February 15, 2013 by Christina Hamlett
If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.
This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is perhaps better known by its short, paraphrased version: Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.
Whether your product is mousetraps, cupcakes or novels, however, getting the world to actually discover its existence takes more than random luck and word-of-mouth. Specifically, it takes a PR professional with tireless energy, exceptional communication skills, and passion for a multiplicity of challenges. MJ Pedone, CEO and Publicist of Indra Public Relations in the heart of New York City (http://www.indrapr.com), shares a glimpse of what this demanding career field is really all about.
Q: What inspired you to launch Indra Public Relations?
A: The inspiration to launch Indra Public Relations originated when I first launched my sports firm, Pro Players Sports Marketing Group. After several years, my partner and I parted ways and I continued in the business and kept growing my contacts and relationships and working in the business while being a fit model. After I gave birth to my son Adam 3 ½ years ago, I decided to retire completely from modeling and launch Indra Public Relations full-time after I had clients begging me to work with them on a full-time basis since they had a hard time finding qualified people who they were happy working with. Needless to say, I haven’t stopped or slept much since!
Q: Tell us about the company name you chose and what it means.
A: The name of my company, Indra Public Relations, comes from a Buddhist word meaning the king of the gods – controller of the senses and the beauty and splendor of heaven. I chose that word based on my spiritual beliefs as well as wanting the name to relate to my beautiful father who watches me from Heaven.
Q: Over the years I’ve met no shortage of job-seeking individuals who are drawn to the “glam” of public relations like moths to a flame. Many of them also say, “I think I’d be good at this because I’m a ‘people person’.” Why is this attribute only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attracting clients and managing successful campaigns?
A: Being a “people person” certainly helps in this business since you are working so closely with your clients in relaying their message to the public as well as producing some of their biggest events. With that said, you need to be able to conceptualize a successful PR strategy, pitch it to the appropriate media channels as well as juggle all requests, deadlines and manage expectations – all of which is a 24/7 job in itself! Experience, knowledge and relationships are key in this business in order to succeed.
Q: Who – or what – in your own background best prepared you for the responsibilities of this highly demanding career choice?
A: I don’t know if there is any one person per se who can prepare you for this type of highly demanding profession. I did adhere to the advice of a senior publicist many years ago that said to put your best effort forward with every client and if you go unappreciated for your diligent effort and hard work, cut them loose and let somebody else have the headache. How right on she was but, fortunately, I have been blessed with many great clients and have signed a few more amazing ones just recently who I have to keep anonymous for now!
Q: What do you feel strongly distinguishes Indra Public Relations from the competition?
A: I believe what distinguishes us from the competition is the personal service that we give our clients, our relationships and the experience of our team members. I also think we are quite unique because we really focus on the charitable work of our celebrity clients and bring it to the forefront.
Q: There’s no question that the effects of social media are being felt throughout the world and, further, that there’s a correlation to the number of people who are eschewing traditional channels of hiring a PR professional and going the do-it-yourself route. Is this cost-cutting strategy necessarily a good idea?
A: I think most individuals don’t understand that social media is just a slice of the communication pie in communicating your message. You still need professionals to package and deliver your message to the public and you still need the media to bring your message to the forefront of the world.
Q: Tell us about the Indra PR team and some of the unique talents and perspectives they bring to your agency.
A: Our team consists of attorneys, digital and social media specialists, publicists, event planners, sports agents and a fabulous ghostwriter all of whom have been in the field for almost two decades. Each member of my talented team brings a different perspective and they are all specialized in their area of practice which makes Indra Public Relations successful.
Q: Your clients are primarily celebrities that come from the sports and entertainment industries. What types of challenges does this level of prestige present in scheduling appearances and planning fundraising events?
A: The type of challenges working with celebrities are always based upon their playing, filming, recording and traveling schedules. I do have the schedules for each of my clients and make sure when planning their fundraising events, that they don’t have anything going on a day or two prior or post event in order to get them on the air or to meet with the major sponsors prior to their event. As far as booking appearances, it is much more challenging as the celebrities keep such a hectic schedule to begin with, add to their calendar at any given moment and then need downtime for their family. Some organizations don’t understand the life of these stars or how their schedules can change instantly and then they have to cancel. It definitely presents a challenge and then it looks like it is our fault because they don’t understand that side of the business. I have learned to deal with it and I don’t let it get to me. It is the true business professionals who understand this business.
Q: You have a demonstrated passion for “giving back” to both your community and to the world. What are some of the charitable projects that are especially dear to your heart (and why)?
A: All of my charitable projects are especially dear to my heart because whatever I get involved in, I give 100%. Without being specific because of all the charitable clients that retain us, I will say that I love working with the educational and pediatric foundations as well as the disaster relief programs. It is such a great feeling to be able to work with many great foundations and causes that serve millions of people all over the world.
Q: Long before the popularity of Mad Men, there were a number of television shows in which the main characters either worked for an advertising/PR agency or were the owners of their own firm (Thirtysomething, Trust Me, Bosom Buddies, Who’s the Boss, Bewitched, Melrose Place). The episodes, however, rarely showed the characters during working hours, focusing instead on their personal lives – and, thus, fueling the misconception that PR is a 9-5-weekday job with long lunches, fabulous offices, and lots of downtime. From a real-life view, what is a work day typically like for you?
A: My clients have access to me 24/7 so the typical workday of 9:00-5:00 doesn’t really exist in my case. My typical workday begins when everybody else is still asleep. I do my best creative writing in the middle of the night and will write for three or four hours before I head to the gym, get myself ready for work and then get my son ready for school. Once I get to work, I begin answering emails, conference calls, meeting with clients, potential clients, pitching clients and, of course, we can’t forget doing crisis management which is an integral part of our business. After 5:00, I’m usually off to an opening of a restaurant, art gallery, movie premiere, charity event, gala or something else that is happening. When I do get home, I have to bathe my son, read books to him, check for monsters under the bed and tell him a make-believe story before he falls asleep. I’m then answering emails for an hour or two before I unwind and go to sleep for two or three hours and start all over again.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about the PR biz?
A: What I enjoy the most about the PR biz is when I get my clients national and international media coverage. It is still just as exciting as it was the first time I experienced the media hit and, of course, all my relationships that I have built over the years in which I have created some very real friendships.
Q: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you about being your own boss?
A: The best advice I received about being my own boss was to treat your employees with respect, gratitude and reward them for their hard work and efforts. Thus far, I have a very happy staff.
Q: What’s the best advice you’d give to a young person who wanted to break into this competitive field?
A: I would tell them to become a plastic surgeon. It is easier! LOL