We recently connected with Marjorie Preston and have shared our conversation below.
Marjorie, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’d love to hear about how you got your first non-friend, non-family client. Paint the picture for us so we can feel the same excitement you felt on that day.
When I first started Marjorie Preston Public Relations, it was 1998 and I was living and working in Manhattan for Newsweek magazine. I also had a part-time job lifeguarding at a health club on Monday nights. One of the members of the health club was a man named Henry Gifford who happened to be a savant of building science. Henry had teamed up with Chris Benedict, R.A. to put his energy-efficient boilers in apartments in Brooklyn. The energy savings was so good and the story so intriguing, that I was able to get coverage for the energy-efficient apartments in major news outlets. We just had to tell journalists that the buildings they designed used 15% of the energy of typical New York City apartment buildings at no additional construction cost, and they were hooked.
I had to get special permission from my boss at Newsweek to create a custom fax list in order to tell the story of these professionals at the vanguard of building science. I received permission to use the company’s fax machines during off hours, and from this, Marjorie Preston Public Relations was born. It took someone like Henry to ask a question along the lines of: “You do PR for Newsweek, but could you do that for me?” That was all it took. I was ready to learn how to manage my own accounts and I knew this was one way to start doing that.
For the energy-efficient housing design PR, I crafted a list of real estate reporters and contacted each of them personally, drawing response from CNN, which toured and filmed one of the houses, New York Newsday and The New York Times, in which the project received front page coverage in the Sunday Real Estate section. Henry and Chris paid me in a steak dinner from Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, and it was excellent.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
My degree is a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism from Bowling Green State University, but I did study at Hunter College in NYC for my junior year as part of the National Student Exchange. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities. I thought I might work in television, but the field was very competitive. I also tired of carrying a tripod and large camera around to complete my video packages for classes. Fortunately, I was able to hit the ground running and was able to write and interface well. NYC is a town where employers will hand you work and give you a chance, because it’s a transitory population. So, after graduation from BGSU, I moved back to NYC and worked in advertising, media training, corporate communications and public relations at companies like Newsweek and FCB/ Leber Katz before moving back to Ohio for a more reasonable cost of living!
When I moved to Cleveland, I actually found it to be less open to the idea of “hitting the ground running” and in fact, it was as cliquish as high school here! I stayed anyway, but it was frustrating! I think Clevelanders are protective of their social circles, and it takes some time to be accepted here. It took a couple of years of building up my client base in Cleveland to be able to shift out of my aquatics sideline to the point where PR and writing became my main work. There are fewer journalists here, but it is still good to give them as much notice as possible, just like in NYC!
I craft press releases and do media outreach for small business, arts clients and nonprofits. Often, there is a small budget, but those smaller organizations know that to hold an event without informing the press means they are not reaching out to new audiences. So they make room in their meager budgets and I offer my best rates. I am flexible and work within the time frames and budgets they have! I also take on projects such as proofreading a research study and a manuscript for publication and proofing materials pertaining to primary educators’ learn-to-read materials for students and teachers. I have edited many, many short bios and promoted such one-offs as a one-woman show and a television series release. My work is mostly telling the story of the client, whenever I can speak with a journalist one-on-one, and cutting through their clutter to bring them new and interesting voices for their audiences.
Are there any resources you wish you knew about earlier in your creative journey?
I wish I had realized earlier the importance of understanding the office politics and being active in networking within your organization, and outside of it. Being involved with networking organizations here in Ohio has been the biggest boon to my business, because I am the only employee! I have met many clients through the Heights-Hillcrest Chamber of Commerce and other similar organizations.
A person cannot ignore office politics. Early on, I tried to keep my head down and do my work, and let me tell you, bosses don’t understand that. They find it anti-social! So now, not only do I make time to engage with clients and colleagues, I am truly interested in what motivates them and how their “love languages” in the workplace can differ and offer insights into their motivations every day. Once you understand your colleagues, everyone can function better as a department or organization. I love that forward-thinking organizations are embracing vulnerability and focusing more on customer experience.
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
I come from an arts background! I learned several instruments, most intensely saxophone, which I played for seven years. I was involved in ballet for ten years and was an active member of my high school drama club. I performed in several musicals and was a squad leader in band. As an adult, I studied sketch comedy writing, was a standup, and have been in three sketch groups and three improv groups as well. So when I say I specialize in arts, non profits and small business, I really do understand what it’s like to try to promote on a small budget. And yet, promotion is key to a good turnout.
I very much enjoy a creative PR or editing project and want to help whenever I can. A client would rather work with me on an arts project because I have taught improv, produced two sketch comedy shows and enjoy writing parody songs for fun. They know I “get it.” We click on a personal as well as professional level, as I encourage their craft as we collaborate.
- Website: www.marjoriepreston.com
- Instagram: @marjorie.j.preston
- Facebook: @ohthatsfunny101
- Twitter: @marjoriepreston
- Youtube: @mprestyoo2ube
- Other: OH! That’s Funny! 101 Hilarious Ohio Jokes other links!
Audiobook (iTunes): https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/oh-thats-funny-101-hilarious-ohio-jokes-unabridged/id1564346659
Audiobook (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/OH-Thats-Funny-Hilarious-Jokes/dp/B0933P8H7D
Audiobook (Audible): https://www.audible.com/pd/OH-Thats-FunnyAudiobook/B09348KQJY
Marjorie Preston, Liam Preston.