Talking About Hard Things and Staying On Brand with Lakesha Cole
Talking About Hard Things and Staying On Brand with Lakesha Cole

Talking About Hard Things and Staying On Brand with Lakesha Cole

Visibility goes well beyond publishing some podcast episodes or writing a few blogs. It’s about having a compelling message and sharing that message across multiple channels. And in 2020 and 2021, it’s also about navigating social justice and racial reckoning. Without it being something you simply check off your to-do list.

Let’s talk about what that looks like. Because there’s no shortage of business owners telling us that we “should” speak up and speak out (and I agree!) but no one is sharing the best way to do that. I’m so grateful that Lakesha allowed me to ask her some of those hard questions.

If you’re ready to get more exposure for your business while staying true to your messaging and beliefs, tune in now!

 

Mentioned in This Episode

 

About Lakesha Cole

Lakesha Cole is an author, advocacy influencer, serial entrepreneur, and self-proclaimed chaos coordinator.

With over ten years of experience in marketing and public relations, Lakesha is highly regarded for her ability to build powerful personal brands, increase visibility through the media, and ensure those who want a seat at the table get one.

Lakesha founded she PR at the intersection of her advocacy efforts, media expertise, and new life as a retired Marine spouse. As a longtime mentor to help women discover how to convert their interests and skills into a profitable business, she realized that she could focus her experience specifically on the empowerment and the rising influence of women. she PR amplifies the voices and communicates the stories of women-led thought-leaders looking for more freedom and creative expression with their messaging and public image.

In addition, Lakesha’s business portfolio includes advocating for the military community and shedding light on the many challenges that military families face, most notably military spouse employment. As an Advisory Board Member for the Military Family Advisory Network, Lakesha worked with her home state Senator Tim Kaine (VA) on drafting the Military Spouse Employment Act, which was later signed into law by the President. She consults and serves as a partnership liaison in introducing companies and organizations to military talent and connecting military spouses and veterans to meaningful employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Lakesha holds a B.A in Journalism and a minor in Public Relations from North Carolina A&T State University and an A.A.S. in Fashion Marketing from Parsons, the New School for Design. Before starting her own business, Lakesha worked as the Public Information Officer for Stafford County Government, as a Program Analyst for Headquarters Marine Corps, and in Business Development for Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Lakesha has been featured by the Today Show, PBS, NBC News, Attn:, CBS This Morning, Fox & Friends, Black Enterprise, Military Families Magazine, Military Spouse, and Military.com.

Lakesha and her family currently reside in Tampa, FL.

Transcription

Abby Herman  0:08  

Hey there, and welcome to Episode 151 of The Content Experiment Podcast, the podcast that supports the idea that content and marketing are ever moving targets in any business. And it’s okay if you don’t feel like you’re doing it All right all of the time. you have permission to experiment with little tweaks and changes in your content to find what works for you. What increases value for your audience, and what grows your business, and most importantly, what feels good for you. 

Abby Herman  0:39  

I’m Abby Herman, content strategist and coach for online business owners who are ready to make a bigger impact online. I firmly believe that success isn’t about what big marketing brands and so called gurus think is the right thing. It’s about you and your business, your lifestyle, and frankly, your values and belief systems, you get to do business in a way that works for you. 

Abby Herman  1:02  

Question for you. Did you listen to Episode 148, where I talked about visibility strategies beyond the blog and other pillar content? What about Episode 149 with Amelia Roberts, where we talked about connection and relationships. Both of those are incredibly powerful episodes if you’re trying to get more eyes on you. Today’s episode fits really well with those because today’s guest is Lakesha Cole, who calls herself the Olivia Pope of her friends. And by that she means that she can help solve virtually any problem with messaging. 

Abby Herman  1:40  

Lakesha and I have shared a client for some time now. And I’m incredibly impressed with her media savvy and the visibility she has helped our client get. We talk about messaging, responding to social issues without being performative, how she made a big business shift in the middle of a pandemic, the keys to public relations, success and so much more. 

Abby Herman  2:02  

But before we get to the interview, I would be ever so grateful if you take a moment to leave the podcast a rating or review. It’s how podcasters grow their audience so we can continue providing this free resource to you. And another thing I would appreciate so much is if you would take a screenshot of you listening to the episode, and then share it on social media. tag me at thecontentexperiment and Tag Lakesha at she.pr.agency. Alright, let me tell you a little bit about our guest before we dig in. 

Abby Herman  2:38  

Lakesha is an author, advocacy influencer, serial entrepreneur, and self proclaimed chaos coordinator with over 10 years of experience in marketing and public relations location is highly regarded for her ability to build powerful personal brands increase visibility through the media and ensure those who want to seat at the table get one lucky she found it cheap here at the intersection of her advocacy efforts, media expertise and new life as a retired Marine spouse. As a longtime mentor to help women discover how to convert their interests and skills into a profitable business. She realized that she could focus her experience specifically on the empowerment and the rising influence of women. 

