Beth McRae is president of The McRae Agency, celebrating 25 years in 2020. She has represented clients for PR work in numerous industries and has notable clients such as Google, Sprint, CBRE, KB Home, Sunny Delight and Solatube International, to name a few. She has received over 45 awards for her work, including the Bank of America Enterprise award. She has a journalism degree, a marketing degree and an MBA, unusual for her field.
- CEO Hack: Meditation
- CEO Nugget: There gonna be many business cycles, set money aside to you through tough times
- CEO Defined: Leading with kindness
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello. Hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Beth McRae of The McRae Agency. Beth, it’s awesome to have you on the show.
Beth McRae 0:39
Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
Gresham Harkless 0:41
No problem. Super excited to have you on and I want to read a little bit more about that so you can hear about all the awesome things that she’s doing. And Beth is president of The McRae Agency, celebrating 25 years in 2020. She has represented clients for PR work in numerous industries and has notable clients such as Google, Sprint, CBRE, KB Home, Sunny Delight and Solatube International, to name a few. She has received over 45 awards for her work, including the Bank of America Enterprise award. She has a journalism degree, a marketing degree and an MBA, unusual for her field. Beth, are you ready to speak to the iamceo community?
Beth McRae 1:20
I am I really am happy to be here and excited to talk about my profession and what bits of wisdom I can share.
Gresham Harkless 1:26
Yeah, absolutely. You have so much experience with that so many great things. So before we jump more into hearing about that, I want to hear how you got started, could you take us through what I call your CEO story? What led you get started with your business?
Beth McRae 1:38
Certainly I was, you know, your typical college student and know what I wanted to do. My parents said, you’d be great in PR. And I was like, What is PR and I had no idea. And then I started taking the courses and the degree programs and realized I really loved it. And I actually am doing what I studied in college, which doesn’t always happen for people. So I’ve been blessed to have this career for 25 years, I worked at a large agency called McCann, it’s probably one of the biggest agencies in the world. And that’s how I got my career started. And then shortly after that, I went out on my own, and that was 25 years ago. So I’ve been running my own show that whole time and getting to work with some pretty amazing clients over the years.
Gresham Harkless 2:20
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, as you said, you know, it’s definitely a blessing to get the opportunity to study something, and then be able to continue to kind of sharpen the saw and get the experience with a big company and starting your own company. So yeah, no shortage of experience, it sounds like,
Beth McRae 2:33
That’s right, and I did the internships and you know, the things that they always tell you to do to get the experience to land that first job. And then you know, kind of work my way up the ladder at McCann before I went out on my own. And one of the reasons I did go out on my own is because as much as I love McCann and the experience I got there, they would bring in all the like the head of the agency and the vice presidents and all this to the first meeting with the client, and then the client would literally never see them again, and I the junior level person at the time would be doing all the work. And I thought, Oh my gosh, that’s not what they’re paying for. They deserve some senior level people on their on their account. So when I went out on my own, I said, I’m never going to do that to my clients, I’m going to be involved in every one of their accounts. And that is something that has differentiated me from others over the years, because that’s just not the way the model usually works. You know, it’s usually here, you get to meet the senior people, and then off, you got the junior level people to actually do the work.
Gresham Harkless 3:33
Yeah, that makes so much sense. And I feel like I’m definitely you know, correct me if I’m wrong, I feel like it seems like that kind of I don’t know, if I would call it attention or just the the value that you provide, that manifests itself and probably comes out in the work that you do as well to when you’re really able to, to kind of have that that touch on each of the clients you get to work with.
Beth McRae 3:52
They love it. They like having the senior most person, you know, visible and working on their account.
Gresham Harkless 3:58
Yeah, absolutely. So could you take us through a little bit more for people that may not be familiar with PR, could you take us through how exactly you serve the clients you work with?
