Continue to refine roles and responsibilities. As your team continues to grow, it’s critical to take a step back to determine if the firm is making the best and highest use of your employee’s capabilities — and this includes your own. As your organization evolves, so does each person’s role, and it’s up to you to recognize that, create a plan and reset expectations so your business can continue to flourish.
As a part of our series about powerful women, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Hall. Rebecca is a thought leader and celebrated entrepreneur in the public relations (PR), branding and marketing industries. In 2003, she founded Idea Hall, a hybrid branding, marketing and PR firm based in Orange County. Today, Idea Hall is one of the fastest-growing and most sought-after integrated creative firms locally, ranked amongst the Top PR Firms by Orange County Business Journal. Idea Hall’s prestigious client roster includes Swinerton, Visit Anaheim, Discovery Cube, Cystinosis Research Foundation, United Way Orange County, Cox, Castle & Nicholson and many more. A leader in her community, Rebecca serves on several boards including Orange County Business Council (OCBC) and the Center for Real Estate at University of California, Irvine and was previously a board member for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). She is an active member of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), where she received the organization’s “Distinguished Service Award” and her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). For the past three years, Rebecca has maintained her position on Orange County Business Journal’s “OC 500” — a list of the 500 most influential people in the county. Under her leadership, Idea Hall has been honored three years in a row as one of Orange County Business Journal’s “Civic 50,” a list of the county’s most civic-minded organizations and one of Entrepreneur’s “Best 360 Entrepreneurial Companies in America.”more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always enjoyed learning what it takes to run a business and was never shy to roll up my sleeves and put in the work to make my dreams a reality. When I was in elementary school, I started a lemonade stand and began earning my own money by selling homemade drinks to neighbors and friends, and as a young adult, I worked as a Nordstrom sales associate where I quickly learned customer service and sales skills and techniques.
My journey into the marketing and public relations (PR) industry began when I was a student at Chapman University. During my senior year, I enrolled in a marketing and advertising course where my professor happened to be the Vice President of PR and advertising at Taco Bell. She served as an inspiration for me and generously pointed me in the direction of an internship. This internship is what sparked my interest in the world of PR and gave me the opportunity to work on national campaigns for a variety of consumer brands through media relations, event coordination and more.
From there, I landed a position at a boutique PR firm in Orange County where I learned the ins and outs of running an agency and further realized my love for the fast-paced and creative environment. With a big heart for PR and marketing and passion for making a difference in my community, I was determined to establish an integrated marketing agency complete with a strong corporate culture where people come first — two things other agencies lacked at this time. At my dining room table with a laptop and one commercial real estate client, I founded Idea Hall in 2003, a fully-integrated branding, marketing and public relations firm based in Orange County, CA.
As the president and CEO, I am responsible for the strategic direction of the agency and serve in a variety of functions, including senior communications counsel, new business leader, creative sounding board and agency captain. Over the years, Idea Hall has become one of the fastest growing and sought-after integrated marketing agencies in Southern California — with 15% growth each year of the last three years — and ranked as one of Entrepreneur’s “Best 360 Entrepreneurial Companies in America” based on impact, innovation, growth, leadership and value.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
During my second year in business, I was offered a full-time, in-house position from one of my largest real estate clients in which I had built a close and trusting partnership with. However, after thinking it over, I declined the offer which ultimately led to losing the client after they hired a new chief marketing officer. While this experience was tough at first, it taught me to not to put all my eggs in one basket, but instead focus on building and growing the agency in a sustainable way.
This situation also helped me realize that I needed to step back from account management duties in order to fulfill my role as the company’s chief executive officer. Once I was able to do this, it allowed me to focus on growing clients and earning new business, which turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for the company. Since then, Idea Hall has grown into a powerhouse PR and marketing agency, ranking as one of the largest PR agencies in Orange County and recognized as a “Best Place to Work” by the Orange County Business Journal.
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?
Early on in my career, I was attending and facilitating a media tour in New York City with the CEO of one of my real estate accounts. With the goal to make the tour a worthwhile investment for my client, I had my mind set on securing a lunch meeting with the editor of a top real estate publication. However, after several attempts to secure a meeting, the editor insisted that my client and I meet with other staff writers on his team. While I understood he may be busy, I took a risk and when we arrived at the publication’s office, I told the receptionist that I had a lunch meeting with the editor and that other staff writers may be joining. Assuming there had been a scheduling error, the editor decided to take the lunch and had the opportunity to meet my client and learn about their business. In the end, my client was very pleased, and the editor and I went on to become close friends. While this was a bold and brazen move, I learned that to be a successful businessperson you must be tenacious and willing to take calculated risks.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
I believe our “people first” culture and philosophy of being “Champions of all things Good” is what truly sets us apart. At the agency’s core is a compelling drive to do good work for good clients and good causes that make a positive impact and this mantra not only inspires our creative and strategic muscles to extraordinary heights but serves as the true north for our communication initiatives, company culture and values.