Abby Herman  3:22  

She PR amplifies the voices and communicates the stories of women led thought leaders looking for more freedom and creative expression with their messaging and public image. Lakesha has been featured by the today show PBS NBC News, attention CBS This Morning, Fox and Friends, black enterprise military families magazine, military spouse and military.com. Lakesha and her family currently reside in Tampa, Florida. Now here is our conversation. 

Abby Herman  3:55  

Hi Lakesha! Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really excited to talk to you and to dig into PR with you.

Lakesha Cole  4:04  

Hi, thank you for having me. 

Abby Herman  4:06  

Yeah. So I like to start out by asking you, so I’ve already introduced you, but if you can share with the audience, what you do and who you do it for in your own words.

Lakesha Cole  4:18  

Absolutely. Well, my name is Lakesha Cole, and I am a PR girl at heart. I’m a professional storyteller. And I love love love using my gift to help amplify the stories and messaging of women led brands. I’m often referred to as sort of like the Olivia Pope of my friend. I am the friend that is often called upon doing like a crisis when you’re in trouble. You know when you need to share something district is of confidence. I am often that friend. I’m a plant mom to 34 bit plant babies that kind of developed his love of plants during the pandemic. 

Lakesha Cole  4:53  

What else I’m most you know, self care fanatic. I love breakfast for dinner. I eat pancakes anytime of the day. Everyone’s BFF. And listening is my superpower. Fundamental personal note, I’m a retired Marine Corps spouse, my husband retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years, about three years ago. So we are based down in Tampa, Florida. I am mom to Kaylee, Kirby, and Keegan. 

Lakesha Cole  5:18  

I’m an advocacy influencer. One of my proudest moments is helping my state Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia draft legislation to help military spouse employment issue, and then we actually get that legislation signed into law by the President. And I’m the founder and principal publicist at ShePR, and we are a boutique PR agency based in Tampa, Florida. And we help women led companies accelerate through strategy and earned media. And that’s me in a nutshell.

Abby Herman  5:49  

I love it. First of all, I love that you know that you have 34 plants? That’s a lot of plants.

Lakesha Cole  5:54  

Yes. I don’t know. We’re not gonna discuss the practice plants before I actually got to 34 plants.

Abby Herman  6:02  

Well, I have a lot of practice plants, too. Yeah, my daughter has made fun of me for buying plants. And she says, Well, I don’t know why you’re buying them, because you’re just going to kill them. And I believe the plants that I have alive for at least a year. And they’ve survived a move and they’re thriving. I don’t know how many I have, though. It’s less than 10. And I don’t know how many I have. 

Lakesha Cole  6:30  

Yes, good for you. 

Abby Herman  6:32  

kudos for knowing you have 34. And also, thank you for sharing more about like, who you are versus just what you do. Because I think like what you and I were talking before I hit record. There’s, you know, everything in our personal lives kind of bleeds into what we do in business. And I think people forget that and don’t give ourselves or one another enough grace. Because of that,

Lakesha Cole  7:02  

Yes, it is so important to tell your story, right? And not just what you do for other people. Our stories are so unique, no one has the same story. And that’s really what defines us. I know, we’ll talk more, but I always say people do business with people first, right? So people want to get to know you. And that’s not always getting to know what you can do for them.

Abby Herman  7:23  

Right, exactly. I love that. So well with that. Can you share a little bit about how you work with clients, and how you’ve structured the way you do business to help you live the lifestyle that you want?

Lakesha Cole  7:39  

Yes, so my agency is about 18 months young. And we’ve gone through some growing pains, not my first business, but definitely my first service based business. And you know, even though I have some skin in the game, you’re still not exempt from those early on growing pains, right. So we’ve had to go back and do a lot of restructuring. But we figured out a model that really works for us. And that allows us to get the results that our clients come to us for. 

Lakesha Cole  8:05  

So the different ways you can work with us is we do traditional PR. So I like to say public relations develops the story of media relation broadcast, right. And people often get those two, kind of confused or kind of intertwine them. But basically what we do is we help clients find their story and figure out what they want to say into who. And then we take that story. And we find that spot where your story sort of intersects with what your customers or clients really care about. And then we broadcast that story across different channels, whether that’s, you know, TV, newspaper, blogs, podcasts, radio, and you know, everything else that kind of falls under that. 

Lakesha Cole  8:45  

And then we do crisis management as well. We saw a lot of this, when we first launched our agency at the top of the pandemic, because no one you know, decides, hey, I’m going to start a business now. And then, you know, you just kind of roll with it. But it was we were I it was unexpected business in the sense of, I didn’t expect so many companies to reach out to us to help them craft their message around like Black Lives Matter. And, you know, the unfortunate death of George Florida and really companies wanting to, you know, wanting to speak out and wanting to be allies, but not want it to come off as performative. But wanting to get it right the first time, you know, so we help clients craft that message that felt true and authentic to who they were or who they are. 

