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IAM1785 – Public Relations Veteran Helps Client’s Vision to Life through Creative Thinking and Strategies

Podcast Interview with April White

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless Jr. interviews April White, a public relations veteran, official TEDx speaker, and founder of Trust Relations. With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry, April has worked with clients across numerous industries, from Fortune 100 companies to startups, and has represented an impressive roster of clients and their executives over the course of her career. She is also an official contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Newsweek, and co-hosts three original podcasts.

Throughout the episode, April shares valuable insights on public relations and integrated marketing, emphasizing the importance of creative thinking and strategy in bringing clients' visions to life. She also discusses her journey starting her own agency, Trust Relations, and her vision for creating a company with no toxic culture and the best talent for clients.

In addition to sharing her expertise, April offers practical tips and advice for entrepreneurs and business leaders. She recommends listening to audiobooks and podcasts for personal and professional growth, dividing the day in two to maximize productivity, and taking care of oneself first in order to avoid burnout.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights and advice for anyone looking to improve their public relations and marketing efforts, particularly in the context of entrepreneurship and agency work.

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Transcription:

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April White 00:00

Everything you do at the top trickles down. So if you have any psychological hang-ups, like my issues with boundaries, right? If you have anything that you need to work on as a human, those things will affect your entire company and it will manifest in everything that everyone else does.

It'll manifest in the kind of people you attract, whether that's clients or team members.

Intro 00:25

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 are in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:52

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit over 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we are repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are gonna be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and what I like to call CB Nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on the visibility game, a.k.a. marketing, advertising, PR, and sales. I often say the name of the game is being found in these tools will help you to do that. We have heard the philosophical question if the tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? If there's a really, really great product or service and no one knows about it, How great is it really? What impact does it ultimately make?

This is where we will go into this month looking at visibility, branding, marketing, public relations, sales being the lifeblood of businesses, building, meeting companies, and so much more. This is probably one of the most exciting and probably the most excruciating topics, but we hope this month to demystify or maybe even vanquish the fear and help and arm you with the tools to be able to increase your visibility. So buckle up, sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO Podcast.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have April White of Trust Relations.

April, excited to have you on the show.

April White 02:22

Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.

Gresham Harkless 02:25

Yes, you're doing so many phenomenal things, and we're gonna get a little bit more into that. Before we get into the conversation, I wanted to read a little bit more about April, so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

April is a public relations veteran, official TEDx speaker, and founder of Trust Relations. April has nearly 20 years of industry experience counseling and implementing campaigns on behalf of clients across numerous industries, from Fortune 100 companies to startups. She worked at the world's best agencies in New York City, including Weber Shandwick, Edelman, Rubenstein Public Relations and Spong before starting her own firm and has represented an impressive roster of clients and their executives over the course of her career.

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Among the clients she has counseled are MasterCard Worldwide, MetLife International, Sotheby's International Realty, Hyatt, Rosetta Stone, Petco, American Standard, the Dannon Company, YellowTail Wines, Sealed Air, and Music. April as an official contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Newsweek and co-hosts three original podcasts including the PR Wine Down, Hype Busters, and Trust Relations, the podcast.

She also recently won the Gold Stevie Award for Most Innovative Woman of the Year in Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations. April, let me clap that up, you're doing so many awesome things.

Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

April White 03:45

And after that, I just wanna crawl under the table. I'm so embarrassed. It's so weird hearing all of this stuff about yourself. I just think of myself as like the girl next door and ah.

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Gresham Harkless 03:54

Yes, absolutely. I was gonna definitely say you could drop the mic, but I think you're doing so many phenomenal things. We should just slam the mic down because you're doing an awesome, awesome job. So I appreciate you taking some time out to be on the show.

April White 04:06

I appreciate it. No, I'm just happy to be here.

Gresham Harkless 04:08

Yes, absolutely. So what I wanted to do to try to kick everything off was hear a little bit more about how you got started. The girl next door does all this awesome PR work.

Could you take us through how you became that and how you're doing all these awesome things?

