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IAM1789 – Public Relations Consultant Helps Entrepreneurs Grow Their Brand Recognition

Podcast interview with Tonya McKenzie

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless Jr. interviews Tonya McKenzie, an author and public relations consultant who helps entrepreneurs and small businesses gain media attention and grow their brand recognition through her company, Sand & Shores PR. Tonya shares her journey in public relations, starting her career at the Mt. Diablo Region YMCA and eventually founding her own company in 2014.

She emphasizes the importance of building relationships and understanding the needs of clients, as well as the value of being involved in the community and serving on boards of directors.
Throughout the episode, Tonya shares practical tips and advice for entrepreneurs, including the importance of having a morning routine and being prepared for unexpected challenges.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights and inspiration for anyone looking to improve their public relations and grow their brand recognition.

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Tonya McKenzie Teaer 00:00

Looking at things from a very objective standpoint to get the real story out of them for why they started their business, what solution they're bringing to the table, and to really market them in a way that touches on their branding and who they are.

Intro 00:18

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 c o podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:45

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, and 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 many 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 and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Tonya McKenzie of Sand and Shores PR. Tonya, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Tonya McKenzie 02:15

Hey, thank you for having me, and happy, happy Friday.

Gresham Harkless 02:18

Happy Friday to you as well. What I wanted to do was just read a little bit more about Tonya so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Tonya is an author and public relations consultant by trade, a child advocate by choice. Tonya started her career in public relations at the Mount Diablo region YMCA, where she needed media coverage to help grow and expand the services to provide the city. After constructing and selling corporate membership packages, she was nominated and elected to the Oakley Chamber of Commerce and appointed to the Contra Costa Counties Youth Commission by Supervisor Federal Glover.

While Tonya serves on the board of directors for the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce, and as vice president of the North Redondo Beach Business Association, she continues to help entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits gain media attention and grow their brand recognition through the company she founded in 2014 Sand and Shores PR.

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Tonya, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Tonya McKenzie 03:17

I am so ready and excited. Absolutely.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:20

Awesome. Let's do it. So the first thing I wanted to ask you was about what I call your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Tonya McKenzie 03:26

What led me to start my business when I moved to Southern California from the Bay Area was I was with a publishing company that really didn't utilize technology as much as they could, so, a lot of advertising was done the traditional way, right?

And with the use of technology, there's the ability to expand your reach and they just were not ready to do that. So I had the opportunity to start a company that did all of the things that I wanted to do for small businesses and entrepreneurs, which was to help them with their marketing, their PR, and their advertising, but get as much reach as possible and make sure that they understood how to do it themselves. So not always relying on someone else to do it, but understand how to implement these types of things in their business. So I also teach, I take care of their services, but I also teach them how to do it and how to make sure that it's done properly.

Gresham Harkless 04:24

Absolutely. That makes perfect sense. A lot of times if you're working or you're familiar with some industry or certain things, there's a gap in opportunity within that industry and it sounds like that's what happened with you.

Tonya McKenzie 04:35

Yeah. It was a situation, let's say for instance someone paid for an ad that was about $5,000, a front page, full page color ad, you couldn't really tell how much reach it was getting. You tell them something that you have been instructed to tell them, but in all honesty, you're not really sure if that's what they're getting. I knew that marketing and advertising and public relations is really the way that you grow a business, right? I've seen many businesses fail that were good, but it was because people didn't know about them. And also when people have small budgets, what's the first thing they cut? Marketing and advertising.

You can't grow your business if no one knows about you. So I look to see that there was a solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs that really wanted to penetrate their market of expertise and make sure that they were getting the reach that they were promised. And it's just important that happens because I hate seeing good businesses fail just for lack of people not knowing about them or what they offer.

Gresham Harkless 05:38

Absolutely. Yeah. I always say visibility is the name of the game. So a lot of times if you have something great, it's just a matter of being out in front of the right people.

Tonya McKenzie 05:45


Gresham Harkless 05:46

Nice. Now I know you touched on it a little bit, could you drill a little bit deeper and tell us how you work with your clients and if a new client was to call you, how that process would go?

Tonya McKenzie 05:56

My specialty is branding and more or less identity branding. Many people feel like they don't know what it takes to stand out. So what I have been very good at is digging deep to find a person's niche, their specialty, and that's not something you can just find out in a moment, right? It's a conversation. It's continuous questioning. It's looking at things from a very objective standpoint to get the real story out of them for why they started their business, what solution they're bringing to the table and to really market them in a way that touches on their branding and who they are.

What's important to know, and I have to say this reluctantly many times because it breaks people's hearts, is every customer is not your customer. Every customer, everybody in the world, even though you think your product is great for everybody, it may be, but you really have to hone in on your target market and then grow your business from there.

So being able to find who that target market is, what that person or company really identifies with and who their target market is, seems to be my special sauce because I'm very good at digging deep into finding out who they are what they offer, and who their customer really is.

Gresham Harkless 07:17

Nice. I love that because a lot of times, you are basically helping people find what their secret sauce is in their unique selling proposition.

What makes them unique Because just like you said, a lot of times, especially in the PR world and even in the marketing world, the business world in general, that story, that thing that a person started their business or what makes them unique or the problem they're solving is what really makes that difference and starts to drive the needle and starts to move things forward.

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Do you find that is what happens?

Tonya McKenzie 07:43

Absolutely. One of the hardest things to get someone to understand is how important consistency is, right? And that is a part of your branding and you have to be true to it. If you try to put on a face that you're a very staunch businessperson, very cutthroat, cut and dry, black and white and then someone gets in a room with you and you're super silly and you laugh at everything, they're gonna be like, who is this? Or even the opposite, people that have products that are maybe for older people or very conservative individuals, but they market to a young crowd they're light, they're young, they're fluffy. And then you get in a room with them and they're boring and they're dry, you're gonna be like, what? How did I get here?

