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Making Big Impacts with Jones PR’s Brenda Barwick

May 31, 2020

Global Communications Outreach.

Brenda Barwick is the Founder, President and CEO of Jones PR.

Jones PR is a full-service strategic communications agency. They work with state and national media daily writing press releases, pitching stories and submitting op-eds. They manage client social media accounts, develop advocacy campaigns and create community relations strategies.

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[toggle title='Click here to read the transcript' state='closed' icons='fontawesome-plus/fontawesome-minus' margin_top='30' margin_bottom='50']0:00
Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. Stick around to the end of the show; we'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.

All right with us right now. We've got Brenda Barwick and Brenda. You are the founder, President and CEO of Jones PR certainly one of the biggies. I'd say in the whole public relations agency world, you have built up such a profound place within with all of Public Relations. So so that's me kind of sucking up to you a little bit. And just admiring your success and just, you know, as we get going, just so people understand Jones PR is you do work with Verizon, and Bert. Let's see dunkin donuts. Am I naming a few that maybe folks might know? I'm sure you have quite a few others that would be fairly recognizable as well.

Yes, we've, and we work with restaurants, that that are in seven states. There's 85 restaurants in seven states is not national, but they're certainly well known restaurants throughout the Southwest. And we've worked with a number of other brands as well. We've also worked with sprint, and in addition to Verizon, and Dunkin Donuts is a great brand and they're flourishing here. And

we are

Yes, yes. And they have great coffee. Yeah. They do get a ton of plug in for their coffee.

Yeah. Well, hopefully by being their, their PR agency they give you you get like a secret SUPER Discount that allows you to stroll in and get at least 10% off Dunkin Donuts coffee, I would hope

coffee and we have some great and great donuts around here.

Yeah, no doubt, no doubt. So you're based in Oklahoma City. But that's not where you were working? Oh, say the late 80s. In the late 80s. You were working for a certain president. Would you kind of maybe share a little bit about your background?

Yes, I had the great fortune of working for President Ronald Reagan during his campaign in 1980. And fortunately, the candidate I was working for one. And then I found myself in the White House and worked for him for eight years for another eight years. It was a real privilege to have an opportunity to work with the great communicator.

Yeah. So I Imagine you learned a few things in your time.

Yes, I learned back that ground visuals are very important to communicating your message.

What does that explain that a little bit more?

Well, he was very he was president reagan really became known for communicating his message by, you know, the being surrounded by the right assets to communicate a message. And he was one of the first ones to start utilizing a great Americans to tell his story like at the State of the Union address each year. And he also another way he was very effective in that was going out and speaking across the country. And when he went to local markets, one of the areas where I specifically helped with is say if he was coming to Charlotte, North Carolina, we would identify people from Charlotte, North Carolina who were serving in his administration. We would meant he would include in his speech three or four aspects of Wow, that person is helping, you know, reshape America helping cut regulations helping improve lives for Americans. And so he would always incorporate local heroes. Mm hmm. When he spoke across the country and that way of really connecting with the people and that he becomes a great communicator.

You know, recently we just had a state of the union and of course, President Trump highlighted many people in the gallery. If I'm not mistaken, it was Reagan, who really made that a thing.

Yes, he did. It was President Reagan, who started that and he, he usually had, you know, two or three, who he would highlight to help communicate the message and the agenda that he was setting forth for the country.

Yeah. So from working in the White House. You I worked with the American Embassy to Switzerland. And What work did you do there?

So at the end of President Reagan's administration, I had the good fortune of he asked if I would be interested in going to work at the US State Department because there was an opening at the American Embassy in Switzerland. So of course, I said, Yes. And I served there for almost two years. And we had done something that no one had ever done before. And it really was similar to what President Reagan had done is the typically the ambassador, the American ambassador stays in Bern, or Geneva or Zurich. But an American ambassador had never gone out to and visited the people in the other 26 cantons of Switzerland. So we scheduled speaking engagements for the US ambassador to go visit colleges and what we would call like rotary groups across the country of Switzerland. And it was it turned into a bigger deal than we expected because MIT in many instances, it was the first time in Switzerland's history that a US Ambassador had ever come to that town or that village. And it always ended up being a big front page story in the local newspaper. The town council would usually invite him for lunch, and it turned into a big, big, you know, town event. So it was highly celebrated. So really, we took the President Ronald Reagan message with him speaking across country, we did that in Switzerland with the US ambassador, and it turned into a big public relations. Good for America because it enabled the ambassador to tell about America's stories about free enterprise and those type of policies and democracy and democratic principles. Huh across.

And then of course, you know, you then go into the private sector. And you kind of rise to the ranks in in communications public relations.

