Communication Studies, De Waal worked at Solters/Roskin/Friedman — one of the largest celebrity public relations firms at that time. Prior to starting her own agency in 1997, De Waal was Vice-President of The Garrett Company where she mounted national campaigns for Entertainment Tonight, The People’s Choice Awards, Circus of the Stars, the Harlem Globetrotters and the Ice Capades, as well as launching a celebrity division. A native Angeleno, De Waal has been a reader to 2nd graders at a local elementary school for over 25 years. She also delivers meals for the Valley Interfaith Council.
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 a Communications major at UCLA. I took a TV production class and found the production jobs like lighting a set, editing and boom operator were not for me so I became the PR Director for the class. I also wrote for the UCLA Daily Bruin and did internships at KABC-TV and a small PR firm. This background seemed to naturally lead me to PR or advertising. My first job was at a large entertainment PR firm so I stayed with this career choice.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I worked with Animal Defenders International, an organization that works on animal welfare and conservation issues. Their incredible work was featured on “60 Minutes” and that was exciting. I helped another client, a criminal defense attorney get a TV show, and I introduced another client to a writer contact and that led to a book deal for the client.
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?
I’m sure a few little things here and there occurred. I knew instinctively to respect the press, and always be accurate in the information I provided. I try to stress to employees to double-check everything before it leaves the office. There isn’t a lot of room for preventable mistakes in this business, or any business for that matter.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Our client base is very eclectic so it is different and exciting every day. I started in entertainment but have also expanded to representing architects and designers as well as non-profits. We are handling celebrities with books coming out, actors on TV series or who are coming out in a film, designers whose projects are being published in shelter magazines and spreading the word on non-profits on their upcoming events.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
*Learn to write. Take journalism classes wherever you can find them. I interview so many graduates that want to go into PR but they have no idea about the skills you need to do the job. It can’t just be because you like people.
*Be knowledgeable about your industry. If you are going into entertainment, know the history of entertainment, read the trades, watch TV series, see films.
*Be your best every day. Practice mindfulness. Think about how successful your day will be. You are your thoughts. I believe in the power of your thoughts will become more and more important in the future.
*Get along with everyone. Practice kindness in business and it will come back to you. Someone recommended a book to me about kindness in business and how it can pay off.
*Reserve some time for you so you are a well-rounded person. Exercise. Plan trips. I made the mistake of not going on a vacation for 8 years and it’s been a hard pattern to change.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Like Shonda Rhimes book “Year of Yes” says, say yes to everything! Every time I attend an event there is a new contact to be made or something to be learned. It takes a little effort but it’s always worth it. Just like exercise!
Also, look for professional groups in your chosen field and attend meetings and events. A good contact for the future can be made by having met someone face-to-face.
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 business comes from referrals but sometimes we do seek out new clients. We contact agents and managers we have worked with in the past. We reach out to non-profits who may have a need. We contact architects and designers whose work we find particularly interesting. We might mention it to people we are currently in conversations with about other clients and projects.
Every approach has to be personalized so it is not a time for mass mailings.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Early in my career, a reporter recommended the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. The lesson is simplified. Take out unnecessary words. It has always stuck with me.
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 for the most amount of people, what would that be?
This is a hard question because there is so much that needs to be done in the world but it can’t be done by wishing it so. It takes real action. Think about your strengths and how you might contribute. It’s not posting on Facebook. I would like to find the weaknesses in our system that are preventing a cure for cancer. I would like to interview doctors, scientists and others to find out what could be done, what the problem is, what they need and attempt to make changes armed with that information.