How A Wedding Planner Can Help You Plan Your Big Day

How A Wedding Planner Can Help You Plan Your Big Day.

Lasting Relationships: The Key to Success

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While Public Relations professionals have long held the image of sleazy spin-masters taking advantage of the poor, selling snake oils, and twisting political embarrassments into blame games the reality of the industry is based on one principle: building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders.

The difference between a Public Relations professional and a Marketing Executive lies in that principle. Marketing representatives have a monetary objective: to sell a product or service, grab attention, and increase the bottom line. PR experts, on the other hand, use those same tactics as tools in a larger cache to achieve a broader goal: to build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

PR encompasses other business principles as well. These professionals are frequently called in to address crisis situations, provide advice in obtaining additional funding and increasing contributors, shape broad campaigns to reach multiple goals, and provide targeted messages across multiple platforms. In short, it’s about much more than creating an image or posting social media messages. Like advertising, those are just a few of the instruments available in a PR kit. The purpose of all these aspects of public relations boils down to one glaring concept: get an audience’s attention, meet their needs, and build a lasting, trustworthy relationship that benefits all parties. This idea is what not only makes public relations specialists necessary for sales, but also for growth.

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All business can be reduced to the people within it. And people are naturally driven to form relationships with each other. Using this innate instinct to establish a foundation for business can accomplish more than just a return on investment, it can provide a positive, satisfying enterprise. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have proven the concept.

Cindy Moore, Founder and CEO of Thirty-One Gifts, has created a rewarding family relatiionship with her staff and consultants. The company was created a decade ago to address the needs of busy women everywhere, and her policies reflect her mission, training all consultants to reward customers as frequently as possible. Thirty-One Gifts was named last month one of the Top 20 direct-selling companies in the world. Ranked 10th in America. http://wp.me/p3aaO4-2u

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Other well-known corporate giants have developed corporate masterpieces with this belief in mind. Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.; Walt Disney.

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When thinking about marketing your small business, before you hire an advertising facilitator, remember that your goals go beyond gaining an instant sale and reach instead for a more satisfying enterprise that will grow over time. Consult a PR professional to help shape the image of your company and invite stakeholders to enter a situation that promotes experiences rather than sales, and you will see your company be transformed into a more meaningful venture. Afterall, it’s all about the relationships in the end.

idAuthor, Stephanie Murphy. Stephanie owns and operates Kudzu Communications, in Hambleton, WV, a PR company founded on Christian beliefs that specializes in multi-media marketing campaigns and event planning. She infuses her mission with positive messages and relationship management principles. #promotewhatulove, not bash what you hate.

Steady growth requires solid roots.

Steady growth requires solid roots.

Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. We all know that she either didn’t hear, or didn’t care that the calendar announced Spring was here, as she casually displayed her power and dumped snow and cold upon us right through Easter.  The fact that March 21 was the date that we all awaited with visions of tulip buds, birdsong and allergy fits did not alter the path of cold fronts, high winds and wet, wet, wet, nasty  snow and slush.  Whether Mother was angry at our careless assumptions that warm weather fun was upon us or she was simply showing off did not really matter, because Spring is only a calendar season, while the weather is subject to conditions.

I can relate to this, I am a control freak. An impatient one. And I do not work according to another’s demand either. Ask my husband. He too is a control freak who can’t help but to “remind” me to do my chores. Sadly, I am also a procrastinator who tends to the squeaky wheel first. This increases David’s need to “remind” me of things. Some might call this nagging, but I prefer to see it as his subconscious need to take care of me and assist me in my short-comings. He doesn’t mean to nag, he just reminds. Right?

Unfortunately, my instinct is to avoid the task I have been “reminded” to do, obstinately feeling that I will only do it when it becomes my “idea” to do so. Much like Mother Nature snickering at the West Virginians wearing their down coats to the store…in April. I know I did, when I pictured the guys at the golf course tee-ing off to chattering teeth.

But in my business, I have realized that I have no control over the speed in which it blossoms.  I have finally relaxed into acceptance that progress will be slow, but will eventually build into my vision of success. This thing will not sprout according to my

I should pay more attention to my own advice.

I should pay more attention to my own advice.

anxious demand, but will steadily grow as it should, when it should.  Sigh.

While it is still a daily struggle to temper the desire to lunge into additional client projects with the frustration of setting up the millions of business-y details, I have at least regained some confidence. I am adjusting to the ebb and flow of work demands that make some days manic while others are relaxed, work-in-my-pj’s-all-day days. It’s hard to picture that kind of schedule as routine, but in its own way it is…for a one-woman-show PR biz it is anyway.

Passion Comes from Pride

Henry-Ford

I woke this past Monday in better health, with an excitement about possibilities again…and I haven’t been to sleep since. This week has been an adrenaline-infused blitz of project development, research, statistics, file organization, design application and MY FAVORITE task: The Pitch. See, Friday was the deadline for my first large PR campaign, and while it was exhausting, stressful, tedious, and demanding to create a campaign surrounding the client’s unique communication issues and geographic challenges, it was also my comfort zone. The Pitch is my specialty, combining persuasion, creativity, instinct, a little theater and pure knowledge. It is fun. It is a challenge. And I am good at it.

