I’m Toni Rousell and welcome to my new blog!   As a new blogger and newbie to the public relations world, I’m learning everyday.  Through networking and just being plain friendly, I’ve met so many PR professionals, talent producers, members of the media, publicists, and various business owners and executives, that I can’t help but to be excited about my new-found career in public relations!

My past experience may surprise you; I was the owner of a janitorial service for over 15 years.  I’m sure that your next question is “how do you get ‘publicist & PR professional’ out of ‘janitorial service owner’From the mop to the media advisory?  Doesn’t seem to make sense, but it really isn’t as far of a stretch as it may seem.

When it comes to managing a janitorial service, the cleaning is the easy part!  Before you can get to the cleaning, you have to first “relate” to potential clients, or the public.  Sure, it’s easy to say “the customer is always right”, but right about what?  Are they right about their need for service, or are they right about how to get it done?  Now that’s when you learn to carefully answer yes…and no, while maintaining your integrity, yet preserving your client’s ego.  Let’s face it, no one likes to be wrong, but if you can find a way to “carefully correct”, you’ve learned one valuable public relations lesson:  deliver a clear, consistent message with foresight of its effect on public perception of you and your organization.

Now, what about the branding aspect of public relations?  How could being the owner of a janitorial service help with that?  Well, before day one of operating my service, I considered carefully how I wanted my business to be perceived.  After careful research, I stepped out with a mandatory uniform and a catchy name.  (I’m sure I’ll mention the catchy name later, but for now, let’s look at the uniform)   Every employee, supervisor and myself as the owner was always in uniform when interacting with clients.  Our uniform was not just the clothes on our backs, but also our disposition and attitude.  No matter how difficult the client, and we  faced our fair share, we never let them dictate our response.  This was strategically done and strategy is the name of the “branding game”!  With a janitorial service, if the job was beyond our professional capabilities, I politely declined.  Just as in public relations, never make a promise you can’t keepThis will not only save you time, but more importantly preserve your reputation, which is synonymous with branding.

As far as being a publicist goes, I would call that a “no brainer”.  After all, the literal definition of a publicist’s main objective is to positively publicize or bring to public notice a person or business, or in short to advertise!  It was definitely easy to be the publicist for my janitorial service.  It was actually fun to give professional cleaning tips to friends, and explain the value of a professional cleaning service vs. doing it yourself.  This kept people talking and my business flourished on “word of mouth” advertising.  We participated in a radio contest with the prizes being gift certificates, joined in community efforts, maintained a website, on which I posted client testimonials and made sure to always send “thank you” cards and greeting cards to clients, past and present, throughout the year.

Fast forward to today, in my role as publicist, I constantly look for opportunities, local, regional and national, for my clients.  Rarely are these opportunities “paid opportunities”, that’s more of the job of a marketing agent, but if the opportunity is consistent with my client’s message, then we sign up for it!  It’s no secret that this is a way to not only develop a great foundation of trust in the community, but let’s face it, it’s great publicity.  Unless the client is completely opposed, I rarely pass up the opportunity to publicize my clients’ community efforts, in a tasteful way of course, to keep them on the minds of the general public, and potential sponsors.  In some instances, another aspect to being a publicist may involve speaking on my clients’ behalf, which is usually easily done if the client makes themselves and their thoughts available.  Yes, their thoughts!  I’m a lot of things, but I’m not a mind reader, so my clients can never “talk too much”.  Developing this sort of relationship often means face to face meals together and “getting to know each other” time.  Relying too heavily on text messages, or e-mails is a recipe for disaster.  Not much different from my janitorial service days.  The clients that shared personal moments with me or my crew, who included us in their social events and who consistently shared with us concerns or questions, were the ones we kept for years and years.  Never underestimate the value of old-fashioned ways to communicate; there are some things that you just can’t find in social media or technology. 

Let me make sure I say that, if Hurricane Katrina would not have destroyed my business, I might still be the owner of a janitorial service, but then I wouldn’t know the depth of the talents within me.  Now, as a publicist and public relations professional, I’m doing better than cleaning up after a mess is created.  Sure, messes will be made, but I spend more of my time teaching my clients to avoid the mess and to stay as clean as possible.  The professional challenges that I have faced since that fateful day in August, 2005, have given me a greater appreciation for professional character and consistency.  Sure, you may know that you’re strong when necessary and gentle when needed, but do others know that as well?  Does the community in which you live and hope to serve know that you think beyond your needs and are able to consider theirs?   To have foresight to see that success requires a plan and patience to achieve goals, while demonstrating complete professionalism and confidence, complimented by a large serving of sincerity,  is common to any successful endeavor.

Hopefully, you will enjoy reading my blog, and will comment on my posts…even share them with friends.  As much as I can, I plan to share with you my experiences with past and present clients and my outlook on future plans.

Till next time, stay true to who you are, or who you know yourself to be!  You’re only as good as your word.  Say what you mean and mean what you say!

– Toni L. Rousell, Publicist & PR Professional

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