Lakesha Cole  9:34  

And then we help clients you know, manage reputational risks, and you know, our team kind of work around the clock, when we have clients that, you know, may say things they shouldn’t post things that they shouldn’t, and we have to go in and do damage control. But we offer that crisis, consulting services so that, you know, we can help you get out of whatever bind that you’re in. 

Lakesha Cole  9:54  

And those are the sort of three different categories of where most of our client work lives. Now we are starting to get into offering like more programs because what we’ve learned is not everyone is ready to retain a put a full time PR team. So we decided that we would kind of go back and identify the sort of elements that they were missing that will make them a successful candidate for agency. And that could be anything from not having consistent personal branding or not having, you know, social proof for the things that like when you come to a pelvises, we have to have something to grab on to right. So it has to be a sweet spot in your story and your journey. But there has to be something. 

Lakesha Cole  10:37  

And we felt like we were getting clients to have a little bit of something, but we were still kind of grasping in the air to try and find what that something is. So we created what we call our key executive program. And it’ll launch in January. But that is sort of the bridge to kind of help those who aren’t quite right, ready for PR services to kind of fill in those gaps of what would make them more successful once they decide to jump over and hire a PR team. But to really help them build a brand that’s media ready. So we are excited to roll that out over the fall, launching in January. But there will be another way we’ll be able to serve as our clients.

Abby Herman  11:15  

That’s really exciting. So how does the way that you’ve structured all that help you to, you know, be a wife and be a mom to three kids? 

Lakesha Cole  11:24  

Yeah, 

Abby Herman  11:25  

and what does that look like?

Lakesha Cole  11:26  

So this is my home life. And so I don’t really like to say work life balance, it’s more of like, I guess more like a sort of like a harmony like a work life harmony, that kind of I call it to now because once you call it you started to call it harmony. 

Abby Herman  11:43  

Yes. Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. Because there is no such there’s no such thing as balance, it’s never going to be a perfect balance. I think though, I think that when we say balance we strive for like this, you know, very even balance between the two, and it’s never a perfect balance, it’s always going to be one’s going to take precedence over the other at any given time. And it’s going to fluctuate. 

Lakesha Cole  12:05  

Yes, absolutely. 

Abby Herman  12:07  

Yeah. So you have to figure out how they work together and, and, yeah, find what works for you. 

Lakesha Cole  12:13  

Yeah, so you know, I just kind of decided like after 13 years of sort of building businesses and 60 year raising kids, you know, the whole work life balance, I was really just kind of setting myself up for failure and setting like these unrealistic expectations of like keeping like these different roles at like steady equilibrium. So instead, I do the whole work life rhythm. 

Lakesha Cole  12:34  

So each week I have so like, I’m like a repeating . I guess you could say repeating patterns or so to speak of, of different beats. So it can be a mix of like business or family or friends. Or maybe there’s you know, health stuff, workout stuff, you know, self care, stuff, hobbies, and you’ve got to throw in a little bit of fun, because you can’t just all be a business, no one wants to be around the person that can only talk about business, right? Want to be able to have fun. 

Lakesha Cole  13:02  

Um, so looking at it, that way, I relieve that pressure from myself of having to be perfect and having to be, you know, making sure I get everything, there’s some times I’m gonna be honest, where I feel like I’m thriving that business, but I might be lacking, you know, as mom that we can, or I can’t, you know, be the one that picked them up from carpool every day. 

Lakesha Cole  13:21  

But my husband, I will say, now that my husband’s retired from the military, and we don’t have to move, because, you know, the military is telling us to or, you know, he’s not training to deploy or anything like that, if he wasn’t home, most of the time, I probably wouldn’t feel like I have as much rhythm and with my work and in life as I do, because he pitches in and helps a great deal. 

Lakesha Cole  13:47  

So having having that support, and then my parents, you know, being two miles up the road and having them in the rear when I need their support, it really does allow me to have like this, this, this perfect rhythm, where I can kind of touch all of those things that I mentioned throughout the week, and feel like, you know, everyone got something from me this week. And now I can give myself a little bit of something to sew in. 

Lakesha Cole  14:12  

And also just not spreading yourself too thin. I started doing time blocking about maybe about about four or five years ago. And what that is, it’s a sort of productivity technique, where it’s more for personal time management where you give a period of time, whether it’s a day or week or hours or whatever that looks like for you. And in that time is divided into like smaller segments of blocks of time specifically for certain tasks. 

Lakesha Cole  14:41  

So if I know that I have three weeks to complete a project, I will time block that I will time block the mess out of that project over two weeks, just so I can do small pieces of it every day so that I’m not overwhelmed when I’m closer to the deadline, whereas the old me would start the project two days before and then Be up, you know, working on it 14, 15 hours a day just to meet that deadline. But I have really learned when you break that down into smaller pieces, it just makes life so much easier.

