Donna Loughlin is an award-winning storyteller, PR Influencer, Podcast Host, and the Founder and President of Loughlin/Michaels Group PR (LMGPR), a PR and communication agency that leverages public relations to create new business opportunities, increase sales, and create category leadership. Donna is based in Silicon Valley, something that gives her a front-row seat into the lives and stories of the people and biggest companies that are impacting the world. Donna Loughlin is also the founder and host of the Before It Happened Podcast, where she has conversations with visionaries about the future they imagine, taking the listeners on a journey to discover the moment/event/realization that sparked an innovative idea.
Storytelling has been a constant in Donna’s life, and something that she still uses to this day for her PR work. As a young kid, she used to go to the library and read countless books, and got inspired to write her own stories. She was only eight years old when she started writing “Penny Books“, short stories that she would sell to her classmates for a penny. Thanks to her father, she was later exposed to news reporting, publishing, and the printing process, and by the time she was a teenager she was already a skilled storyteller. This ultimately led her to get a degree in communications and journalism from top journalism schools. After her experience in the Publishing Industry, Donna realized that she could blend that together with the newest technologies, and that’s when she founded her PR agency, LMGPR. Thanks to her work, Donna has achieved an incredible number of awards, the least of which is being on the cover of the Top 10 Most Inspiring Women of Influence in 2021. You can see all her other awards on her LinkedIn.
Donna Loughlin’s 5-Step Success Mantra
Donna Loughlin is determined to reach the top of success, and with all the experience she has gathered in the PR industry, she defined a 5-step success mantra that will help you stand out in the marketplace.
- Staying Relevant: Donna believes that reading venture capital and business economic news helps keep people informed about current events and will also make it easier to secure new leads.
- Being Bold and Fearless: Although we live in a world that is everyday more digital and email is the preferred method of communication, cold calling has helped Donna Loughlin land some incredible cover stories in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fast Company, Wired, Bloomberg, and others. That’s why she suggests to take bold action without fear.
- Thinking Outside-the-box: It’s critical to stay flexible in response to market fluctuations. An example of this can be seen on Donna’s approach during the COVID pandemic, when she focused on companies that make their products in the USA and are not dependent on offshore manufacturing and development.
- Listening and Understanding Your Customers: Client companies are subject to constant change, and consequently, all the company’s operations have to be restructured. Podcasts and virtual events, for example, took the role of speaking engagements during the epidemic.
- Being Agile: Prepare to evolve when the world changes, such as when Clubhouse became a viable alternative to both Tik Tok and LinkedIn.
And now here’s Donna Loughlin.
[3:17] How’d it happen for Donna?
[9:14] The Valley as a fertile soil of ideas
[11:58] The land of heart’s delight
[13:33] Her penny books
[17:27] How she describes using smells when writing
[23:09] On personal experience
[28:03] When she decided what she wanted to do
[36:36] PR and Marketing
[41:38] Her magic weapon
[44:21] Her thoughts on journalism and reporting now compared to before
[49:28] What made her start her firm?
[57:43] On doing racing and getting out of her comfort zone
Full transcript below
Video with Donna Loughlin on Five Dollars and Half a Tank of Gas
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Listen to the Before It Happened Podcast by Donna Loughlin
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Podcast with Donna Loughlin. Five Dollars and Half a Tank of Gas.
people, story, barber shop, smell, write, called, valley, book, thought, silicon valley, literally, world, curiosity, kid, journalism, create, place, conversation, companies, happened
Donna Loughlin, Mike Malatesta
Mike Malatesta 00:05
Hey, everybody, welcome back to the How’d it Happen Podcast, I’m so happy to have you here as I am with every episode that I do, my job is to bring value inspire and activate greatness in you. And that is, take it very take that responsibility very strongly. And we got a great story to share with you today. First, I just want to remind everybody that my book “OwnerShift – How Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck” has been out now for about a month or so I guess when you’re seeing this. And the response has been really humbling and overwhelming. We’ve got, you know, a lot of books sold a lot of reviews on Amazon. And so I just encourage you if if you think that the book might add a little bit of value to you, pick it up, check it out, and let me know what you think. So I’m now going to introduce my guest today. And I’ve got Donna Laughlin with me, Donna, Welcome to the How to happen podcast.
Donna Loughlin 01:10
Oh, thank you so much for having me on your show.
Mike Malatesta 01:13
So let me tell you a little bit about why you should be as excited as I am about having Donna on the show. So Donna Loughlin is the founder and president of Laughlin Michaels group PR. She’s an award-winning entrepreneur, storyteller, PR influencer and host of get this before it happened podcast. Donna is known for her work with futurists, and innovators. And being based in Silicon Valley gives Donna a front row seat into the lives and stories of the people and companies that are literally impacting the world. She has been a celebrated writer and her work has appeared in publications like The Wall Street Journal, New York Times fortune Fast Company, and a bunch more. And she’s also been on TV including 2020. Good Morning America, the Today Show Elon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno. And a bunch more of that, too, I want to I’m excited to get into some of that data has been recognized by what seems to be nearly every possible award. It’s like a huge list. I wish I could go through it all with you because you’d be super impressed, but it would take the whole hour that we have. So not going to do that. But most recently, she was recognized as a 2021 woman of influence of Silicon Valley, for her work in public relations. You can learn more about Donna at either of these two websites, and maybe more, I’ll give her a chance to talk about that later. http://www.lmgpr.com and www dot before it happened.com. So Donna, I get started with every episode the same way and it’s with a simple question. How did it happen for you?
