The following is excerpted from a chat on the couch with Blattel Communications Founder and CEO Ellen Blattel. We looked at the issues facing women in business, and Ellen reveals her path into the public relations and professional services communications world, details some of her early struggles and offers advice for today’s young professionals. Natalie Cuadros (NC) reports.
NC: What challenges did you face in breaking out on your own? Has it become easier for people in marketing and communications to launch businesses in the time since Blattel Communications first opened in 1990?
EB: When I started Blattel Communications, I made the conscious decision not to approach any clients from my previous company. This meant starting off with a clean slate, without any established client base. I had to motivate myself to cold-call firms and tell them what my company could offer. At the time, few communications professionals and agencies were catering to professional services organizations. Large public relations agencies focused more on large companies and their products, with a heavy emphasis on the business-to-consumer market. A pattern emerged, particularly with respect to the professional services sector – midsized firms felt neglected by large PR agencies. This made B2B-focused marketing and communications agencies like Blattel Communications a logical and attractive alternative, offering a more individualized approach.
NC: As the founder and leader of Blattel Communications, how does talk of assertive women being labeled as “bossy” sit with you?
EB: I think the way people act professionally later in life is directly related to their upbringing. This is true with raising assertive women. When I was growing up, it was never expected that I would ever pursue a professional career. The lessons I learned were not related to assertiveness. It took a conscious effort, and even a class on “being assertive,” for me to be able to break out of my shell, build confidence and see myself as a leader.
In terms of the “Ban Bossy” campaign, I agree with it, in that I believe that it is important to foster an attitude of assertiveness by girls at an early age. Assertiveness – which, of course, differs greatly from aggressiveness – should be rewarded, as it can lead to a much higher instance of women CEOs and entrepreneurs.
NC: What tips do you have for professionals, and especially young women, starting out in the communications and marketing fields?
It’s all about relationships and rapport, regardless of your age. People want to do business with people that they know, like and trust. Those qualities can only develop when you have personal, one-on-one relationships.
Set goals, even if they’re small. When I started the company I was cold-calling. I set a goal of how many people I had to call each day. Also, I set goals for when I was attending networking events:I had to give out a certain number of business cards each time.
Listen. Take the time to hear what others are saying, digest and give thoughtful responses. Don’t talk over anyone: really listen to what they’re saying.
Be self-motivated and operate with a clear sense of direction. Public relations, communications and marketing are not paint-by-numbers fields.Each day will present a new set of challenges. Stay motivated and focused on providing value. Success will follow.