Today, we feature a Q & A with Kyle Porter who is an ex-entertainment marketer turned communications entrepreneur who was just announced CEO of CMW Media, a PR and marketing firm specializing in emerging markets such as sustainable technologies and cannabis. He is a native Arizonian who got his BA in Marketing from Northern Arizona University.
After completing his degree, Porter began his career working with various event and marketing agencies and was able to scale start-up agencies into multi-million dollar organizations. He specializes not only in communications and marketing, but oversees accounting, human resources, and business development.
What are some things your agency has done to pivot toward our ‘new normal”?
Like most other agencies, we have gone mostly remote. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have had only two in-person client meetings and one all-staff meeting. While organization can be tough when managing a team remotely, our staff has proved its resilience and shown that this new remote style working environment is here to stay. As for other ways that we have pivoted, we have worked closely with clients, mostly long-term ones, who needed additional time to pay their invoices. We understand that the inclination would be to cut us so we felt it would be best to be flexible with them during these hard times. As such, I can proudly say that most if not all have caught up on their bills and retained us headed into 2021. Give a little to gain more on the backend was our strategy.
Do you think the pandemic has hurt or helped the PR industry as a whole? Explain.
In my opinion, if anything, the pandemic and quarantine have only highlighted the need for PR and digital exposure. With tradeshows and in-person events canceled and traditional advertising avenues put on hold, businesses were able to witness the power of PR in action, from the homes. While PR must continue to evolve due to the digital transformation of the media landscape, it remains one of the only ways to garner credibility and thought leadership in an authentic way. While social and political sphere has added an additional layer of difficulty to breaking through the COVID-19, we have been able to do it and garner coverage for our clients when they need it most.
What is your best piece of advice for firms who are struggling during these unprecedented times?
My best advice is to be flexible. I keep saying it but only because of how firmly I believe it. We all know that the agency model has been changing for a long time and I think the pandemic has only exacerbated that. Agencies must be flexible in the ways their employees work and how they work with clients. In addition to offering our clients extended terms to remain on during the crisis, we have begun offering more al la carte/per project pricing that I usually didn’t before. While I don’t prefer this model, it usually leads to building of a relationship with the client, which turns into a larger, more consistent account in the future. In terms of our team, we set a policy for remote work that opened the door to setting more flexible hours. My biggest concern was the team not getting burnt out, working from home and just tuning out. We have tried to do some team-building things but I also believe that empowering your team to take time for their own mental health goes a long way towards having a good culture.
In summary, for firms who are struggling, my advice is this: focus on doing what you promise to your clients and getting results – the business will come. Do good business, don’t just burn and turn clients in order to keep cash flows up for a big staff or fancy office. Do good work, in a lean way, and you will be ultimately successful.
How have your previous roles in the events industry helped you be successful in PR? Specifically, has it helped you navigate COVID-19 pandemic struggles?
I definitely still have some PTSD from my time in the events industry. They say it is one of the most stressful jobs in the world, under military service and first responders — and I can agree to that. Working in events gave me a tough skin against the stress of PR. Breaking news, product launches, and crisis communications can be very stressful but at least we’re able to do most of the work from a desk versus putting out fire after fire on-site at a mega event. That ability to handle stress from event planning also added to my ability (at most times) to handle the stress of the pandemic’s effect on our business. While I certainly was not flawless (I admit I had a real breakdown around April/May when we were trying to get the PPP), I was mostly able to stay positive and let that trickle down through the organization. The humbled honesty is my team handled it way better than I did. We were all a little skittish that first week or so, but after that everyone just kept going, fighting through and getting results. I would be nowhere without my team and I truly appreciate them every single day!
Tell us about your recent promotion to CEO. What are you most excited about in your new role?
I have been in executive leadership at the firm for many years now so the transition to CEO is not as huge of a leap as many think. I think in a way I was already doing a lot that needed to be done in order to prepare myself for the role. As I always share with people I meet, my biggest professional advice is to act like you already have the job you want and someone will give it to you. Don’t just wait to be given it. Nonetheless, I am excited to move us towards a more integrated approach to our services as it relates to digital communications and marketing. That is the future in my opinion and the more we can stay ahead of that curve, the better positioned we will be in the media landscape of the future.
What’s the most exciting thing about doing PR for emerging markets?
I always tell my team that there is no path set forth for us and that we must forge it ourselves. Firms have been doing hospitality or entertainment PR for decades, no one has owned a firm specializing in sustainable technologies, cryptocurrencies, or cannabis for more than a decade because those industries didn’t exist. It’s exciting to be able to create these markets from scratch. While we have clients of all sizes, most, if not all, of our clients’ companies are less than 10 years old, making them mid to start-up size. The fun part here is that we get to tell their whole story — from pitch deck to IPO. It’s such an exciting prospect, seeing a company bring their vision to life and being a part of that process and then sharing it with the world. I wouldn’t trade our niche for anything!
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