Donna Loughlin 03:04
Wow, well, you know, sometimes we don’t know exactly how it happened. And I’ve taken a while to kind of reflect on going back to my old child, my childhood and, and being in the valley in Silicon Valley before it actually was the Silicon Valley when it was literally rolling foothills and agriculture, ranches and farms and, and the harvest was the fruits of labor which was you know, cherries and apples and, and prunes and apricots and then further down the coast was the heartland of the John Steinbeck wrote about, you know, very prolifically in Grapes of Wrath. So being in the center of that as a as a child, you know, was Reena pretty innocent and it kind of world but as the valley, you know, started changing in the 70s and ultimately became Silicon Valley. And alas, size since then all the way to San Francisco and beyond. Because I think the Silicon Valley doesn’t really have official a boundary, although some would argue at Santa zeta, maybe Palo Alto, you know, where the Hewlett Packard and the chip companies and before all the.com You know, companies came into play. So I think that innocence and that curiosity and being able to run free on a tractor and being able to sit up in a tree and eat apricots until you turn green, and all the places we might go if we weren’t in this place called the Valley. And ultimately, that curiosity led to many, many trips to the library, reading and reading. I can’t even tell you how many books I’ve read in my lifetime. But reading just was a hobby, you know, it was really more than a hobby. It was an avocation and wanting to write and so by the time I was eight years old, I was writing what I called Penny books, which I would write short stories and I’d sell it to my classmates for Penny told the principal got bought ownership of that, and I had to return all the money into some type of donation box. And this I think, was what launched my, my, my career of eating, you know, stories. And so I’d write stories about people that I would meet, doing errands with my father in the valley. And my father owned a publishing imprint shop with his with his it was a family run business, it was very big printing companies to publish and printed newspapers, magazines, and one of my uncle’s owned all the community papers. And so I would go in tow, and I would, you know, see the reporting and action, and I would make it go get my own stories. And then I would write these stories, and then I would sell them for a penny. So just a little bit of reflection, because you share about your early years, and the trucking company. And I could relate to that, because I had that kind of same experience. And I think as we get older and our mind becomes more say populated with facts and information and, and data, we kind of forget the innocence of maybe the roots of where it where it started, right. And, and so I think my journey, you know, retrospect, it was until I was in college, and I was studying journalism, and I needed to do a story on myself. And oftentimes you take a journalism course, and we write your obituary, his teacher actually won the surrender manifesto. And, and the, the assignment was to stand on a soapbox. And of course, I picked a soapbox, and you know, in a speaker’s corner in Hyde Park, London, I didn’t pick a soapbox, and, you know, I’m like, what my core, you know, newspapers shop. And that alone was because I read so much. And I had gone to England yet. No, but I had this, this, this idea in my head. And when I got the paper back from the instructor, he said, Wow, where did you pull this? From? Where did how did you get so much passion and, and illustrative content, on my manifesto, and my manifesto was basically, is the art was the storyteller, you know, was the became maybe becoming the art of becoming a storyteller. And why that that was so important. And I had an Irish, no, Irish Scotch Irish grandmother, who was prolific and telling stories. And when I was, you know, it was normal, it was, it was normal course, for people to hear poetry from burns, and, and just
Emerson’s essays and things that most kids don’t really listen to. But I had a very large catalogue of places to distill and pull from, and also association with languages. And that’s another great thing about this, that the the Valley, which I live in, it’s always been extremely diverse in terms of the culture and the people who live here. Because it not only because the influence of agriculture, but also the gold rush, and then we had other rushes in terms of economic boom as it relates to the Silicon Valley. So I think it’s interesting that we build built but concrete and buildings on some of the most fertile land in the world. But from that fertile land, there’s so many amazing stories. So just looking at the juxtaposition of what’s happened. And where we are now, is still ignites my curiosity of the roots of the valley. But they also happened to be my roots, even though I’ve gone to more than 80 Some countries at this point in my life,
Mike Malatesta 08:53
okay. That’s really interesting, what you just said there about the fertile soil. So it being fertile soil for fruits, and nuts, probably all kinds of things. And then I love the way you sort of, you didn’t say it explicitly, but because it’s become fertile soil for ideas.
Exactly. Yeah, ideas. I mean, it’s so I make I make a livelihood. And it amazes me every day, how fortunate I am, that I work with some of the brightest innovators and thinkers and changemakers and a multitude of category things which we can talk more about. But I think it is a very fertile place. It’s like, have you seen the the the documentary on muscle flats, muscle shores sorry muscle Shores is the recording studio in in the in the Mississippi, I believe, should look it up to make sure it’s right. But it’s supposed to have a very, almost sacred Are are about it for recording music. And it’s where Aretha Franklin finally had her first outtakes that were the ones that made Aretha Franklin Aretha Franklin, and the Doobie Brothers and Creedence Clearwater and numerous other artists would go there, because he had a very medicinal and almost killing place. And it goes all the way back to the indigenous people who lived in that area prior to being settled, you know, by, by, by Europeans. And I not to say that the, the valley is exactly that same, but it’s similar is the only reason I bring it up. And I think they’re, oftentimes we go on a journey like myself around the world, only to discover that maybe are your source and where your friend isn’t, you know, is the starting point. It’s not your ending point. But like the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the places we will go. And I basically came back as a collector crab. My journeys only to bring more stories to those who don’t travel who haven’t traveled. And I feel like when you when you sit at a counter, or you’re in a local coffee shop, some small town that you don’t know, it could be any place in the world language. Hopefully not language prohibited. People tend to have conversations and have a story about something, which is fascinating to me.
Mike Malatesta 11:30
Right. Right, right. Muscle Shoals is in Alabama, you’re correct. The valley is that what it was called? For the uninitiated listening
was the land of heart’s delight, the land of hearts to lay so when my my grandparents came from Kansas, and the late 30s. Because California was was open, it was it was cheap. It was you could buy fertile land, and you could be an entrepreneur. But my that was one side of the family. This side of the family came came out later, much later. But my father’s side, the family came out much earlier prior to my father even being being born. But they came out because there was there was there was postcards, I have postcards that I’ve collected, kept to this day, and my grandmother received people who were recruiting people to come to the valley come to the land of heart’s delight, you know, the future is here. They’re selling land $13,000, you know, for, you know, 530,500 acres, I think it was $13,000 for 50 acres or so. Imagine that. No, yeah, no, an acre here is like 1.5 to one point, you know, to 2 million, depending on where it is in the area. Yeah, so wide open spaces and, and, you know, the land of opportunity.
Mike Malatesta 13:12
And these Penny books, these stories is it those are one or two that you can remember that you Oh, my God curious about this.
