Today, a Q&A with Maria Eilersen, PR coach/consultant, founder of Be Conscious PR and part-time yoga teacher
Tell us about Be Conscious PR. What made you decide to go out on your own?
After returning from a career break solo traveling around Central America and training as a yoga teacher, I started freelancing as a PR consultant while I figured out my next move. One of my first clients was an incredible team of women that had hired me to promote the launch of their intersectional feminist travel publication, Unearth Women. I felt really connected to their mission, and as a result, I landed some of the highest profile coverage in my career, including features in the New York Times and Forbes. That’s when I realized I could stay in PR without sacrificing my yogic values by working with startups and entrepreneurs who want to make a positive impact on the world, which planted the seed that eventually became Be Conscious PR.
How are you different from other agencies?
In addition to working with impact-driven business owners, what sets my agency apart is that I also teach them how to do their own PR. While I offer a done-for-you option for the brands that want to outsource their media relations, I also provide a 1:1 PR coaching program empowering entrepreneurs to be their own publicists. PR is the most cost-effective way to grow your business and make an impact – especially during a time of uncertainty, and this way, business owners are able to leverage the power of the media on their own until they’ve scaled to a place where they can hire an agency.
What does it mean to be conscious in PR?
PR without integrity is ineffective. Yet, PR gets a bad rap, often seen as the profession that puts a positive spin on bad news or helps companies make empty promises. A conscious approach to PR means being aware, awake and intentional. It asks brands to be mindful of the impact their products or services have on the world, to reflect that in their communications and to demonstrate their values through action. Consumers want to support brands that support the causes they care about, and want to see companies participate in broader issues that are relevant to their mission by providing a platform, educating or advocating for positive change. In 2021, being conscious is integral to connecting to your audience on a deeper level and building trust. To be conscious, you need to be mission driven, sense check your content, be authentic, check your bias and be transparent.
How did you find your first clients?
I leaned into my network, approached the small businesses that I thought could use my services and made sure everyone in my community knew what I was doing. Personal recommendations go a long way, especially when you’re first starting out, and I still get clients through word of mouth. I also prioritized media outreach on behalf of Be Conscious PR to build my credibility as a founder, PR coach and agency owner.
How has the pandemic impacted the way you run your agency and work with clients?
In a lot of ways, the pandemic has showcased the power of PR. When Covid first hit, marketing campaigns were scrapped or paused because promoting products without acknowledging the new normal would’ve appeared tone deaf. In PR, our job is always to position our stories to be newsworthy and relevant to the media cycle at any given time, which allowed companies to bolster their brand reputation at a time of great uncertainty without appearing insensitive. For example, a client of mine was featured in CNBC International sharing how they moved their business model online when the lockdowns began, allowing them to retain their clients and stay top of mind during the pandemic.
As a result, I’ve found it easier to demonstrate the value of PR to prospective clients despite tighter budgets because there is so much tangible proof that it’s a sensitive way to promote your business.
The pandemic has also normalized remote working, which was how I had always envisioned I’d run my agency, allowing me to work with both local and international clients with ease.
How do you think teaching PR to entrepreneurs will impact agency retention?
It’s unsustainable for an entrepreneur to do their own PR long-term, but it’s a way for them to get a taste of what’s possible and scale to a place where they can afford to outsource. Plus, having more business owners understand how PR works will make for far better agency clients.
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