Beth McRae 4:06
Sure. So the main reason we get hired is because people, companies etc, want exposure and they love news coverage. So news coverage is still the holy grail out there. And people still really want traditional print broadcast, you know, etc, etc. Like that. Even though in our field we’ve expanded to include all the digital media as well. But the number one reason we get hired is for publicity, as we call it. So from there, we can do things like manage their social media, helped them with trade shows, if they’re, you know, working trade shows as part of what they do for their brand. We give them we do strategic planning sessions where we’re leading them through a strategic process and helping them kind of figure out the roadmap for where they need to go with marketing and PR. We have put on events. Pr is actually kind of a nice umbrella. term for anything, you know, PR stands for public relations, right. So it’s the relations with your public, you know, the relationships you’re developing with your constituents, you know, whoever they may be. And that can include everything, from your customers, to your employees to investors, you know, any kind of audience that you need to communicate with, falls under that realm of public relations. So we structure those plans accordingly to address and you know, there’s different messages for each of those, what you say to your customer is different than what you say to your employees, or your investors or the community at large. So that that is kind of what public relations is. So it’s actually a really big broad term. And so many things can fall under it now. And especially with all the digital and social media that we have, those are all channels, by which we communicate with the different audiences. So it’s an amazing, fascinating time to be in this field. Because when I started in the profession, you know, you had magazines, radio, TV, and they were limited, you know, like, it was more narrow, you know, you had three main TV channels, you didn’t have cable, the cable and everything. I’m dating myself tremendously. But then, of course, with the Internet, and social media and the advent of all of those things, it just opened it up so big and huge and wide, and allowed us to go direct to the audiences on behalf of clients without having to always go through the traditional media, which is nice, you know, you can have a blog, you can have a podcast, you can have a webinar, you can, you know, communicate through different social media platforms, there are so many ways now to communicate directly with whoever your audiences are, and not having to solely rely on news coverage.
Gresham Harkless 6:46
Yeah, that makes so much sense. And that opportunity, going to direct to consumer has, you know, completely blown up. But I love how you, you know, broke that down. Because I think when you start thinking about how am I relating? How am I connecting with the public, it starts to open up those are that perception, I guess I should say, as far as like how, in the ways by which you can do that, as you mentioned, events, obviously, the more traditional ways that you mentioned, as well as you, but even the blogs and the New Age kind of things as well to provide that opportunity to create those relationships.
Beth McRae 7:15
Yes, it’s amazing. I just love all the possibilities and opportunities that are available to all of us, no matter if you’re, you know, a sole proprietor or you’re an executive at a company or running a company or an entrepreneur. I mean, anybody can take advantage of all of these things that we have available.
Gresham Harkless 7:33
Yeah, absolutely. So now I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for you, personally, or your business. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?
Beth McRae 7:42
Well, as I mentioned, a lot of the larger agencies do I call it bait and switch, because I don’t really know what else to call it, it’s like here you can see the senior level people and you’re probably not going to see them again, they’re not going to be working on your business. So what sets us apart is I’m involved. I’m the senior person, I’m the president of the agency. I’ve been running it all these years and worked on all these amazing, you know, high level brands, and can take lessons from those and you know, bits of their playbook and repurpose them, even for smaller companies, you know, we can retool stuff like that. But I’m the one with all that institutional knowledge. So I think it’s important that my clients be able to access that and I can share it with them and provide the advice and the direction and you know, actually do some of the pitching to the news media even. So that sets us apart. The fact that I have an MBA definitely sets us apart and was PR people don’t, you know, go beyond their degree in college. And, and the fact that I have a journalism degree that that’s a bit unusual to so I, you know, was trained as a journalist, so I kind of understand how the news media work and what they want, what they don’t want. I write like a journalist, they adhere to something called Associated Press style, which is the guidebook for journalists, you know, if you look at the New York Times, or whatever you like to read or watch, you will notice that they have a certain, you know, stuff they kind of adhere to, especially the print publications like that. So, you know, those are some of the things that set me apart, I actually wrote a book. It’s called 121 ways to build buzz. And it’s literally just a lean, mean, boom, boom, boom, boom, like, if you’re just struggling and you can’t come up with anything and you’re brainstorming, and you’re like, what, what can I do for my brand? or What can I do for my business? Right now, this book, just list 121 great ideas that I’ve used over the years for different clients, and you can just, you know, pull something out of there, or maybe it sparks another idea. So I’ve made it super user friendly. It’s not got a bunch of just crazy narrative or, you know, esoteric, you know, theory or anything like that. It’s just literally lean mean, here’s what you can do for your business. So that probably sets me apart a little bit.
Gresham Harkless 9:55
Nice. And I absolutely love that enough. Of course, I’m sure it’s written in APA style. I remember, of course, and I remember that from my English major days of having to be able to write, and in that specific way, but I love, you know, those different aspects, because I think that again, a lot of times, especially with PR, from my understanding as well, too, is a lot of times you have to kind of understand what many different people want the person that’s writing and creating the content, but also the people that are going to be reading it, and to be able to kind of have those different hats and be able to understand it from a holistic way. Sounds like it helps out a lot.