Abby Herman  15:11  

Yes, absolutely. I am still the old view. But you know, what’s funny is that I interviewed someone, it’s the episodes coming out in a couple weeks. But she talks about like, what is the thing that if when your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, like how do you want to feel? And then how can you set yourself up for that? And I keep thinking about it as like, how do I want to feel tomorrow morning, when I sit down at my desk? Do I want to have a list of things that have to get done today? Or do I want to be able to like be in more in a better flow? 

Abby Herman  15:49  

So I’ve started thinking about it that way, and it’s helping, it’s definitely helping me to get a little ahead. And, and, you know, think about the future, rather than just like what has to get done right now. So 

Lakesha Cole  16:00  

absolutely, 

Abby Herman  16:01  

yeah. So I actually want to go back to something that you said a little bit ago about starting your business. And so you started your business 18 months ago, which, you know, is in the middle of, you know, the pandemic, or at the start of the pandemic, you mentioned, George Floyd and how you and the racial reckoning and and how you how people reached out to you to help you with or to get that to get your assistance in crafting the right messaging so that, like you said, it’s not just performative. So can you talk a little bit about that? 

Abby Herman  16:34  

Because I feel like there are so many things, and there’s so many things that are said and done online. And I feel like some people and I’m speaking of myself are, I know that I’m not going to say something, quote, unquote, exactly the right way. I know. And so sometimes there’s this fear of, well, if I can’t not say something, but if I say something, and I don’t say it the right way, like either way, I’m going to get called out for it. I’m going to because I see it, I’ve seen it happen. You know, I’ve seen it happen over race. I’ve seen it happen over other things as well. 

Abby Herman  17:16  

But can you share a little bit about that, and maybe at the importance of speaking out for your beliefs, and how we can do that in a way that is thoughtful, and it’s caring, and it’s appropriate?

Lakesha Cole  17:36  

Yeah, so I think the short answer to your question would be, how do you say your question was, how do you respond and and not come off performative, right? I, you know, I can’t speak for every person of color. But I would like to think that for my friends who struggle with what to say, and how to say when to say it, I had no problem reaching, or would come to me and say, I want to post something. Can you read this for me? Right? Is this insensitive? Am I this is how I feel, this is what I want to say. Am I saying that correctly? Right. 

Lakesha Cole  18:12  

So I think the first question, or the first answer would be, if you are sitting in those feelings of uncertainty, but you know, in your heart, what you believe and what you feel, it is okay to reach out to someone else to ask, is this, is this appropriate? Am I saying this correctly? Am I hitting the mark, because you, you know, you don’t want to be offensive or inappropriate. And I don’t think I always believe that when we know when we read something, and it is truly coming from a person’s heart, right? And you know, I know the moment I read something within seconds that is performative is just one of those instinct things that you just know, right? 

Lakesha Cole  18:50  

But I think the people who follow you, they know you, they know your heart, they know your character. So I think when you’re in that place, and you have those relationships with your audience, it’s never going to come off that way. It’s not so I think it’s there’s that initial fear that people have to get over of it not sounding like something, but you’re not that person, right? 

Lakesha Cole  19:12  

And so this is one of those things, you have to do a self check. You’re not that person who, who was what am I trying to say? You’re not the person who’s on the other side of the issue, right? You’re on the right side of the issue. So I always say just speak from your heart, and it’ll resonate with the right people and the way that you intended. But if you have those moments of pause, ask. 

Abby Herman  19:32  

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Thank you for that, because I wanted to bring that up, because you mentioned it, and I just feel like it’s something that Yeah, there’s, I feel like there’s still a lot of uncertainty around. So thank you for that. 

Lakesha Cole  19:47  

Yeah. 

Abby Herman  19:48  

So let’s talk about that shift in the middle of like, you know, chaos in the world and all of that. So can you share a little bit about why you made the shift and how that And it was a huge shift too. So for totally different businesses. So what did that do to your visibility? Because you had visibility prior to that. So what did that look like?

Lakesha Cole  20:12  

So it was a natural next step for me. And let me tell you why. So for those who are new to my story, I had a retail business for about eight years. And I sort of made the transition from employee to employer back in 2013, when my husband got orders to Japan, we were living in the Virginia area, and in Washington, DC at the time, we got orders to Japan, we were expected to live there for about three and a half years, potentially longer. 

Lakesha Cole  20:42  

And those of you who are part of the military community, or you know anything about what those struggles look like, it’s really hard to maintain a traditional correct career path when you’re married to someone who’s on active duty, because you can pick up and move any in from one year, two years, four years, you’re never in a place long enough to where you can kind of build that rapport with the company, right? 

Lakesha Cole  21:06  

So we went through this period of, you know, what I call discrimination of, of companies not wanting to hire you, because why would I invest time in you, you’re only going to be here for a year, right? I want to find someone who’s who’s who can be here for the long haul. So you try to find work wherever you can. And after my 10, and this is- I’m someone who I did everything my parents told me to do, go to school, get good grades, go to call us graduating on time, you get a great job, things would be great. I did everything I was supposed to do. And then you get into these towns and you are asked to move to and you can’t find work, right? 

