I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Lamourie, a well known publicist in the Toronto, Canada area. Tracy is the recent winner of the Hamilton Spectator READERS CHOICE awards in the Public Relations category, where she received 1st Place Platinum award for Public Relations. She is the CEO & Creative Director of Lamourie Public Relations . Lamourie PR works with high profile entertainers, artists, filmmakers, public speakers, and newsmakers of all kinds across North America.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Most people find my career trajectory interesting. I had a background in marketing, but I actually came to Public Relations in a completely different way. Active in my community, I have also always been actively involved in trying to make a difference around issues and causes I cared about. I actually researched and taught myself how to write a press release in the late 90s, on the internet, because I wanted to reach out to media about an important story. Ultimately I was extremely successful in getting that initial story out to international media, and learned over the next years how to strategize, put together effective messaging, and interest media with it. I eventually left the marketing job when I realized I was an excellent publicist with a string of major successes getting stories I cared about into major news outlets North America wide. Thats when I started my PR company!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I have lots of interesting professional stories about the people I work with and the things they do! I’d like to share two of them. One was purely professional and it happened earlier this year — during Oscars week. Here in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, I hadn’t expected Oscars Week would have much to do with me. Until this happened. Though I had long had clients in the entertainment world, several based in Hollywood, over the years, I had never been there myself. Last March, I connected with a business owner over LinkedIn. After some conversation, he decided to contract me for some PR work. After we made this arrangement, he flew to Hollywood for a business conference. The next day, he called me to ask if I could connect him that day with any celebrities able to further his business.
I made a call to DJ Speedy who is a legendary music producer who has produced hits for Beyonce, JayZ, and many current big name artists. DJ Speedy was open to meeting with him to discuss that day. Hours later I got an excited call from my new client, telling me that not only was he Facetiming with some of todays biggest music stars, but that he was invited to a major celebrity Oscars afterparty taking place the next day. Laughing, I congratulated him, joking that I was going to be at a coffee shop in Hamilton. My brand new client that I had met just two days before online and never yet in person, bought me a plane ticket for a flight leaving early the next morning, just eleven hours away, so I could join them in Hollywood! There I was, throwing clothes into a bag, having not expected to be going anywhere, let alone to a Hollywood Oscars Party! I ended up at the W Hotel in Hollywood what seemed like just hours later, my head still spinning, and looking for a hairstylist still open on Hollywood Boulevard on Oscars Day!
The second story is one that no other publicist can top. It’s tied up with how I became a publicist in the first place, and it shows that things really have come full circle. It almost reads like fiction, but its absolutely true. I came into PR in a way thats a little different from most. I learned I was really good at getting media attention for important issues i cared about, before deciding to do it professionally. In fact, I actually learned how to write a press release by looking it up on a search engine back in the late 90s when I was in my 20s and my husband and I were trying to get media attention on the story of a man who was innocent on death row in Pennsylvania. With no media contacts or training as a publicist in those days, sheer determination led to success getting that message heard in media outlets around the world. That was in 1998. Years later I decided to write press releases and get media attention for people professionally and started my business five or so years ago. The fascinating part about this story? Remember that guy on death row I learned to write a press release to tell the world about? Well, in 2017 the courts finally released him, with a judge condemning the prosecution and Jimmy Dennis became a free man. NOW — I’m his publicist again — because since he became a free man, he has just released a song thats getting some major media attention. So in 1998 I was just a telemarketer who learned to write a press release to let media know about a man who was innocent on death row. In 2018 I have a long success career as a publicist and it all started because young activist me wanted to help a guy get off death row.
