41 www.ceotodaymagazine.com pietryla pr What was the defining moment that first brought you to the world of marketing and PR? In college, I discovered that PR was a good coupling of storytelling and writing, which have always been strong skills for me. When I started working at a B2B firm, I realised how impactful a good story and communications strategy could be to a company— and similarly, how bad the results can be when done incorrectly. So, from the very beginning of my business education, I knew I wanted to be in B2B public relations. What separates a good marketing strategy from a great one? I think many times people don’t know when to take a risk, so they tend to do the same things over and over because nothing bad has yet to happen. A good strategy is like a well-made shoe—it fits perfectly and is made precisely for the user. It stands up well to challenges, lasts over time and, most importantly, gets you where you need to go swiftly and without pain. Trying to put on a cheap shoe that doesn’t fit offers the same consequences as a poor strategy—pain in the long run, additional spending on fixes, and it’s much harder to get to where you need to go, if you can go at all. Further, the right strategy is in complete alignment with the story and perception you want people to take away from your brand. If it’s not focused or isn’t clear, it’s going to fall flat. Have there been any notable cases or clients that you’ve handled recently? How did you assist them? Absolutely, I’m currently working with an Arizona-based company that makes sustainable packaging and food service solutions that replaces plastic in every meaningful way. We are working on an awareness campaign, particularly focused on their paper straws. For World Ocean Day, this message is relevant because plastic straws are the #11 polluter of our oceans. And, everyone has seen that video of the turtle with the straw in its nose – that’s completely preventable. We’re deploying media relations, a social full-court press, and activating ecological micro-influencers to tell this story on a global scale. I also have a client who has introduced a community-based cooperative concept to higher education. We are doing a lot of issues management and media relations about stronger accreditation and strengthening the administrative functions in small colleges and universities. This is really important right now, since some of these smaller schools are really struggling in the face of pressure from accrediting bodies. What are the most important things for a company or individual client to consider when addressing what they can do to thrive in a competitive market? I was talking to someone about this very recently! I think this comes down to authenticity and storytelling. You have to plug into an authentic voice – whether you are a large or small company, people can smell BS a mile away. Once you have a true handle on what makes you or your company special, it then comes down to great storytelling. You have to be prepared to tell your story correctly. In my case, I’ve started only focusing on clients and projects that mean something to me, working with people at my firm and on the client side with terrific ideas and a healthy respect for what we’re trying to accomplish together. Once I eliminated the clients and vendors that did not fit into my story, my brand promise, everything changed. It was like the sun came out after a bit of rain. It is also really easy for me to articulate what we do and how we do it because the story is authentic. I don’t have to “spin” anything or try to talk about something that doesn’t ring true. What future do you envision for Pietryla PR? Over the next two years, we’re going to add at least one principle communications consultant. Since we are set up more like a consulting firm and less like an agency, the business revolves around senior-level knowledge, meaning the person writing your strategy and the one responsible for executing it is the same. Since we work directly with decision-making management, it won’t work to have an account executive or intern at the table trying to translate what the senior person wants to do. Right now, that senior knowledge is me with the help of two team members and a handful of vendors. I hope to have another “me” within two years so that within the next five, we can triple or quadruple our revenue and still give clients direct access to the person who knows how to get things done. This model also makes it pretty worthwhile for both employees and clients because not only are clients getting what they pay for (as well as direct accountability for results), but we have the resources to do great work and make it worth working here for a while, worth becoming experts, and worth working hard. It’s very important to me, and I think to the continuing health of my firm, to make sure that this is a rewarding place to work. When you talk about being good at integrating services like digital and PR, or marketing and PR together, you have to know that it requires ongoing education and commitment to learning to understand how all of it fits together. People unhappy in their jobs don’t want to spend extra time learning. People thinking about their childcare or healthcare challenges don’t spend time honing their skills. I set-up this firm as a consultancy because I didn’t see the traditional agency model as a means to this end. At least, not for me. So, know I’m confident that I myself and anyone else on my team is going to have the resources and desire to be great in their work – wherever it takes them.