April White 04:19

Yeah, for sure. So after having worked for a lot of the biggest agencies in New York, as you mentioned, I decided to bounce out and become a freelancer for a few reasons. Just wasn't in love with the agency culture, wasn't in love with how it all felt for various reasons, which I'll get into in a polite way. I decided that was the way to go. Then the freelance work started to take off and I had to make a decision, okay, am I gonna turn clients away? Am I gonna go bigger? And I'm a big believer in life that when you see something that needs to be done better, it's not a complaint box for you to Put some complaint to the universe and just complain about it endlessly. I think it's actually your assignment to go fix it and do it better if you have the tools to do it.

So in this case, I thought, you know what? I'm gonna go try to build the agency I wish existed, and I'm gonna go try to build one that doesn't have a toxic culture. One that's actually inclusive. One that actually is doing right by clients by giving them the best talent that they can possibly have for their accounts rather than pretending that what we're putting forward is actually sufficient for the budget that they're paying. So I went out and just ripped it all apart and started it all over from the beginning and decided that it was a little bit of a crazy thing to do, to say, I wanna build this thing that doesn't exist. I don't know if it's possible, but let me try.

So, here we are and it's almost four years later. It has actually come to pass, which is amazing. Seeing your vision for something that comes to fruition before your eyes, I don't think there's any greater gift in life. It's been really phenomenal and really difficult to get there, but that's really why it started to make it what I thought it needed to be and also to provide a safe haven then for the publicists in the industry who were otherwise, not very kind environments. There's a lot of toxicity in PR and also advertising and marketing, especially in the industry in the agency world.

This is an opportunity for me to expand on my love of providing homes for those in need. So I have a lot of animals that I keep rescuing. I now have three dogs and three cats and two goats. So this is like a natural extension of my sort of bighearted approach to life and just wanting everyone to have a safe home.

Gresham Harkless 06:38

Nice. I love that. Do you feel like that's something that you always maybe even had to say, I don't wanna use the word defines, but it feels like it's just saying, I wanna create this not just for myself, but to be able to make an impact, whether it be for the animals.

Do you feel like that's something that's just in your nature to say, Hey, we're gonna do this better, and it might be hard and it might not go exactly the way I want it to go, but I'd rather do it and try than have that regret.

April White 07:03

I think so. The interesting thing is, I'm not a naturally contrarian person. I always shy away from conflict. So that's not where it's coming from. It's really coming from wanting things to be better. Even when I started, I studied journalism in college, and the whole reason was I wanted to be the watchdog of society that was protecting people, right? So there is something innate in me that I think just wants to protect other people and care for them, so this is really a natural extension of that.

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The irony of it is that I actually have become an industry disruptor, which is not in my nature to be necessarily calling people on the carpet and trying to say you're doing it wrong. That's not even really where it's coming from. But it is more of a, there's got to be a better way to do this. There's got to be something more beautiful than what we have.

Gresham Harkless 07:52

Awesome, awesome, awesome. So I now I wanted to drill down a little bit more, hear how you work with your clients, how that process goes. Could you take us through a little bit more about that and how you serve the clients you work with?

April White 08:02

Yeah, absolutely. So, when we first started, I was very PR centric. We were just doing public relations. Over time, I realized that we actually would be better at serving clients if we were more integrated into the marketing side of things. So we started bringing integrated marketing. A couple of reasons for it, one was that I was talking to prospects who sometimes thought they were ready for PR, but who weren't quite. My option at that point was to take their money and pretend they were or to send them away and tell them to come back when they were further along.

I don't think either is very helpful, depending on the client, especially if all they need is a new website or something like that, or they need their social media to look populated or whatever it is that they need before we can actually go to the top tier press. So what I started doing by bringing in a marketing agency that I essentially have folded in as our marketing arm is now if they come to me and they need something and they need a rebranding, okay, cool. Let's start with rebranding. Let's do that. Then let's move into PR once that's all up and running so that we aren't wasting PR efforts on a brand that's no longer gonna be a brand in four months.

That's really what we're doing. We tend to work with clients on a retainer basis. But the other thing that we do that's pretty unique is we work on a point system. So the point system basically gamifies client's monthly retainer into, a certain number of points that they get to spend per month. Then everything that we do from marketing to PR, each has its own point allocation. That's something we do that I think is pretty unique. Clients tend to really like it because I think they feel like they know exactly where the budget's going. They can always then report to their higher-ups what's happening.

