For Wendy Guarisco, founder and chief media strategist for the Guarisco Group, the virtual world of work wasn’t a big adjustment.
Her team has been virtual since 2001, and so perhaps she was more prepared than some to weather the shocks of COVID-19. However, there were plenty of other challenges, and the pace of change hasn’t abated for communications pros.
What are the tools and tactics that are helping this PR leader get through the day? She dishes to us in our latest in the “Day in the Life” series:
1. What’s the first thing you do every day when you wake up?
Guarisco: Not look at my phone or turn on the TV. I think it’s important to take the first hour of the morning to get centered and focus on what you want to accomplish during the day before opening up the fire hose of information. Whether I use that hour to exercise or meditate or just step outside to watch the sunrise, it sets the tone for the rest of the day and makes me feel that I can face anything.
2. Who is the most important person you talk to every day?
Guarisco: My daughter! She is just launching her career (she’s a production assistant on a TV show) and we really enjoy a quick chat while she’s driving to work. We talk about what each of us has on tap for the day. She’s 24 and has such fresh insights! I love to bounce ideas off her.
3. When do you plan to go back into the office?
Guarisco: I never left. My company has been virtual since 2001 so that was one pivot we didn’t have to make last year. We didn’t face challenges with technology, productivity or communication like other companies who had to transition from conducting business in- person to virtual. And when media started conducting all interviews virtually, it actually opened up more opportunities for our clients to get coverage in markets where they otherwise wouldn’t have had access.
4. What’s a new tool you have discovered that you just can’t live without?
Guarisco: Should I say Clubhouse and pretend I’m one of the cool kids? Actually I’m really liking Trello these days. We use it to keep track of each client’s media appearances (including those that got canceled or that they declined) as well as the number of calls/meetings we had with them during each month. It’s a great snapshot view of the value we’ve delivered to an individual client.
5. What was your favorite work memory from 2020?
Guarisco: Pre-lockdown, it would have to be the last time I was able to travel.
Last March, I made a quick trip to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore just before everything shut down. I love getting out to visit clients and media friends and can’t wait until we can do that on a regular basis again. Zoom just isn’t the same. It can’t compete with getting a peek at your client’s world by meeting up at their favorite neighborhood coffee shop or popping in to see a friend produce a live broadcast of a favorite news program.
Once the lockdown started, we became our clients’ partners more than ever. We helped them shape their message to do the most good in guiding audiences through the challenges of the pandemic, whether it was medical news, parenting guidance, business and financial advice, mental health insights or whatever the news of the day dictated. We also helped companies quickly shift their in-person sales presentations to a virtual setting, teaching them how to adjust their content to keep their customers engaged on video calls, and we shared tricks of the trade they could use to perfect their virtual stagecraft.
6. What has been the biggest “lesson learned” in your career?
Guarisco: Know what you don’t know and find someone who knows it.
I wish I had sought business guidance sooner than I did. I thought all that mattered was knowing media and storytelling, but there’s a lot more to running a business than being good at what you do. You need someone who can see the big picture, plan for growth, protect you legally and taxwise, and so much more.
Alex Muñoz is my business shaman. He works with clients across the country and internationally. I highly recommend that any solopreneur or entrepreneur call him sooner rather than later.
7. What’s your No.1 message to clients, co-workers or employees for 2021?
Guarisco: To all of them: We got this! My grandfather used to always say “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.” We all went through the roughest sea imaginable last year, and we’re still here! Let’s take all the lessons we learned about being nimble and creative and brave and do all that and more in 2021.
8. What makes you hopeful about the future of PR?
Guarisco: There’s a constant stream of new media entering the marketplace so the number and types of media outlets where we can place our clients is growing every day. New shows, new magazines, the flourishing of owned media and branded content, all the alphabet soup of VOD, OTT, IPTV. It’s a very exciting time to be working with “the press” and it ensures that our industry is more valuable than ever.