A reader writes a question about how to get started in new media consulting pr. . .
My name is Erica Grigg. I found you via the internet and I'm extremely interested in your work as a freelance PR consultant ([Erica’s projects include] working with Channel 4, British Log Cabins and Pants to Poverty)... I've been successful as a freelance environmental new media consultant in London, but really interested in moving over to Chicago...
How did you get started? Do you happen to know any great organisations to connect with new media people?
Thanks so much in advance.
Thanks so much for writing and for giving me permission to share your message – and my response – with Wired PR Works readers. Sounds like you’re quite successful now; doing a bit of planning and research to see if Chicago’s a viable market for you is a good idea. Your niche, environmental new media consulting, is one with a global reach. Quite possibly, you may live in London now, move to Chicago and work around the world. Thought you might enjoy this photograph I took on Saturday of the Jay Pritzer Pavilion in Millennium Park. We’d love to have someone like you in Chicago!
Because I teach freelance creative types how to position themselves to be professional consultants [like me!] who own and manage agencies, I’m linking to my “Write from the Start: How to Launch a Creative Consultancy” course outline. Let’s start with the last question first.
Question: Do you happen to know any great organisations to connect with new media people?
Question: How did you get started?
What a long, windy roundabout answer I could give, but I’ll restrain myself and filter out what is most helpful.
Recognize Milestone Moments
For me, it was waking up alone on my first Mother’s Day in St. Louis. My job as a national sales manager/trainer required travel and lots of it. When I found myself missing my blonde little munchkin more than I enjoyed my work, I asked myself: What’s next?
Explore New Directions
Coincidentally – or not – a new career consulting practice opened in town at the same time I decided to reevaluate my path. After six weeks of dialogue, exercises and collage-making, I announced my outcome: I should be a writer or a florist. So, I interviewed at flower shops [didn’t pay enough to pay the babysitter] and attempted to apply to grad school [the admissions counselor told me I already had enough skills to be writer]. Talking with people who were already successful as professional writers gave me the confidence I needed to step into my new career as the owner of a marketing communications practice.
Opening my business, CoryWest Marketing Communications [named after my mother and grandmother], in 1990 was a scary thing to do. Although it seems so common now to be a mother with a home-based business, it wasn't back then. I left a job that gave me an 8% raise, reduced my work hours and cut back on my travel to keep me. But, working full-time downtown and traveling wasn’t working. I talked my husband into letting me sink $5000 into office equipment. Another mom in my playgroup designed my business cards. My baby [and, later, her two brothers] went along with me to writers' breakfasts. I started making cold calls and offering communications people at healthcare organizations throughout Chicago a newsletter I wrote, printed and mailed quarterly. Every time I sent it out, I made at least $3000.
One of my best assignments was working in Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s internal communications departments as a consultant. Although I was a contract employee,
my internal clients didn't always know that. I got the job as a recommendation from my friend/mentor because another woman was going on maternity leave. It was supposed to be a three-month assignment, but ended up being extended over and over again. My projects there included launching the first intranet site, developing a software vendor evaluation system, managing annual employee elections communications for 300,000 associates, writing copy for multiple sites and developing training for credit card associations.
Having a core group of clients who rely on me for all of their communications needs has always been my strategy. I find the one job deals to be exhausting and not worth it for me or the client. Being on the edge of what’s new and what works differentiates CoryWest Media, LLC from our competition.
Where’s the PR angle?
At my corporate job, I wrote presentations, came up with direct mail copy, designed brochures and contributed to a graphic services team. But, I never, ever, ever wrote a press release, an article or even thought about media relations until I cold-called a prospect who asked me if I could help them get their name in the news. Of course I said yes. As a sales rep, I knew how to talk to people on the phone – how hard could it be to talk to reporters? Now, PR is often the lead card for us.
Have you ever switched careers or moved your business to a new location? How did it go? What tips can you share with Erica?