So not only are you not able to do business with them, but then you're not gonna refer business to them. So it's really important that we hone in and people become okay with who they're, I think they try to mold themselves into what they think people want them to be. We all wanna be upstanding and clean-cut. But if that's not your true self and your true personality, at the end of the day, they're gonna figure that out and they're gonna not see you as authentic or honest or like a used car salesperson.

So really helping people find that middle ground where you can show your personality in a business and still show people that you can handle business and take care of the matters that you promised to.

Gresham Harkless 09:11

That makes perfect sense. I absolutely love, and I love like the secret sauce that you mentioned too, and you being able to help people to find what that is in their lives so that they can continue to drill down on that and continue to do those things that are in alignment with that.

So I appreciate you for sharing that. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This might be an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but it's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Tonya McKenzie 09:37

What makes me most effective is my morning workouts. I get up at 4:30 and I work out because that is my me time. That's when I get my engine running and that's also when I can think about and process my day ahead. So planning it out in my head and being ready to execute. As soon as I get back home, I take that shower ready, set, and go there's nothing left that's undetected, just really ready to hone in and fire on all cylinders.

So being able to do that is hugely important. Some people have lists, they make a list. My husband makes a list the night before so that when he gets up in the morning, it's ready, set, go. But I think it's super important to be incredibly prepared mentally and physically to get up and get your day going and be as productive as you possibly can for yourself and your clients.

Gresham Harkless 10:29

Absolutely. No, I definitely would agree with that. I think a lot of times when you are and understand like what that is for you, and you do that and do that, especially like you mentioned consistently before, it allows you to be on top of everything rather than react to things a lot of times.

I don't know if you find that, but I feel like a lot of times when you don't do those certain things, a lot of times the world, and especially being in business and being an entrepreneur, there's always something that pops up.

Now, I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. You might have already touched on this, but this is a word or wisdom or a piece of advice, or if you can hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Tonya McKenzie 11:04

I would always say, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. That almost goes back to what I just got through saying is, as prepared as you can be, know that things will come up. So I don't know how there are people that just expect the day to go exactly as they plan. That's not real life. It could be traffic. I live in Los Angeles, so the 4 0 5 can shut down at any moment. What are you gonna do besides lose your mind? You're gonna take an alternative route because you know that these are some things that could possibly happen.

So yeah, you wanna be prepared and you wanna be ready and hope for the best. Keep a positive mindset, but at the end of the day, things can happen and you need to be prepared mentally to deal with them without going into a tissy.

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Gresham Harkless 11:51

Yes. No one likes anybody in a tissy, so.

Tonya McKenzie 11:54

No, definitely not on the 4 0 5.

Gresham Harkless 11:57

Yeah, I don't know about the 4 0 5, but the 3 9 5 here and DC it's crazy. I don't know if it's as crazy, but it is crazy, nevertheless. But I love that because a lot of times I feel like, I at least I sometimes feel like there's peace in understanding that sometimes things will pop up. So when it does pop up, when things do pop up, you're not in a tissy as you said. You just understand that's part of life and part of the process a lot of times.

Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO.  We're hoping to have different quote  and quote, CEOs on the show. So Tanya, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Tonya McKenzie 12:31

CEO means leadership. Clearly, that is stated in regards to people working with people to find the best for each duty, right? So I'm under the premise that sometimes you have to hire smarter than you. You don't always have to be the smartest person in the room, but that takes a level of leadership for people to understand you trust them, you have to instill that faith in them. Empowerment. Empowering your staff, empowering your clients to understand. Many times I have to tell them, this is your project, this is your project. We absolutely have to make sure that we have your ideas involved.

That takes a level of leadership because the ego is so caught up in so many things, so not being ego-driven. But being a real leader, sometimes means you defer to others that are in the room that might be more capable than you are in a particular area. And not everyone can do that. I've worked with people that just don't know how to let go of the reins or they wanna micromanage everything and that's not always the best way to get something done and get something accomplished.

So, leadership really for me comes down to surrounding yourself with individuals that are capable and empowering them to help get the job done as efficiently as possible. It doesn't always mean you are the person making the decision. It definitely means that you know how to allow for others that are involved to take the leadership role on the things that they are good at.

Gresham Harkless 14:13

Absolutely. I definitely think that's a true definition of CEO and true definition of leadership. It's just understanding that and understanding that you're purpose-driven, not necessarily ego-driven. Because there is a difference in that because you put your ego to the side if you have a strong purpose and goal that you're driving forward to.

Tonya, I truly appreciate your time. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know, and then of course, how they can get ahold of you.

Tonya McKenzie 14:38

I wanna encourage everyone to make sure that whatever job they're doing, whether they are a salesperson for another company or trying to run their own company, that they do identify with what they're doing. They allow for their own personal branding to be a part of what they are doing because that is gonna be the difference between you and someone else.

So if you have any other questions or would love to talk about personal branding please contact me at That's my website. I have two, a personal and a business. pr biz mom on Twitter and Instagram. I would love to connect with anyone that's looking to define their brand or their company and help get their story out to the mass medium in public.

Gresham Harkless 15:29

Awesome. Awesome. What we'll do is we'll have those links in the show notes as well. But I truly appreciate all the awesome things you're doing. I appreciate the time that you took today, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Tonya McKenzie 15:39

Hey, I appreciate you and everything that you are doing. It is great for CEOs and entrepreneurs like myself.

Gresham Harkless 15:45

Thank you.

Outro 15:47

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at 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 iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.Co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


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(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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