Jennifer McGinley is the CEO of JLM Strategic Communications, founded in October 2017 and based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Her company specializes in Media Relations, Community Outreach and Reputation Management. As a public relations professional for 25 years, Jennifer has built a reputation based on integrity, professionalism, attention to details and consistency. Prior to founding her company, Jennifer worked in the healthcare industry in the Philadelphia area before moving to Baltimore where she worked at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy in public affairs, development and alumni relations.
Tools: LinkedIn Local
01:10 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Find your passion and you’ll be surprised with the energy that brings in.
Jennifer talks about how helping out a friend who has a startup with PR energized her and made her look into having a side hustle working with startups and small/medium businesses.
05:03 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Pricing your services is key to a sustainable business.
Jennifer discusses some of the challenges she faced while building her business of which pricing has been the most important one. As she was hesitant to talk about money, she gave lot of free services early on but she realized her mistake and hired a business coach to help her.
06:30 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Knowing your strengths is key to success in business
Jennifer talks about her strengths (listening, detail oriented), and her focus on healthcare industry that she loves. With her focus on individuals and small companies, Jennifer is much more focused on serving rather than selling.
09:38 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Keep an open mind so you can pivot when necessary.
Jennifer talks about how she accidentally got started with PR as her original love was broadcasting like Jane Pauley and Katie Curic. A stint with Montgomery hospital opened up PR opportunity and her mentors encouraged her to run with it.
16:30 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: : LinkedIn can be a great B2B tool.
Jennifer talks about how LinkedIn Local really helped her identify clients and build the pipeline. She walks the process of building your credibility and building relationships.
18:08 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Be cautious in starting a business and believe in yourself.
Jennifer gives the following tips based on her experience. (1) Start with a side hustle (2) Have faith in yourself (3) Hire a business coach if you can (4) Network as much as you can.
21:24 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Know your strengths but also know your weaknesses and complement them where necessary.Jennifer talks about her love for media relations, love for meeting people, and connecting with them. She also realizes her weaknesses in math / accounting etc. and she complements by hiring when needed. Ans she ends with a hashtag #BeYourself that she believes in.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone, welcome to the agile entrepreneur podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting and building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance and possibilities. Today our guest is Jennifer McGinley. So Jennifer is the CEO of JLM strategic communications, founded in October 2017 and based in Hunt Valley Maryland. Her company specializes in media relations, community outreach and reputation management and Jennifer spent plenty of years like 25 years or so in public relations. So she's a veteran in this area. Hey Jennifer welcome.
Jennifer: Thank you so much, it's lovely to be here. I appreciate it.
Ramesh: Thank you, so you are a public relations company and then you worked for public relations in industry for quite some time. But you decided to start your own company in 2017, why?
Jennifer: Yes, I was doing some fundraising for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Baltimore Maryland and I loved my team very much. But on the side I was helping out a friend and colleague with his startup business and was just having such a great time getting him media placements and really helping him strategize with really his image, his reputation and some public relations campaigns that I realized you know in the morning when I was doing my work before my regular job, I was so energized and inspired that even my mom actually noticed it. She said Jen you really seem happy whenever you're doing the work, your side hustle work and I said I am. It just I missed that creativity and I appreciate fundraising so much and it's so important. But for me public relations just are a little bit more creative and that's just the way my brain is wired honestly.
Ramesh: So can you explain how the switch was like? Like so October 2017 you said I'm going to start my company, and then did you do it, this is continued to do it a side hustle? Did you quit your main job and he just switched over 100%?
Jennifer: So for about 18 months I did the side hustle work. I had everything very organized, I wanted everything very seamless, I had clients lined up. I had you know people said as soon as you leave your job let's talk. So I felt really organized and then about two weeks before I actually was quitting, I actually gave six weeks’ notice at my job. Because I wanted everything perfect on that end as well. Everything completely fell apart. So I had to start from scratch and for me LinkedIn has literally been a game-changer. I met some amazing people and so I started engaging more heavily and more methodically and strategically and then LinkedIn local started has now a global effort and so I helped to host the first several of those along with some other amazing colleagues in Baltimore. So I was able to get out in the public but have an online presence as well and so and then I landed a really amazing client within let's see about four months of starting. I got my first really kind of a dream client and that we worked together for about a year before they decided to kind of switch things up. But yeah, I mean it's a roller coaster. Being an entrepreneur honestly is a marathon and it is that pivoting and being really agile with resources and time and having a good support system as well.
