HB: Tell us about the major challenges in your role as a publicist and entrepreneur and what solutions have you deemed best to handle these challenges?

SB: As a publicist the challenges are always developing and pitching stories that are unique and fill a void in the market. It’s your job to be a narrator and make a client sound sensational to a group of people who have heard just about everything under the sun and hear it on a regular basis. You have to discern whether a crisis is large enough where it needs to be managed or just let it go away on it’s own. Many publicist make the mistake of trying to jump into clean-up mode without analyzing the situation thoroughly and it ends up having an adverse effect. As an entrepreneur, you face the challenges of having to be a rainmaker. When working at corporate firms, the accounts are just sitting on the desk waiting for a campaign but when you have your own company you have to go out and acquire those accounts which is more on the hustle end.

The competition is tough nowadays for start-ups, particularly when boutique publicity companies are popping up like Starbucks and everyone from mechanical engineers to cosmetologists think to themselves “I’m good with people maybe I should start a PR firm.” At least lawyers are required to go law school and pass the bar, doctors have to attend medical school and do their residencies, even hair stylists go to beauty school but apparently you don’t need any credentials to be a publicist so the profession has been diluted. Most of those overnight pop-up companies have turnover rates that rival governments in Africa – they give publicists a bad reputation which makes it more difficult to build trust with new clients. But ultimately if you do quality work in any field you’ll begin to get work via word of mouth.

HB: What has made you so successful?

SB: At the core of my job it’s a sales position so just being able to understand the target market, and viewing the world through the eyes of buyers. There is a level of creative lateral thinking required, particularly if you’re not working with A-List talent. If you’re acting more administrative than salesperson you’ll get weeded out. I’ve tried not to be seen as simply a news disseminator or conduit that regurgitates information, publicists are storytellers to a degree so if you can’t tell or sell a story to your audience when you look up you’ll have an empty room. Oh and a good publicist should never ever tell the media that their client is the “second coming” of anything or lead off a press release with “the most highly anticipated” please don’t insult everyone’s intelligence.

HB: Any advice for younger colleagues?

SB: I always advise obtaining a liberal arts education and a college degree first and foremost. Regardless whether you’re studying Humanities, Science, Art or History the utmost goal of education is to breed tolerance and I think that sets the framework for any business because you have to get along with people in a variety of cultures. When I first started out I would go sit at the newsstands after work for hours, writing out the mastheads at magazines from L’Uomo Vogue to Elle South Africa, even if you don’t ever leave your city your rolodex can be international. Most importantly, never stop educating yourself on the ever evolving media industry – just like in the worlds of medicine, law and beauty you can only remain at the top of your craft when you’re on the pulse of what’s new.

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