I think I I think I broke infringement rights to So there used to be I wish I knew the brand, the name brand of the bread and I would look it up. But it used to be a, a bread wrapper. And it was paper, not not cellophane or plastic, and it had Peanuts characters on it. And I would meticulously cut out the Peanuts characters. And then I would meticulously cut out other things that I’d find for magazines. And I would just kind of visualize kind of these these components that would keep in mind this is pre digital, right? We don’t have I don’t have computers, we don’t have anything digital. And I was just a very creative kid. So I would cut all these little pieces and in a different magazines and newspapers. And I would put them together. So I did have a you know, one of the ones I remember that I think I sold for nickel, not a penny and I sold it to one of my older sisters was a story about Snoopy in the game, you know, coming to my school, and how amazing it would be with Charlie and his friends were come to my school in the Havoc they would cause you know, within the lunch hour. So kind of taking it out of context but using you know, you know kind of elaborating on what what Schultz has already created. The other story that was very common theme was just this made up character. You know was was really me it did you know to be totally cathartic, but it was me, but I called her I didn’t call her Donna, I called her called her Leah. And Leah basically was, you know, like a Nancy Drew went out and solve. Got stories instead of, instead of in solving mysteries, and I would tell these little stories about today’s adventure is today’s curiosity is how do you, you know, how, you know, how, how do you our doughnuts are made? Or how, you know, how, how do you get your shoes repaired? And they were just like, interesting people. And so they would do profiles on the the people in my town. So if you’re looking at a Monopoly board, and you, you know, you if I were to do my town, and small town USA, which technically it was, you know, a smaller town, it was certainly not the million population that it was, but California had it. The Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area had its huge growth and 70 started in 70s 7879. Rarely, I literally might, where I lived, I was surrounded by cow, dairy farm and apricot orchards and everything. Yeah, so my, so my book was basically me on adventures. And I regard you know, this is my, my trip to the, to the barbershop with my dad, which I thought was a very, very interesting in, you know, up in a place that you typically, it was like, a girl got to go into a barber shop. And the perspective that I had an immense man’s world is sacred zone, barbershop, and what that what that experience was, like, you know, what were the smells and the people and, and it was all really about creative writing. For me, it was just a creative outlet. Yeah, so once I got busted, that project ended. And I think I just continued to write, you know, I can’t tell you how many book reports and new books I would read and get extra credit is to write a review on a book that I liked, okay? Which means I’m gonna have to read, you know, finished reading your book and read it review at some point.
Mike Malatesta 17:00
Yes, thank you, I didn’t even have to ask I was hearing the, the use the word smells, and it made me think it’s such a great word to, like a great sense that you have of every place that you go into. But so infrequently used, people describe colors, and they describe, you know, what people look like, and they describe that kind of thing. But it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s not often that someone leads off with describing the smell of a place. But if you describe the smell of a place, like you did the barbershop, you know, like people can relate to that really, really well. Probably better than they can a visual thing because everybody sort of, I don’t know, smell is sort of universal, you know, use us very
well in a barber shop. You have you know, Burma Shave, yeah, have the cold, you know, the aftershave is clone and there’s if somebody could be at the time smoking a cigar, you know, something like that, right? So it’s gonna be a really different experience than if I were at the salon with my mother. And the conversations are certainly going to be different. So the audio which you hear the soundtrack of what you hear is different. But I think that’s one of the things I learned as I studied journalism and and in more professional realm was that you need to use all your senses, you need to use your sight in your your, your sound, and your smell. When you’re doing things, it’s no different than, you know, Lois Lane going out and you have to break a story so but I think oftentimes, we put on blinders and we don’t look at things and we photographers notorious for this. And so we’re artists in general, is that you look at the lighting multiple times you go in the morning, you go in the afternoon, you go in the evening, it’s never going to be the same. And so in telling stories, you have to look at things differently. And so taking that same you know, when I was a news reporter, the curiosities I had as a child ultimately became really refined in tune because when you’re on assignment in your reporter, and you’re going in you know, into a the differently border in Israel to do a story, your senses and sound and audio and everything need to go in over time, like a hound dog, you know? And because you need to be extremely aware and hypersensitive in a sense to your surroundings. And likewise that that same is you know, if you’re going to you know, your story on someone making, you know, their their best pizza in Chicago, same thing that’s really sensory overload, right? Because you know, it’s gonna be really yummy and you go in with an expectation, but what I’ve taught people to write, and I’ve coached over the years many ensure as a journalist is and then also as owning my agency and people right away To give, you know, you go from good to great, but going from great to greater is even harder. And so if you imagine if you put a blueberry in your mouth and the blueberry, just foul, it doesn’t taste six rancid, it’s not the way blueberry does, that’s gonna totally change your perception of a blueberry. But if you take a fresh blueberry that was just picked, you know, in the wild, right? And, and it’s, it’s gonna be plump and moist, and it’s gonna look the same, but the experience that you have is going to be totally different. And so I think that’s the same thing about life is you have to look at things in different perspectives, different times of day, different experiences. So when you know kids are great at this, but I don’t like it. And then you’re always well, why don’t you like go public because they had a bad experience, or they have a preconceived notion. But when you’re a storyteller, and particularly the journalists that I work with, on a continuous basis, you know, they’re always looking for something that is unique. So how to your your trip to the barber shop, is probably very purposeful, you’re going to go get a haircut, my chair for the barber shop is like, what need to get a haircut, the barber shop, but I wonder what it’s like the movie barber shop, I think was intriguing because it really capsulated you know, my own experience, but at a magnitude much bigger. But I think that those types of those types of settings are very germane and very go to barber shop and, and Toledo, Ohio, and you can go you know, when in Beverly Hills and go to one in New York, you know, in the Brooklyn, New York, and you’re probably gonna see similarities, right?