Lakesha Cole  21:41  

So after my 10th job, I decided that, Okay, I’m going to have to create my own job because this is not working for me having to reinvent myself, every duty station just, you know, fit these jobs. And these in these sometimes small towns, it just wasn’t working. So I had to take control over my life and figure out, you know, what can I do to make money because at that point, who isn’t a two income household, right? So I needed to contribute to my household and I decided I was going to start my own business. 

Lakesha Cole  22:13  

At the time my husband was deployed. And I took $500 out of my checking account, and back then $500 was a lot of money. And we were in California. I was living in California at the time, I drove myself to the garment district in LA and I taught myself how to Buy Wholesale. Like on the fly, I came home with a bunch of merchandise, I found someone on like a Craigslist type of website to do me an e-commerce site. And within two weeks, I launched my first business and I was selling merchandise like literally out of the trunk of my car, in hair salons. 

Lakesha Cole  22:47  

At that time, I did find some part time work, my co workers were buying my you know, my friends and family and so forth. And I thought, okay, I can do this. And then fast forward to I don’t know, maybe like five years later, it actually started to grow into a real, like profitable retail brand, then we got orders to Japan. And then I had to shut everything down. Because of the agreement between the US and Japan, it doesn’t support us having businesses there, like you’re not allowed to work in a local economy. 80% of the jobs that the US brings there have to be filled by local citizens. So you can’t even work, you know, for your own government when you’re there. 

Lakesha Cole  23:28  

So I was back into this whole bubble of trying to figure out how to work against this, I have this business and now I can’t run it. And then I was able to meet the right people, get on the right stage, you know, shake enough, make enough noise to where I was able to figure out some workable solutions to allow me to continue to run my retail business. I landed a contract with the government to open my first brick and mortar store when I was in Japan. And that store was wildly successful, made enough money to open my second store when we moved back to the United States in 2016 in North Carolina, and then we opened the third store in Virginia in 2018 hurricane came through North Carolina and pretty much wiped out that town. It has recovered since but it didn’t recover quick enough for me for what I needed to be able to stay open. 

Lakesha Cole  24:21  

But I kept that location open because we were sort of like this community building place where people were entrepreneurs sort of gathered right and the city just didn’t have anything like that and I knew what I had brought to that town. It was something that was quite special that people really needed at that moment in time so we left the store open. We also didn’t want our customers to feel like we were abandoning them during, you know, a natural disaster because you know, my PR hat, that’s not the image that you want to leave out there either. Then COVID hits and then both stores go under. the North Carolina store and the Virginia store, but I really got into a plane To where, you know now hindsight, I sit back and think ‘Could I have fought harder for that business?’ And I decided, I simply just did not want to. 

Lakesha Cole  25:09  

When I started my retail business, I had one kid, now I have three kids and one has special needs, my middle child is depth. So life looks different, right, which means business looks different. And everything around me had changed. And I knew that I wanted my next business to be something that would not only allow me to financially contribute to my household, but something that was going to give you my time back. Because owning the store, you have to be in the store, you got to staff the store, you got to stop the store. I mean, just the overhead alone was ginormous, but just having to maintain that business was very stressful. And I wanted something that would bring that stress down a little bit, which I don’t think PR brings stress down a little bit. But it’s a different kind of stress, right? 

Abby Herman  25:53  

Yeah. 

Lakesha Cole  25:54  

Um, so I decided I was going to close all the locations. And literally, on a Friday, we close on the Monday that following Monday, I launched my agency, I didn’t give any time in between. and I didn’t have any of the back end systems in place, I didn’t have a fully functioning website, all I knew was I have been able to grow my retail business over eight years without having to have a real marketing advertising budget. And I’ve been able to leverage the power of PR, from you know, we get in to today’s show to, you know, CBS to NBC to all of these, you know, mainstream media outlets, all because I use the power of my journey, the power of my story, to promote my business. 

Lakesha Cole  26:40  

So I knew that I knew how to do that for myself. And I knew that I could come up with a format to where I can replicate that and do that for others. And that is why I say, pivoting into PR was a natural next step for me. Now I do have a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in PR. So it’s not like I just threw myself in an industry that I didn’t know anything about. But that’s how I got into this industry. So when I launched, I didn’t have anything in place. And I literally, have you ever heard the saying, surround yourself with people who will speak your name and rooms full of opportunities?

Abby Herman  27:13  

Oh, I thought you were gonna say something else. I was nodding my head. But No, I haven’t. I haven’t heard that one. 

Lakesha Cole  27:19  

Yes, that’s one of my favorite quotes. And that’s literally what I did. You spend all this time building relationships with people, especially American military, you meet people all over the country all over the world, I tapped into that network of people that I hadn’t even didn’t even realize I have built over the years and says, I am launching my PR agency, here’s how you can help me. And they had my roster booked for them. 

