Life Lessons From Mom That Also Apply to a Career in PR

For some of us, “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” still rings true. Play nice, share with others, don’t interrupt, work hard; the list goes on.

For me, a lot of the advice I call upon in my adult life revolves around what my parents taught me. I use their advice in parenting, how I treat my loved ones – both family and friends – and everything in between. Much of their advice I even apply to my career as a PR executive. In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share my thoughts, and those of my teammates, on how Mom’s early lessons stick with us and still help us in our careers today.

momWhen I was young, I struggled with math. Words always came much easier to me. As the daughter of two parents who worked for a national newspaper, you could say it was in the blood. How could I get through this math monkey on my back and change my perspective? My mother taught me that we all have to do things we don’t want to do. We all have to tackle the hard things. Part of life is this yin and yang of easy and hard. So with the assistance of kind teachers, patient parents, and most importantly a change in me, I switched my thinking and began to use the mantra, “I will not give up.” I heeded my mother’s tough advice. She didn’t have a ton of sympathy, but rather told me over and over, “Keep at it, be tough, and do not give up.”

I am no longer tackling Pi or the Pythagorean Theorem, or cringing after being called up to write on the blackboard in math class  - but each day as a PR professional, I am still faced with challenges that call for mental toughness and confidence. This is when the parts of my job that are harder and grittier than others call for my mom’s good old “don’t give up” mantra. This mantra makes for happy clients, solid journalistic relationships and a constant quest for me to deliver top results while striving to do better.

My PerkettPR colleagues shared what they’ve learned from their mothers as well. Here’s a collection of the awesome advice that they still carry with them in their PR careers.

From Christine Perkett

My mother taught me not to undervalue myself – which comes in handy when negotiating as both employer and vendor. My grandmother taught me that men are like street cars — a new one will always come along. I say the same is true clients – not that I don’t appreciate the ones we have (I so do!), but that they come and go and that losing one is not the end of the world.

 From Susan Sweenie:

My mom taught me that even when dealing with someone tough or not interested, just kill them with kindness. 

From Crystal Monahan:

I’ve had the privilege of having two moms in my life – my actual mom and my stepmother. Although different in innumerable ways, they both share one admirable trait that I have tried to emulate in my life and career. They both possess a remarkable work ethic. They work dawn to dusk if necessary. They have held multiple jobs to provide for their families. Nothing is beneath them – if it needs to get done, they do it. They both understand that nothing in life comes free and great pride comes from a job well done.

I’ve always tried to do my best and work my hardest, and have always appreciated the sense of accomplishment at seeing the results of my efforts whether it’s completing monthly status reports on time, writing a solid press release, or seeing my clients in the media.

Whenever I’m feeling lazy, I think about my two moms and I know they’ve probably already accomplished more in a day than many people do in a week, and I’m inspired to get back to work.

From Susie Dougherty:

“Mind your manners…” Something my mom was a stickler about, much to my benefit. I think most of us (well, maybe not as many as I’d like to think) grow up to be mindful of the simple words and gestures that help make us respected adults. But with today’s email and social media – suddenly a lot of those manners have gone out the window. Thanks to my mom for somehow making those words stick –even as the Internet has fundamentally changed in so many ways how we communicate. I’m still using my manners behind my laptop or iPhone or tablet screen – and I know that stands out to clients, reporters and even my own colleagues.”

From Jennifer Hellickson:

My mom’s a big proponent of the Golden Rule – treat others as you’d like to be treated – and this goes a long way in PR. Going that extra mile for both our clients and our colleagues in the media means trying to not only think from their perspective, but also anticipate their needs, as well. This creates a better working environment for everyone and ultimately allows us, as PR professionals, to better serve the company’s mission.

From Heather Bliss :

Mom taught me so many amazing lessons, but one of the most valuable was to be a good listener and problem solver. She has an uncanny ability to be able to listen to ANYONE, and I mean anyone. Whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague or a stranger on the park bench next to her — if they have a problem my mom has the time and patience to listen and to try and help solve it. I learned how to translate some small part of this gift of hers to my work in PR to really listen to clients and understand the issues they face and try to problem solve solutions as my mother would with quickness and calm.

And, fellow PerkettPR staff member (and new mom herself) agrees:

Johanna Lucia adds:

My Mom always taught me the importance of being a good listener. She helped instill this very powerful life skill in me, and when it comes to PR– we need to hear our clients. Listening to our clients’ wants and needs is a vital part of our role and in helping develop effective PR strategies.

What inspirational mom lessons can you share with us? Do you have a favorite piece of advice learned in childhood that still remains a part of your work habit today? Please share your stories in the comments.

