Don’t get complacent if your new business gets off to a fast start
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill McCue, Founder and Executive Consultant at McCuenications PR, a one-person full service PR consultancy founded by McCue in January 2018. McCue works with companies ranging from small businesses/start-ups to Fortune 100 enterprises to help them tell their stories through the media. His goals are to raise brand awareness, establish executives as industry experts/thought leaders and drive sales lead generation efforts. He’s also assembled a world class network of trusted resources to provide video production, photography, SEO/SEM services, social media strategies, and digital marketing.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I always liked the idea of being my own boss and having full responsibility for the outcome of every project or campaign. I launched McCuenications PR earlier this year because I saw a market opportunity to provide results-driven PR services at an affordable price that would reduce “sticker shock” and make clients feel positive about their investment in me every day.
I got my start in corporate communications because I was an English major. Simple as that. Early on in my career, I was working inside the sales department at what was then NYNEX Mobile and today is Verizon. The head of the department wanted to launch a newsletter to keep everyone informed on the latest retail store openings, mobile phone products and service offerings — and to profile different leaders and teams within the department. When she heard I was an English major in college, she thought I would be perfect to write and edit the newsletter, and assigned me to manage it. Things went well and eventually, other executives within the company were asking to be put on my distribution list. With that experience under my belt and a reputation inside the company for being able to write well established, I ultimately was promoted to editor of the company newsletter. From there I moved on to public relations. Nearly 20 years later, here I am running my own consultancy.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I recently accompanied one of my clients to a meeting with a reporter at the New York Times Building in New York City. My clients did a great job that day explaining their previous industry experiences, value propositions, business model and competitive differentiators. After the meeting, my client commented on how excited and animated I seemed leading up to the meeting. It was true. I still get an adrenaline rush whenever I take a client to meet with a reporter at a world famous publication like the NY Times. Walking into building with them that day, I felt like an athlete stepping onto the court at Madison Square Garden. I feel the same way whenever I walk across Grand Central Terminal in a business suit on my way to a meeting. I hope I never lose that sense of excitement and enthusiasm when doing business in the greatest city in the world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started my consultancy earlier this year, I also launched a blog. When thinking about the best way to “sign off” after each post, I wanted to do something clever and attention getting. I thought of Anand Sanwal and the newsletter he edits for CB Insights. Anand signs off edition with “I love you.” So I thought, hmmmm…I’ll sign off with “Love, Billy.” When I shared one of my first posts with a friend, she wrote back, “Ah, what’s up with the ‘Love, Billy?” She was right. It’s too familiar and assumes too much about my audience i.e., that they’ll know I’m trying to be clever and get attention, and they might not know that I’m known as “Billy” with my friends and family. Instead, it took all the focus away from the content within my posts. I went back to “Best, Bill.” But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you anymore.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
It’s true that you often have to spend money to make money, and that was certainly the case for McCuenications PR. I recently issued a press release announcing the launch of my new website and it’s already providing ROI — both the website itself and the press release announcing it.
Since the release crossed the wire last week, I’ve gotten new business leads, more project work from existing clients, old friends and former colleagues have reached out to reconnect and suggest doing business together somehow. I’m also working on an agreement with a large firm that has a global network of consultants that I will be joining soon. In the grand scheme of things, building a website and issuing a press release announcing its launch were modest investments, but when you’re just starting out in business, every dollar spent is important.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m fortunate that all of my clients are involved with extremely interesting parts of today’s business world. I’m working on everything from hedge funds to blockchain technology to small business funding to branding trends. It sounds like a cliche, but I truly learn something new just about every day. Since one of my clients has extensive experience on Wall Street, I’m gaining new insights and perspectives on how the market works and the impact on the economy.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
I would strongly encourage everyone considering a career in PR to work very hard on building up strong writing skills. The lack of solid writers in our industry with a command of even basic grammar and punctuation is alarming to say the least. Master those basics first and go from there. Pick up a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. I’ve still got mine from my college days and it’s an invaluable resource.
I’d also advise becoming a voracious consumer of the news and taking note of what’s considered an interesting story. That in turn will help you become a master storyteller, which is critical in our business. It’s all about the story and the way you tell it.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Being a good networker is a lot like being a good friend. It takes concerted effort and dedicated time to reach out to people on a consistent basis and stay up to date on what’s going on in their world — and keeping them up to date on you and yours. Be consistent, be sincere in your interest and stay in touch. Just don’t reach out to people when you need something from them. Be a resource. Let them know you’re there to help them, too.
I’m a big LinkedIn user, too. It’s a great way to reconnect with former colleagues and find new connections. Post regularly and just like a good conversation with a friend, don’t make it all about you. Share things that are interesting to your potential clients and customers. Keep the personal stuff for Facebook unless you can tie it back to your business experiences.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
The aforementioned The Elements of Style, for sure. Having solid writing and editing skills has helped me stand out from day one of my career.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It’s funny, I was talking about this with a friend the other night. We were discussing the recent MegaMillions and Powerball jackpots and what we’d do with all that money if we won. My dad served in both World War II and the Korean War so I’d like to do something to help today’s veterans cope with coming back home after serving their country. I’d also like to be involved with helping Native Americans after the shameful way they’ve been treated over time.
I was also a handful when I was a teenager and would like to do something that helps troubled teens learn coping and better decision making skills. And specifically, support after school programs to keep them busy during that crucial time of day between 3pm and 6pm when most of the trouble happens. Early on in my career, I was the Director of Public Relations for Boys Town in New York and New Jersey. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and I’d love to reconnect with that organization at some point to help troubled kids get a second chance in life.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
Speak to a tax expert about everything you’ll be dealing with as a new business owner so you can avoid surprises at the end of the year.
Don’t get complacent if your new business gets off to a fast start. Six months into my new company, I lost a big client and had to scramble to replace that revenue. Never stop cultivating new relationships or doing your weekly (or even daily) new business development.If you’re launching a new website for your business, be sure to work on all of the content before you put your designer to work on building the site. I spent a lot of time editing the content I originally gave my designer — time that could have been avoided if I’d put more thought behind how I wanted to position myself and my business. You only get one chance at a first impression. Make it count.
In a one-page or a postcard sized write up about you and your company that you can give to people or leave behind after a meeting or a networking event.
When you have business cards made for your new business, make sure the back side is blank so you can add a personal note to it. You can include when and where you met the person and something about the conversation you had. It will help them remember you after a networking event and more likely to grab their attention later on.