It’s that time of the week again: #GirlBossMonday!
Dawn Britt is the founder of one7 communications, Las Vegas. Dawn talks of the years she spent working in-house, learning all about the world of public relations before starting her own agency in 2013. Also in this interview, Dawn gives great advice for starting your own agency and what students should be doing to get ahead of the game.
The reason I conduct these interviews is to inspire you, my readers, and fellow PR students to be successful in your careers and business leaders of the future. I have asked the important questions to gain an insight of how these #GirlBosses made it to where they are today, and how we can emulate their successes.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
OC: Hi Dawn! An easy question to start us off (I hope) – What is your full job title?
DB: I am the Founder/CEO of one7communications. We are a boutique public relations firm that focuses on integrated marketing communications campaigns in the food and beverage, chef talent, hospitality, luxury retail and beauty and non-profit industries.
Can you give me a background of your career and education? How did this lead you to be in your PR position today?
Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania, my path to becoming a PR professional was a bit of a journey. I went to Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania and studied Fashion Merchandising and Marketing.
After I graduated with my bachelors of science, I held several different positions in the beauty and fashion industry throughout the years, including store manger, buyer, marketing manager and VP of sales, working with a variety of cosmetic, haircare and retail brands.
After 10 years, I decided I wanted to change industries so I packed up, sold my house and moved to Las Vegas to get into the hospitality, restaurant and entertainment business. I immediately landed a job as the entertainment and marketing director for a major Vegas Strip hotel casino resort property.
PR was the part of my job that I fell in love with so I decided I wanted to focus my career on that path. I applied for and received a PR manager position for the property, and over the next 11 years, worked my way up to the executive corporate communications director, ultimately overseeing the communications efforts for two mega resorts and Fortune 300 company.
One of the highlights was opening a $1 billion property with more than 36 restaurants, a world-class spa, luxury retail, numerous Broadway shows and other entertainment, red carpet events and gaming promotions.
In 2013, I left the company and opened my own boutique PR agency with my knowledge, network and experience and one7 communications has been going strong ever since!
How and why did you start your business?
PR creates and controls the message and tells the story and it is imperative for any brand, big or small, to ensure they are using integrated marketing techniques/programs to grow their brand and keep it top of mind.
During my 11 years in-house, it was important to have an agency that understood not only PR/media relations, but also how important it was to integrate all marketing mediums (partnerships, PR, media relations, social media, influencer relations, advertising, promotions, creative) to create the strongest message possible. It was frustrating to see the marketing departments work in silos and oversee numerous PR agencies without finding one that truly understood integrated marketing and the future of PR.
I saw there was a huge gap in the market and was determined to open my own agency and fill that niche. I partnered up with a creative agency that handles creative design, website, SEO, cinematography, video, sound and photography, and we work under one roof, making it seamless for clients to work with one agency for all of their marketing and PR needs.
How did you go about securing your first client?
Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. This career is all about relationships and networking. My first client was a fine-dining restaurant manager and colleague I worked with when I was in-house. He left the company, opened a brand new restaurant in Napa Valley and hired my company to launch his restaurant and boom… one7 communications was born.
Some of the clients we work with or have worked with include Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants, Lyft, L’ermitage Beverly Hills, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Sugar Factory, Pandora Jewellery, Alex and Ani, STK, Celebrity Chef John Tesar and Knife Dallas, Yamashiro Hollywood, Las Vegas Sands Corp, Pinks Hot Dogs, Life is Beautiful, Trump International Hotel, Kelly Cardenas (a Paul Mitchell Salon), just to name a few.
Where are you based? Does your job involve a lot of travelling?
Our office is based in Las Vegas, Nevada and we have a satellite office in Los Angeles. We have a few clients in LA, Carlsbad, San Francisco, Chicago, Salt Lake and Dallas, so I travel to some of those cities to work with my clients, understand the market, build relationships and spend time with media, as well as to NYC for media meetings.
What does your morning routine look like?
I get up every morning at 6am, check my email/texts for any emergencies, drink a huge glass of water and then take my little Shih Tzu pup MeiLi for a walk or hit the gym.
When I get back home, I get ready for my day, have a quick breakfast, quickly read through several digital subscriptions including LA Times, NY Times, PR News, Adweek, and a variety of industry publications, scroll through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, glance at my calendar for the day, answer some emails and then head to the door to my office around 10am. I multi-task from the time I get up until the time I go to bed!