As a boutique agency, we also take pride in our suite of integrated marketing solutions which puts us on the map with global agencies ten times our size. Our integrated approach also enables us to provide clients with seamless collaboration and more powerful results, design and storytelling that works in parallel with PR and media relations and creative strategy informed by engagement and video production that takes every campaign to the next level.
As an integrated creative agency, Idea Hall also is an advocate of continuous learning and provides employees with myriad professional development tools, resources and cross training sessions to be successful. Our in-house training spans social media, influencer partnerships, branding, account management, budgeting, PR, digital media and more. We also provide employees with Insights Discovery training, an intelligence program that helps increase one’s awareness of their communication preferences so they can better understand themselves as individuals and leaders. The full-day training is packed with team building activities and self-reflection and provides our staff with the intellect to communicate and work effectively with colleagues and clients to achieve the best results.
Our commitment to excellence, fearless creativity and optimistic problem solving is what has enabled Idea Hall to become an award-winning creative agency and go-to resource for profit and not-for-profit organizations nationwide. Since inception, the firm has earned more than 125 industry awards, and this year Idea Hall was named a “Top Marketing Influencer” by GlobeSt.com, the largest real estate publication in the nation. In 2019, the firm also took home five American Advertising Awards and received the President’s Award at the Public Relations Society of America 55th Annual Awards Ceremony which honors the best in strategic communications programs and tactical execution.
Are you working on any exciting new projects? How do you think that will help people?
We’ve had quite a few exciting projects this year, but three that stand out include our work with Be Well OC, Discovery Cube and ECOS. As the integrated communications partner for Be Well OC, a robust public-private partnership led by major healthcare organizations in Orange County, we helped announce its intent to build the first of several state-of-the-art facilities that deliver mental health and wellness services throughout the community. Leading up to the announcement, Idea Hall developed the Be Well OC brand, website, digital media assets, video, and communication strategy to help raise awareness about the new facility and the organization’s broader initiative to create a community-wide and coordinated system of care to help solve California’s pervasive mental healthcare challenge. Following the announcement, Idea Hall continues to support Be Well OC as it works to open the new facility through PR, creative development, brand planning and event support.
We were also selected as the new marketing and PR agency partner for Discovery Cube, a children’s museum designed to inspire and educate millions of young minds through engaging science-based programs with three locations in Southern California. Our work helps promote Discovery Cube and its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) focused exhibits and programs through a comprehensive marketing program including PR, digital advertising, media buying, influencer partnerships, social media and event support. Idea Hall has helped secure live broadcast media coverage for the museum including Telemundo, Univision and ABC 7 Los Angeles delivering on Discovery Cube’s objective to reach and educate Southern California residents about the STEM programs and resources available to them in their own backyard. The firm also helps Discovery Cube generate awareness through a robust micro-influencer program which has engaged nearly 100 local STEM education influencers and mom bloggers to visit and share their experience on their digital and social channels.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help them thrive?
- Learn to balance all the roles in your life. Amidst the hustle and bustle, it’s important to find balance in your life and learn how to juggle all the roles you fill. In my case: wife, mother, friend, business owner, leader and entrepreneur. To do this, I recommend having a close group of CEOs who understand what you’re going through, support you and serve as your champions throughout your career. There are groups like Vistage and YPO that facilitate this or you can create your own network.
- Refill your own bucket. Despite how busy your schedule may be, it’s essential to refill your own bucket so you can be the best version of yourself. During challenging times, it’s common for leaders to push their own needs aside, but remember, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before the person next to you.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
- Set your team up for success. To be a successful leader, you must take time to plan and think strategically about how to setup your employees to succeed. This includes taking a close look at the processes, tools, training and technology you’re providing and determining how this will impact and support your team now and, in the future, and from all directions.
