PR Pros: Donna Loughlin of LMGPR On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
Be agile — There are no two days alike in this industry, which means we need to constantly be tuned in to what the market wants, what the client wants, and to world events. Being agile also means being creative in your use of communication tools when yesterday’s social tools are being replaced. Being agile, adaptable, and resilient in the face of ever-changing influences are huge skills in PR.
Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Donna Loughlin.
Donna Loughlin is president & founder of LMGPR. She is known for her work with futurists and innovators, and moving their businesses forward. She is also the host of the Before It Happened podcast featuring visionaries and the future they imagine.
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?
I started in journalism. My family had a publishing business, so I had a Nancy Drew experience following my uncle out on reporting jobs in my school uniform with my pen and pad of paper at age 10.. My goal was to be a reporter, so I worked for the school paper in high school and had internships at Washington Post and Reuters in college. Then I worked for Reuters and BBC in three countries and received my master’s following eight years as a reporter.
My transition to public relations was a happy accident. I was interviewing a founder of a tech company and he was impressed with my interview, so he actually sent his head of communications to hire me. I originally joined as an in-house editor for the company’s trade journal but it was sold to a major publisher and my role ended. I had two choices: take a pink slip, or go work in the PR or marketing department. I chose the PR route because other team members were also former journalists and I could quickly apply my writing and communications skills. The transition was surprisingly easy.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I started LMGPR in 2002 during the post .com era downturn. Within two months of working at a company, my employer lost their funding and I was without a job. It wasn’t a great year economically and the market was hampered until 2008. I don’t know what empowered me, but I just drove to the business license office and, when I got there, I filled out a form for Marketing Consultancy, walked out, and on my drive home I made three calls. I called a venture capitalist, my former employer, and a reporter. My first employer hired me, the reporter gave me a couple of referrals, and the venture capitalist had a meeting with me the next day. Within 48 hours, I ended up with three clients and within six months, I was making more than I was making when I had a fulltime job. To this day, I can still go back to the parking lot like I’m there. It reminds me that agility is an instinct. I saw an opportunity to help venture capitalists and early stage companies bring their products and business to market in a more accelerated and economical way than if they hired a large agency. I wasn’t going to wait for something to happen.
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?
In the internet era when everybody was just coming on, I went to work for a Windows based software company. Up until that point, I was used to using a Mac. On my first day of work, they gave me a shiny, new terminal and I thought, “What am I thinking? I took a job with a Windows company and I don’t even know how to use it.” Just on the other side of my cubicle was the IT group and I became really good friends with them. One of the IT managers gave me tutorials during lunch every day for the next few weeks. The good news is that I mastered Windows and proved to myself that I could learn on the job. The IT Manager eventually became one of the first employees at Google and we remain in touch to this day.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m very excited that our agency portfolio is really rich in terms of emerging markets and innovation. Our clients are high performance, conscious-driven, and are changing the way we invest in our future. We are currently working with electric motorcycles, bikes, electric tractors, crime fighting robots, autonomous cars, AI, blockchain, and sustainability companies. My guests on the Before It Happened podcast are all innovators and future-thinkers from a wide variety of industries. It’s very exciting getting to speak with them and learn from their stories.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Curiosity is really important in being able to not only listen, but to learn. So few people listen, they respond. There’s a discovery process and a whole host of questions you need to ask when working with a new client in order to understand them inside and out. Being curious opens you up to new approaches, new philosophies, and the people behind them that have been profoundly important.
We have a responsibility to develop a narrative that’s authentic to the problem being solved and authentic in its telling to the audience so they can understand the genuine backend story. It’s more than just telling the facts. Sometimes clients don’t know or can lose sight of that journey and we help them build, or rediscover, why they created the product or service to begin with. We curate that information, guide them, and keep that thread of authenticity.
We have to keep integrity in how we work as a business and be transparent and open with our clients, but also in how we communicate with the media. We want to build positive engagement and relationships and if we don’t have integrity, we aren’t going to do that. Those relationships become invaluable to our own personal credibility and our perception. It matters for our business, but also all of those we represent. It’s especially important to be honest and open in a crisis situation while working under pressure and being resilient.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?
The types of public relations are vast and there are a variety of vertical markets. I work in the tech market, so I would say there’s corporate, product, customer, partner, crisis communications, HR, public perception, and preventative PR. Public perception could also be called social influence and preventative PR takes place before the crisis.
Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?
I think the best place to start is an internship with a PR agency where one will be exposed to a diverse set of clients and markets. I highly recommend getting a degree in communications, journalism, public relations, or English because writing is a critical component and a huge portion of what we do. You don’t have to be an extrovert, in fact, a lot of people in public relations aren’t. It’s also about continuous education. It’s not just getting a degree, it’s continually advancing yourself, networking, talking to other professionals, and driving career development.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Everyday, I try to connect with six new people that I didn’t know the day before. And that could mean people on LinkedIn, through reading news articles, or even through Instagram. I’m constantly looking for experts and authorities, not just in public relations, but in tech and innovation or in topics that I’m curious about. That’s key, not only for my business, but for my podcast, Before It Happened.
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?
The power of a network is huge, both on and offline. Lead generation is an adjunct to networking and most of my business comes through networking leads. I also have an active LinkedIn marketing campaign, the Before It Happened podcast, and my monthly newsletter.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Stay relevant
It’s important to continuously look at your story, not narrative, and refresh it as needed. World events, industry change, and customer adoption all require adjusting your story.
- Be fearless
Be fearless in speaking to venture capitalists, company prospects, and the media. Reaching out for opportunities is essential in building a continuous funnel of experts and potential clients that will expand your network, develop your skill set, and grow your experience.
- Think out of the box
Try new approaches, such as a podcast or a video cast, to invigorate conversation and leads. The Before It Happened podcast has opened many doors that have helped LMGPR and vice versa.
- Listen to the market.
It’s important to have a continuous pulse on the marketplace in order to keep an authentic voice, engage with customers meaningfully, and to know exactly what mediums they’re listening to or watching.
- Be agile
There are no two days alike in this industry, which means we need to constantly be tuned in to what the market wants, what the client wants, and to world events. Being agile also means being creative in your use of communication tools when yesterday’s social tools are being replaced. Being agile, adaptable, and resilient in the face of ever-changing influences are huge skills in PR.
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. 🙂
We have not eliminated illiteracy or hunger in the western world and, to me, those two need to be addressed — especially for children. Repairing these issues is where we’ll see advancement of our culture, society, and prevention of further homelessness in our communities. When you’re in Silicon Valley, it’s easy to think that everyone has access to education, but there are migrant farmworkers and families, rural areas, and states where industries are dominant, but the people are still somewhat removed. Education is a cycle and we need to bring these people in to fortify the future.
On an individual level, anyone and everyone can look around and see how they can enact change. Education shouldn’t stop because of age. Regardless of whether someone has children or grown children, you should still be engaged by volunteering somewhere or supporting nonprofits and public groups. I believe that there are ideas to facilitate change and if we educate one another, more people will learn to accept vs expect and, thankfully, the younger generation is consciously aware of their environment and surroundings.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.
PR Pros: Donna Loughlin of LMGPR On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.