|Maile Cabral, of Cabral|
1.0 – Introduction
The following piece is reflective of my communications with a boutique PR firm. Inclusive, you will find an overview of boutique vs. corporations, traditional vs. new media, and some personal insight in between regarding agency relationships and niche operations.
2.0 – Summary
Cabral goes on to inform of her involvement and observation of PR as an industry as it evolves, predominantly via the increased use of social media. The need to go the extra mile to personalize, rather then generalize is forefront. Connecting ‘with’ as opposed to ‘at’ one’s audience has proven paramount, as is fostering trust and adhering to transparency. Differences are noted in regards to the functionality of ‘boutique vs. corporation’, and teaming up with rival agencies as a result – in both directions. Niche opportunities are discussed, as well as ‘who sources out who’ in regards to clients, projects and general opportunities. Solutions have been shared regarding accessibility and any potential hurdles, which ties back into the expansive amount of technology, social media and information that we have at our fingertips.
I interviewed Cabral, a PR professional who hold’s a Bachelors degree. Cabral is positioned out of a boutique PR firm on the west coast and has between 6-8 years experience between marketing and public relations.
· 3.1 - Maile Cabral-Hager is co-owner of Cabral Edwards Management head quartered out of Seattle, Washington though travels extensively to LA for clients.
· 3.2 - Cabral voiced that ‘she did not choose the profession, the profession chose her’. With a knack for strategic thinking, and rising to a challenge and end-result of self-fulfillment, Cabral expressed she was a shoe-in.
Notables on the evolution of PR as a whole, which Cabral spoke of, point to an increased number of firms, as well as the overwhelming use of social media in comparison to traditional media. This is a positive in some aspects, and negative in others. Cabral says some of the ‘tools’ she is expected to utilize, are not relevant to her company or clients, i.e. coding.
“Knowing one’s audience and actively targeting them through various portals has become a challenge in maintenance”, quoted Cabral. “For example, where traditional media once reigned, digital and social media has exploded via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogging, and the list goes on. Managing each of these functional is critical, though time consuming for a small PR shop” Cabral went on.
5.0 – Boutique vs. Corporation
The functionality of a boutique firm is significantly different than that of a larger organization. I asked Cabral what the some of the challenges were in running a ‘smaller shop’ in contrast to those a larger corporate beast might encounter. She replied, “We each bring something different to the table, adding diversity and value. On top of it all, we all contribute a high amount of energy”. Cabral provided me with a few examples.
· 5.1 - The positives with a boutique that stood out are that of having less people to coordinate to agree on a campaign or approve one’s work. Also, not having any one to report to, and providing more of a personal touch. Negative aspects included the inability to take on multiple projects and clients, depending on the level of service the one(s) currently being engaged require.
· 5.2 - In contrast, a larger firm might have more ‘hands on deck’ and resources to aid in assistance for projects, freeing up time for handling a larger number of clients at once.
· 5.3 - Cabral noted, whether the firm be boutique and local or Fortune-500 and international, the greatest challenges are staying relevant as an agency and finding better ways to measure their success’ and failures.
6.0 – Niche Operations and Opportunities
After establishing the company’s niche operations as boutique firm, I then dove into inquiring on clients and projects, past and present. I asked, “Do you approach your clients and place bids for opportunities, do they find you, or does a little of both happen?” Though there was no option c), the answer was all of the above.
· 6.1 - Cabral say they place bids on projects, submitting them sometimes knowing they don’t have much of a shot, though still feel it’s worth placing an interest and making the connection. Her firm is aware that clients do “shop around” getting multiple bids, though they are cautious to only submit proposals if their companies are 100% interested and committed. If they aren’t able to properly service the client, they refer them to other agencies. But both ladies agree that the best projects are the ones where the client finds you (word of mouth or referral).
· 6.2 – Cabral states that client’s expectations are becoming exceedingly grandiose, as in they expect the world though are not so willing to commit to anything up front. Clients often know that new firms are willing to ‘volunteer’, therefore competition as such sometimes stamps out ‘paid positions’.
7.0 – Agency Competition
On the topic of ‘other agencies’, I had to ask about the competition and any sense of camaraderie within the industry. The response from Cabral is that Public Relations is highly competitive and definitely not a buddy-buddy system. “Competitive and then some”, says Cabral.
Having said that, the advice I received is to always support your competitors and attempt to be friendly with them. You never know whom you will be teaming up with (especially if you service the same ‘niche’ sector, in my interviewee’s case, luxury brands and celebrity product placement).
8.0 – Teaming-Up and Outsourcing
In the case of teaming up with other agencies, it does happen. Competition or not, not everyone is specialized in the same area. Cabral says that some times she acts as ‘management’ rather than ‘publicist’, representing a client during times when her company must out source and hire a larger PR firm. Cabral says her company manages the content, and makes sure that the client they are representing does not get manipulated. Regardless of owning multiple roles within a smaller organization, there will just be times when a larger firm must be called upon.
9.0 - Accessibility
We live in a world where connectivity and accessibility are at our fingertips, and although the rapidly evolving industry has poses some hurdles, it also has its advantages.
· 9.1 - With several allowances such as cell phones, the ability to make conference calls, use of email, Skype (and other video conference programs), and other networking programs, doing business remotely is not unusual.
· 9.2 - Cabral say that technology has bridged any potential gaps in client connectivity, though when its necessary to be with a client, they will go to all lengths to make it happen whether they share a zip code with their client or they are a plane ride away.
10.0 – Transparency and Trust
Although sharing a city block might be convenient, it is not the most paramount factor to a client. Building trust, transparency and proper representation are full mast. Cabral’s number one focus is on client needs and satisfaction, in addition to a job well executed. In addition to integrity, one’s character goes a long way. Never burn bridges, and always act set a good example among your peers and clients.
11.0 – Hurdles
Regardless of your capacity to ‘know your client’ aside, there will always be hurdles regardless of bodies employed. Cabral gave me two examples of upcoming trends on how companies can better reach their audiences. The moral of the story in this case is, ‘small changes can make big differences”.
· 11.1 - Gillette (who is owned by Procter and Gamble) was a Team USA Sponsor of the 2012 Olympics. Instead of gifting regular Gillette razors, they gifted customized razors with Swarovski crystals, complete with their names on them. As a result, many of the athletes took pictures of their “special” razors and tweeted the photo, or posted it to their Facebook page, which provided more digital impressions for Gillette than non-customized gifts would have.
· 11.2 - Reaching out directly to fans and followers is becoming increasingly important for brands. For example, a brand like Pepsi needs to “tweet” with their fans and not just “tweet” at them. “Direct engagement that is personalized is more likely to be noticed and to have a greater impact”, notes Cabral.
12.0 – Reflective Advice for Interviewee
Two insights to share: first, Public Relations is all about relationships - building, forming, and fostering relationships. Second, two-way communications is proving as a more responsive approach. Work as an ally to your client and other agencies; feedback is necessary for growth and collaboration leads to share success. Act with integrity, respect confidentiality, and adhere with transparency. The cornerstone of PR is to ‘know your audience’. Never underestimate the value of how you will be received by all, i.e. the general public; you never know who is listening to you regardless of who you are speaking with or towards.
I asked Cabral what her best pieces of advice would be and she responded - don’t give up, be prepared to hear ‘no’, one hundred times over for every one ‘yes’, and to find a good mentor.
13.0 - Conclusion
Much of the insight I received from this generous and inspirational lady spoke to my previous knowledge of the industry, though not all. Each of their examples, and points of view, without question will benefit myself applying this in my future dealings.