Ramesh: Okay so I mean different entrepreneurs have different challenges. So some have a building a customer pipeline, some you know about the cash flow management, some about outsourcing and all that stuff. So in your case what were the main challenges?
Jennifer: I would say I need to be a better business minded person. I am a helper; I love to serve others and take care of people. But I need to be a bit more of a hardcore business woman and leader and so I think now that I’ve been in this you know position almost two years in October, I'm finally seeing the light and realizing that I have to be not so kind and want to help others. In fact my husband said I'm not a nonprofit and so I need to be a little bit more strategic in who I collaborate with and who I work with and associate with and make sure that I am honestly taking care of myself, my business. Which is you know and then it's taking care of my family financially as well.
Ramesh: So I mean just digging a little bit more, does it mean that pricing your service is that one of the challenges?
Jennifer: Definitely, I'm very uncomfortable talking about that. But I have hired an amazing business coach that has helped me see the light and it's still a daily struggle. Talking about money is not comfortable. Because I love what I do so much that it is something I could do for free if I had the financial wherewithal. But the reality is that's not the situation and I’ve been doing PR for over 25 years now and I know what I'm doing. I go with my gut intuition and I know I can help others amplify their message where they want it to be. So I need to have the confidence in myself to charge the prices that I know are fair and appropriate.
Ramesh: Okay so sounds good. So then how do you differentiate your services, PR services from other people's?
Jennifer: My superpower is listening. So when I meet someone or talk with somebody on the phone or have a zoom call or a Skype call, my radar starts going off and I start picking up details, whether or not I know I can help them truly or perhaps somebody else can. But I am a really good listener and I'm very detail oriented. So I can really customize my work to help that person, that organization or individual reach the goals that they're hoping to meet.
Ramesh: Okay, so are there any specific industries that you specialize in?
Jennifer: I love health care. I love working with physicians and scientists, artists, individuals that have gone from kind of adversity to an empowerment. I'm finding that I'm starting my vibe, I think is drawing in individuals with stories that they want to tell. Unfortunately if it's about abuse or addiction, something along those lines, I’ve been able to really amplify themselves or their brand for them. Because I think at my experience in health care and also working at a behavioral health hospital. I have such a huge respect and awareness and really, I'm an advocate for mental health as well and I know may is mental health month. I'm not sure when this podcast will run actually. But I have a huge respect for mental illness and mental awareness.
Ramesh: So I am listening to your story and Jenifer one thing that comes to my mind, you're working with individuals like you said as opposed to corporations.
Jennifer: Exactly, exactly and I am you know I think when I'm up and running, I will definitely love to work with larger businesses and corporations. Because what I'm seeing in the space that I'm in is leaders and leadership needs to take almost an organic or holistic approach to serving others that it's not, it's not about selling, it's about serving others and I love the book the go Giver by Bob Berg and after reading that I just and growing up with a father, that was all about serving others. I really think that corporations could benefit from really a community outreach or nonprofit approach to their for-profit business, if that makes sense.
Ramesh: Yeah makes sense, make sense. But given that most of your clients or individuals, then is one of the challenges and I should say focus areas is filling the customer pipeline|? Because the individuals may or may not stay for a long long period of time as opposed to corporations, you know they could be long serving clients?
Jennifer: Exactly and that's such a great question and a great point and basically what I'm doing is I'm on LinkedIn incessantly making contacts and connections and engaging with others and trying to put up content that is real of value to others, so that I am top of mind when the time is appropriate. If it's an author or you know somebody within steam stem or fitness, or you know nutrition and the arts as well. But also, I'm going out in the community. I'm starting to increase my visibility and be invited to amazing events or luncheons with other women, you know women in business, organizations as well. So I'm kind of slowly methodically and strategically increasing my brand personally in my business as well.
Ramesh: Okay excellent. So going back to this whole PR right, so how did you actually get into the PR in the first place?