Lakesha Cole  27:45  

For the first six months, I couldn’t even bring on a new client until I actually figured out processes and procedures and putting the backend in place. And then now I need to function a website, because I launched without one and all the things you’re supposed to do you know, before you launch, I didn’t do all of those. I just kind of jumped in and said we just go swim and figure this out. And it was probably the best business move. I think I’ve made today. I have no regrets. 

Abby Herman  28:09  

Yeah, I you do not. I don’t believe that you need to have a big fancy website or any website at all to get started. Like just like what you said, like you reach out to family and friends and you tell them what you’re doing and they will take care of you. And yes, eventually you should have a website because you need to have someplace to send people to, you need to have content and all of that. So yeah, I love I love that. What a great. What a great pivot. 

Abby Herman  28:37  

Can you share a little bit about what is PR for the small business, especially like the online service based business? So you know, we think of a lot of people think of public relations as Media Relations and media mentions and all of that, but can you share a little bit broader definition of it, and what other things might be included in PR for small business?

Lakesha Cole  29:01  

Yeah, I mean, I think I mentioned it at the beginning where we were I said, you know, public relations develops the story media relation broadcast, the story probably is storytelling, it is taking your brand and tell him the truest and most genuine parts of your story to media outlets and allowing your customers to buy into your journey that way. Right. So what was the second part of your question? I’m sorry,

Abby Herman  29:30  

just what else is included in PR aside from you know, those media mentions,

Lakesha Cole  29:35  

Okay, so you know, PR for small business, I would say in addition to getting those media mentions and getting featured, that’s all nice, but that’s just a small part of it, right? PR strengthens relationships, right? prs main strength, building relationships is sort of what got us all through this pandemic, right? And those relationships can be with your stakeholders, with your board, with investors, with Your customers or clients, right? You cannot have a successful business without building the strength and, and those relationships. 

Lakesha Cole  30:06  

Pr also builds trust, right? So we are in this age where, you know, consumers are no longer making decisions based solely on, you know, the products that they sell, or the services that they offer. They’re assessing what your brand says, what it does, and what it stands for on and offline. You know, they’re supporting these companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs, and they’re rejecting those that don’t, right. So you know, you want to make sure that you have strategies in place in the right people in place who can help you, you know, build that trust with your audience. And then it also keeps your brand relevant. 

Lakesha Cole  30:44  

Of course, we talked about the media mentions and things like that. But there’s just so many different layers of PR, I think, but people just sort of see my name was featured in, but it’s really a relationship building trust building tool that you just don’t get from traditional marketing or advertising. It’s not transactional at all, it is all based on relationships.

Abby Herman  31:04  

Yes, I love that. And yeah, when you talk about consumers making decisions about, you know, what a company believes, and I can think of a couple off the top of my head that my daughter, my 19 year old daughter refuses to refuses, absolutely refuses to, you know, to support with with money, and encourages me to not support them, too, even though one of them is my favorite chicken nugget place. It’s hard, it’s hard, right? Yeah, no, but it makes sense. Like, yeah, you don’t want to, you don’t want to support somebody with their, with your money by giving them money if they don’t have similar values too so I agree. 

Lakesha Cole  31:46  

I think people come to us wanting to know how to choose, you know, social calls that make sense for their brand. You know, because people, you know, doing both doing good business is good business, right. And people also want to feel good about their purchase. So I think, you know, now we’ve seen this shift where we’re starting to see more of a human side of brands. And I personally think that’s a good thing.

Abby Herman  32:11  

Yes, I do, too. I do, too. Let’s talk, I want to talk about that for a second. So, company is making a decision on based on, like, what they should stand for, and what they should speak out against, there are so many things out there that are so important, we can’t possibly take a stand on everything we can’t possibly have, you know, put ourselves out there and make statements about everything, how do we decide what is important to us, and what’s important to the brand?

Lakesha Cole  32:40  

right, I think, you know, putting out a company statement on what your company values are, and the things that you support is a really good start. Because once you put it in writing, you’re not sort of held to the standard of having to comment on everything, people know what your passion is, and you can strictly just kind of stick to that path. That’s sort of probably the easiest solution. And there are those companies that will tweet about any and everything. 

Lakesha Cole  33:07  

But guess what, their customers react the same way. And they know that about their customers, they know that their customers are going to, you know, expect them, you know, to be outspoken about certain things, I think it just really depends on those company values that you share from day one has to really hit the mark on what those things, what things are important to you and to your brand. And then just being consistent with that. 

Lakesha Cole  33:32  

And when something happens, and it reflects that, you know, speaking out on, I can’t tell you there, there was a nonprofit that, you know, has received some funding to address, you know, racism within a certain demographic. And then when it would happen, this nonprofit would never publicly, you know, say anything. And I’m like, how is it that you receive all this money to advocate, you know, for this one issue, but you’re not advocating for the issue when it happens. 

Lakesha Cole  33:59  

So you want to be upfront, you want to be consistent. You want to be transparent, but you want to be honest, too.