Mike Malatesta 21:43
Yeah, similarities and like very distinct differences too, which is kind of neat to be able to describe in a way that’s meaningful to people. Yeah,
I think barbershops are kind of a sacred place. I mean, I really say because I do think that’s where a lot of the storytelling and the conversations and the small town chatter you know, took place if you’re thinking like a Norman Rockwell Rockwell typesetting you know, the barber shop to me is the epitome of Americana. And I’ve seen many barber shops around the world and not exactly the same but similar, you know, reading posts, other cultures they meet and quite different places when we get the the pub you know, like in the in in Ireland and the British countries and in Italy they meet for their their Grampa, right necessary the barber shop, but to me, the barber shop. So in the last sacred frontiers in Americana that we haven’t, yes, you can go to the salon. But barbers, when you see a barber pole is so distinctive. And you go, Aha, and I see a barber pole in a good way. But through some good stories there.
Mike Malatesta 22:46
It’s so my, I don’t have much hair. In fact, some people would say I don’t have any hair. But I see here, I do have some hair. But I but for many, many years, I went to a salon, because Kim was there and she would just spend a half an hour on my head make and it was just a great experience. Because even though there wasn’t much work to be done, she did, you know, the washing it and doing all this stuff. And it just made me feel good about going there. When unfortunately, she passed away recently, and I had to find a new place. So I went I am now going to a barber shop with a barber pole and that and I think to myself, Okay, so this where I’m going right now and yes, the smells are totally different. The ambience, totally different. The field is totally everything is totally different. But the biggest difference is Kim was like selling me an experience that I really liked. And my barber now is selling me a result. And it’s it’s no kidding. Six minutes from the time I sit down to the time I’m out the door. Six minutes. And so you think that you think there’s a difference between two? Right? It’s just for me, that’s it’s so funny. You brought up barber shop, because that’s going through my mind right now is yeah, like the six minutes and it seems like it does pretty much the same job but this was just doesn’t feel like I’m important.
Well, that’s interesting, because if we talk about experience, just in general, that personal that your personal experience could be totally different than the next person and that’s one of the things that I do all day long. In my in my in my profession and my business is I work with people to distill those experience so what you just described, you know, could be the bad blueberry experience was like looking at the authentic you know, that authentic component that makes someone’s journey and their particular reason why they start a company or they’re created a product or and I often have to take them back. I just had a conversation last week with somebody and I in Going through my journey of discovery, which is rarely usually started as the discovery phase, I found out to you to black belt, and she’s the CTO of a company. And she’s originally from India. And now we have like, some uniqueness. It’s like, well, I don’t know anybody else in my journey. Who has that trifecta, that triple threat. And then I just kind of put it together. And then she told me more and more about her. Oh, so you’ve actually been practicing your black belt your whole entire life, you just didn’t know that you’re by now she takes all her skill and knowledge from her technical phase. And that brute strength of her black belt, you put them together and what do you get? You get, you know, this woman who’s a little bit of a superhero, teaching a host of other people about the topic of blockchain. Blockchain sorry, Blockchain is not so black belt to blockchain is you know, that transition that she had. I think it was fascinating. And she kind of laughed cuz she’s I never really thought about it, huh. Sometimes thinks stories find us, right?
Mike Malatesta 26:04
Oh, sure. Yeah. Open to a story finding you.
Yeah, well, I thought you will. That’s the thing about that happy. I always thought that movie, The Accidental turret tours was so sad because I love to travel. And I thought, oh, being a travel writer and just being miserable, you know, writing that book. And I thought, when you travel, you’re never really lost. Unless you’re like out of food, water and shelter, then maybe you’re lost. But, you know, if you’re season travel, you’re probably gonna figure that out. But always figure there’s got to be some happy accident reason why I ended up in some small town on the Ring of Kerry, with a car that I rented that had to pump tires, because of the having to move over the lane, the one one lane road with the buses barreling down, right. And it just happened to be, you know, sunset, where am I gonna go. And I ended up staying in a working farm for a number of days and meeting every local person with the most fabulous, you know, stories and food and, and just can’t, you know, really a deep lens into living there versus just passing through. And so those things happen for a reason.
Mike Malatesta 27:27
You mentioned the country’s and then coming back. And as you were saying it I was thinking to myself, Okay, well sometimes the answers you’re looking for right where you are. I’m not saying that’s what you were trying to say I just what came into my mind. But I’m wondering you know, you described being on the farm, the tractors the print shop, or the print factory, the reading, you know, going to the library, the writing, of course, what do you remember when it was that you decided what you wanted to do? And did you ended that include at the time getting out of where you were and experiencing the world or doing something else?
