From the inception of APEX 17 years ago, to the start of a new initiative to help Canadian entrepreneurs recognize their dreams, Pat McNamara has seen and done a lot. She gives us a quick overview of those years, and what still stands out to her as a PR professional.
1. What is the number one piece of advice you think clients need to know about working with a PR agency to make for a successful relationship?
Honest and straight forward communications. I know that sounds odd given that we are all in the business, but we cannot succeed if clients don’t share as much information as possible about their business, objectives and expectations. And we need constant feedback – what are we doing well and what could we do better.
2. What was your first client at APEX? Most memorable client?
There were a couple of small projects, but then it was a bit of a whirlwind with Fuji, Netscape and Adobe. I believe Fuji came first. We have had so many amazing clients it is hard to pick just one memorable one so I’ll pick two from our early days. The first is Adobe as they were the most amazing client in terms of support, interesting work and being an incredibly strong partner. They were small, we were small so we celebrated together and they were always trying to help us grow. BMO is the second, because it was a huge win over a couple of the big international agency guys in our early days and they grew to be our biggest client ever. We also had a great partnership with them and grew to manage their PR in almost all of their divisions.
3. Where do you find your inspiration?
From our people. There is something to learn from each and every one of them. They are constantly coming up with innovative, creative solutions. They never give up. They know how to have fun. They make my job easier. They are incredibly talented.
4. What is a favourite memory from your career?
Yikes. There are so many – crying on the plane when I read all the letters from staff and colleagues that helped me win the CPRS Award of Attainment in 2001. Escorting Vidal Sassoon at the first Festival of Canadian Fashion in an incredibly tacky blue and pink dress with puffy sleeves (embarrassing now). Sweating to put the IKEA reception desk together before BMO came to pitch. Then they walked in and hit the desk with the front door! Getting the phone call that told us we won the business and having our Adobe client jump up and down in the next room. Interviewing Linda in those big blue leather chairs in my office and laughing my face off because she was so funny. Our first few retreats – the karaoke and the fierce competition for whatever game we were playing that year. Oh yeah, and the stupid braille thing (inside joke with Linda).
5. What brand/organization in your opinion is on top of its communications game?
Donald Trump? Just kidding, sort of … as much as we dislike him, he has done an incredible job of using communications to nab the Republican nomination. It certainly isn’t his policies.
6. Talk a bit about how PR led you to what you are doing with Ignite Capital
The business of running a PR agency is ultimately what led me to starting and running Ignite (@IgniteCapital). I loved PR, but what I love even more is running a business. This was a big surprise to me as I had no educational background in business and not a lot of hands on experience. Although being an entrepreneur can be stressful, it is also very fulfilling. And my most important discovery that was that the key to success is that you need to let people help you out – with their expertise, their connections and yes, even their money. That’s what Ignite is all about – encouraging that entrepreneurial spirit and helping people who just need that little bit extra to get their business off the ground. I love helping other people succeed in business.