Abby Herman  34:06  

Yes. So something I noticed on your Instagram account, do you have you talk about the keys to PR success, and you actually have a pie chart showing? Yeah, what that looks like you have exposure image and performance. You talk a little bit about each of those. And I specifically want to talk about exposure because that was the biggest piece of the pie on your graphic. But I want to talk about what that looks like for online service based businesses.

Lakesha Cole  34:35  

Yes, this post was funny because I was actually on a discovery call with hopefully a potential new client. And the reason she had mentioned something on the call about I was so attracted to you because you get the pie right. And I was like, I haven’t heard anyone say pi in such a long time. Now I have to go and create a whole Instagram post about it. But if it goes bad, and I think in my post, I referenced this book in power yourself the organic organizational game reveal, I think the same Harvey Colesman. Or Cole? Yes. And it’s an old book from like 1995 -96. But it’s still a classic, and it’s still very relevant. 

Lakesha Cole  35:14  

So the pieces of the pie is performance, image, and exposure. And then we talk about performance. This is about, you know, sort of like the day to day business and the quality of the results you deliver to your customers to your clients, then we talk about image, this is your, this is sort of like your personal brand. So performance is like 10% percent of the pie image is like 30% of the pie. But this is what other people think of you and the messages you send before you speak, whether it’s intentional or not. So think about what do people say about you when you’re no longer in the room? Right? That’s what we mean, we’re talking about image and then exposure is who knows about you? And what you do. 

Lakesha Cole  35:54  

And I think this part you wanted me to touch on is more of like the exposure, there’s no reason why No, none of us should have exposure around our business with social media, right? That is probably your easiest tool to leverage to generate more exposure for yourself and for your brand. It has to be a way to where, like we’re talking, my mentor used to say you have to talk about yourself in the way to where you’re even sick of hearing about yourself, right? 

Abby Herman  36:22  

Yes, 

Lakesha Cole  36:23  

And I feel that way too. Sometimes I’ll get like media requests, and I’m like, there’s got to be someone else who could talk about this, like, I’m sick of hearing myself talk about this, let me refer you to someone else, right. But that’s what that’s what we have to do in order to get the exposure that we want. Because we are under the assumption that sometimes, you know, we post it, and then we think people see it. And it’s like, no one’s really checking for us the way we think people are checking for us, you know, so you have to be repetitive, you have to be the one that continues to tell that story, or the parts of that story over and over and over again. And that’s how you begin to create this bonus exposure that you want to create around your brand. 

Lakesha Cole  37:04  

So it starts with you just talking about yourself and you’re sick of talking about yourself, and then you got to talk about yourself some more.

Abby Herman  37:11  

Absolutely, yes, I hear people say all the time. Well, I’ve already created content around that. I’ve already talked about that on the podcast. I’ve already you know, I’ve done four podcast interviews and talked about that. Well, then yeah, do for more because the same people who listened to those first four podcasts aren’t necessarily, you know, aren’t necessarily going to hear the next four podcasts and vice versa. You have to keep putting it out there because especially social media, there’s such a short life for social media. I mean, just because you typed it in you talked about something on Instagram stories today. Well, guess what? It’s going to be gone tomorrow, because it’s 24 hours later. So yeah. 

Abby Herman  37:51  

Can you share a little bit about? You’ve talked about how you help women gain freedom and creative expression in their messaging? Can you share what that means? Because don’t we already have that freedom to to express ourselves in the way we want? What What does that look like,

Lakesha Cole  38:09  

I find that a lot of clients, when they come to me, they’re, they they’re they’ve shared their stories, like on the surface level, but they’re really afraid to share the things that may like embarrass them or, you know, things that they you know, may not be ready to talk about, but could help, you know, whole population of people. But that’s what I mean, it’s getting to a point to stripping down the most vulnerable parts of your story and really using that to push your brand forward, right, because at the end of the day, you have to connect with people and you have to build relationships with people in order to get them to know you in order to get them to like you in order to get them to trust you right now. 

Lakesha Cole  38:53  

You know, the no life trust is like an age old principle from like, one of my marketing classes, way back in the day, it’s probably older than that. But it it’s really the fundamentals of storytelling and brand building is getting people to know like and trust you, if you don’t get people to buy into those three things, there’s no time there’s no use and wasting time on you know, personal branding or network, you know, building influence and building these courses or, you know, whatever it is that you’re trying to do, if you have not put the work and time energy into getting people to know like and trust you. 

Lakesha Cole  39:29  

And we like to break that down into three factors when we’re bringing our clients on board, and we’re kind of explaining to them this is what the process is and this is what our end goal is to get people to know, like and trust you. Those three factors can include authenticity, right? People really want to know that they’re interacting with the real you. Like I said, people buy from people first. They’re not buying from your business, they’re buying from you. There’s something about you that they’ve gravitated to that they’ve held on to that makes them pull out their credit card, right? into that number and hit purchase, right? 

