Publicist Rockstars: Colleen Lippert of Anchor Publicity On The Five Things You Need To Have A Highly Successful Career in The PR Industry
It will take time to figure out a proper work-life balance. PR is definitely not a 9–5 job. I think there’s a big misconception that business owners can make their own hours each day. That’s not always the case. We work around our clients’ schedules. Sometimes a work crisis occurs and I have to cancel dinner plans last minute. Other times, I am up working until 5am and sleep until noon the next day. I’ve gotten better over the last few years about setting aside time to have a personal life, but it can still be a bit of a challenge. I think most publicists will agree that we are Type A workaholics…but I think that’s why we love our jobs so much.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industr, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colleen Lippert.
Colleen Lippert, owner of the Nashville-based Public Relations firm Anchor Publicity, is known as the sweet, hardworking celebrity publicist who gets the job done. The New York native recently celebrated her fifth year in business and has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry. Her impressive roster includes over 100 clients, which have been featured in some of the most popular magazines, television shows and radio broadcasts.
When not working, Colleen enjoys trying out new recipes, watching true-crime documentaries, and dabbling in interior design.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! I have always been a huge music fan. I attended my first concert when I was seven years old and saw Cher at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I was completely mesmerized…not only by the costume changes and set designs, but also by the crowd. Even at such a young age, it fascinated me that 20,000+ complete strangers all had one thing in common that night, which was their love for an artist. People of all different races, cultures and backgrounds were singing along to the same songs. I knew from that point on that I wanted to work in the music industry.
PR is the perfect career choice for me. I am a very shy person by nature. Being a publicist allows me to be right in the thick of things, but still stay behind-the-scenes. I also love to write, which is a big part of the job. I often joke with my clients that I do all of the work and get none of the credit — and that’s just the way I like it!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
About a year or two after I opened my company, I was at a Mexican restaurant in town watching some friends perform. All of a sudden, I noticed a woman at the table next to me had a tattoo that looked familiar. It ended up being the exact design as my logo! I went over and chatted with her for a few minutes and she told me she saw the design online and fell in love with it. I gave her a bunch of promo items with my logo on them — pens, notebooks, keychains, etc. –and she made me promise I wouldn’t sue her for copyright infringement. We took some pictures and had a lot of laughs. It was a fun and memorable moment that I don’t think I will forget.
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?
I am very much a perfectionist, which can be annoying at times. One morning, I was at a television station with a client who was performing that day. I was so hyper-focused on the little details that I followed her around set with a lint roller. In the moment, I thought it was helpful, but looking back I just laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I’ve learned that not everything is going to be perfect and sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are starting to gear up for CMA Fest here in Nashville! There’s a lot of planning that goes on in advance for such a large event. Due to the pandemic, this will be the first one since June of 2019. It’s such a fun week where fans from all over the world get to meet some of their favorite country singers. If Covid allows, it will be nice to see all of the smiling faces again.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Stand up for yourself. After I graduated from college, I was offered an internship at, what I thought, was my dream job. I worked my way up the ladder and finally got on the payroll. During my first business trip as a paid employee, I was put into a very unethical situation. I had to make a decision on the spot about how I wanted to be perceived in this business, and ultimately I decided that this company wasn’t for me. There I was, 24 years old, suddenly jobless with no back-up plan. As horrible as this situation was to experience, I am bizarrely grateful for it. Without this occurrence, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to open my PR firm and branch out on my own. Bottom line, your gut is never wrong. If you don’t stand up for yourself, nobody will.
- You will never have all the answers…and that’s ok. When I first opened Anchor Publicity, I had little confidence and I doubted my abilities. I didn’t think I had enough experience in the industry to run a business (and I probably didn’t), but I discovered very quickly that everyone learns along the way. Real life doesn’t necessarily follow the textbook rules and it’s ok to ask for help. Your co-workers and peers are intelligent, accomplished and great at their jobs. We don’t all have to be in competition all the time. Be honest and authentic, and remember to return the favor.
- It will take time to figure out a proper work-life balance. PR is definitely not a 9–5 job. I think there’s a big misconception that business owners can make their own hours each day. That’s not always the case. We work around our clients’ schedules. Sometimes a work crisis occurs and I have to cancel dinner plans last minute. Other times, I am up working until 5am and sleep until noon the next day. I’ve gotten better over the last few years about setting aside time to have a personal life, but it can still be a bit of a challenge. I think most publicists will agree that we are Type A workaholics…but I think that’s why we love our jobs so much.
- Everyone will compare you to Samantha Jones from “Sex and the City.” Usually when people hear the word publicist, they immediately think of the confident, lavish character on the hit HBO show. As much as I would love to be jetting off to Dubai for a girl’s trip and attending all of the designer fashion shows, most of my days are pretty boring compared to Samantha’s. An average workday will typically involve answering emails, taking phone calls, meeting with clients, writing press releases, building reports, etc. PR is not always glitz and glamour.
- Learn to have thick skin, but also remember to laugh. Since starting my company, it is very hard to hurt my feelings. The general rule in PR is you will hear 12,000 no’s before you hear one yes. Don’t take it personally. Not every story is newsworthy and not every rejection is personal. Not everyone will reply to your emails or return your calls. Keep your sense of humor and try to shake things off when you can.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Networking is key in PR, especially in the entertainment industry. Nashville is like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon — everyone knows each other, or knows of someone somehow. Join organizations, attend events and introduce yourself to everyone. Have genuine conversations and always have an ice breaker or “fun fact” prepared. (My go-to is that I used to work with alligators at a zoo.) Take the time to listen to what others have to say. Always carry business cards and connect with people on social media. Be polite, be yourself and be real.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Absolutely. Quality relationships build quality leads. Nobody wants to receive a generic, copied-and-pasted email that starts with “Dear Editor.” I think it’s crucial to genuinely get to know the people you are pitching to. Take the time to learn their names and let them know you appreciate their support. Learn about their interests outside of the office. This industry tends to get a bit robotic and it’s important to put some humanity back into it. Handwritten “thank you” notes go a long way, as well.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I love to read biographies and memoirs. I think we can all learn a lot from the experiences of others. Kelly Cutrone’s books If You Have to Cry, Go Outside and Normal Gets You Nowhere are both two of my favorites. She is a PR powerhouse and I try to soak in as much advice from her as I can.
I’m currently reading Katie Couric’s memoir Going There. She has been one of my life-long idols (and I actually had the opportunity to meet her a few months ago!). To me, it’s comforting knowing that some of the most well-known women in their industries have gone through some of the same things I have. It helps to put things into perspective. Next on my reading list is Ira Rosen’s Ticking Clock, which I am eager to start.
I’m also an avid news reader. I have breaking news notifications set on my phone and I am constantly checking headlines and reading trending topics. In a career field like PR, timing is everything. It’s essential to keep up with the events going on in the world.
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. :-)
Oh, thank you! That’s very kind. I really enjoy working with a lot of charities and organizations here in Nashville. I believe that giving back to the community brings great karma, not only for yourself, but for the people around you as well.
I am a huge animal lover — especially dogs. If I can inspire at least one person to donate to an animal shelter or provide a pet with a loving home, it would be one of my greatest achievements. I think dogs are some of the world’s most amazing creatures and my two Scottish Terriers, Eleanor and Franklin, bring so much joy to my life.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.