It's just really crystal clear to them that they get to have a hand in what we're doing as well. So, we're still driving, of course, and we're still setting the strategy, but we're not expecting them to do that. But we're at least leaning on them to give feedback and approval of the things that we're doing.

Gresham Harkless 10:04

Awesome. Love it, love it. I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

April White 10:17

That's a very good question. So one thing that I really like to do is listen to podcasts. So, and I'm not just saying that because I'm on this podcast. It's very difficult as an owner to find enough time to read books and things like that. So audiobooks and podcasts for me are a really great way of trying to keep up on the latest and greatest leadership tactics, techniques, et cetera. Or if there's something that you need to work on personally, like I'm working on boundaries.

So one thing that has worked for me at least is dividing my day up in two by basically doing a blast of work during the workday where everyone else is working, taking a break, maybe going for a quick walk with the dogs, making myself dinner, maybe watching some Netflix, whatever for a short amount of time, maybe one or two hours and then going back to work after that. So at least it feels like you started.

If possible, and I know this isn't always possible, depending on where people live and, the amount of space they have, I also like changing my work location for day two. So day one, like the first half of the day, usually takes place where I am now, with the lighting, et cetera. Part two of the day, which normally doesn't involve video calls, is usually in a different part of the house, so I just feel like I'm not back at this chained at the same desk and working here until midnight, which or sometimes 2:00 AM which can happen.

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So again, don't recommend this, but I do know that sometimes it's just not possible to do it, in eight or 12 hours. So, that's one of my hacks is just breaking it into two workdays within one.

Gresham Harkless 11:55

Awesome. Awesome. What would you consider to be what I like to call a CEO Nugget? Little bit more words of wisdom or piece of advice? I like to say it might be something you would tell your favorite client, or if you hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

April White 12:08

Oh, I like this. Okay. So one thing that I have learned over time is that you are your brand and you are your company, right? So you have to take care of yourself first and there are a lot of reasons for this. The obvious one is that if you burn out and you can no longer do the job, then the company is gone.

The other reason it's important is that what I have realized is that, everything you do at the top trickles down. So if you have any psychological hang-ups, like my issues with boundaries, right? If you have anything that you need to work on as a human, those things will affect your entire company and it will manifest in everything that everyone else does. It'll manifest in the kind of people you attract, whether that's clients or team members, and so it's really important.

Take the time. Nobody's ever perfect. We're not. It's always a journey. You don't arrive. Okay. I'm there now. If you think that you have, then you've gone backward.

Gresham Harkless 13:08

Absolutely. What would you consider to be the answer to my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. Our goal is to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So April what does it mean to you to be a CEO?

April White 13:20

So I think being a CEO is basically like being a parent of a company or brand. I think that it requires the same level of dedication and I think a lot of us that are founders of things can attest to the fact that I'm sure, and I don't actually have children, but I've watched other people have children. I imagine it would be like, you don't know how much work it's gonna be until you do it. You might not have done it if you knew how much work it was gonna be, but you're so glad you didn't know because having what you have now in this child and this being in this company is beyond words, right?

I am glad that when I started Trust Relations, I did not know how hard this would be because I think I would've turned back and never tried it right? But I'm very glad nobody actually told me because the effect of what I have built and the effect of what we have today and how it's impacted the lives of the people that work here and clients, is completely worth it.

So, I think being a great founder and CEO really is just being a parent, like I said, of a company or a brand and making you know, that child comes first. Obviously, again, you are still the parent of that company, so you have to take care of yourself to be a good parent. I think that it's simple. It's as simple and as complicated as that.

Gresham Harkless 14:46

April, truly appreciate that definition and perspective. Of course, I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best people can get ahold of you to find out about all the awesome things you and team are working on.

April White 15:02

A good leader needs to see where in the world things are being reflected back to them that they need to fix in themselves and in by extension the company. The more that you do that as a leader, the more we change the world together. I know that sounds very, very grandiose, but it's a hundred percent true.

trustrelations.agency is the website. If you wanna find us on Instagram trustrelations. Also Trust Relations on Facebook. If you want to email me, I'm at april@trustrelations.agency.

Gresham Harkless 15:38

Awesome. To make it even easier, we'll have the links and information in the show notes too so that everybody can follow up with you.

Appreciate your time today and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

April White 15:45

Likewise, and same to you.

Outro 15:47

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast, powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google podcast, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.

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Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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