Look outside your industry for inspiration and ideas. My PR career began in the technology industry and it wasn’t until I spent a few years doing PR in the consumer and corporate markets that I realized how much I could learn about the PR discipline by spending time working in another industry.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lora Wilson.
Lora is the managing director of Global Results Communications (GRC), responsible for cultivating new business and implementing high-impact public relations strategies for industry-leading companies and the visionary executives driving them. With more than 21 years of experience in high tech, telecom, consumer, electronics and healthcare, she is a trusted advisor, overseeing every aspect of account management, from media training to team and campaign development. Fueled by intellectual curiosity, she understands her clients’ complex products, solutions and services from the inside out, studying the competition, industry and stakeholder groups, current economic and political environments and which consumer behaviors are defining new trends. Prior to joining GRC in 2009, Lora held executive-level positions at renowned agencies in Dallas including Springbok Cohn & Wolfe and GolinHarris, where her client roster included Verizon Wireless, Ericsson, Coors Brewing Company and Target among others. Most recently, she was vice president in the technology practice at Ketchum Public Relations, where she led programs for Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks and IBM.
Lora graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor’s degrees in English and communications/public relations. A lifelong learner and mentor, she is a volunteer with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, which focuses on programs that help improve children’s health and quality of life, and serves as the agency’s liaison for local universities, where she guest lectures and invites students to participate in GRC-hosted PR bootcamps.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Lora! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Going into public relations wasn’t random for me, because Communications/Public Relations was one of my majors in college, way back in the 1980s in Wisconsin. I also earned a bachelor of arts degree in English and a minor in writing. After graduating from college, I dabbled for a few years in sales and merchandising positions before working for 6 years as a technical writer for a power tool company in Milwaukee, Wisc., and then as a marketing writer for a trade association in Tacoma, Wash. It was there that I realized I wanted to specialize in public relations, because I wanted to take on earned storytelling and work with the media. It was when I moved to Dallas in the late 1990s that my now ex-husband encouraged me to “get closer to the money,” as he called it, by going to work for a PR agency, rather than working in an in-house public relations role. He explained that, unlike in-house PR positions, agency positions were closest to the money because their work is paid for directly by clients. He was in the technology consulting industry and he said the same was true in his industry. I did go to work for a PR agency and haven’t looked back now for 21 years.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve been with Global Results Communications for just over 10 years now. Within the first few years of joining the firm, I found myself working with a number of companies and/or people who were former clients of mine, from my earlier years in PR. It was a reminder that it’s a small world after all, even in the huge, global technology industry in which I work, and a good lesson about not burning your bridges, because you never know who will come back into your life.
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?
Especially in the earlier days of my PR career, I was a media hound. I loved to chase stories for clients — big or small, but of course mostly big! And, I had no fear, which is a blessing, but it can be a curse if you aren’t well-prepared when talking to the media. One morning, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal and thought the reporter who wrote it would be the perfect reporter to talk with one of my clients. I made the rookie mistake of not scanning through previous articles she’d written, not reading her bio in our media database, and not talking to co-workers to see if they knew her — before I found her phone number, picked up the phone and called her to pitch my client. Turns out, she was an investigative reporter, on the hunt for sensational stories. At the time, I was still getting up to speed on my client and wasn’t able to answer many of the questions she asked me about them. She mistook my naivete for evasiveness and some kind of cover-up for my client. She thought she smelled blood … an investigative reporter’s dream … and wanted to interview my client straightaway. By this time, I realized, she was not the perfect reporter to talk with my client, but how could I get out of it to push for an interview. I was a complete novice and didn’t know how to handle it, but I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my supervisor about it because I didn’t want her to think I didn’t know what I was doing or couldn’t be trusted. I eventually set up an interview with my client and hoped for the best, which was also a foolish move. During the interview, the reporter quickly learned there wasn’t a big story to “crack” or to reveal to the world and in fact, I was just a PR novice with limited knowledge of my client and there was no story at all. In the end, it turned out as best as it probably could have. The client never knew the “back story.” The reporter was satisfied to have had the interview, even though she didn’t write, and I learned my lesson about doing due diligence before picking up the phone to talk with the press.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what our clients say is even more impactful than whatever I might say about us. Our clients tell us we stand out in a few ways. One is that we deliver results. The founder and owner of our firm likes to say, “We didn’t name ourselves Global Results Communications just because it sounds good,” and she’s right. We are global and we deliver results. Second, clients tell us our client-service and responsiveness is “over the top.” We’ve heard stories about PR agencies not returning emails or calls for days or weeks. That’s simply not acceptable to most clients in our connected world. Third, clients praise our industry knowledge and our understanding of their businesses. I recall a time when one client told another at a trade show that we don’t merely “work in” the tech industry, but that we are “part of” the industry, by way of our industry involvement, connections and knowledge. Fourth, clients say we make it easy to work together. We don’t tie clients into long-term contracts. We don’t “nickel and dime” them for every hour we spend. We do what’s right on behalf of the client and we work as best we can to make programs and our relationship mutually beneficial.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our agency is launching a podcast, PR 360, which we are very excited about. We will be interviewing guests from among our clients as well as other thought leaders about a variety of topics related to public relations and communications. Although our firm specializes in the technology industry, our guests will come from a variety of industries. Through it, we hope to provide listeners with valuable insights, best practices, and useful information for marketing and communications. These will be lively conversations that we also hope will entertain people. The podcast will be syndicated on iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify and all of the major podcast networks.