Jennifer: Awesome, awesome. I did a lot of theater in high school in college and then I really wanted to be a broadcast journalist. Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, so many amazing female journalists just really inspired me and so I had worked with an amazing anchorwoman in Philadelphia who has been an anchorwoman for many years in the Philadelphia area, KYW. I interned for her for a semester and she ended up being a mentor for me and me truly value what an intelligent and empowering woman Pat is, and she tried to hook me up with a station in Hagerstown. I think it was where was she originally started and I sent you know my resume and called them monthly for about a year or two to try to get in, they didn't have any openings and then prior to that, she did some networking and had done a story at Montgomery Hospital in Norristown and she said Jennifer, I think PR could be really good for you until you end up landing a job in broadcast journalism and I loved working at a community hospital and that's where I really had my first taste of media relations. Because my boss at the time said Jen, just take it over, do it. You are going to be great at it, you're a great connector, you're a great listener and you're really you know attuned to all the details needed to do press releases. So literally I would say within a week or two of my job right out of college I was writing press releases on Estrogen replacement therapy, carpal tunnel syndrome, interacting with doctors and really creating my credibility and visibility in that hospital. So that they know they could trust me you know pitching their experience or their specialty to the media and just the satisfaction I got from you know speaking with a journalist, even if it was a local paper and really building relationships friends that I have to this day in the Philadelphia you know news, you know news outlets there as well. I just value that.
Ramesh: So it looks like okay, now I understand how you specialized in health care area.
Jennifer: Yeah absolutely.
Ramesh: So okay, actually I was talking to a friend of mine about the PR and then initially I said press relations and they corrected me, it's public relations. So tell me, let's say if you could break down the process, let's say the customers comes to you, how does the process work? Like what is that you do the first thing and if you could lay down from a business perspective that'll be great.
Jennifer: That's perfect, that's such a good question too as I you know kind of I guess really finalized my work with my client first, it's an hour an hour and a half phone call to get to know them, their experience, their backstory and I go back to that journalistic approach of the who, what, where, when and why of their work and their organization and then I figure out you know what is their goal, are they going to be writing a book soon? Do they want to do a TED talk? Do they want to really increase visibility within their local national market or their niche publications if they're in the science or biotech field? So I have to really be a good listener and take really good notes and kind of lock away that information and then from there by the wheels are just spinning great creative opportunities. Whether it's using www.helpareporterout.com, which I know another one of your guests mentioned in a recent podcast as well. That's a free service and I highly recommend that for whether or not you hire a PR person or not. But also you know getting their name out in the local media first, but I also need to make sure that they're a credible source. They have either certification or education within that field, I'm learning too that startups are amazing and so inspiring. But you know they need to return profit first, they need to be a credible source and a credible business before I get them into the media. Because I need to be careful as a PR expert that I am providing legitimate sources to the media and that's huge. Especially right now with the media and with all the news that's out there and how it's all created and whether or not it's real or not, ethics and values are huge to me. They always have been, always will be. You know credibility is just really the cornerstone I think of journalists and in public relations expert, that we really need to hold that dear when we work. So after the phone call then I love writing a bio and getting a new headshot for a client. I try to write a bio that is all-inclusive. You know a little bit of their educational background, a little bit of you know why they started their business and quotes from them and statistics and any research that are appropriate. If it's on behavioral health or addiction or science or I'm now working with a top chef from Food Network, I need to know his story as well. So I love to get that back story and bring some warmth to my work. So there's an emotional attachment there. Because I think what the media needs to do today, and they are doing very well is really telling stories. I think telling a story draws in a media outlets audience a lot easier than just running off information. I think you need to create a story and awareness. So really, it's you know it's getting the client to sign on for three months minimally. Because I need to get to know the client and I need to kind of position them appropriately for any media outlets and also community outreach too. I love setting up you know pro bono speaking engagements, then if they can get paid speaking engagements on their own, it's really about increasing visibility, credibility and first it's really connections. It's using their connections and me using my connections to increase that brand overall and it's just kind of step by step, like working in a public relations department, are there any events coming up? Is its mental health month? Is it you know any anything else we can kind of grab along or hold on to within you know any trends, breaking news or anything hot happening? You know nationally or locally for that client.
Ramesh: Okay so and okay you walked us through the process of how you build a public relations campaign with clients. And then we talked about the pricing aspect of it and I think we also talked about the specialization that you do. So in running your business you mentioned LinkedIn couple of times and then you specifically talked about LinkedIn local. So how does a LinkedIn local help your business? What do you do?
Jennifer: Again it's me meeting people. Just literally taking online connections and meeting them face to face and shaking hands and eye contact and building a solid relationship. Which public relations is public relationships? It's all about you know really people getting to know me, getting to know what I stand for, getting to know the clients that I work with and it's that credibility level. It's huge and honesty and keeping my word to people and meeting them for coffee and helping them too sometimes, flesh out an idea or brainstorming as well that you know it's great to meet people online and I appreciate it so much. But meeting people locally or traveling to meet people is also really valuable.
Ramesh: Okay that's very interesting. Nowadays we're talking a lot of remote online, but I think you're really emphasizing the face-to- Face aspect.