Beth McRae 10:27
Absolutely. And what you give to one member of the press, you know, you can’t take that same thing and just spam it, you know, to everybody, it’s really important to understand what that writer let’s say, writes about typically what they like, you know, what’s going to be appropriate for their readers and really customize those messages. So that’s one of the things we take great care and doing is really making sure the message is customized. And it’s not just the same thing just kind of blasted across the universe. And you know, that’s what we do on social media to write what you put on, say, Pinterest, or what you tweet about is not going to be the same thing you’re going to do on tik tok, or Instagram, or whatever your particular platforms are. They’re different audiences, they’re different formats and messaging. So you know, it’s just something for all of us to think about, you know, especially for out there posting, right, which everybody’s doing. So if you’re doing it for business, you know, you really have to put some thought into who your audience is, and what kind of messages are going to resonate for them. And then you tailor it accordingly.
Gresham Harkless 11:29
I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app or book or habit that you have, but what’s something that makes you more effective and efficient.
Beth McRae 11:39
Okay, so this is perhaps gonna be unusual. But meditation is something it’s a buzzword right now, in a lot of places and in the business realm. And it’s actually a fantastic tool, I think. And it really helps settle my mind and clear the space and allow me to do my job better. And there’s a great app, it’s free. It’s called insight timer. So it’s AI n si ght timer, and it’s available, you know, for Apple, Android, etc. And it gives you the option of just thousands of meditations. And you could do it for five minutes. If you’re just like, I can’t meditate, I can’t sit still that long. It offers five minute meditations, and then 30 minute, and then hour long, or whatever. So there’s everything in between. and you can pick different topics.
Gresham Harkless 12:25
So now it asked me for what I call a CEO nugget. And this could be a word of wisdom or piece of advice, it could be around PR. Or if you were to happen to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self?
Beth McRae 12:36
Well, I would I would tell myself, my younger self is that there are going to be many business cycles of different types. And you need to stash a chunk of money away somewhere and not touch it. Because there are going to be things like the tech implosion in Silicon Valley, or throughout the country. Actually, I was I had an office in San Francisco when that happened. So it was really, really quite scary. And then the Great Recession, and then right now, so it’s just so important to have money set aside to get through those tough times. And that’s something I never really occurred to me when I was starting out. And that there were going to be, you know, crazy things like when I started my agency, it was in California in San Diego. And we got hit shortly thereafter with a recession in California. This is in the 90s, of course. And so I immediately got hit with that and realized, whoa, that and it affects clients, because one of the first thing clients do in those tough times is they’ll cut PR and marketing. Yeah. Which maybe they shouldn’t do, right? You can argue it either way that perhaps you needed more than ever, when when you’re going through a downturn of some sort. But anyhow, just make sure you have money stashed away to get through those tough times. And, you know, it’s it’s great advice for anybody in any business.
Gresham Harkless 13:52
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. So now wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we’re hoping to have different, quote unquote, CEOs on the show. So Beth, what does being a CEO mean to you?
Beth McRae 14:02
Well, for me, it starts with leading with kindness. And, you know, I always give my employees the benefit of the doubt. And I approach them clients, everyone, as you know, I don’t really know what’s going on in their lives, and they could be faced with something really, you know, terrible or traumatic, or something could be going on that particular day. And they’re out of sorts. And so I find leading with kindness gives the opportunity for us to work through whatever the thing is, that’s happening.
Gresham Harkless 14:35
Awesome. Well, I truly appreciate that definition. And I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do was passionate Mike, so to speak, just to see if there’s anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you’re working on.
Beth McRae 14:49
Sure. Um, yeah, I just hope everybody gets through this not only survives, but thrives. And we all just have to stick together and that’s where the leading Kindness comes in or just acting with kindness. If we can practice that and just stick together and you know, have each other’s backs, we’ll get through it. I know we will. And I, somewhere, there’s going to be this great light at the end of the tunnel and things are going to somehow be okay. And we’re going to be able to get back to thriving again. And the way people can get ahold of me is they can call me at 602-330-1996 or they can email me at Beth, firstname.lastname@example.org which is mcraeagency.com.
Gresham Harkless 15:36
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Beth, we will have the links and information in the show notes just so that everybody can follow up with you. But again, I appreciate that. And I think you know, during a time like this, where there’s so many things going on, and you know, we forget that human aspect of business where we’re all kind of dealing with so much you never know what somebody’s dealing with, I think if you’re kind and you can have that as part of our, like religion and our philosophy and every aspect that we’re doing, but it just starts to make, you know, the world a better place and helps us all be able to kind of get through those challenging times.
Beth McRae 16:04
Gresham Harkless 16:06
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day,
Beth McRae 16:09
I think I hope you do too. And I think you seem like very kind person to me. So I really enjoyed getting to know you today.
Gresham Harkless 16:16
Yes, absolutely. I try to be I try to display that kindness as much as possible. So I appreciate you as well.
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