Thursday, April 14, 2011

Honored Guest

I was asked to draft a guest post on a friend's new blog recently. We have served on committees together and partnered with client projects- she is savvy, successful, and sweet as can be. Thrilled she chose me. It may be too much biz speak to have here on Smile Lines but I trust you don't mind. Plus, I love sharing my happiness with you.

Balance? No such thing.

I am a mama of two girls, own my own boutique public relations firm, serve as PTO Co-President at my girls' school, act as president of the neighborhood homeowner’s association, owner of 3 dogs, wife of one man who keeps me on my toes and I am constantly striving to win Mother of the Year, Employee of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Wife of the Year, and any other titles that I believe a “good girl” should win. FYI—to date I have not received but one of these accolades. Shocker, I know.

The notion of balance is a Big. Fat. Lie. And that mistruth has set me up with a lot of heart ache and an insurmountable amount of guilt.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes I may be rocking one of my many roles, but I am certainly not rocking all of them at the same time. Ever. It took me into my mid thirties to learn that I am incapable of being everything to everybody all at the same time—I continue to grapple with this—daily.

I have been blessed with a healthy and happy disposition. I love my life. I love to deliver. But not every day is a cakewalk. Yet it gets sweeter with each step.

I started my PR business when my youngest was a few months old. I could not bring in enough business, work hard enough, or work long enough hours in the day. I wanted to be hands on with the baby, present for my toddler, and June Cleaver for my husband—all while establishing my agency. Business was booming, the kids appeared to be doing fine, and the husband seemed alright (although I remain haunted by comments such as, “Kiss your laptop goodnight for me”) as he clicked off the light on his nightstand and I stayed up typing away into the wee hours. I guess I also did have a brief spell spent trying to give away the barking dog on Craig’s List as he would wake the baby each time she went down for a nap. I was also terribly impatient with my eldest, I slept little and suffered migraines often. OK, life was totally off kilter.

In the midst of this a counselor said to me, “It sounds like you feel as if you’re too much and yet simply not enough—both at the same time”. BINGO!

So now, dear reader, I want to share with you some lessons I have learned on the teeter totter of life as this Mompreneur.

One was a Lonely Number

For me, support is sweet (and crucial). My team is a huge blessing. k PR could not function nearly as well without my beloved colleagues. Choose wisely---for me that means people with strong work ethics, those with your company’s best interest at heart (and yours), people who can man the store if needed, and those that align with your brand/image as they reach out to folks on your company’s behalf.

Put Down the Kool Aid

Follow your gut and don’t put yourself in a precarious position when you know better. As a publicist I spend a lot of time managing expectations for our clients and for myself. I have learned to spot prospects that believe their own press (not a good thing) and I am getting better at listening to that voice inside me when a product sounds so enticing but I know deep down would be a total energy suck to try to garner media attention for.

Sample dialogue inside my head that I once dismissed but now makes me run for the hills

To prospects:

• No, actually this is not the ‘best’, ‘first’, or ‘most revolutionary’ product known to man.

• I understand the NY Times would be amazing exposure but have you ever read a story like this in that publication? EVER?

• Honestly, would this truly make you jump off the couch and head over to your business if you saw this on TV? I didn’t think so. Then please know that the TV producer won’t think so either. It’s simply not a story.

To myself:

• This prospect sounds awesome yet with their shoestring budget we’ll wind up losing money.

• Should we really take on a business where my direct report is the owner who begins conversations with, “I would only hire you because I am too busy to do PR myself”. Knock yourself out.

• If he wants measurable results on how sales will increase after each press hit then he does not understand how PR works. Sure, you can explain how PR works--but is he really hearing you or is he merely all about his "ROI" (return on investment) at the end of the day?

Step Away from the Laptop

Persistence, drive, and behaving like “a dog with a bone” definitely pays off in the world of public relations and it is key to success. But leaving no stone unturned requires time and time requires a decent client retainer. I have learned (and admittedly I still work on this) that we can get the job done-- and done well-- but the client’s budget dictates how much time we can devote. If the client only pays for 20 hours a month, don’t service their account for 40. I have learned to state this unequivocally upfront. Finally. I had a client call me a “pitbull” once (he meant it as a compliment and my ego soared in the same way my dog’s leg goes wild when he gets a belly rub). I love when we’re recognized for our tireless efforts on our client’s behalf but over servicing when the budget is not adequate is simply unwise. Once the budget is agreed upon work toward success in the allotted time then step away from the laptop and go kiss your spouse instead. ;)

Play to Strengths

Know what you’re good at and what jazzes your team and everybody wins.