“Effective Executives” Series with Beantown Bedding Founders, Kirsten Lambert & Joan Ripple

Here at PerkettPR, we are not only avid Red Sox fans, but many of our employees are proud to call Beantown our “home.”  This week’s interview is with the founders of a  local Massachusetts-based company, Beantown Bedding. Beantown Bedding, LLC was founded in December 2011 by Joan Ripple and Kirsten Lambert, two mothers of college students. The company is located in Hingham, MA, a suburb of Boston (“Beantown”).

The concept behind Beantown Bedding was to offer a solution to busy college students who had little time to launder their sheets.  Beantown Bedding developed a line of linens made from a fiber called Tencel, derived from Eucalyptus trees, which you can simply toss into a compost bin or trash can when they’re dirty. The sheets are both compostable and biodegradable and available for purchase on their website and at Amazon.com.

We caught up with the founders and asked them more about where the idea came from and what they have planned next.

 

Please tell us a little bit about Beantown Bedding and where the idea came from.

We met when our oldest children began dating in high school.  When they each went off to college, we quickly learned that they, like most college students, just didn’t take time to wash their sheets.  The health and hygiene implications were simply gross.  We wanted to find a way for them to have clean sheets without the hassle of laundering. Essentially, we decided to rethink laundry.  We joked about sending them the rolls of paper sheets found in a doctor’s office.

 

We decided to take the idea seriously and began searching for material that would be both comfortable and disposable in an environmentally responsible manner.  Easier said than done!  We identified the material we liked, organized focus groups with students and mothers, and began to explore sources of supply. Once we had a product, we conducted product testing with students from 22 universities over a two-month period.  The findings indicated we had a winner.

 

When you were researching what type of materials to use in your products, where did you turn for information and how long did the process take?

The better part of a year was spent researching the market, fabrics, and supply options. Initially, our secondary research focused on sustainable textiles through sources such as fiber and fabric manufacturers, trade organizations and publications,  trade shows and published white papers and articles.  Our first fabric choice didn’t perform well in the qualitative research stage, so we continued the search until we discovered a fiber called TENCEL®, which offered the properties we wanted… softness, strength, and compostability. Lenzing, the manufacturer of TENCEL®, was instrumental in helping us establish our supply chain and has been tremendously supportive as we’ve grown. In fact, they recently hosted us as part of their Innovation Platform at the Home Textiles Sourcing Expo in New York City.

 

How did your previous education or career prepare you to be a business owner?

While we both have degrees and backgrounds in business, we feel it’s the versatile skills we learned as mothers and volunteer leaders in our communities which best prepared us for our entrepreneurial duties.  Like all entrepreneurs, we wear many hats and must be resourceful. Joan’s Management and Human Resources background nicely complement Kirsten’s marketing and research experience. For everything else, we either learn quickly, consult with experts, or cover the gaps with outsourcing.

 

One extremely valuable resource was the team of graduate students from Stanford University who worked on our business as a class project this past spring.  After presenting our pitch at a competition for startup companies at Stanford last April, we were selected by one of the teams. It was one of many tremendous opportunities we’ve had in bringing bedsox to market.

 

You are passionate about the environment and sustainability especially with your product offerings. What else are you passionate about?

Yes, sustainability is a central theme in our messaging and we’re delighted to have just received USDA certification as 100% Biobased®.   That said, we really love college kids!  Their energy, enthusiasm, work ethic, and desire to make a difference in the world is inspiring.  Our own college kids are the basis for our story, but we’ve worked closely with many others as we’ve researched and gotten to know our primary target market.

 

Our dogs are also an integral part of our story. Since our earliest conversations about the concept, the local dog park has been the venue for many of our strategy sessions. We each have yellow Labrador Retrievers – Fenway and Sunshine, who receive an undue amount of attention since we sent our youngest children off to college. (For the record, the younger kids also dated!)

 

What is next for Beantown Bedding in 2013?

College kids aren’t the only time-starved consumers who can enjoy the convenience of laundry-free linens. We will soon roll out additional sizes of sheet sets to serve markets such as overnight camps, vacation homes and travel.   Though the retail launch was only weeks ago, via our ecommerce site (www.BeantownBedding.com) and Amazon, our wholesale business took off before we received our first inventory.   Universities nationwide began purchasing bedsox this summer for their overnight conferences and events.  As a result, our next steps are to generate awareness for bedsox in both the retail and business sectors.  Fortunately, Beantown Bedding has received quite a bit of media attention in recent weeks to convince consumers to rethink laundry.

 

Influencers Who Inspire: Broadcast and Social Media Editor, Lisa van der Pool

This week’s interview in our “Influencers Who Inspire” series is with Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal.  Lisa has been a Broadcast editor and Reporter at the Boston Business Journal since 2005. At the BBJ she covers advertising, small business, legal services, retail and hospitality; and maintains the newspaper’s Twitter account. She also regularly appears on WBZ-TV Channel 4 discussing the top business stories of the day. Prior to joining the BBJ, Lisa worked at Adweek Magazine for five years, where she covered advertising and PR firms across New England.