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your role in PR?
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is helping people develop to be strong, confident and successful PR and marketing experts, especially when they start as interns.
Another rewarding part is landing a client that I am passionate about. Lastly, there’s no better feeling than taking a non-believer or challenging client and show them how a strong integrated PR/marketing communications campaign can drive hard results to their bottom line.
What I find most challenging about my role is finding really good solid talent who has a true passion and education for this field, because it is not for the faint of heart.
Another challenge is setting realistic expectations for deliverables with clients, so it’s important to build trust and mutual respect.
How do you find the right work/life balance?
As the owner of a PR firm, there isn’t a whole lot of room for work/life balance, unfortunately. My company is my life, my child, as they say. Our clients are hair salons, spas, fitness studios, restaurants, hotel properties, retail/fashion stores, and non-profits, therefore, I work in my life with my clients.
The great thing about PR is that I can work mobile so even though I may not be able to balance my life as much as I would like sometimes, the option to work remotely (even from Cabo!) is fantastic.
What do you wish more people understood about PR?
I wish people understood how much time and dedication it takes to do PR well. Our life isn’t just about attending and throwing big parties or red carpets.
Cultivating relationships with the media, influencers, potential partnerships, etc. takes a great deal of time. We aren’t going to get you on the cover of the Wall Street Journal tomorrow, but we sure are working on building those relationships constantly.
If you were to hire someone for a PR role, what skills and qualities would your ideal candidate have?
My ideal candidate must be detail-orientated, an excellent writer, multi-tasker, team player and a quick learner, able to thrive in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. They need to be digital savvy, energetic, organised, able to prioritise, well-rounded, and a good communicator who can hold a conversation with anyone at any time. I need someone who can take initiative and move forward on their own and they must have a lot of patience and thick skin! Do you still want the job?
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the PR industry today?
The ever-changing digital footprint and trying to keep up with it. New technology is constantly emerging, which can help and hurt us, both professionally and socially. The notion of a 24-hour news cycle is antiquated, it’s now a 24-second cycle with social media and access to news and it’s difficult to stay on top of and break through that information overload.
As a PR professional, our job is to help drive the bottom line for our clients, so proving ROI through integrated marketing campaigns can be challenging as well.
Who has been the biggest role model in your career so far?
I have been in business for quite some time and throughout the years have run into several types of people, from owners and CEOs of large corporations to my interns, and I can honestly say I have been inspired by many of them.
Richard Branson and Coco Chanel are two true inspirational people whom I admire and wish to emulate, as both were visionaries before their time and entrepreneurs who stayed tenacious throughout their life and careers.
Can you give three tips for someone wanting to start their own PR agency?
I will give you five:
- Take the time and write a solid business plan
- Be prepared to not get paid for at least a year, if not longer
- Learn the financial side of running a business
- Don’t rely on referrals as your only source of new clients
- Be prepared to give 150% of your time to your business, this is a 24/7 work schedule. Owning a business does not mean you will have more free time.
What advice would you give to a student like myself that wants to emulate your success and make it in the PR industry?
- Make sure you are taking internships. They are golden to an agency owner looking for an entry-level candidate.
- Take charge of your career and speak up, take initiative and ask questions. Always try to learn something new, whether it be at an internship, volunteer role or a new position.
- Stay on top of news trends, pop culture, industry news, social media and technology.
- Read. Read. Read and then read some more. You can never read enough.
- Spend strategic time on social media building relationships, studying trends, educating yourself – that does not mean taking selfies all day.
- Network by attending as many events as you can, joining special interest groups and get involved in a charity or two that is near to your heart.
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
- Self-teach yourself new skills and never ever stop learning.
- When it is time to find that job, do not base accepting solely on salary. Look for opportunities in the company to have a mentor that you can emulate – someone who will help you to grow and learn, will believe in you and give you the chance to prove yourself by taking on responsibility and working very hard.
Thank you, Dawn ♥
You can visit one7 communications’ website at www.one7communications.com
Follow Dawn on Twitter : @princessbritt17
Follow one7 communications on Twitter : @one7PR
Follow one7 communications on Instagram : @one7PR
Like one7 communications on Facebook : @one7communications