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 hate to remember the time I made the mistake of ccing a press release to fifty reporters… and how one of them hit reply all to tell me off for it… CRINGE….in my very very very early days as a publicist, I didn’t know that sending an email and ccing 30 other reporters was not going to be appreciated.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
In the beginning I worked primarily as a freelancer, offering really attractive pricing paired with excellent communications and the passion to get the word out about the fascinating local, national, international projects that started to fall into my lap. Eventually we set up our business, with me as CEO and Creative Director and my husband Dave Parkinson as CFO (as well as his audio and visual, recording and editing skills.) With hard work determination and the confidence to put ourselves out there — we started racking up more successes, I was able to raise my prices as more and more clients started recommending my work to their friends and associates. We’re now in the stage of growing our business and hoping to bring on a junior publicist and an admin assistant to the team in coming months.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
So many! One of my clients was recently chosen by the Salon des Beaux-Artes to represent Canada as part of their 2018 Exhibit at the Carrousel du Louvre in #Paris and Women’s Executive Network (WXN) named her as one of Canada’s Most POwerful Women . I’m working with Paul Hartmann, the brother of late comedy legend Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Newsradio) who is working on a legacy project bringing us new material from some things Phil left behind, I’ve been the publicist for a film called My Life With Rosie, about the civil rights hero Rosa Parks, by her cousin film maker Angela Sadler Williamson and I’ve been working with another female filmmaker documenting important work, Niki Norlock and her inspiring film Beyond Strength, I’m working with Steve Anthony, one of Canada’s most loved television broadcasters on a project called Direct Co-Ops that changes the playing field for small businesses across North America — allowing them to compete with the big box stores… I work with an impressive selection of entertainers in music and acting, and I find working as a strategist in the political world just as exciting! Also — I’ve been doing lots of different kinds of work in Canada’s emerging billion dollar legal cannabis industry since 2012 working with media to present positive stories of cannabis medicine, cannabis related businesses and cannabis patients and consumers. Watching an entire new industry develop and being a part of that in a lot of different ways has been a pretty interesting journey!
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Learn how to be an excellent communicator — not just in your media releases but in your conversation. The ability to communicate is the most important skill to have for success in any professional — in life in general in fact — but its particularly important in PR. Know who you are talking to or trying to reach, and understand what kinds of words to use so that they can really hear you.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Number one tip — have no fear. And I mean, have no fear. Don’t be intimidated or overly impressed by anyone. When people talk about their projects, don’t be afraid to say “do you have a publicist for that?” Network on LinkedIn, network on other social media. Network in real life. Remember that most people feel awkward in a room of people they don’t know — it’s not just you. Be the one brave enough to say “hi, what do you do?” — you’ll make others feel more comfortable, and you’ll feel more comfortable too!
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I never read a book or listened to a podcast on public relations — maybe I should! Entirely self taught. I was asked last year to WRITE a book on Public Relations though, that will be coming out soon from Propriety Publishing, called GET REPPED — Build Your Brand With Effective Public And Media Relations… and I HIGHly recommend it!
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. 🙂
Well, since I came to my career through a different path than most — having learned to write a press release and reach out to media in my early role as an activist and advocate trying to make change, I have worked on many issues close to my heart and even created organizations to make change. In younger days my husband and I formed the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty to bring attention to the injustices and other disturbing aspects of the death penalty around the world, inspired by the case of Jimmy Dennis I spoke of earlier.
Before that, we along with one other worker were the first to unionize a call centre in North America. I’ve long been active in advocacy for medical cannabis patients both personally and professionally. I even ran for public office (school board trustee) to advocate for children with autism and other special needs). Most of these battles continue.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
2. CLIENT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE. I’m not kidding. Find one you like and use it. You want to avoid wasting days or weeks later entering all your client information from all the random scraps of paper, emails, notes, google drives, etc you may have been storing it. Keep it all together from the beginning.
3. PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE Yes, that means actually get out there. Sometimes you need to get out from behind your computer screen. Go to the parties. Go to the networking events. Be there. You belong.
4. SAY YES — Don’t let fear hold you back. You got this! Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone.
5. Some might disagree but I say — Be real, Be authentic, Be you. Don’t be cookie cutter. The clients you want to attract don’t want cookie cutter. Like they say, your vibe attracts your tribe — well, it works in business too! You’re looking for projects that are unique, wonderful, special. Like you.