Jessica Panetta is the Founder and Head Director of Toronto-based PR firm Conceptual Event Society (CES). Since its launch, she and her clients have worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to Lesley Hampton, brands including Roberto Cavalli and Giambattista Valli, and a number of start-ups and events with a charitable initiative.
While the firm has seen clear success since its beginnings, she got it off the ground with zero background in the PR business. Following a love of fashion, beauty and wanting to help people, she became a PR intern at 30, thrived on its intensity and decided to dedicate herself to taking brands to the next level full-time. Here, she shares what she’s learned since then, and outlines what to do and what NOT to do in the early stages of your PR career.
Treat everyone like the Queen
"Like most businesses, there is a hierarchy and though it’s not fair, it’s something that will never change. What I have always done is treated everyone with respect and appreciation. I don’t care if you’re an Editor-in-Chief or have one follower, everyone’s time and relationship is vital. I always make a point to ensure every interaction with someone is special, because it is special. Every single person I have connected with over the years have been a vital piece to where we are today. For example, if you are putting a show together and you’re not able to place someone in the front row, as promised, just give them a call, explain and let them know that you’ll make it up to them. They will understand and appreciate you taking the time to let them know."
Your only competitor is you
"When I started Conceptual Event Society, everyone told me I was crazy because it was such a competitive and saturated market. Were there risks? Not really. The only thing I would lose, if things didn’t go as planned, would be the money I invested in my website. I decided to move forward and build the company one client at a time. I told myself that as long as I kept growing each year, I would keep going. Most importantly, I had no problem with failure, which is the real key to success. Not caring what people think is my superpower, and anyone can obtain it. Every day, I make a point to do better than the day before and adapt to my surroundings and ever-evolving needs of my clients. If you do not adapt and grow, you are done (and that goes for any business)."
"I have also never compared myself to another company. I always look at my skill set and ask myself, what can I offer my customers that other companies cannot? As a result, our company is more than just PR and events. We produce fashion shows, manage social media accounts, have styled celebrities for the red carpet, directed photo shoots, created the most buzz-worthy pop-up shops and advised on look books, to name a few."
Integrity, integrity, integrity
"Everyone is always shocked by my success. They think there is a secret to it but the formula is simple: Go above what you promised, give your clients value for their money, deliver results and never lie."
"I have never lied to a client or a member of the media to make a buck. In fact, the stereotype that PR companies have works in my favor because when I give brands a good deal and throw in small but impactful complimentary services, they really appreciate it and know that you are truly there to support them. I’m always looking at the big picture. I want to create a long-term relationship with everyone that I interact with and build a community of support."
Offline is always the answer
"In the current climate, where everyone is (and should be) practicing social distancing, this is a lot harder but it’s well worth keeping in mind for future."
"Most companies are concerned with their image online, which is vital, but you need a balance. If you do not know how to interact with people in-person, you will never build a successful business. Brands are looking for that personal connection. They’re looking for the face that will represent their brand in a light that reflects them, their morals and their mission. When I started out, I went to every single event in the city with a purse full of business cards. I would create a goal for myself: Tonight, talk to at least ten people. That small goal can go a long way and I have never attended an event or networking opportunity that hasn’t benefited my business. I still do this and it will always be the most efficient way to spread the word about your business."
For more entrepreneurial insight, check out our co-founder Dani Kagan’s healthy habits for success.
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