I love connecting with clients and the press and I do not enjoy research. I like editing copy but I do not like cutting the first draft. I like keeping the fire alive and adding fuel to it but I do not like lighting the first spark of an idea. Fortunately, I have team mates and clients that like all the things I do not and vice versa. It has made our work days more satisfying and proven more fruitful for our clients.

What’s a Time Clock?

You do not have bankers' hours when it’s your own gig. There is great pride in hanging my shingle out and having my own business. But truth be told I’m never truly off the clock. My 7 year old would tell you that I am “always” working. Even on vacations when my husband is checking his phone for the latest sports scores or searching online for the nearest watering hole, I have one eye on my phone ensuring there is nothing dire smoking up my inbox. But let me say while the mama guilt surely comes into play as a mompreneur and while my head is never completely out of work mode there is also so much to be celebrated about having your own business. After all, I can make it to the school plays whether they fall at 10 am or 2 pm, an impromptu walk with a friend can certainly happen if the sun chooses to surprise with an appearance, a mid-day manicure or a quick peruse of Facebook without Big Brother watching are invaluable for this girl.

So while I am not a believer in balance and the stars have never fully aligned for me to earn the title “Mama of the Year” or “Volunteer of the Quarter” I can tell you I’ve overheard my husband say some pretty awesome things about me at a cocktail party or two, each daughter at one point has told me they want to be “just like me” when they grow up, and receiving a thank you bouquet of flowers at the recent PTO auction sure humbled me. And thrilled me.

All this said, if you ask me you can definitely Have. It. All. Just not all at once.


Katie B. Wilkinson pictured here with a tasty pint on date night with her husband (and her phone) is the founder of k Public Relations Inc.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dream Catcher

Dear Bliss received callbacks after auditioning for summer season performances at Seattle Children's Theatre.

She is pictured here reading of the good news.

It was so deserved. While she still has to pass muster at the callbacks in order to make final cuts we are simply elated she tried out. I admire Olivia in so many ways and find myself almost daily bewildered that she is just 10 years old. As she performed on the beach last weekend while we were out walking the dogs Eric kept remarking, "I cannot believe we made this person. She is awesome." He is so right.

Truth be told, I am not one of those parents who is immensely proud when their child takes the stage at the school play, or with every drawing they create at art camp, or with every oral report they deliver. I do love hearing them and seeing them and soaking it in but certainly not all of it makes me gush and think they can hang the moon. But when Audrey and I listened with our ears to the door at Liv's audition, I was PROUD.

When Olivia bound out of the audition room doors and was beaming. I was PROUD.

When the email popped up on Friday telling me she was called back for two of the four plays they're featuring this summer I was PROUD.

A few people in my life have told me over the years that Olivia has star power. My girlfriend, Sue, once said to me when Liv was just two years old that she swore if Olivia flapped her arms hard enough she could fly. My dear friend, Carrie, has been one of her biggest fans since meeting Liv days after she turned five. Recently several teachers have remarked to me that she is truly outstanding- patient, creative, articulate, attentive, and loving with little kids (she serves as a junior counselor at her school's camp which was an honor to be asked). PROUD is an understatement.

Liv loves to gaze at the stars and she spends a lot of her time wishing on them. She is a big dreamer and asks us all the time, "Do you believe dreams come true?" She signs her emails, "Olivia Bliss Wilkinson who wants to be a child actress". 

I have told Eric since she entered our lives (and refused to be our little rule follower~a star likes to chart it's own course apparently) that she has bigger ideas and God has a grand plan. She greeted us on her due date with a song in her heart and a mission in her mind. I have said countless times over the past decade, "One day Bliss will rule the world. Or at the very least she will own the stage."

Appears the stars may be aligning.  And yes, Bliss, I do believe dreams come true. God gave me you after all.

Pictured here at age 3 performing for the ducks at Seattle's Greenlake