Yeah, I remember the exact moment, I was about 10 years old. And I was sitting in the back of a print shop. And the smell of ink, the aroma of ink, and the end paper, big giant rolls of paper, they smell paper has a smell. Ink has a smell has an aroma. I tell people it’s like I love the smell of perfume. But I also love the aroma of ink because to me it’s like cinnamon and lavender might as well just be in that same category. And it can be highly toxic too. So not to that level but just the the that smell and it sounded the machine the presses and everything and then my uncle on deadline to write stories. I was in the thick of that that was my after school daycare was going in you know would go after we didn’t have after school drop and daycare and things like my kids grew up with where you know, you needed to pass the test to get into the local kid the garden and and all that stuff. It was like real family in no scenario. And I just thrived in that. And then anyone when I started doing you know my report, I did the storybooks, a penny books I did. I was about eight. By the time I got to 10 and 11 Literally I was going out with my one of my uncle’s on on the on on the Newsbeat. You know, I was like the CO anchor, so to speak, you know, and I was literally his understudy. And then I started getting articles published by time I was 12. I was writing in they were being published in the in the papers. So then I started an Iranian writing contest. And and that writing actually did me well because I ended up
getting, you know, a several, I want a bunch of awards and a couple of some scholarships and then that took me to UCB Berkeley, which ultimately doesn’t have a has a fantastically designed graduate school program, the undergraduate program was as orchestrated that you took there’s a lot of liberal arts and a lot of writing in English and, and so my degree actually wasn’t journalism. But that was my intent and my goal. So I studied economics and studied, studied history. And since tandem, in tandem with that, I actually did advertising copywriting got a degree at San Jose State University. So I was doing multiple degrees at one time, which is a little crazy. But I did that. And then I went into the real world of editorial, which was going from the community paper to the big boys newsroom. Or literally, I say the big boys news because there was no women in the newsroom. And the only ones that were in the newsroom. Were actually the Secretary, secretarial, we didn’t even use the word editorial assistant yet. But I had a magic weapon. Not only get I hold my own in the conversation, like a type, my mother ensured that I took typing and summer school. And I used to be just like, I don’t want to take typing. I don’t want to be a secretary. That’s not my goal. I want to you know, I had an aspiration. But I could type 150 to 160 words a minute. So when you’re in the for those who only grew up with word processing, and you know, computers, which I had one of the first computers in the newsroom, and even wrote a story about that. Is or the kid to computer and I got this beautiful shiny apple. You know, Lisa, Lisa, yeah, okay, yeah, got the Lisa. And nobody knew what to do with it is to get the kid to do it. So I was the kid at that particular opportunity. But because I could type so fast, I could type my way and editing and and help the team be more efficient. Because we weren’t automated yet. We weren’t digital, the digital transformation happened fast. And thank goodness it happened fast. I went from an IBM Selectric to, to word processing to the entire digital, you know, era all happened literally within like 1010 12 years. It happens so fast. And when that happened, the editorial the need for the editorial process changed to we went from, you know, the 15 Minute deadline and have to get it out to like five minutes ago, 15 minutes ago was almost too late. So I worked for Reuters international internships, and then that was created after college. And then from there, I also did, did an internship with the Washington Post. And then from Reuters, I went to the BBC and worked in the UK. But the thing that was a common thread between all those was, you know, the storytelling, the narrative. Even the people that I work with, had so much information and had like 20 years prior experience of being a reporter. And the stories and the process and kind of the investigative journalism that some of them were really skilled in. That artist became a sponge. And so the college degrees are great. But that really wasn’t my, my, my real educational, you know, knowledge background came from being literally on the streets, on to be from my uncle to like Pulitzer Prize winning writers. And to be able to say, Wow, I think I’ve been, I think I actually found my spot. But what ended up happening is I got into my career, I went to interview a particular nobody famous, but he went to interview some, it could have been famous, but a company got acquired when they do an interview, and the founder, CEO of the company, told his head of marketing to go hire me, because I didn’t ask him the same old questions that everybody was asking him for an interview. And so she sought me out. And I said I was really flattered, was working on the story. I was really flattered. And, and she pursued me for a couple of weeks. And finally, she called me and she says, How much do you make over there to pay? And I thought, well, that’s pretty nosy question, you know, talk about that. Right? Because you don’t really talk about you don’t swag that around that was way before you know, the
it was probably five years before the.com bubble. Anyway, so she, she persuaded me to have a conversation with her, which I finally did. And when I I, I told her I was so still I was so humble in probably not very strategic, I should have given her a range, I gave her my exact figure. And she laughed, and she says, Oh, my God, we could do so much better than that. And there I was. Next thing I know, taking a position, you know, in a company, a tech company, leaving my, my corporate world behind into this tech world. And one of the things that was really humbling about that is I really didn’t know anything about tech. But what I did, though, was to ask the right questions to the right people, and navigate within the company to get the right content that they needed to write articles. And then eventually, that led to going into their public relations department. And which was fascinating, because then I found out, oh, I used to think, Oh, those PR people are the ones that make everything up, I just report the facts. Then I found out the PR people all came from journalism. And were the opposite side. And they knew how to collect data and content and create stories. So that was another like, pivot for me of the realization like, wow, you know, I think I belong here.
Mike Malatesta 36:15
Huh. That’s funny, because you so it would be easy for you to reject it be like, Oh, this is, you know, PR is non serious, you know, journalism, I suppose. And instead, you embraced it, you saw that this was something
yeah, there’s something really interesting about the the valley there’s a man that’s quite quite famous, at least in in, in the valley by the name of Regis McKenna, and Regis came out from, I believe, from Pittsburgh, I’d have to qualify that. But I think that’s where he’s from. He came out in the 60s, to the valley to do marketing, because the companies that that young companies that time were like the HPS, and the and Food Machinery Corp referensi, that was doing defense contracts and things like that. And I think General Electric, and those types of companies are here in the valley, at a really old school, you know, type of company, IBM, I think was coming out west by that point, as well. But when I read his book, I thought it was fascinating, because he came out to a, an era of ranching and, and was the primary industry and the tech component was just beginning to rise. And the term, silicone was just beginning to be used, and it wasn’t something that was used. So if I were to, you know, have an opportunity to going to be go back to the future, you know, since I think that would have been really interesting, because I think I probably would have been jogging alongside Regis McKenna and my curiosity. And, but ultimately, he created a, a template and kind of a pattern for companies to go to market smartly. And so there was a lot of research and a lot of analysis and, and he hired a lot of, of strategic thinkers and editorial people to work for him. And his practice he created, which was the route was called Regis McKenna, just his name. And so I always respected and looked up to, to that model, and was taught that model in numerous companies in the Valley as being kind of like the, the Gospel according to Regis McKenna, this was this is foolproof, this is what works to market, or you apply that into a different generation, and you put it and, you know, go into the.com era, and everything’s digital. It was that template accelerated times, you know, times 1000. And then you put that same, that same methodology, and you put it into the hands millennial, but it’s not going to operate the same at all, it’s going to be very different. And so that’s one of the things that I’ve learned in my career is the being agile, you know, so people I, in my profession, you always have to, and why stay in it, because it’s constantly changing. Technology. And innovation is constantly changing. There are a lot of other vertical markets that fascinate me. But they’re not evolving and changing and changing as much. So this last year alone, or we looked during the pandemic, the last two years, the convergence of things that are happening in the in the rate in which they’re happening as is it’s been escalated. So smart homes, smart cars, smart, everything, right. And the the fact that you’re taking, you know, years ago is working with security companies, but then security is kind of like we just expect it, you’re talking about your experience. As consumers we kind of have a certain core set of expectations. And so our expectations so that things are gonna work as advertised or work as we expect. So I think in technology, one of the things is that the consumer, and Apple’s probably done this the best is that consumer experience cocoon that you create for your customers is ultimately something you need to nurture, you need to protect. If you take that outside attack, and you go into other markets in the food industry, and food and beverage, or you go into hospitality, or you know, even fashion, there’s gonna be a lot of the nuances that are the same. But I think the, the, the agility of fashion, it’s the same repeats itself, every technology doesn’t necessarily repeat itself. It if you look at what’s happening in space, and in the race for space, and I was a kid I saw we talked about was going to the moon. Now who’s talking about going? Yeah, it’s repeating itself, like, you know, we got, you know, we got Elon Musk, and we have Richard Branson, and like kids in the candy store, like we’re gonna get the race to go to Mars. But the advancements in technology is the huge enabler, not necessarily the science part.