- Continue to refine roles and responsibilities. As your team continues to grow, it’s critical to take a step back to determine if the firm is making the best and highest use of your employee’s capabilities — and this includes your own. As your organization evolves, so does each person’s role, and it’s up to you to recognize that, create a plan and reset expectations so your business can continue to flourish.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am very grateful for my husband, Randy Hall. He’s my biggest champion and has taught me so much about how to run a successful business. Together, during the last economic recession, we rebuilt and reorganized the agency and I am so thankful for his insight, strategic counsel and unwavering support. In addition to my husband, there are many others who have helped support, influence and guide me throughout my career.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have always been very passionate about giving back to the community in which I serve, and at Idea Hall we choose to work with organizations who have a similar mindset and embrace our mantra of being “Champions of All Things Good.” In fact, Idea Hall was honored — for the third year in a row — as one of Orange County Business Journal’s Civic 50, a list of the counties’ 50 most civic-minded organizations. The firm completed 200 hours of pro-bono volunteering and donated 400,000 dollars in goods and services in 2019 alone.
From a business standpoint, the agency gives back to the community by offering a discounted service rate for local nonprofits, including United Way OC, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Laura’s House, Be Well OC and Cystinosis Research Foundation (CRF), to name a few. With Idea Hall’s support, CRF, the largest provider of grants for cystinosis research in the world, has funded more than 4 million dollars for cystinosis research and recently achieved a major milestone, securing approval from the U.S. FDA. for the first human clinical trial of a stem cell and gene therapy treatment for cystinosis.
In the past year, we have also provided strategic PR and marketing counsel to Orange County (OC) housing authorities and nonprofits dedicated to solving the county’s chronic homelessness crisis. Idea Hall executed a robust media relations campaign surrounding the announcement of “United to End Homelessness,” a community-wide initiative led by United Way OC committed to providing sustainable solutions for people suffering from homelessness. During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the firm also helped lead a public awareness campaign which helped gain a groundswell of support from residents around the solution of permanent supportive housing.
Beyond the business community, Idea Hall also supports Chapman University a private, nonprofit university in Orange County. I currently serve as vice-chair of Chapman University’s Board of Governors and Idea Hall curates the board’s monthly newsletter pro-bono. The firm also founded the Chapman University “Idea Hall Endowed Scholarship” for juniors and seniors interested in entering the PR and advertising industries. Nearly 15% of Idea Hall’s team are Chapman alumni or current students under the firm’s internship program and this year I was honored to deliver the keynote speech at the Chapman University School of Communication’s Commencement Ceremony.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- As a business owner, you’re the hardest working person. For entrepreneurs and business owners starting out, there tends to be a misconception that you will only have to do the part of the job you love, and that’s not true. From ordering office supplies to billing to taking out the trash, these administrative tasks will become your responsibility. However, it’s through these tasks that you truly learn what it takes to run a business and grow appreciation for each role and function of the organization.
- It’s OK to say, ‘I don’t know.’ It took me a while to figure this out, but I’m glad I did. Whether its ego or youthfulness, many leaders feel uncomfortable saying ‘I don’t know.’ However, acknowledging uncertainty is actually productive as it allows you to take time to reflect and find the right solution. Over the years, I learned that I don’t need to know the answer to everything– and especially not right away–and there’s something truly empowering about this realization.
- Hire the right people. Hiring talent that embodies your company culture and shares your values is key to business success. When I look back at the miss hires we’ve made, I realize that our fault lies in not sticking strongly enough to selecting candidates who are a chemistry fit. From these experiences, I’ve learned that hiring the right people not only saves time, frustration and money but helps attract like-minded talent.
- With success often comes loss. When I first started building the agency, people who I thought would be my biggest champions turned out to be my biggest critics. However, what I realized overtime, was that these people were projecting how they saw themselves, not how they saw me. This experience taught me a lot about life on a personal and professional level.
- Use your naysayers to fuel your growth. When you’re trying to better yourself, whether in your personal or professional life, unfortunately there will be people who don’t want to see you succeed. In this situation, the best thing you can do is continue to focus on your goals and use that push back as feedback. Take time to assess how the criticism can make you better and use it to fuel your growth.
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?
My passion lies in helping people of all ages learn the importance of mental health. For many years, there’s been a push to improve our physical wellbeing, however, what we don’t realize, is that there’s also a mental health component to physical distress. In fact, 1 in 3 people are currently battling a mental health condition. Today — through the effort of organizations like Be Well OC — we’re starting to see an increase in mental health awareness and education about the types of conditions, stigmas and resources available. It brings me great joy that Idea Hall has become part of this critical movement in which I believe will have a lasting impact not only in our community but across the nation and the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou. I believe this to be true and relevant to my life in many ways from the work we do at Idea Hall to my role as a loving wife and mother to my three-year-old daughter, Kathryn Rae.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love the opportunity to meet Benjamin Franklin. I’ve always been fascinated with him and admire his work ethic and brilliance as an entrepreneur, philosopher, inventor, writer, politician, scientist and more.
I will do my best but I understand he is very busy and also has been dead for some time.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.