 

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Check my email, and Twitter.

 

What do you love about Boston?

It’s a city with a lot to offer, but it’s also very cozy and accessible.

 

If you could be on a reality TV show, which one would it be and why?

Definitely Top Chef, it’s my favorite show. But first I’d have to learn how to cook.

 

What was it like to work at AdWeek?

Adweek’s a cool trade magazine.The advertising world is a dramatic, exciting industry to write about and I met many fascinating ad execs over the years.

 

What do you think the future of advertising looks like – will we continue to see consumer-contributed/participation?

Every year advertisers get more savvy about taking advantage of social media. And yes, I think smart advertisers know they need to get consumers involved and interact with them directly.

 

What is your favorite ad ever?

Probably Volkswagen’s Pink Moon, back when Arnold Worldwide worked on the account.

 

What are you passionate about? Any hobbies?

I spend as much time as possible with my family, and friends. I also love music and going to the movies.

 

Where did you rescue your cats from and why?

I got them from Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, which has a great adoption center for cats, dogs and other animals. I’m passionate about helping animals, so caring for a pair of cats at home who were found on the streets of Methuen is the least I can do.

 

What’s the last vacation you took?

Scottsdale, Arizona. We just went there to relax and enjoy the scenery.

 

What’s your take on this year’s Super Bowl Ads – which was your favorite, were the ads a win or as snooze this year?

Overall, I was extremely underwhelmed by this year’s Super Bowl commercials. Nothing struck me as all that creative or funny. I liked Chevy’s Apocalypse ad with the Twinkie shout out. My least favorite commercials were the sexist ones: Teleflora, Go Daddy and Fiat. Advertisers need to wake up a bit more and remember that women watch the big game too.

What is next for you in 2012?

I have a few fun vacations planned already. And I’m trying to be better organized!

Do Hugs Belong in Business?

A group of us at PerkettPR have been debating this topic for some time now. It seems to us that women in particular face a conundrum when it comes to business greeting situations. For some reason, it’s often awkward because many people tend to hug women instead of shake their hands. With men, the handshake is the protocol. But for women, it seems the protocol is up in the air.

Do you hug, do you shake hands, do you air kiss? Maybe in the fashion world the air kiss works but otherwise, it just feels awkward and insincere. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned handshake? I personally like the unspoken challenge when someone grabs your hand and squeezes hard during the handshake. You know it’s a bit of a power test. But the hug? Almost condescending when it comes from a man (let’s be gentle with the ladies?), and often awkward when it comes from a female counterpart (especially an unknown, such as a prospective client). And the air kiss? Depends on the business, but mostly, it feels insincere.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are colleagues and clients that I’ve worked with for years that warrant a hug – and who I’m perfectly comfortable with on that level. But here’s the dilemma to that – you enter a business meeting, hug the colleagues you’ve known for years and then you turn to someone you’ve just met. What do you do? Do you hug them? That feels strange. If you don’t hug them, will they be offended? When they just saw you hug everyone else, they may wonder if you’re going to hug them – then you go to shake their hand while they lean in for a hug. Aw-kward.

Sometimes, when you don’t see a colleague or a client for a while, they’ll hug you instead of shake your hand. But in day-to-day situations you wouldn’t do this, so why do it at all? Of course, there are times when hugs and high fives are warranted all around, perhaps, such as when a great piece of new business is closed, or a team challenge is won.

Do hugs belong in business? Do you hug colleagues or clients? Do you always greet them this way, or just when you haven’t seen them in a while? What’s the protocol – if there is one? We’d love your opinions.

 

 

 

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Supporting Women in Business – Congratulations to The Stevie Awards Winners

The Stevie Awards for Women in Business were announced today and of course we send out personal congratulations to our client Constant Contact – winner of Best Entrepreneur – Non-Services Businesses – up to 2,500 Employees. Constant Contact, led by Gail Goodman, has a laser focus on delivering the best customer service and intuitive email marketing and interactive communications offerings for SMBs – and it’s great to see their hard work recognized. Congratulations!

Other interesting companies who won or were finalists in their categories include Care.com – a new place to find a baby or pet sitter; SheSpeaks – a national network of women who share their feedback and influence products, services and issues on the world around them; and The Baby Planners – a concierge and consulting service that caters to the needs of expectant parents.

It was great to see a variety of regions represented by the winning companies – from coast to coast, interesting emerging start ups and tenacious executives are profiled. For a full list of winners and finalists, visit The Stevie Awards.