Find Media Opportunities. No matter what you do, chances are some reporter somewhere is writing a story about it — or should be. Do what people with publicists do — find ways to insert yourself into the media conversation. If you have something to say based on something you saw in the news that your expertise makes you a credible speaker on, reach out to your local radio station with a suggestion that they interview you, reach out to your community TV station with a show idea!
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Lamourie.
Tracy Lamourie is a high-profile international award-winning publicist and the CEO of Lamourie Media. She is also the author of the upcoming book GET REPPED — Build Your Brand With Effective Public and Media Relations. She is a well-known, longtime advocate on a myriad of important worldwide issues and an award-winning international publicist working across industries from major entertainment projects to small businesses. Tracy is passionate about amplifying important messages and being a voice for those who most need one. Recognized by media around the world for her 20-year campaign that ultimately helped free an innocent man from death row to her work getting clients major media attention and for her local community work, she is the winner of the FIRST PLACE PLATINUM award Hamilton Spectator Readers’ Choice for PR 2018, Diamond 2019. She has been frequently quoted in the international media on both human rights issues and as a Public Relations thought leader. A frequent guest on TV, radio and high-profile podcasts around the world on topics of leadership, empowerment, and entrepreneurship as well as all aspects of media and public relations. She is a 2020 RBC Women of Influence Nominee and a 2020 Universal Women’s Network Woman of Inspiration Nominee and was also recently nominated for the internationally prestigious 2020 Tällberg/Eliasson Global Leadership Prize.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My professional story of how I came to Public Relations is almost an unbelievable one — but every word is true. It’s certainly not a career trajectory any other publicist in the world can claim — but I’m so proud of it, as the experiences that formed how I got here ensure that my ethics don’t allow that I use PR for nothing but promoting celebrity projects — though I do that, too. I came to media relations because I wanted to use the power of the media to do GOOD. Now I’m the successful, internationally quoted Founder, CEO and Creative Director of a globally respected Public and Media relations firm with clients around the world, but I never went to school for PR and communications, or even for marketing. In fact, I never had any higher education or a single contact when I started out, and when I started out was stressed financially with nothing more than a computer and an internet connection in a rented apartment. By comparison, just 5 years later in 2019, I literally travelled ten different times on business, on nine different projects, to four countries on three continents all as a result of building my own brand and the reputation I have developed for helping others find success. But the real story begins way before when I finally realized I should open my own business five years ago! Most people are surprised when I tell them that not only did I not go to college or university at all, but that I learned how to write my first press release, way back in 1998 when I was only 28 years old, on the internet. It was on the search engine alta vista in those pre-Google days! They are even MORE surprised when I tell them what that very first press release was about. Not only was it the start of what would ultimately lead to a successful career in PR and media relations for me-(something absolutely unexpected!) — but that press release set me off on a nearly two-decade *(pro bono) battle for justice and set into motion a series of events that ultimately led to the release of a factually innocent man from Death Row in Pennsylvania. The whole long history of how we started a 20-year campaign when no one else was listening that ultimately helped free Jimmy Dennis was covered by the Hamilton Spectator in a fall 2018 article (
https://www.thespec.com/news/hamilton-region/2018/10/15/two-hamilton-bleeding-hearts-and-a-dead-man-walking-free.html ) And it was also covered in Rolling Stone in a major article in December 2019 ( https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/jimmy-dennis-philadelphia-murder-wrongful-conviction-soul-musician-criminal-justice-909002/ ) As Rolling Stone said, “Working with his team in Canada, Jimmy was able to make his case in the legally coherent manner… “He would actually give us our assignments,” Lamourie says. “He’d call and be like, ‘I need you to do this, and this, and this.’ While all this was going on, I was plodding along at an everyday career in sales and telemarketing, but for the work of my heart I was getting more and more skilled in writing press releases that brought international attention to the issue of wrongful convictions and other injustices surrounding the death penalty. Jimmy Dennis was ultimately released from death row in 2017 — and by that time I was well on the way to my career, having opened the company that is now called Lamourie Media — then called Lamourie Public Relations — officially in 2015 after a couple of years of freelance PR work once I had the a-ha moment — I realized after two decades of successfully getting major media attention for causes I cared about, I had developed some pretty intensive media and communication skills that I could turn to helping others build their own media presence — and I officially became a Publicist. I began my work with a string of past media successes in the not for profit, pro bono world, a laptop, an internet connection and the rented apartment in Toronto… and in just 5 short years, I’ve become internationally recognized for my work — the work I never meant to do — that was unexpectedly launched because I saw an injustice I wanted to do everything I could to correct. I am very proud that the origin story behind my company and all of my professional success comes from working on something no one was paying attention to that I never expected to benefit from. Life certainly does happen in mysterious ways — it’s magical and inspiring!