Henry Ford is my father’s hero. An icon, Ford was a master at The Pitch. And his vision that “..with God in charge, everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?” has brought me back from the land of fear and doubt, back to my vision. I did not panic or wonder where to begin. I did not fret over details or freak out as I put business tools into place for the first time (Quickbooks is an amazing product), screwed together my new office chair, or educated myself about state tax rates. And while I worked into the wee hours, only to “work” while I lie in bed restlessly, I felt driven and…well, happy.

While I continued to work on current client projects, I gradually noticed something really important. The industries my company represents are vastly different: a writer, a sports retailer, a non-profit, and a healthcare pitch. But two things united all these projects:

First, every time I blocked time to work on them, I got lost in the enjoyment of the individual project. No matter the subject matter or the tool I was using, I LOVE what I do and the endless creative direction of PR methods. My husband brought me food that I would otherwise be to focused to stop and consume, and I don’t have to make myself tend to any task. Yep, that WVU tuition will be a lot less difficult to pay back for the privilege of enjoying my profession!

The ability to be passionate about your work makes it feel more like play.

The ability to be passionate about your work makes it feel more like play.

Second, I love my clients. I realized, when I looked at the few initial professionals that I represimages (9)ent, that I work for outstanding people who do extraordinary work. I have (as scarce as it is in the beginning) a Quality Client List. This ignites the passion that drives my energy, sparks my creativity, and makes me want to promote them! It’s one thing to say in the beginning that I wish to represent only good people and businesses…but as I reflect on the pride that I have in my clients’ characters, I have become absolutely committed to establishing a mission to limit my client list to the kind of remarkable qualities that my current ones possess, even if it costs me campaigns in the future. I promote my clients, but they also reflect my company, their success is my success.

I am still taking one step forward and two steps back in terms of structure, certifications, and paperwork dilemmas, but the work is rewarding and moving forward of its own accord, just as my campaigns did in college. I got the big account, and I am feeling more secure every day. I already know I am great at what I do, it’s wonderful when someone buys into me as much as I believe in them!

Leigh Brill, Author and Kudzu Communications Klient

Leigh Brill, Author and Kudzu Communications Klient

…and Now the Fear

March 7, 1998

March 7, 1998

The anniversary of my wedding day is approaching this Thursday, March 7.  This huge commitment to each other, our children, our God, and our unlimited future has not for one day been unappreciated, or underestimated, though I recall my day as a bride as one I spent in calm happiness. I wasn’t what I would call a blushing bride…more of a confident one. I loved planning the wedding-every step of the way, but mostly I knew without a doubt that I was marrying the very best man in the world, so there was no nervous color change in my cheeks. In fact, I recall enjoying watching my bridal party go down the isle and ooh-ing and aah-ing over them so much, that when my dad took my hand to go I was startled that I even got to participate in such a grand event. Maybe I was grateful for my family and friends who came to witness, or maybe I was grateful that this wonderful man waited for me at the end, but I did not once falter, cry, or shake with insecurity. With that much intense confidence I strode into my biggest blessing, and by far greatest commitment.

Another Ring Day-WVU Class Ring Ceremony

Another Ring Day-WVU Class Ring Ceremony

And much the same, I entered ownership of my own business, only this time I already had my husband on my side. Calm and confident, my husband provides the support and I provide the work that I love to do.  I have focused on creativity,passion and the knowledge that I can surpass expectations. Until this weekend I did, anyway.

Nothing really happened, other than the hostile takeover of my lungs by the pathogenic intruders which left me weak and longing for that sick day my boss would not supply. Eventually the diagnosis of pneumonia popped up, and even though I mournfully postponed a business trip, I still worked through a medicated stupor and violent coughing fits until the antibiotics kicked in.

But, somehow, through the bacterial weakening of my system, my confidence also took a hit. I woke up Thursday morning in a state of sheer terror brought on by a singe thought that passed my radar: Can I really make this work?  Suddenly doubt creeped in every thought and action and shaky breath making me wonder what the heck I signed up for by starting my own business. Will I let my husband down after years of supporting me through college? Will I ever have a steady income? Will I ever be able to replace my aging car? Can I deliver what I know I can do so that others can believe in it too?

Every night has been sleepless since that one demon-thought cracked the surface. My seven-day work week includes 16 hour days filled with research, tech articles, small business advice, mentor-seeking, and financial anaylysis.  Wishing for a telescopic view to the 6 and 12 month marks, I try to predict success without the necessary building blocks that lead up to it.

Maybe that’s the problem, I am reaching for the future before I have attended to mpowerthe present. I am overworking a problem that has not yet presented itself. And I am facing the equivalent of a dieter’s plateau…the groundwork is laid, the process has started, now I want to see the needle move!