Jennifer: Absolutely, yeah.
Ramesh: So you started your journey. It's going you know quite well I would say. So based on this reflecting on your own journey, what tips can you offer to other entrepreneurs?
Jennifer: Yeah go slow, have a strategy. You know if you have a paying job I would say stay there for a while until you can put some money in savings away so that during that slow time, that startup time which is really 18 months to three years and even five years I know with businesses, because if you're the breadwinner you know don't take it lightly and it sounds great when you watch the YouTube videos or you know the time five or ten podcasts about you know, oh just do it, live your best life. But you really need to ratchet that back and reality needs to hit that. If you've got a mortgage to pay and children to raise, be cautious. But do what you love. So if you can do the side hustle for a while, stick it out and then build your client base slowly and I really think that there are challenges that you need to meet. But have faith in yourself and surround yourself by people that you trust, you believe in and they believe in you and get a business coach if you can. I would never of thought of that before. Because I'm a person that likes to do everything on my own. But after meeting my business coach, just that connection and knowing that I don't have to do things on my own or alone, it's a huge learning curve for me and then hiring a virtual assistant to help me with my website and set up a few other things that once I had money saved, I could spend a little bit on the things that I'm not good at. I don't like designing websites, I don't like those nitty gritty things. My husband helps me with my accounting. He happens to have a little bit of a background in that. So I'm very fortunate and I have an amazing supportive husband, who I'm so lucky to have you know on my side and my children as well. So you know don't do things alone, accept help. But be cautious and get yourself out there. Do the coffee's, do the lunches, allow people to pick your brain a little bit, but don't allow them to take advantage of you and don't give it all away for free. I've been burned many times. But I'm learning and you know you do have to fail in order to move forward. So I really, I value those lessons, but I'm definitely learning from them as well.
Ramesh: Excellent actually, very good advice. So basically have a support network, both family and that's one and then secondly also establish a support network like a virtual assistant or you know other areas and then third one you talked about the business coach. That’s a really good advice and then the fourth one you talked about is go slow right. So as much as your time, side hustle and then continue to do it. So that's very good Jennifer. So let's, one of the last questions probably I would ask is you as a person Jennifer I mean what are your strengths that you brought into the business that helped you and what are the areas that you had to rely on other people? I mean we talked about the website and all that stuff. But your own personality traits, characteristics that lent automatically to the business.
Jennifer: Yes, I think my love of people and connecting on that human level and kind of, I'm an empath and I'm empathetic as well. So that I get people, I draw in people that are warm and caring and thoughtful and have great empowering stories that I want to help them tell and I think that's my non-profit background. My father actually worked for 50 years doing fundraising for Catholic universities up and down the East Coast. So in the world of fundraising it's all about cultivating really good solid relationships with other humans and he was absolutely stellar at that and then my attention to details and being a very kind of sensing person of surroundings and listening to people, watching body language and also seeing the broader picture. You know seeing a human being and seeing their true potential and how I can help them, whether it's getting them you know live segments on TV, the first day of mental health month or getting them in a newspaper article to talk about the Me2 movement knowing that I can really help them and help them carry their message out into the community that they want to serve. And then I would say weaknesses are the math and the numbers and the nitty-gritty details of running a business that just kind of make me nauseous. I just want to do the work. I love to write; I love to network and connect people. But you know I love Media Relations. It's just my favorite thing to do. I could do it day and night, which I do. But you know really customizing my work and that hand-holding that I love, but again getting back to weaknesses, it's the accounting and all those the stuff that I don't enjoy that I have to hand off and have somebody that is an expert in that take care of it and allowing help and accepting help.
Ramesh: Yeah, exactly. You don't have to do it all. Being an entrepreneur itself is very difficult as it is. So excellent Jennifer. So I mean this is a tremendous you know piece of advice there and then it's a very good journey so far. You keep going there. So any last-minute thoughts?
Jennifer: Yeah, I just you know what I tell my clients before an interview or before a friend, she did a White House summit for legislation, you know just be you, be yourself and that actually is my hashtag that I really believe that. Any opportunity that comes your way, you're chosen for it because of the way you've presented yourself, you've carried yourself and the credibility that you bring to the table. So I think at the end of the day if you're an honest good person, that really wants to make this world a better place that you will rise to the top.
Ramesh: Jennifer excellent advice, next and final thoughts. Good luck to your business.
Jennifer: Thank you so much, I appreciate your time.
Ramesh: Thank you