Mike Malatesta 41:17
Let me back up one second, because I wanted to when you said that, typing 150 160 words, which is a lot was your magic weapon. I wasn’t sure I got, why was it because you could do more work or people would owe you to help them? What was why was it a magic weapon,
I can help editors make their deadlines faster, because I would send the copy editor and I could basically do the copy and like, type it faster, and get it out to go to press. Okay. So then the secret next component that was being really clever, and changing headlines, or tweaking a couple of things, and I had a particular managing editor who was from Israel, originally. Fascinating person. And when she would give me my, my article spec, they came back, let’s say the first few months, just bleeding red. There was no, there was no blacking. I learned not to like the smell of a reading. And I like I just look at these and I had to figure it out. Like all these changes and edits, but do it quickly in and professionally and stealthily and, and that’s what I just said, Okay, I’m just gonna, I this is the challenge. I like a challenge, but list is literally I’m on I have to get cross this threshold, right? If you’re really good at Gate, make it you gotta have to not just, you know, you have to be able to show that you’re you’re you’re an editor, proofreader and a copy editor and, and everything you can’t, you can’t it’s like, it’s like a casting call, you can’t be offended that you’re too tall, you’re too short. You’re you know, your your your your your soprano versus an alto you just you can’t write. And so you just you just do whatever it takes. So that was one of my do whatever it takes was like using my, my my typing as a weapon to help the team accelerate faster, which helped me, you know, move into the next job. I like that use what it takes. Yeah, if I did a typing test today, I don’t know where my and my HP here, I would say I’m probably a rusty 125.
Mike Malatesta 43:41
Okay, still still very speedy. I think my,
my, my kids, you know, they’re like, I’ve noticed a lot of people who have had over the years. So my team, they don’t have the proper and placement on a keyboard. They kind of Peck and I thought man, that would never work in the newsroom. You have to know how to type.
Mike Malatesta 44:01
What are you? What’s your opinion or belief about what journalism and reporting is now versus what it was when you were, you know, waist deep into it.
But there’s, there’s a we’re still waist deep in it because I work to close my clients and get them in the news every day. So no, two days are alike. I mean, I’ve recently I’ve had an article placed in Bloomberg and, and, you know, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Popular Science and, you know, Maxim and, you know, kind of all over over the place. I think what’s changed the most is there’s there’s what we you know, we call earned content content that, you know, you pitch to publications, the very specific story, or thoughtfulness to say being very thoughtful that sometimes can be tailored to their audience. And that’s something that you can mold and in and collaboratively work within a publication, then there’s the there’s the old content, which is become a big shift in the digital boom, which is content that you actually create. So it could be your blog, or it could be, in my case, my podcast, right? That’s, that’s own content. Nobody else owns that content, nobody else can, can, can take that. And they might be able to abstract from it and place it. And then there’s the paid content, which are advertorial, you know, type pieces that often fill up space and publications, newspapers in and online in print, because they don’t have enough coverage, or are they acquired through a syndicate, so they go through a syndicate, and they use that, but I think the the types of coverage is changed, but I also think they’re the rate in which you receive things. I mean, we’re using mobile devices, you know, we’re using our iPads, we’re using our phones. We are losing sleep, you know, people are waking up and going to sleep looking at their phones, looking at the news. A little saturated, I think, you know, I mean, I really liked the fact that, you know, used to get the newspapers delivered to my door and, and really get that anymore. I had the guts to go find my newspaper. Like, it’s like a novelty now. It’s like, oh, where’s my newspaper, that it has a Wall Street Journal, like, where did it go, and I have to go hunting for it in the building. But I also think the other part that’s that’s that’s changed is the relation to media. So publications, you know, so for example, look, just take a look at the Washington Post, I worked the Washington Post, Martha Graham was there, she was running it, following her husband’s, you know, stepping down. And now Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post’s. He’s a media and entrepreneurial mogul. He’s not just income from journalism, you know, but we could argue it, he came from publishing background, because he’s Don’t you know, the largest book book catalog library, you know, in the world business when the beginning. But I think that’s changed. And I think the whole debate between to get to political between fake news and real news, you know, is really something that I personally am insensitive to, because I am about the facts report the facts. And I do think some media outlets, particularly as it relates to certain topics, you know, politics, and particularly, I think, is the one that’s still you know, the could be the little bit of the bad boy. So it’s like, I think we all need to be really selective of where we get our news source. You know, I’m a big fan of National Public Radio and kind of, you know, the independent radio shows that you get a diverse perspective. But even in your own small town newspaper, if people aren’t reporting, ethical route, you know, ethical informative news, then they should go to their managing editor and the editor in chief of that paper and, and, and request it, because there’s always a column opinion, you know, from the readers column to put in place. But I think the you know, I grew up in the community papers and the community papers were all about that was about raising your voice about having an opinion about being thoughtful and meaningful, and caring about your your neighbors in the in the city and the metro, in which you which you live in. So I think the delivery, mechanisms of being digital have absolutely changed. You know, changes, I think, is I always say, are we adapting are we adopting and I think that I’m always the late adopter, and I adapt, and then I adopt, I don’t go run down to Best Buy or to any big box store and buy the latest, you know, Gadget, just because I feel I need it. But I will wait till the price drops, and then I’ll go buy it.
Mike Malatesta 49:06
What, what happened, that had you, you know, start your own firm. So you’ve got this tremendous career, you’re going all over the world. This woman that you met, says, hey, you know, you could come work here, get introduced into PR, and and at some point you decide to start your own?