Yes, I actually had a little transition. So after my term at the US State Department, I actually continued there through President George W. Bush. President George HW Bush 41. Right, right, until 1993. And so when President Bush lost the election in 1992, I returned to my home state, Oklahoma, and actually continued in the international area and work with the fifth largest international relief organization called fiza children, and they help provide food and disaster relief to countries all around the world. And after a couple of years in I set up an internal Public Relations Office for them. Then I had the great opportunity to go into the agency side And I've had Jones PR now for 19 years.

Yeah. Congratulations.

Yeah. Next year we are 20th year.

Amazing. So how do you? How do you make the decision to say, you know, I'm going to start my own public relations firm?

Well, it is a tough decision. I thought about it for a while. And it was a dream that I'd had. So I wanted to be on my own and have lived the American dream and have my own destiny. Yeah. So I started Jones PR in 2001. And it was just myself as a kitchen table. Wow. making phone calls.

Why did you Why did you choose the name Jones?

Why did you Why did you choose the name Jones?

yeah, Sure, sure, yeah. So how do you go from the kitchen table then to Dunkin Donuts and Verizon and sprint? And you know, I recognize that that would be a 19th, a 19 year story to fully tell it but, you know, obviously you're doing something that maybe other folks in the industry aren't doing quite as well. And what would you say is your your superpower that that's allowed you to attract such high profile clients?

I would say our secret sauce is having great talent. And I've always believed that you can have excellent counsel and we can run great campaigns. And geography is not a barrier. You do not have to have a Madison Avenue address. Or you don't have to have a K street address. And just because I'm no longer in Washington, DC doesn't it does not mean that my in intelligence has decreased, I still have, I can still implement and execute excellent campaigns nationwide. And I've brought on a team during the last 19 years of wonderful, excellent public relations professionals who are very seasoned, very talented, and they also can compete with any agency regardless of their address, and we have proven that in many ways. And just the past few years we've, we have won several national public relations awards, and we're most proud of in 2018 that we won the most prestigious global award is called the gold lion award that's given at the Cannes International Festival of creativity in France. There were over 33,000 entries from 98 Countries for only 26 categories. Hmm. And we won the outdoor campaign category. And we won the gold line award. So that was the top award for that. So to me, that is proof that, regardless of where you're located, you can develop and execute excellent campaigns nationwide, and regardless of your address,

so you talk about acquiring really great talent. So when you're early, early stage in this, how do you make those investments because that can feel scary when you're saying, Well, look, I could hire someone to, you know, $12 an hour but instead, you know, I'm gonna make a risk and bring in this person, how are you able to manage that?

It is a risk, and I had a consultant Tell me a few years ago, that you need to hire the best and bring them in, before you're overwhelmed with new business. And then you're trying to just hire the next person off the street. Right? I have been very deliberative in who we hire. And most of the people have worked in Washington, DC or in other markets. And they come back to Oklahoma. And that's oftentimes what we find here is that people have had very successful careers either, you know, LA, New York, Washington, Dallas, you know, other markets, they, they left college, they want to go see, go to the big cities, they've done that. And then when they start to settle down, or they get married, or they start to have a family, they want roots, they want to put roots in an area similar to how they were brought up. And so they oftentimes find their way back to Oklahoma. And I snatched them up, it's not

so in the world of public relations, why is talent so good? critical to campaigns?

Well, talent is very critical to campaigns. Because

Can I start over? Sorry? No good. Just Yeah. So again, why why top talent? Why is why is that important when you're making because a lot of times, you know, it's its ideas, its connections, its relationships experience. So I've done this before, here's what you've experienced. So if a client says, Well listen, you know, we are looking at hiring a PR firm, and we're going to go with this cheap PR firm, they're newbies, but the price is right so we're gonna go they're gonna have a completely different experience than someone's been that's been in the in the space for a while.

Well, the talent, like I said, that, that we've attracted, they have experienced them all over the country, but they have chosen to the quality of life a way Want here in Oklahoma City? And so and just because they have left, California or New York or DC, and they're still just as smart as if they were on K Street or Madison? Yeah, because they're in downtown Oklahoma City does not make them any less smart.

my curiosity is, you know, why is that? What difference does that make to a campaign for a client?

Well, you know, where it makes a difference is we really have our pulse on America. And many campaigns that may come out of the larger cities, especially if they're regional or national campaigns are limited and how to connect with markets because we've done campaigns in Little Rock, Arkansas, you know, Kansas City, Denver, Colorado, New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, in cities in Texas, and Every market is uniquely different. And if someone thinks that they can implement just a one size fits all blanket type campaign across the country and is going to connect with the local culture, the local activities and interests of the people, they're wrong. And that is where we, we Excel, because we customize our campaigns to the local markets, right, that comes with living and working in the middle of the country where we do have our pulse on America, we understand that the markets are different, even just in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City is very different in Tulsa, and you cannot necessarily always run the same campaign in Oklahoma City as he can in Tulsa. And even the same in Little Rock, Arkansas. It's very different. And we've run campaigns in Wichita, Kansas, in Kansas City that are very different, although they're in the same state. And so So that's what makes us really unique. And for people who are looking at campaigns, they really need to think about what how is the How is the local culture different? And how do you really connect with the people language is different, different. Some words have different meanings or connotations. And you have different interest groups and cultural and cultural activities. And that's where you really need to connect with people.

