Publicist Rockstars: “Learn to negotiate with yourself and not accept the first offer” With Durée Ross of Durée & Company
…Empowering women. Something I’ve noticed is that most women are bad at negotiating, myself included. It’s definitely something I want to work on and want to encourage others to work on as well! It’s so hard to get a seat at the table, sit on a board and break the glass ceiling to begin with. We have to push ourselves and others around us. How do we get more women on boards? We have to support each other. We need more women at the head of companies. My advice is to learn to negotiate with yourself and not accept the first offer.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Durée Ross. Durée, a South Florida native, is president & CEO of award-winning South Florida and Aspen-based public relations, marketing and special events agency, Durée & Company. Since incorporating in 1999, at the age of 24, the firm has consistently grown in size to handle a growing client roster. Durée is considered an industry veteran by her peers and employees, after years of establishing her brand of creative and strategic public relations. She is a PR entrepreneur with a broad spectrum of experience spanning the corporate, agency and nonprofit arenas for local, national and international clients. Durée’s awards include three Gold Coast PR Council Bernays Awards; six American Business Awards, also known as The Stevie® Awards; 2018 and 2017 Bulldog Stars of PR Award; 2018 Outstanding Small Corporation Award honoree, Association of Fundraising Professionals; 2016 PR News’ Top Women in PR, 2016 Women of Distinction Award from March of Dimes and 2015 Influential Business Women Award by SFBJ, to name just a few.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Durée! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I fell in love with public relations at the age of 19 during a fated college internship. Originally a double major in broadcast journalism and sociology at the University of Miami, I found my place in the world of PR. After I finished working in-house at a nonprofit, word spread that I was available to do some freelance work and from there, by chance alone, my business was born. All the internships I had while in college were suddenly paying off for me at 24 years old. My phone started ringing off the hook for new business, and as a result, Durée & Company was established!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Durée & Company has seen a tremendous amount of growth in the past few years. We started with our first office in Fort Lauderdale, that I purchased six years ago. I bought the unit next door two years later. We then combined the two offices into one big office to make room for a growing team and client roster. Most recently we opened a full-time office in Aspen, Colorado ― which has been a dream of mine for many years, as I am a part-time Aspen resident. The new office gives us the opportunity to take on new clients and industries, including more clients in real estate, lifestyle and the ever-growing CBD industry.
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 was an intern, I made the mistake of calling a TV station’s assignment desk … while they were live on the air! When TV stations are live on the air, they have no interest in what you have to say and will hang up. When you make that mistake once, I can promise that you never make that mistake again. I learned to only call the stations during hours when they’re not broadcasting live.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our motto is: “under-promise and over-deliver” and we are passionate about delivering stellar results for our clients each and every day! We never accept the status quo or the word “no,” so we work relentlessly to find, or create, that next great opportunity for our clients. We’re always proactive and stick to our motto.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! Durée & Company recently opened a full-time office in Aspen, Colorado. It is a natural fit for us as many of our South Florida clients have business interests in Colorado, we have clients based in Colorado, and I have been a part-time Aspen resident for many years. Our expanded office gives us the opportunity to serve our clients in both destinations.
Our Colorado client base includes the growing CBD business ― a new vertical for the firm ― which has been extremely challenging and rewarding. The CBD business offers us the chance to learn and understand an exciting new realm of PR that is complex, different and changes hour to hour.
I truly love new challenges that push our team, as we always strive to make a difference for our clients. We definitely like to work hard and play hard!
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
At the end of the day, I believe it’s always a team effort and that we all must work as one unit. Since I’m the person at the forefront, I want to make sure that we all share our wins and that we celebrate our accomplishments together. By celebrating our accolades as a team, it allows us to be a stronger team unit, and therefore we are able to service our clients with the best results.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
My best piece of advice is to really make sure that you’re open to using all the resources that are available to you. I do not believe in doing things a certain way “because we always have done them that way.” In fact, I believe the exact opposite and look for ways to do things differently and constantly being open to new options. I enjoy keeping an eye out for new resources can help build our team to be as efficient as possible. Work smarter, not harder!
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?
There are many people who have helped me get to where I am today; many of them are colleagues and friends. I have quite a few friends who were instrumental to me in college, when I was first figuring out what I wanted to do with my career. Over the years, we have referred business to one another, which helps in keeping our relationships strong. It’s remarkable for me to have that experience with those people who have helped me become who I am. I find it rewarding to be able to work alongside these friends and colleagues and to pay it forward through mentoring.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’d have to say, all of our pro-bono work with nonprofit organizations is extremely rewarding. We work with nonprofits because we try to give back as much as we can. Helping organizations and making a difference using our expertise and resources is our corporate social responsibility. Seeing our work making a difference is a very special feeling, and we love to pay it forward.
We were extremely honored to win the 2018 Outstanding Small Corporation Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Broward–Fort Lauderdale chapter, as part of its National Philanthropy Day® Awards Luncheon. The award honors a corporation or its corporate foundation that demonstrates outstanding commitment in Broward County through financial support, and through encouragement and motivation of others to take leadership roles toward philanthropy and community involvement.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Give to give, don’t give to get. Donate your time just because; put it out there and don’t expect a return.
2. Listen to your gut. It’s always served me well. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
3. Be authentic, honest and transparent ― this has served me well in everything I have done.
4. Do it well or don’t do it at all. This is something my dad always said to me so it’s ingrained in everything I do.
5. Be a person of your word ― if you say you are going to do something, do it. That’s all you have in life is your word. This has been very important for me, as people have mentioned that they know they can always count on me.
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. :-)
Empowering women. Something I’ve noticed is that most women are bad at negotiating, myself included. It’s definitely something I want to work on and want to encourage others to work on as well! It’s so hard to get a seat at the table, sit on a board and break the glass ceiling to begin with. We have to push ourselves and others around us. How do we get more women on boards? We have to support each other. We need more women at the head of companies. My advice is to learn to negotiate with yourself and not accept the first offer.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. But you have a million chances to make an indelible impression.”
This is a motto of our company because I feel so strongly about it. It’s always served me well in life and being in PR, it speaks volumes. So many times, people think they can go back and re-launch, but they can’t. They have got one chance to make the first impression. Our firm can certainly help in other aspects, but if we aren’t brought in from the beginning, we can’t go back and make another first impression as it’s simply too late.
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 :-)
I would love to have lunch with Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. I admire Sheryl for all she has been through personally and professionally, and I am fascinated by her grace. I am also fascinated by the sisterhood she has with her childhood friends to this day. Like me, she’s also from South Florida, so I feel connected to her. Funny story, when I was visiting Facebook a few years ago, I got stuck in the elevator in her building ― the very same elevator she uses daily ― and we had to be rescued by Menlo Park’s jaws of life. Unfortunately, when we got extricated and got a chance to walk by her office, she wasn’t there.
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