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive? What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I don’t believe the “golden rule” — that is, to manage others as you would want to be managed yourself — is the best we can do. I advise managing by the “platinum rule,” which is to manage others as they would want to be managed. In order to manage by the platinum rule, you have to know the people on your team individually and understand each person’s social style. There are countless workshops and seminars on social styles, and even online workshops that work well for teams that geographically dispersed. David Merrill and Roger Reid developed a very popular social style theory, with books and learning material to support their work, but there are others, many rooted in Jungian theory. Whatever tool you use, in my opinion this is a crucial step in order to strengthen relationships, build trust, improve teamwork, and to create an engaged and positive culture.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been fortunate to have had many good mentors and role models in my career. A former boss once told me, “It’s not what you do, it’s what you get done.” That was at a point when I struggled with project delegation and often fell prey to the mistaken belief that if I wanted something done right, I had to do it myself. The problem is, I couldn’t keep up, and that was part of our discussion that day — about how I’d fallen behind. Even though she was appreciative of my dedication and the time I was spending, she wanted me to learn to delegate and to focus on the results, not just the time I personally spent on the work as a hallmark of achievement. As simple as her words were, they were powerful, and stick with me to this day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I haven’t done anything on such a grand scale, but I give back locally through my membership and volunteering for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Now in its 150th year, the Elks invest in their local communities through programs to help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of veterans, and improve the quality of life in local communities. Many people aren’t aware that second to the U.S. government, the Elks are the largest benefactor of college scholarships in the country. My Dad was an Elk when I was young and I have fond memories of times spent with family and friends at our local lodge events and other Elks activities in Wisconsin, and it feels good to carry on the tradition in our family.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t take things personally. It’s easy to take criticism, no matter how constructive or well-intended, personally. Most people want to be accepted and liked, and we often perceive feedback as criticism and criticism as an attack on ourselves and our worth. We might even feel rejected. But, if we reject feedback and if we aren’t self-aware, we often over-compensate by showboating with arrogant, egotistical behavior to cover up for our perceived shortcomings, rather than face ourselves honestly and work to be better. In my experience, people who are aggressively critical of others are often overcompensating in some way for their own vulnerabilities, and in fact their “mean-spirited” attacks say more about them than about you.
- Look outside your industry for inspiration and ideas. My PR career began in the technology industry and it wasn’t until I spent a few years doing PR in the consumer and corporate markets that I realized how much I could learn about the PR discipline by spending time working in another industry.
- Build relationships with the C-suite, even if you don’t work with those individuals every day. While it’s critical to have strong, trusted relationships with your day-to-day clients, it’s all too easy to lose the client if your day-to-day contact leaves and if others in the organization don’t know you and understand your value. I’ve experienced this first-hand, more than once.
- Get a life coach and/or therapist. Whether it’s working to understand your past or present behaviors, beliefs and patterns and how they stand in the way of achieving your full potential, a therapist or life coach can help you understand why you’re wired the way you are and then help you modify your wiring to work toward a goal or set of goals. About 30 years ago, a worldly girlfriend of mine, with a MENSA IQ, told me, “Everyone can use a good shrink.” Her comment perplexed me, because up to that point in my life, I hadn’t been exposed to the notion of therapy and I had the mistaken belief that “shrinks” were for people with mental illness. How wrong I was!
- Get speaker/presentation training. I’m far from shy and don’t suffer from social anxiety, but early in my career I was nervous to speak in front of an audience. I think it stemmed from a high school speech I had to give to an audience of several hundred honors students and their families. I figured, “I’m not shy and I’m never at a loss for words, so I don’t need to pre-script my speech. Besides, I don’t want to sound robotic and over-rehearsed.” When I got up on stage, I froze like Cindy Brady in the Brady Bunch episode when she was on the television spelling bee. Although I didn’t have any Cindy Brady moments in my PR career, I was always nervous, especially if I had to stand in front of a room. PR people are expected to be “expert” communicators … as if perfection in anything is achievable. It would have certainly helped if I’d sought training early on.
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. :-)
I can answer this in one word: #Kindness. Even in periods of conflict or when someone else is in the wrong or has done something egregious, we have the power to practice kindness in our response. It doesn’t mean you have to avoid confrontation or pretend that everything is ok, but it costs nothing to treat people with kindness. People have asked me how to do this in cases where another person has said or done something horrible. My advice is that we take issue with a person’s behavior, but not with the person. In other words, don’t make it personal. No name calling or personal attacks. In today’s digital culture, it’s easy for people to express their opinions and there is so much vitriol, whether it’s about politics, gender, race, celebrity, environment, business, food, lifestyle, and more. If I could inspire just one person to communicate and act with kindness and not hate, I’d consider it a small, but meaningful start.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Years ago, I fell in love with Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, within the first few pages I read. I love his quote, “The mental suffering you create is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. The intensity of suffering depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment.” Similar to other thought leaders on mindfulness, Tolle’s guidance is that, “If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”
Tolle’s teachings are relevant for both my personal and professional life. I’m far from always living in the present moment, but when I catch myself straying from now and thinking about the past or future, and I stop to pay attention to what is actually happening now, I see and hear things I would otherwise have missed. Sometimes it’s as simple as catching the smile and hearing the giggle of my 11 year-old nephew that I might not have noticed if I were buried in my phone. Other times, it means I don’t miss an important detail that a client mentions on a conference call, or I see that huge tumbleweed on the freeway that I might have otherwise run over.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Eckhart Tolle. Although he’s written about some of the factors that inspired him to practice living in the “now,” I’d like to learn more about those factors and about him as a person.