Yeah, well, this is a great Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley story. So after I did three IPOs in the valley, Initial Public Offering offering, which is, you know, a journey of itself, working with the company really early on and then taking them to to to NASDAQ. It’s a thrilling ride and expose me to the financial side of you know, business operations. So that was great. Did a number of those and then I moved over to Two was a grass is greener on the other side conversation and went to a company, a competing company with the last company that I worked for. And I, I joined them, I had worked at the other company for four years, it was time to make a shift. So I moved over and it was, you know, a strategic position for me or somebody, you know, Vice President of Corporate Communications, I was a VP Corporate Communications prior to that, but this opportunity was even bigger, because we were going to launch globally. And unfortunately, within the first 90 days, they lost their funding. So my choice was, stay there for that next 90 days, or take a package and do something. So I literally got in my car. And I’m like, I didn’t think twice it was one of these things like what do you do next? And I asked, When I interview people for per job interview, I asked them if you had $5 in your pocket, and I have a tank of gas, and all said you didn’t have a job? What would you do? Because that was happened to me. In my case, I had more than five $5 in the bank, I only had $5 in my pocket, though, but I just was very symbolic to me to go look and go, I have $5 in my pocket, I have a half take a guess I just took a package. What am I going to do? I literally would without even thinking about it. So driving to my local business license office. And on my way there, I knew where it was, I had the thought in the back of my head before. In fact, I had a napkin conversation with somebody prior about, you know, sketching out a PR agency and want to do PR agency. I just like corporate and I worked at the big agency, I worked at several big agencies, and in my career, so I went reporter to corporate to agency back to corporate. And so I had, you know, a lot of experience to pull from, but I thought if I can start an agency, then it’s gonna be can’t just be me. It has to grow manifest to be something bigger. And I called three people I call the venture capitalist. And he says, I’ve been waiting for you to do this for a long time. I have a couple I have a couple of prospective clients for you. Can you show up tomorrow? Tonight? Yeah. The second person I called was a former news reporter, reporter that I work with had gone on to another publication. And she said, finally, we’re going to have somebody that’s doing public relations that can actually sell me a story. Not just telling me a story, but sold me a story. And then the third one, I called my old employer just say, okay, it didn’t work out for me. And unfortunately, I did it. But I’ve decided I’m gonna go up and do my own thing. They hired me that minute to work with them to work with them back as a as a consultant. So within 24 hours, I had five clients. And I was making more money than I was in the prior job if I had stayed there for a year, even with the severance package. And when I got to the business office, the business license office, I remember looking up at that this big board, it was had written it was weird, it wasn’t even, like, look, electronic board or anything, it was just kind of a handwritten board of the business licenses that one could get, and then their code next to it. And I looked at it, I’m not a hairstylist, and I don’t do nails, and I don’t I’m not a mechanic and I don’t drive a tractor and it was all the and I’m looking like, there was a category that said other. And I said, I think I fit in other category and had this kind of funny, you know, little quirky conversation with the woman at the desk. And I had very quickly think, well, I knew what I was gonna do. I just didn’t know how to quite put it all together. So I didn’t have a business plan. And so I got back in my car with my license incorporated that basically, you know, using, you know, the lawful, Michael’s group was literally like, then that’s that says, circa you know, 2000 2002
Yeah, launched launched right there with a little bit of bewilderment going, I just get to do this thing, right. And then from from there, evolved into, you know, you know, looking 20 years later, I remember when I hit five years, this is awesome. This feels good. 10 years was like, wow, look at all these amazing companies of 20 years, I can stand back and say we’ve watched more than 500 companies and so many markets that that were just like the imagination in the Teza, Disney Imagineering and the innovation from the people that I work with. So I work with transportation, electric vehicles, electric, you know, the convergence of agricultural and tech electric tractors, Internet of Things cybersecurity, Blockchain, FinTech, you’re in the know wellness. domes, right? Yeah, you’re pretty much anything that quite like it’s not a household name, I get involved with it before it becomes, you know, wrapped up with a big bow. Yeah. Sometimes five, sometimes five to 10 years.
Mike Malatesta 55:35
Yeah. What a great lesson that you just shared, though, you know, you get company runs out of funding, you get whether it’s that or you get fired, or you get downsized or whatever, and you got $5 in your pocket, and you have a half a tank of gas. What are you going to do? And most people, I think, think I’m nothing without what I’ve done, instead of, I am so much because of what I have done. Now I have the opportunity to put it to use for myself.
Yeah, what would you do? If you in that situation? You have five years? You’re like, Okay, I got I can go buy lunch? Yeah, just think about it, go buy a cup of coffee, maybe no. X, go for a ride, you know, go buy more gas? I mean,
Mike Malatesta 56:22
it’s such a great question. And such a great, you know, what you ended up doing with it? It’s such, it’s really
well, and this also was like, Who you gonna call right? And so I had to think really quick, like, you are gonna call and I think after the fourth person I called after all, that was my, my, my mother’s saying, Mom, I just started a business of $50. My business license was $50. And, and I remember just that was like something was about was about the change. But I really didn’t know the magnitude really of that change. But I get it now, because I work with so many, like founders, and that founders, you know, that founders drive that you just end up putting your back into it. You put 100% into it, and you don’t look back, and I just made came up with this phrase a couple of weeks ago. And so the only rearview mirror that you should be looking at is the one that you use for driving. Do not look back. Just keep on going.
Mike Malatesta 57:22
So two things I want to ask you about before we wrap up here. The first is you’re the you’re the first person that I can remember on their LinkedIn under Education, having skipped barber driving school, and Fondren highperformance Racing School. So I’ve been I’ve been to Skip Barber so we have a you know, came there. I had a blast. It was it was phenomenal. But I have never thought to list it on my education. So you why not? Right. That’s what I want to hear. So
badass was well, I did a lot of it. I didn’t I didn’t just do one tour. Both. I did both a couple of times. But no, I actually didn’t just take the school but I race and so it started out with okay, go go karts, and then go karts. And though like, like, like Lewis and start up go kart, something that led to, you know, Derby, and then that led to Formula One. I have always had that. I don’t know why. But I like fast. cars, trains, planes, automobiles, I grew up and one of four girls. So my father was constantly taking us to the transportation things, you know, fly ins and all that. And I was the one that I was just, you know, I could tell that is a Ford. That is at a Ford that’s a Ford F 150. That’s a Dodge Dart. That’s a Plymouth that’s a you could use to be able to tell the sound of a car now I could do it. I do it with planes because the piston airplane, which is something I do now is fly and I I can tell you the model of a piston plane. Like just from the set. Yeah.