You know, there is certainly that argument that some people will make in terms of, well, those politicians or those elites on Madison Avenue or K Street, or wherever it might be like they're just completely out of touch with regular Americans. And I think that that's kind of what I hear you saying,

Yeah, we've actually proven that with a couple of one of our clients with a national campaign, a national client, and they had used a one had used in New York agency, and they were not getting any traction. Because they really did not know how to communicate in the language at the local market level. And then another candidate, another former client, had to use a Washington DC agency. And for seven years again, they got no traction on their message and was not moving the needle. And so they hired us. And we started working on their issues in local markets from California to New York, and connecting with the people and it did move the needle, their donations increased. It was a nonprofit there. Their donations increased about 80% participation in their big annual walk increased by about 100%. So we move the needle.

Wow. So when when we talk about the clients that you typically work with and the outcome that they are after, this goes far beyond just media placements, So what what are some of the action items, some of the the outcomes that a client would come to Jones PR for?

Right? Well, public relations is really well positioned in today to lead communications, because public relations has always been about building relationships. And so, in today's society, people want brands to connect with the community. So that's where we help people want the brands to, you know, give back to the community, they also want the brands to be authentic. And in one way you're seeing, you don't see as many celebrities selling products that you used to a few years ago because that speaks to the authenticity and and so will we do a lot of community relations and in identifying the right community groups that that truly connects with that brand and their audience is not advertising, we do that as well. But for us, that's a tool in our toolkit, and how we can how we use advertising is building a relationship with our clients with with their audiences. So some of our advertisements may have a call to action to get involved with either the calls or help support that may be a, you know, consumer brand, you know, help that brand help the community. So that's how we use advertising. We do a lot of creative services. So we visualize as much of our communications as we can. And that's really important in this digital in the digital and social media. You know, a few years ago, a photo was fine, but now you really need video if you want to get a lot of clicks, and you want to communicate your message. If you can include a video. You're your likes and followers and you and your engagement will increase substantially. Hmm.

And that's my next question is how has Jones evolved? And so I, my observation is I see, I see a lot of PR professionals and firms not really moving quickly enough. And and I think as a result, they just don't they, they're, I would say at the risk of saying they're resting on their laurels, but it kind of feels like that. And when you hear some of these bad outcomes, it really hurts my heart because I know that those are those clients are, you know, they have the best intentions. And when it's just not successful, it's very unfortunate.

Right? Well in in the last few years, our industry has changed more than anything more than probably since World War Two, because with digital media, and that's where public relations really should be leading because social Digital Media is about relationship and authenticity. And that's why we, the public relations industry should be leading the whole communications and marketing aspects at in this day and age. And we the social and digital media, if you're a public relations agency, that is probably your predominant area where you're working with your clients today. And 10 years ago, it would have been Media Relations. But we have certainly seen the scale tip on that just in the last five years.

Do you ever find yourself suggesting a level of authenticity that a client may not be comfortable with?

Yes, we do. And we usually have to work work with him. We usually provide them research point. I would say every single time that they do come around once they see their research and in research, you know, we'll do surveys, we'll do focus groups will do a, you know, one on one interviews with leaders or influencers in the audience that they're trying to, you know, connect with. And so yes, sometimes we have to talk them into an area that they have not been either uncomfortable or new area for them, because they also have to realize that communications is changing. Just going back to social and digital media. You've got to, you've got to reach your audience wherever they are. And that's why our motto is be heard anywhere. Anywhere means your audience with the right communications channel with the right message.

Yeah, terrific. Well, Brenda, this has been a real delight. Again, Brenda Barwick, you are the founder, the CEO, the president of Jones PR is so who would be your kind of someone that like or someone who's listening to this conversation. Get most people I'd say listeners are kind of at that second stage of business. And so the tendency might be well, gosh, you know, Jones PR serves Verizon, I'm not Verizon level. Do you still serve clients at those at those other levels? Yeah,

yes, we serve clients at every level. We have a startup that we just signed on last week. And they're trying to increase their raise their awareness in the aerospace industry. And not only in this area, but also in Washington, DC. So we're working with them to, to raise their awareness, and it's a technology company. And so yes, we work. We work with startups. And we also work with large nonprofits too, that are not to have a national scope. Oftentimes, the National nonprofits will provide messaging to the local nonprofits. So that's why we target the national nonprofits.

Yeah. Well, Brenda, I want to thank you so much for your time. Again, Jones PR is found on the web at Jones.pr good domain name. Thank you so much for joining us.

I appreciate it.

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