…The importance of passion and energy because they are everything. In our world you have to believe in your ideas and have the ability to share them with commitment and energy to clients, media, staff and everyone you encounter in business.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Tilson, founder and president of Tilson PR.
Tracy has a B.A. in communications. Prior to founding Tilson PR, Tracy served as press director for a major tourism organization in Rhode Island and worked in radio promotions for a top station in the South Florida market.
Tilson is also founder of Use Your Gift Card, LLC, an online platform that serves consumers with reminders, tips and tactics for using and receiving the most out of their gift cards.
Tilson has earned her accreditation in public relations (APR) and is a member of The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and a member of the PRSA Counselor’s Academy. Tilson has also been active in the community as a member of the Boca Raton Community Relations Board; the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce; founding board member of the Wellness Community; board member of the Snow Foundation; board member of the American Cancer Association; and her firm has handled multiple public relation projects pro-bono for local organizations.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
People talk about the “road not taken,” but I believe every road brings us closer to the path we should take. Although I was a Communications Major in college, when I graduated, I wasn’t sure that was the right direction for me. As a horse aficionado, I’d always wanted to play the sport of polo, but could never afford it. As luck would have it, in my 20’s I had the opportunity to volunteer my communications skills as a publicist for a polo club in Boca Raton, FL. In exchange for getting press for the club, I received polo lessons. The polo club turned out to be my first PR client that set me on a road to owning my own PR agency.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first launched my PR agency, I wasn’t making much money to speak of but, I used some of it to make business cards for “Tilson & Associates” — my shar-pei puppy was my one and only associate! Even with little money coming in, I believed in what I was doing, I loved the freedom of setting my own destiny and knew that if I just kept working hard, I could make it work!
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I had the good fortune to be raised on a farm in New England, and I totally believe that the work ethic I gained from having to get up early to feed and care for animals, along with the responsibilities of mandatory chores, helped me to set life-long habits that in turn, raised my own bar for tackling obstacles and barriers.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
I have never felt more creative and entrepreneurial than I do now, with nearly three decades in the PR business behind me. My current main obsession is with Go Daddy. I literally have over a hundred URL’s saved from past ideas, campaigns, etc. that all seem relevant and possible! My latest is www.useyourgiftcard.com and I’ve trademarked National Use Your Gift Card Day. I created this new shopping “holiday” for all of us who need a reminder to our forgotten gift cards! The day is celebrated on the third Saturday of every January, and this year it fell on January 18th.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I’ve made in my career happened many years ago when I hosted my first big Chamber of Commerce event on behalf of my first client. We all had name tags and I quickly scrawled mine while I was handling last minute tasks for the event. Because of the small size of the tag, and my pre-occupation with everything that needed to be done, I abbreviated my company name. Was my face red when an attendee called me out on my name tag which read Tilson & Ass, instead of Tilson & Associates. Whoops! That mistake taught me the importance of slowing down and paying attention to details, especially when hosting an event!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Gratitude and thankfulness are the differentiators between our firm and others…we do “Thank You Thursdays” when everyone on our team is required to hand write at least three thank you notes. Then we meet and everyone shares who they are thanking and why. Thinking of all those who have helped us softens our company culture. I want to create the world’s largest thank you campaign over a full year, with a goal of 1,000 handwritten thank you notes. We could change the world! 😊
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s important to take time each morning to get ready for the day by taking some time to think creatively and thoughtfully about what has to be done and why. Success in the PR industry relies on coming up with fresh ideas, maintaining relationships with clients and media and also being one step ahead on the creative spectrum. For me, a morning walk, devotion and taking time to plan the day is critical.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My first client, John Oxley, who founded the Royal Palm Polo Club in Boca Raton, was a seasoned oil man from Tulsa who loved the sport and gave me my first chance when I started my company. He believed in me and gave me an office in the back of the stadium. My deal was that 50% of the time I worked on polo and the other 50% of my time seeking and signing other clients. Without his assistance and support, this journey might never have happened.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hope that my feeling of thankfulness radiates to my team, clients and people I come in contact with. I truly am filled with gratitude and when you come from that place, it connects you to the community and the world. I find great personal value in assisting non-profits and getting involved with organizations that reflect my values, and bringing a positive attitude is essential.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- How fast time flies! At a certain point in life, you start to realize that there truly is a finite amount of time to get things done!
- What seems like a huge deal now, might not be that important a year from now. For instance, I remember thinking this one contract that was not being paid and was going to severely affect the bottom line for my company. It all worked out, but I remember fearing that it would have a lasting effect….and it didn’t.
- Not everyone is going to be rooting for you. I had a colleague a year into starting my business who was downright nasty to me, no matter what I did. And it caused such stress, until I made myself look at him with different eyes. I knew that somewhere inside of him a good person existed, and visualizing that person softened my approach and gave me power in our relationship.
- Trust your instincts. With people — and especially clients — you’re usually right. There have been a few times, especially in the first few years of starting my company, that I put more faith in people than I should have. I’ve come to trust my experience and gut-feelings a lot more in recent years.
- The importance of passion and energy because they are everything. In our world you have to believe in your ideas and have the ability to share them with commitment and energy to clients, media, staff and everyone you encounter in business.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!