In honor of National Womens Small Business Month, I chatted with Teia Harris, founder of Public Relations firm, Love Publicity, about how she is making a name for herself nationwide through the success of her client brands and work as a mentor. Enjoy!
Jackie Palmer: Tell us how you got into Public Relations. I know you graduated from Clark Atlanta University with your degree in public relations, but the first job you landed was in Atlanta working in advertising and sales.
Teia Harris: It was difficult finding a job that paid well in PR. No one tells you that. Internships were easy, but full-time jobs was super hard. So I began working at Katz Media Group in Atlanta. I started there after I completed my Sales & Media certificate program at Howard University right after graduation. Now, originally I wanted to be a teacher. But everyone told me that didn’t pay enough. So, when I entered college I went in as an undecided major. They classified me as a Communications major. Now, I had no intentions of being on radio or film. But I did like the idea of running things behind the scenes. I did have an interest in how clients got booked for interviews. So I dived in head-first to PR, and I fell in love with it all.
JP So, like most entrepreneur’s you were climbing the corporate ladder and then decided to leave to pursue your own company. So, what’s your advice on jumping off that ladder?
TH: Research the ins-and-outs before you jump. I hated my job. I was miserable and it wasn’t anything like what I pictured for myself. So I taught myself the business with freelance and internships. It allowed me to learn so much more about the business and really helped me to launch on my own. Also, when I first started I didn’t know the genre or niche of PR I wanted to be in. Those are things that should be laid out in your business plan. I had no idea, and jumped in saying ‘I do everything.’ But I didn’t really have the resources to do everything, and in the world of PR that will cause you to sink or swim. Your connections and clients make your firm. So knowing your true capabilities is really important. Know what you’re good at and what you’re not. Acknowledge where your connections are and where they aren’t. Because when you launch and clients have these expectations, you have to be able to under-promise and over-deliver.
JP: Interesting. So have you had any mentors along the way that helped? I don’t know much about PR, but I feel likes its a very-experience and who’s who business?
TH: I had two mentors. Surprisingly they were both men. It was difficult for me to find women to mentor and teach me the ropes. There was an air of competitiveness I was unaware of in the industry, but now it makes a lot more sense to me. Your clients are your everything. I wish it wasn’t that way, and that we could all build together, but it’s not. Sometimes PR can be a little ‘wolf of wall street’ (she laughs).
JP: What advice would you give for those, who are launching, on how to keep publicity and marketing dollars in their pocket rather than paying for them.
TH: Strategic partnerships and placement. Land interviews and do guest posts whenever you can. Honestly, the ultimate driver I’ve had is with the LinkedIn posts I’ve done. The conversion rates and connections are a lot higher than most would think. It’s been something that’s worked really well for me. When you’re a small business or a founder it really helps solidify your place with your professional connections.
JP: What’s the hardest thing you’ve learned in launching and establishing your business?
TH: Not being afraid to talk about money and not giving up my intellectual property too soon. I had to learn how close a deal. At one point, I was super afraid to talk about the money because I thought it would chase a client away. But now, I know my brand and I know what I can deliver so if my pricing is what scares you, then I probably shouldn’t be working with you. You probably aren’t my ideal client. I had to stop giving up too much information without having a contract. If you give that to the wrong prospective client, they’ll take it and run with it without ever contacting you. And in a creative intellect business that’s super important. Your ideas are your bread-and-butter. If you give them away, why are you business?
JP: Time for my favorite question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
TH: A grower. I want to continue to help businesses grow through my PR firm I want to grow my PR firm into a multimedia agency. My dream is to have a live studio in my office space. I think that’s my ‘I did it’ moment. I’ll know I’ve done exactly what I dreamed when I have a studio for clients to use. I also really love mentoring. At one point, I mentored about 6 students at Cass Technical High School, here in Detroit. But as my business has grown I haven’t been able to take on with them as much. But I definitely have a soft spot for our youth. I really believe in leading by example, because that’s what inspired me as a child. Seeing other powerful women set example was so inspirational.
Remember, give your brand The Good Life, the Empire Life.