15 Crystal-Clear Truths Learned After 15 Years

Jackson Spalding celebrated its crystal anniversary–15 years in business– on July 14. Following are some random lessons I’ve learned while watching our company grow.

  1. It’s easier to achieve your vision if you have one on paper. One of the first things we did as a firm was to develop our vision, our mission and our values. It may sound trite, but this document is like a rudder that guides us in virtually all of our decisions. Really.
  2. Once you have a written vision you have to live it. Easier said than done, but this is how you build a culture and a culture brings your brand to life. A lot of companies have great marketing campaigns, but they fail to live up to it in their day-to-day interactions.
  3. Partners trump vendors every time. If clients view their marketing team as partners the relationship will flourish. Likewise, if partners invest in their clients, they will be rewarded. We invested in our relationship with a major corporation when they hit hard times and it has paid off.
  4. Creativity counts. We once clinched a pitch by writing and performing a song for the client. Our competitors who overheard it as they waited in the lobby made a snide comment as we exited. But, we won the business and today this company is our largest client. Two lessons here: don’t be afraid to be different and be a gracious competitor.
  5. Community involvement is the best marketing. Invest your time and talent in organizations that mean something to you. Your passion will pay you back with patronage a few years down the road.
  6. The best PR people don’t always study PR in college. Some of our best and brightest graduated in majors such as Art History, Forestry and Economics. There are many ways to skin this cat we call PR. Diverse perspectives bring clients value.
  7. Luxury brands don’t always have luxury budgets. ’nuff said.
  8. Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers. We knew this, but when we saw the mantra come to life at one of the top 10 companies to work for in the U.S. it became part of our own DNA. For me, this means the opportunity to work a flex schedule so I can be more involved as a spouse and mother. For others it meant the time to heal from a major illness without worrying about recourse. For still others it is the chance to work virtually from another city instead of looking for a less-satisfying job. I think we all work harder for our clients because of this privilege.
  9. Union bosses are masterful PR people. They know how to work the media and their corporate campaigns are designed to wear down and distract their opponents. If you have a large workforce you’ll benefit by boning up on the union playbook. If you haven’t taken the time to build an internal culture, you better get busy with that.
  10. The truth shall set you free. Despite what the cynics predicted, Ashley Smith, Atlanta’s hostage hero, has put a meth addiction behind her and has built a new life. She is married; has custody of her daughter Paige, will soon have a degree as a radiation technician, and may be the subject of a feature film before too long. In her spare time, she counsels addicts through Celebrate Recovery and inspires audiences as a motivational speaker. God gave her a second chance and she’s taking it.
  11. PR people around the world are a lot alike. I have had the privilege of being active in a global network of the top independent PR firms in the world. From San Paolo to Seattle to Singapore they are some of the best people I know. And, no matter their native tongue, I recently learned that they all can sing-along to Beach Boys tunes in English! The PROI network is far more seamless and connected than the co-branded offices that made up my former global firm.
  12. RFPs are “rarely found productive.” Ask a lot of questions and be sure you have a fighting chance before investing your time and giving away your intellectual property.
  13. Cashing in frequent flyer miles for upgrades is totally worth it. Especially if your business destination is Shanghai. BusinessElite is a rarified world and a great hedge against thrombosis.
  14. Nurture your network. I have been good and bad about this over the years. I’m trying to get back into the “good” column by getting out more and reconnecting with people I care about. If you don’t make time to do it, you will waste away along with this asset.
  15. Time really does fly when you are having fun. I thought 10 years was a record. But now I’ve been here 15 years and my firstborn—the inspiration for my flex schedule—is heading off to college. It must be the fun that has kept my interest. And, the chance to live out a vision.