I had the pleasure of interviewing Margot Black, the driving force behind award-winning boutique agency Black Ink PR & Marketing, based in Hollywood, CA. A PR genie, Margot works with dedication, strategy, efficiency, joy and a welcome dash of humor. With more than 15 year’s experience in hospitality, food, travel, tourism, creative entrepreneurs and lifestyle PR, her savvy hands-on multi-platform approach to each campaign, ensures extraordinary results. Under Margot’s astute guidance, Black Ink PR & Marketing has won 4 PRSA Prism Awards for Excellence in Public Relations and a Poppy Award for the Best Public Relations & Marketing Campaign.
She is the founder of PublicityYou.com, a resourceful and accessible branding and marketing platform where she helps people from all walks of life put themselves firmly in the spotlight and guides them to professionally reach their goals.
Margot is also the author of ‘Where’s My Award?: How to Get Baby Barf out of a Red Carpet & Other Tales from a Working Mom in Hollywood’, a love letter to working moms everywhere. In her spare time, she is a trophy wife to her husband Rob, and perfect mother to their son Jett.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was a curious and chatty five-year-old that enjoyed organizing everything and everyone. My career path was obvious by kindergarten.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
No, I can’t. The most interesting stories are the ones best not shared in public!
But I will say this; I’ve come to the conclusion that publicity and marketing are so much more than a way to earn a living. It’s also a way to help others lift themselves to become their highest, brightest and most brilliant version of themselves and their company.
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 was young and working for a large international PR firm. We were working with a member of a royal family and their business interests. I arrived a day early eager to explore a foreign location. I put on a pair of sneakers, walked around the city, got the lay of the land and chatted up some cute guy at a sandwich shop. The next day when in proper office attire we were introduced to our client. The guy in the sandwich shop, he was the son of the client and the clients' designated project manager. I learned you never, ever know. Respect all people, watch what you say and always carry yourself with dignity.
I also work with a lot of chefs, which is ironic as my cooking skills would prompt Julia Child to faint into her reduced chicken stock. One New Year I’d booked five national TV spots featuring California chefs (two for Canada AM, two for The Today Show and one for CBS) for my client, highlighting California Restaurant Month. Because of a snowstorm, one of my chefs failed to catch a plane from the west to east coast on time and I thought I’d have to fill in for him on national television. Luckily he made it to the studio at the last minute (after I built a shrine to the food gods in my hotel room).
Another time I found myself re-inventing ‘belly chain’ jewelry for a client whose work was about to be launched and featured via a highly promoted teen beauty pageant in Malibu. When her pieces arrived, we were shocked to see they had a strong S&M accent and were completely inappropriate. I had to enlist my entire PR team to work through the night to create the summer’s latest fashion trend!
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
I read the classic business book The E Myth, by Michael E. Gerber, many years ago and never looked back. Systems, systems, systems. Can’t say I’ve mastered scale but do feel like I’ve got a handle on systems and impact.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
All projects are exciting. It’s like having many children — I don’t think I could pick a favorite. I still have a huge passion for my work and it pains me when people struggle to tell their own stories effectively. I’m truly honored to be the big mouth, visionary and chief story teller for so many companies. I understand not everyone has an innate ability to articulate their value. I created PublicityYou.com to help professional women understand how best to promote themselves with class, sass, style, and consistency. I get great satisfaction helping others that wouldn’t normally have access to any sort of PR counseling and help them learn how to be bold and shine brightly.
As for advice to a young person considering this career — focus, focus, focus and follow up, follow up and follow up. All great results come from relentless focus and follow up. Feed your focus and starve your distractions. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Be interested in them. It’s always about the audience and never really about you and that’s something we keep at the forefront at Black Ink PR. I truly love listening to people and learning about their life stories. On the business side, the more interest you can take in other people, the easier it is to know if you really can or cannot be of service to them. I’ve never aimed to be a great networker, but I’ve always aimed to be a good listener and to be of great service to clients.
Regarding the media it’s simple; know they are people. Read their stories, take an interest in their work, understand their publication and their audience. Know that when you are pitching a story to them you already know it will be of interest to them. If you really, truly know it will be of interest to them and their audience, they will be far more willing to play ball with you coming from that vantage point as opposed to someone just trying to randomly pitch them.
As for business books — I love to learn and especially enjoy books about marketing, writing, influence, impact, leadership, persuasion, creativity and parenting. I’m a big fan of books by Seth Godin (crazy, solid advice), Gary Vaynerchuk (his books and vlogs are genius and he is so fun to listen to), Malcolm Gladwell, Tim Ferris, Glambition Radio with Ali Brown, Brene Brown (for all the heart and soul you need to courageously put into work, parenting and life) and Super Soul Sundays with my queen Oprah. I look forward to every episode of The Profit with Marcus Lemonis (I’ve watched them all at least twice, it’s like getting an MBA via TV) and we watch Shark Tank as a family. I spent $199 last year and bought a MasterClass pass for myself, best money I have ever spent. I’ve watched writing MasterClasses with Aaron Sorkin, Judd Apatow, Shonda Rhimes, Steve Martin, Malcolm Gladwell, and Judy Blume.
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?
As a parent with a child in public school, I wish teachers were paid as much as athletes. They are doing such important work for our children, humanity and the future of our country. I think it’s criminal that they are paid so little.
As far as a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people — no good has ever come from hatred or war. I just wish people would really let that sink in and give into being kind to one another.
Oh, and I truly wish comfortable shoes were seen as really, really sexy.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Take care of your body, you’ll need it.
2. Work to your strengths, and everyone else’s.
3. Teamwork is essential so learn how to be a great team player and a great team leader.
4. Celebrate all the small daily “wins” along the way as it’s often more satisfying and fun than holding out for something huge.
5. People often say about business “Don’t take it personally” but I think that’s ridiculous. I take everything personally. I’m in a people business and it’s all about people, so take care of those around you and be kind to others.
And even though this takes me beyond five points, for added value I would say — fittingly — always go above and beyond people’s expectations, and be fun to work with. It is the best job security around.
I once had to talk in front of Hollywood’s elite with only a moment’s notice at a charity auction in Bel Air after being called up unexpectedly on stage (nobody says no to Robert Shapiro!). My client — a travel company — was delighted at the extra exposure, I enjoyed the thrill of the challenge and I even got to impress the evening’s host Larry King!
So just be you, learn and perfect your skills and systems incessantly, and trust your instincts. Recently a client signed up for a project and he said: “Just do what you do, the way you do it and make it all fabulous.” That’s just the client and just the job for me!