If someone says “no”, try again in a few months!! I have had media say no to something and then remember that I had reached out and a year later contact me finally for a story where the brand fits.
For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Bennett of Light Years Ahead.
Megan Bennett has been part of the Light Years Ahead team for over 18 years. Her expertise focuses on managing clients and exceeding their expectations on a daily basis. She has spearheaded and implemented countless successful PR campaigns on behalf of numerous brands and is proud of the positive, lasting relationships she cultivates with the media on an ongoing basis.
Megan’s forté lies in her outgoing and engaging personality, which has solidified extremely strong relationships with top consumer print, online and broadcast media contacts. She understands what the media wants and knows what tactics work to obtain the most high profile placements. When it comes to placing a story or segment for a client, she is relentless with the media, and she doesn’t stop until she makes it happen.
Megan holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications from Skidmore College.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I knew I wanted to do something in media relations after my first college internship, which was at an entertainment company. After I graduated, I moved to Los Angeles and worked at one retail company for six months supposedly handling their PR, but it was more of a customer service job and I eventually left to pursue my dreams of doing real PR. At first, I wanted to work at an entertainment PR firm and applied to several, but didn’t get hired — thank goodness, as I kind of knew then that entertainment/celebrities weren’t my thing! And then, I saw a listing for a job representing some major consumer beauty products — that’s what I really love!!! I received a call from the founder of my current company, Bette Light, and when she interviewed me, we instantly connected and the rest was history. I worked with her directly and she mentored me for over 8 years and then I decided to move back to the Midwest and continue the job from here. After 18 years, I am now CEO and president of the company and feel like not only is PR my career, but it’s also my passion!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I would say the most interesting thing that has happened is working with a start up beef company. They had never done any PR before and hired us as a bit of an experiment. We always tell our clients, PR does not guarantee sales, but it DOES help build brand awareness. In this case, both things happened. I submitted the company’s hot dogs for a story in Food and Wine online. Unfortunately, the editor missed the package and we had to send another (the client was skeptical at first because it’s so expensive to send perishable goods — but I said “This one is worth it. Let’s give it a go.” We sent the samples and one Thursday in July, I received a call from the client saying, “Did we get a PR hit? We are having some MAJOR traffic and sales all the sudden on our site.” I checked and the Food and Wine story had just come out online and it basically said that our client’s hot dogs were the best beef hot dogs…. The story went viral and within two weeks, the client could trace over a quarter million dollars in sales that came directly from the PR hit. This is a case study that I will never forget and always use, as it’s rare and amazing!!!!
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 first started, we worked with a mailing house that sent out mass press samples to the media. We were representing a dental veneer company that was supposed to be “unbreakable” and we sent a sample of it with the press kit. Unfortunately, when the samples were being shipped, the veneers got crushed into bits and were sent to about 2000 editors. Wow were we in trouble! But we decided to just own up to it, apologize to the media and tell the truth. They actually thought it was funny. The next time, we sent little chomping teeth that bounced on their desk to get their attention and it worked!!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe Light Years Ahead stands out because we make our clients feel like friends and family. We care so much! We aren’t your cookie cutter PR firm where we each handle separate accounts. We all handle all the brands so nothing gets stale and so we are all in the know. I also think the fact that I openly call myself a “certified stalker” makes the media get it and not get as annoyed with me constantly reaching out. One producer at the Today Show called us the “Squeaky Wheel” and I believe that describes us perfectly!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! So many cool, innovative personal care products. We only try to take on clients where we know there is a story and hook. Also working with some amazing experts, like one composer who leads SilentHikes, which is incredible, along with some CBD products as well. One of my personal favorites is the non-profit veteran foundation we represent — War Horses for Veterans (www.warhorsesforveterans.com). It has been so rewarding helping a non-profit and seeing them actually get donations from our PR placements. Getting them on the Today Show back in 2017 really helped to launch the foundation, make it legitimate and start the donations flowing!
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My advice to other female leaders to help their team thrive is:
- Always listen and make sure you hear what your team members are trying to convey. Make sure they feel comfortable to be open with you.
- Never take no for an answer! Don’t do it. If a media expert says no to one thing, try again for another.
- Work together as a team. It’s not a competition of who on the team got what placement. When we send out PR hits, we always say that “we” garnered them, not “I”. There is no I when you are a publicist.
- The client is the #1 priority. When they say jump, we say how high (as long as it’s within our contract. haha).
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?
My mentor and our company founder, Bette Light, is the reason that I love my job. She taught me how to never take no for an answer and to keep on plugging away until you get the placement. She also made me learn not to take everything so personally — it’s business! When I met her, she had my dream job and I wanted to be her. Now I feel like I am there and I am still loving life thanks to her mentorship, love and friendship!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Yes! The non-profit we currently represent has helped spread the world to so many people and has helped the veteran community along the way.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- If someone says “no”, try again in a few months!! I have had media say no to something and then remember that I had reached out and a year later contact me finally for a story where the brand fits.
- Make the clients feel special. Have monthly calls and put them on group texts. Make sure to be in contact when they need it.
- It’s OK to let your client know if something doesn’t work. I.e., we had a client that had a very bad delivery system and the media was complaining. Won’t do the brand any good to keep that a secret.
- Mistakes can turn into opportunities. For example, one time I emailed an editor about one brand and she couldn’t cover it. It was a very high profile outlet. She covered health/wellness and I had another brand that I decided to pitch when she said no to the first one. She “bit” and featured that product!
- Don’t let the media get you down. I get nasty comments sometimes and instead of getting mad, I just laugh it off and fall on my sword. Nothing else you can do but MOVE 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. :-)
After working with the non-profit (also co-founded by my family), I want more people to know about veterans and first responders and how much they do for our country. By taking on more clients in this field and getting good partnerships together, I believe we can spread the word through PR and do some great things.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t try..DO. My father would always say to me when I would tell him I would “try to do something”, he would say “Try is a weak word…DO”. So I DID!
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 :-)
My person — 100% — would be Giada De Laurentiis. I have been watching her cook since she first started and I have never stopped. Have been to all her Vegas restaurants, cook her recipes and love everything about her. She’s inspiring and ALWAYS smiles, which I think is very important in business and in happiness!
How can our connect with you on social media?
Personal IG: @mbbennettPR