Mike Malatesta 59:12
Yeah. Do you fly those kinds of planes? I do. Those are single engine. Yeah, planes right now. Okay.
Yeah, another another way to go fast. But in the air and so that’s something that I was always exposed to growing up, but I didn’t pursue it till later, you know, my career because it’s quite can be quite expensive to do that. But the need for speed, I guess it’s something that I have that I never really thought about whether you know, be used to bicycle race and then the the auto and but I think you know, education in general people. I think education comes from a variety of places. And so, you know, our own personal paths are different and so if I may See resumes some kinds of people like wow, this was an interesting career and just kind of took a little you know, side road and a turret I tell people, your first jobs not going to be your last. So what do you want to do with the ones that that were your now what do you want to pursue? In terms of and I every day, I’m constantly pushing myself in have curiosities of like, what do I can I do to you know, to do better? How can I get a better more interesting story? How do I get a story? You know, I have a discussion next week, the client, I have eight magazines that I want to get better priority for me in 2022? How am I going to get them in those eight magazine? Do we meet all the requirements? Can we create those environments? And if and is it like a moon shot? Or is it a long shot? Because moon shots are actually really doable? Long shots are like, Yeah, you know, maybe not in 2022, but maybe in 2024. But helping companies do their moonshots over and over and over again, is something I personally find great pleasure and joy, and I still squeal when I get the ink to come out on a client. And even though it’s online, typically, I could still smell that aroma of that ink. And the in the flurry of the newsroom the same day I did way back, right. And I try to explain that to younger generations, like it used to have a smell to.
Mike Malatesta 1:01:25
That’s so funny. Well,
my old before happened, you know, podcast was created, because I have collected, like I said, collector crab, not just all these great stories, and I do have a number of my clients or former clients that are part of the podcast, but for the most part they’re not, and just mapping out the next year’s season. The first we have 50 episodes. And right now we know, as of now, our first 20 Some guests are not existing or prior clients. So being able to create an event and a list outside of my my own network and realm is something that’s really important to me, because I want to be able to show that the quality and the content is growing. You know, and I personally growing up by how you write your podcast, a podcast journey is a growth experience is a lot of work.
Mike Malatesta 1:02:26
Yeah, it’s for me, it’s like an education. So my curiosity allows me to do it. And then the people that come on give me and everyone that’s listening have like a fantastic education and
say go learn to fly now.
Mike Malatesta 1:02:39
I’m not a I don’t know, I’d have to think about that a little bit. But
you have a lot of stuff to do at the same time. You know, it’s like when you get into a cockpit of a plane and the first thing you write, but the beauty of a small plane, whether it be like a Piper assessment is that it’s as this really old school steam, steamer. Trunk dials and you know, you just, it’s it’s very kind of kind of romances me It literally has like a romantic, you know, type of alert. It’s like you have to learn to tell the point, do something. Okay, it’s not digital, it’s not going to tell you what to do. somebody with ADHD should not be in a cockpit. But if, and, as I’ve heard, had several conversations with people will say no, but you can jump out of them. So yeah, go ahead, jump, I’m not gonna jump, I want to take control of the blade. I want to be able to say when it goes and where it lands. But I think that’s, you know, one of the things that is great about transportation and is in general, because it takes us places, if we tie it back to where we start, if you actually you know, want to tell great stories, then it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and go places.
Mike Malatesta 1:04:01
For sure. Well, Donna, thank you so much for joining me today. This is it’s been so fun to talk about storytelling and talk about smells, we talked about smells a lot and then you know your magic weapon and all the other things that you’ve experienced from you know, the land of heart’s delight now into now, what is now Silicon Valley in the fertile soil and just thought you we just covered a lot of really cool stuff and you have a very unique way of telling the story.
And I think everybody is listening to this podcast should think about their own personal story. I think you know, what makes you relevant? What makes you unique, and what is that some print that you actually can deliver into a conversation whether you’re a student or you’re, you know, professional, or you’re looking for your first job is is use your own there was a way I was given an opportunity to write my manifesto. What is it that I actually the difference that I want to make in the world Use that as you know, as being part of the exercise. And I think it’s a fun exercise. And it’s one that should be agile. Like, like, I feel like my career and what I do, and the responsibility that I, that I, that I take on for my clients and ensuring that I keep them agile as well. And we should look at that going into 2022. You know, and take a look and say, you know, what is my unique thumbprint? What is that story that I can tell? That’s going to, you know, make me stand out, in your case, you owner shift. And so, you know, that’s, I think that’s another another example of that.
Mike Malatesta 1:05:39
It’s definitely a step. That’s for sure. huge win. Yeah. Well, it’s been so fun to explore your story. Thanks so much for coming on. And thanks for all the all that you’re doing to impact your clients and the world with your podcasts and everything else.
Oh, thank you. Yeah, before it happened is is a labor of love. And you’re gonna need to come on so we can break down or shift.
Mike Malatesta 1:06:04
Yeah, let’s do it. I’d be happy to be one of the 50 or whatever you’ll have on next year, or whenever, maybe I can’t make it next year. And in 2020, no,
I’m gonna I’m gonna call it the nifty 50 lists, because there’s magazines that do like the 30 and 230. And the in the for the 40, under 40. Nobody does a nifty 50. So I’m going to create the nifty 50 list, which is the 50 the hallmark of the 50 who matter.
Mike Malatesta 1:06:32
Oh, well, if I could be on that list that would make my year I think so.
Fun. Right. Thank
Mike Malatesta 1:06:37
you. Okay, thank
you so much, Mike.