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I’ve literally been quoted around the world on everything I’ve ever done. When I was spending my days embroiled in human rights and wrongful conviction work in my late twenties and early thirties I was quoted in America, in Europe, even in Africa about the work we were doing in that regard. When I became an entrepreneur and a publicist, it wasn’t long before I started to be internationally quoted about that work. Now I have been quoted extensively around the world on everything from human rights to how to have a successful product launch, how to do a media pitch that lands coverage, how to spot the difference between arrogance and confidence, how to be a better communicator, how to get great testimonials from your clients to leadership and entrepreneurship to life as a power woman publicist! Now I work with high profile clients across industries, globally, and I also work to help elevate the voices of those who aren’t so powerful. I always say no matter what you do or what your business is, I can help elevate you to become a player — a thought leader in your field. Everything I have ever done has been reported on!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
That is a really, hard one for a publicist who works on as many truly amazing projects as I do to answer! I was at a women in business conference not too long ago and they asked attendees to share what they were most proud of about their business this year — and it was literally impossible for me to answer. There are just too many. I can’t even say what I was most proud of last week. It’s the same with the “most interesting” question. In high-end PR and media, no two days are the same, I work with incredible, fascinating, world-changing people across industries literally around the world. This week alone I learned I might have reason to visit a place called Svalbard — literally near The North Pole — on an exciting upcoming sci-fi television production -and heard from a completely different new client that I’ll likely be visiting Africa! The potential of going from Africa to the North Pole in one year sounds pretty interesting! Similar to 2019 when work projects for different clients literally took me around the world — In 2019 I saw the Caribbean — and the Mediterranean. I saw the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, the mountains of Jamaica, and the place in Malta where Paul was shipwrecked in the Bible. They say that the best life you can live is a life full of interesting experiences — and if that’s true I’m living the best life for sure!
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?
Oh man! I was literally just talking about this on a podcast I did the other day. Lately, I have been invited to speak on a lot of podcasts about my work, and about being an entrepreneur and a leader in my field. So it was pretty refreshing to be invited on to the Fancy-Free podcast where they speak to successful, high profile women about some of the times we messed up — to encourage other women and remind ourselves that none of us are really that fancy after all! They asked us to tell some embarrassing stories on ourselves….So I told about the time that I tripped in front of Hollywood royalty Mariel Hemingway when I was with a client at a radio station and she was there with her publicist, and about the time that I tripped and fell walking down the street with Richard Pryor Jr, the author and performer and son of the comedy legend. If you’re noticing a bit of a clumsy theme here wait till I tell you about the time I was working with the London Beatles Festival and spilled my glass of water all over the dinner table where my husband Dave and I were eating with all the executives. That wouldn’t be so terrible — except it soaked the tablecloth so they moved us to the next table — and then… I did it AGAIN immediately after!! What I learned from that — after cringing in embarrassment at how clumsy I can clearly be — is that everyone makes little mistakes like that, and to err is human — use it, laugh at yourself and smile. When Mariel Hemingway, gracious and concerned asked if I was ok, I laughed and said:” That’s my dignified Hollywood entrance! Now you’ll never forget me!” And it’s probably true — she won’t! You can cringe and worry about your mistakes, or you can realize you are human, own them, and laugh at them — and you’ll get through it all right!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
In my opinion, someone who deserves the description thought leader is someone who is truly outside the box, someone who has forged their own path, someone who does not look to the way others have done something before to blaze their own trail. A thought leader creates their own path without actually giving any thought to how others will perceive it — giving no mental real estate to the negative opinions of others as they prove not only their own worth and skills, but the power of their vision. An influencer is something else entirely. An influencer isn’t necessarily a world changer.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
The benefit of being considered a thought leader in your field are obviously many and varied. From increased speaking engagements to more media opportunities to being in demand in your field allowing you to charge more dollar value for your participation in a project. As a thought leader, you are valued for your strategies and ideas, and that’s what you are selling, not your labor by the hour.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
Well, obviously when you become known as a thought leader in your industry, it doubles, triples, quadruples your opportunities in terms of employment possibilities, an increased client base, higher-profile clients and peers which all bring increased opportunities. Similar to what I tell potential clients as a publicist about media — if you are the go-to person for media, if they come to you when they need quotes about your industry and you have a long track record of TV, radio and newspaper appearances, you build credibility you just can’t buy. Media attention and public speaking opportunities build careers and elevate you far ahead of the competition, regardless of what field you work in! One example that comes to mind is one I often use to illustrate this. I was hired by a person who did consultations with individuals, and she paid me as a publicist to work for a month getting her media attention. Framing her as a leader in her field, I was able to get her an interview on the top talk radio station in a major North American market for an interview. The host loved her and opened the phones for the audience to call in and ask my client questions. Because she was being presented as a thought leader and expert in her field, the perception among listeners was that she was the very best at what she does — and it literally led to her phone ringing off the hook the following week, and she got dozens of new clients paying her 100 dollars an hour for telephone consultations just because they heard her on the radio. Years later she still has clients from that — and they ask her back to the radio show every once in a while!
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
1- Write. Communication is essential and the most powerful predictor of success. Don’t just be good at what you do — write about it. Write about your industry for those who don’t know much about it (op-eds in newspapers aimed at a general readership shedding light on an industry issue of interest to a wider audience, for example!) — and also express yourself within your industry, finding opportunities to speak to others in your field — industry newsletters, magazines, all provide opportunities to talk about things of interest to others in your field. What needs to be said that others aren’t saying? Write about it. Widely.
