As you have nearly 40 years communications experience including agency and corporate public relations, as well as more than 20 years as an independent practitioner, what is the secret to your success?
Well, you’re assuming that I’m a success. Survivor, yes. Success? The jury is still out.
Truth be told, there is a grain of truth there. Perseverance is important. Working on the agency side of things (either as an employee or an independent – as independents we’re all just individual agencies,) it’s like any other business – you have to put the client’s needs first. That doesn’t mean that you always have to agree with the client, but their needs – in most all cases – are paramount.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to be an independent practitioner?
Couple of things. First, I can’t imagine doing this (being an independent) without some exposure to the agency business. Simple business things such as tracking your time, determining your billing, etc., can be daunting without some background. I can’t tell you how many times people who are new to being independents have asked what their billing rates should be, how to calculate their billing rates, how to estimate projects, etc. These are things that are second nature to someone on the agency side. You must also keep in mind that you’re not just an independent, you’re a business owner. You should plan on spending a significant amount of time (i.e. ±10 hours per week) running the business.
Second, I would caution that being an independent is not for everyone. Some people just don’t have the personality or the temperament for it. Do some soul searching and talk to some trusted colleagues before you hang out your shingle.
Who have been some of your major clients?
Unlike some people who focus their work on one or two areas (i.e. health care), I’ve had clients across the board – from heavy industry to hospitality and many stops in between. As for “major clients,” the ones who pay their bills on time are pretty major. As for size, the biggest clients I’ve had are Dow Chemical, Babcock & Wilcox, BF Goodrich, Tremco, Bar Louie and Sherwin-Williams – and I’m probably forgetting someone.
What is your educational background?
I have an undergraduate degree in English from Edinboro (was State College, now University) Pennsylvania. I also have a Masters in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations from Kent State.
What is your publishing background and what has been your experience in working on your book(s)?
Although there is one in the works and (at least) one in the back of my mind, as for now it’s only book.
My book, Hard Hitting Lessons, began its life as an unpublished op-ed piece. When talking with a friend who was quite active with Amazon publishing, he mentioned that I should expand that article into a book. So, at about 10:00 on a Friday night when I was bored, I started writing and never looked back.
At the end of the day it was a great experience, but working with the folks at Kindle can be a bit of a tumult. I finally found someone through Fiver who able to format my manuscript in such a way that Kindle would accept it. Looking back, there are probably 1,001 things I would have done differently. But that’s another story for another day.
What else would you be willing to share with our readers about you and/or your background?
Over the years I’ve worked on many newsletters of all stripes, so I very recently put together a short digital booklet Getting Started with Your Newsletter – which can be downloaded for free from my website (jptgrouppr.com).
It’s directed at companies and organizations who are contemplating starting a newsletter. It poses some questions that need to be addressed while you’re deciding as well as some tips to help you move forward. My goal was to give the readers some things to think about and some of the hard decisions that have to be addressed before they get their feet wet. Newsletters can be very beneficial, but they can be a disaster if not done right.
By Jeanette Evans and Jim Tabaczynski