Lakesha Cole  40:03  

So we have authenticity, then we have logic, people are trusting your judgment, because you are able to clearly outline, you’re able to clearly outline and describe the pain points of what that person is thinking. And you’re able to describe it in a way that they’re a better way that they’re able to describe it in their own head. So you have logically made that bond with that person so much better. 

Lakesha Cole  40:27  

And then there’s empathy, right? And building an emotional connection with your audience. And this, how do you do it through storytelling, right? You do it through storytelling, you do it through clear defined messaging, and with that empathy, you know, always say, sometimes, you know, being able to out care, your competitor, your competition, will also give you a huge advantage. But empathy can kind of be a slippery slope, because you also want to make sure that you’re not exploiting a crisis right? At the same time. So you want to still have that, that level of care and that level of empathy, but without exploiting a crisis or situation. But I think I answered your question somewhere in there.

Abby Herman  41:05  

Yeah, you did. And I have another question that I wasn’t planning to ask. But you brought up the word vulnerability. And I want to ask you about that. And what does that mean to you? And how much vulnerability is too much vulnerability? Like, are we what are we sharing? You know, what should we share personally, in our professional life? How much is too much? Like, when is it like TMI?

Lakesha Cole  41:31  

Yeah, well, I think it really depends on the brand. So for example, my brand is really rooted in women, women own companies, right? So I feel like I can talk about any women related issues that I want, because it’s directly related to who I am, is my personal experience. And it’s who I’m speaking to, right. So if you have that your target audience identified, and you kind of already know who you’re talking to. 

Lakesha Cole  41:57  

And so the TMI question I get that a lot is really just whatever your level of comfort is, because some things I can think of as TMI. And other people think it is funny, or other people think, Oh, my God, this is so helpful, you really helped me, you know, through this situation, or to look at something differently. So I think it’s an individual case, based on your business based on your target audience. And based on how you normally interact with your customers, or clients. I’m a natural introvert and people don’t believe that I have a friend that wish you would just stop saying that. No, I really am. I’m an introvert. 

Lakesha Cole  42:30  

So you know, what you see on Instagram, I’m probably more reserved in, in public, me, in my real life, I’m more reserved, but I know that when people see my face on Instagram, I get way more engagement, I get way more, you know, interactions, I sell more when people actually see my face and hear my voice. And I had to get over the fact of me not wanting to be the face of my business, because I just don’t want to be and I just don’t want to do, I just want to be behind the scenes. But that’s actually not what drives my business. 

Lakesha Cole  43:02  

So for me, it was fine in those though, what I was comfortable with sharing, and then starting from there, and it’s all the motherhood, you know, journey, I’ve always been sort of very transparent and open about that, if I have health concerns I’ve been I’ve always been transparent and open about that. So you know, wherever that individual comfort level is, for you, I say explore it. And you know, you do content. So you know, it’s all kind of, you know, trial and error and see what works and see what people connect to. But I think that would be the start. 

Abby Herman  43:35  

Yeah, yeah, I mean, I’ve definitely shared things about my personal life that, you know, I’ve had some family members asked me about and you know, why did you share that? And friends have asked, you know, why I shared something and But yeah, I mean, I do think that you just have to figure out like what’s comfortable for you and I’m all about being authentic and just putting myself out there. There are things I won’t share. But sometimes, sometimes I will watch somebody’s Instagram story or reads a post that they have made and I’m kind of internally cringing, like oh god that’s so much right here. 

Abby Herman  44:10  

But you know what, that just means that though that person might be a business friend of mine, I’m not their audience. I’m not the person that they’re speaking to and so, so yeah, I think it’s important to just remember that as well.

Lakesha Cole  44:23  

Yeah, you know your audience and what they like and what they care about, and you just stick to that right you don’t you don’t have to serve everyone no such thing as a everyone target audience, right?

Abby Herman  44:35  

Absolutely. And if that’s who you’re trying to target everyone that’s not very niche down and you’re gonna have a really hard time selling. Oh gosh, that like you said, this has been such a great conversation. I so appreciate you coming on and sharing with the audience all things PR and diving into a couple of topics that I hadn’t planned on talking about, but I’m so glad that we did. 

Lakesha Cole  45:00  

Yes, thank you so much for having me. And this was fun.

Abby Herman  45:03  

Yes, thank you. 

Abby Herman  45:06  

I probably could have talked to Lakesha for another hour or two. There were things I wanted to ask her that we just didn’t have time for. I guess I will just have to have her back right? I’d love her take on the three key elements of PR success, and I’ve included a link to her pie chart Instagram posts that I talked about in the episode in the show notes. Be sure to check it out. 

Abby Herman  45:29  

If you found value in what you learned here today, be sure to share it on social media, take a screenshot of the episode on your phone and share it over on Instagram stories. You can tag me at thecontentexperiment and tag Lakesha at she.PR.agency and Lakeshacole.pr. The more you share, the more we can get the podcast into the hands of more business owners just like you who need to hear the message that they are not alone. Until next time, take care

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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