I found a great resource for every step of my journey into self-employment. It’s by far my favorite, as it covers every topic imaginable for the long road ahead…including staying sane on the trip. http://www.entrepreneur.com/ and  http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/index.html

Now, if I could only know on exactly which day I will STOP feeling the fear…

Why I am the toughest boss I have ever had!

No sympathy here.

No sympathy here.

It didn’t take long for the first pitfall of owning my own business to rear it’s ugly pathological head. Bacterium never pick a Friday to invade the body, as all parents already know, so naturally on the third Sunday of my blissful self-employment venture my daughter finishes victorious on her basketball team’s tournament championship debut, chows down victory dinner, showers on cloud-9, snuggles into bed dreaming of the WNBA…and immediately begins to cough. Uncontrollably. For 14 hours.

While my husband and I had discussed all the pros and cons to owning a home-based business such as strict documentation, tax breaks and tax takes, dedication, licensing, logistics, office space, equipment, and flexibility, we had NOT considered sick days. Sure, flexibility covered dentist appointments, track meets and vacations but professionalism, as it turns out, rules supreme over runny noses, body aches, upset tummies, fever, and yes, wicked-nasty coughing fits.

Contrary to popular, and my husband’s, belief, my time is not all about “playing” on the computer. Though I admit that I love getting lost for hours designing a new web page, applying branding techniques, tweeting promos and editing photos, I also have much serious time invested in research, analysis, client recruitment, relationship-building, and personally meeting with clients. I made a commitment at the beginning to be as available to my clients as reasonably possible, returning calls ASAP, replying to all communications immediately, and meeting in person whenever possible. So, the viral villain that attacked my daughter on Sunday, also invaded my own chest on Monday, the day that I had scheduled three meetings with potential clients and a financial advisor-friend.

Priorities, priorities...

Priorities, priorities…

This is when I decided my boss is a bitch. There is no one to cover for me. No one to stay up late to post at the most opportune times the promotions that my company and my clients’ pay me to do. No one to do the research and develop surveys that mean life or death to the success of my next proposal, regardless of the life or death fever and chills that caused me shiver endlessly and to mis-hit keys repeatedly. Okay, so it wasn’t that morbid, but the decision to work through my pain and concern over my daughter did cause me to realize how dedicated I am to making this company work. And it made me just a little homesick for the guilt-ridden call-off and early morning grouching from stressed-out supervisors.

Two days and endless nights later, we are recovering. While I am still excited about upcoming projects, I am now more leery of my boss, who has shown she can be as hard-headed about attendance as she is about perfection.

If only she slept this peacefully during the week. A sick child can throw off the best-laid plans...

If only she slept this peacefully during the week. A sick child can throw off the best-laid plans…

Week One and RUN!

The 7 day, 77 fan statistics for my new company, Kudzu Communications surprised even me!

The 7 day, 77 fan statistics for my new company, Kudzu Communications, surprised even me!

Okay, so I borrowed a LOT of money to go to get my degree, and I worked extra hard at WVU to graduate as the Top Scholar of my class, and I broke several communications barriers with WVU Athletics while I did it, setting promotional records and high standards for classes following my own. So why, after all this dedication, does it still surprise me that my own promotional efforts exceed expectations?

Probably for one very simple reason: I LOVE WHAT I DO! That small five-word phrase makes such an amazing difference in how I feel every day, when I wake up and can’t wait to get to work! Sure the commute is better than the 90-min-each-way drive that I made to Morgantown for two and a half years! The trip to my own basement is 89 and a half minutes faster, no gas expenses, no Sheetz card required prior to leaving, and no additional parking money to scrounge from my empty change holder. Perk enough, right? But the best thing about this project is feeling that the “work” isn’t work. It’s a passion.

Already I have plans to do my thing in Wheeling, W.Va. and Roanoke, Va. for new clients. I get to meet challenges and solve problems by applying my natural instincts, skills, and the incredible knowledge base that I got from West Virginia University. I get to meet awesome people who are relieved I am there to help.

Spring '12 Campaign for Morgantown RDVIC. Nominated for WVU Service Excellence Award

Spring ’12 Campaign for Morgantown RDVIC. Nominated for WVU Service Excellence Award

I get to travel, design, create, read, examine, play, evaluate, invent, and implement. Some of these things I have done as a hobby for free over many years, just because I love to do it. And while my husband (my biggest fan) and I know I love what I do, we also know that I am goooood at it! The proof is in the stats. It’s in the references. It’s in the relationships I have build in the past with clients, celebrities, athletes, professors, and friends. All reminders that the messages I create are effective.

So the reason I am gushing, is that I am a very happy small business owner, with a complicated but exciting future on the horizon. My most precious advice to my children has always been to find what you LOVE to do, and make it your career. I hope they listened. I am living my dream because I set the goals for myself that I hope we instilled in them.

Such a child of the '80's! My future's so bright...

Such a child of the ’80’s! My future’s so bright…