2- Speak — Look for opportunities to share your knowledge on panels and at industry-related conferences. Even in the time of COVID there are lots of ways you can elevate your ideas and your name in your industry by sharing your knowledge. While in-person networking opportunities have become somewhat limited, online conferences and zoom panels have exploded. Many podcasters have also used COVID as a time to expand their own influence, setting up guest panels and other events you can take advantage of.
3- Find Media Opportunities. No matter what you do, chances are some reporter somewhere is writing a story about it — or should be. Do what people with publicists do — find ways to insert yourself into the media conversation. If you have something to say based on something you saw in the news that your expertise makes you a credible speaker on, reach out to your local radio station with a suggestion that they interview you, reach out to your community TV station with a show idea!
4- Create your own events. Become a podcaster, which expands your influence as people not only begin to view you as an expert in your field, but it will put you in a great position allowing you to meet and network with other influencers, in your industry and beyond. Invite big names, disrupters, and others to take part in your show and benefit from their audience.
5 One of the most effective ways to become a recognized thought leader in any industry is to write a book. If you can blog, you can write a book. Think about each blog as a chapter in a book, share your knowledge. There are many effective and pocket-friendly ways to publish these days, and some of my clients — including a New York Times bestselling author with her previous book — choose to self publish in order to keep control of marketing, timeline, and profits. “The author of…” builds extra credibility and is magic for increased media and speaking engagements — and in building a reputation of “thought leadership.”
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
Thinking about this question, a name popped into my mind that may not have ever been described as a thought leader — he died before we started using that phrase — but who absolutely was. He wasn’t a business leader though, so for a moment I thought I should name someone more traditionally referred to as a thought leader — but I think I’ll actually go with my first instinct here: John Lennon. Let me tell you why. It’s not about the music (which I grew up loving.) Lennon himself said it was most important to him that he be remembered for his activist work. That’s what I am talking about here — and most importantly what he said about it. When he started speaking out against the war and on other social justice issues, by virtue of his celebrity and skilled use of media for the activist campaigns he and his wife Yoko Ono became known for, he quickly became a leader in the international peace movement. But that’s not really what I’m talking about either. I think what makes him a ‘thought leader’ even though he died before we started using that phrase, is that he inspired — and thus created — other leaders. I often say that outside of my family and friends Lennon was the single greatest influence on my life — I clearly remember being 12 or 13 and listening to an old interview where he said something along the lines of “Don’t just follow what we’re doing, you think of actions and start them and if they are good. We’ll follow you.” That hugely impacted me and I am sure many others who went on to do important work he never “imagined”…
What can we learn from this? That real thought leaders make the kind of difference that has a real impact on those that come after them. More than just influencers, more even than leaders, thought leaders ultimately not only inspire other leaders but they are remembered through the ages.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
Funny you should ask this because I was literally thinking as we sat down to do this interview of one friend of mine who recently brought up that he had been reading the phrase thought leader a lot recently and he thought it was a little silly and contrived. He is a really genuine, talk straight kind of guy and his take on it was, well, what does that even mean? He feels like its someone telling others that they are more important than others — and that is definitely an impression I want to avoid. My whole message is if I can do all these epic things on sheer force of will and skill…you can achieve your dreams, too. So I am honored to be called a thought leader and hope that I use any platforms given to me for good purpose — but I also agree that sometimes it’s PR spin for a corporate executive with a good publicist.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
I am probably the worst person to ask for advice about this one! Prosperi Press in California recently asked me how I maintain work-life balance… and I said : “‘You’re assuming I actually do maintain balance, but that’s something I really still have to learn. My 17-year-old son tells me I’m always working and he’s not wrong. If my eyes are open I’m checking my phone, and if I’m checking my phone I’m getting messages, and if I’m getting messages I’m having to respond to them or I’ll just have to do it later and things will get lost when more messages come in. I’m not very good at balance. “For the first time ever, I recently did insist on a two day break and spent most of it in a hot tub in a hotel room at Niagara Falls — mimosas included. Of course, I came back to triple the work! But that’s okay.” That’s pretty much still my answer! I need to do better at work-life balance! It’s a good thing I truly do love my work!
You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
I have a lot of causes that are important to me. But what is most important right now, isn’t for me to inspire a movement. What is most important to me right now is to be an ally to an existing movement. The important conversation about race and the continued inequality and disparity that has arisen in 2020 is in my opinion the most important civil rights movement in my lifetime and deserves all of our support. Only with this support will we see the necessary change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“We didn’t come this far to only come this far”
I heard this one recently, and it really struck me.
It’s a great booster 🙂 I say it to Jimmy Dennis, who spent 25 years innocent on death row about how we’re not done till he gets a Grammy!
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I assume I’ll probably meet everyone I haven’t met yet eventually — but the teenage fangirl in me would say Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr. She won’t be happy til I meet a real live Beatle….
How can our readers follow you online?
Visit my website at http://www.lamouriemedia.com or find me on Instagram at @tracylamouriePRMedia
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.