Lyndsey Cooper | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Lyndsey Cooper

Background:  

Carma PR is a multidisciplinary public relations and marketing firm servicing South Florida's retail and hospitality industries.

The Mistake:

I took on a client whose business I didn't believe in, for a steady paycheck and a portfolio entry.

When we started our firm, my partner and I were eager to be successful in our first year. We made it our objective to turn a profit and start off strong, and we made the mistake of taking on a client or two that we didn't believe in and didn't see eye to eye with. We figured that, even though they didn't totally align with our vision for the firm, they would still represent a steady retainer and a chance to display our skills in our portfolio.

We both worked at a big New York firm, where clients were thrown at us whether we believed in the brand or not. Part of why we wanted to start our own firm is because we wanted to work with clients whose business we could totally get behind.

Even though our strategy was to take people on we believed in, we started to build our business by taking on any clients that came our way. Two, in particular, were offering us retainer agreements, and though we weren’t passionate about these two brands, they were offering us a big retainer and we were eager to jump into our new business with a successful year. However, we found that it was very hard to pitch a client that you're not excited about to a writer. When you're not excited, a writer can feel that, and then ultimately your pitch doesn't get accepted.

So I think ultimately, because we weren’t excited about the pitch and it was vanilla, we didn't have the enthusiasm to pitch and there was a miscommunication with the client. They didn't understand why they weren't in the New York Times, why they weren't getting more exposure, why we weren’t coming up with creative ideas. On our end, we knew we could achieve that for them if we really believed in what they were doing and were able to get behind their brand. 

We weren’t seeing eye to eye, and ultimately we lost that business.  We knew if we were passionate about their company, it would translate to our own success as their public relations firm.

We really rally around our clients and pitch with enthusiasm.​

The Lesson:

Once we freed up our time, we realized we were free to go after clients who really did align with our vision for the firm – brands we were passionate about or brought something new and exciting to this market.

Since then, we still meet with clients who aren’t a good fit, but we identify that right away and cut the relationship short so we don't waste anyone's time. Today, we tend to take on clients that are interesting and newsworthy, where the excitement can really be felt through our pitch.

Since terminating our relationships with these initial clients, we've really tried to take on clients that seem like they have something we've never seen before. And doing so has only added to our growth: We started our firm with just two people, and now we have a team of 26.

So now, we really rally around our clients and pitch with enthusiasm. Every person visits our client's nightclubs, restaurants, and health-and-wellness spots. We've turned our passion into our success.

Follow Carma PR on Twitter at @CarmaPR.

Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Cooper

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email nryan@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's Miami.