This girl keeps it real. I’ve always admired Valerie’s no-nonsense, charming approach when it came to delivering on her word and her business. Throughout the years I’ve seen her move from blogger to full-fledged PR maven, and I can’t help but watch from afar and sing praises.
Charming Media is a boutique Public Relations firm based in Toronto. With a nimble team in hand, Valerie has taken on projects in travel, beauty, consumer goods, and more. One glimpse of her client list and you’ll wonder how she has time to have a coffee and share all of her learnings along the way.
Q: We met each other while in the blogging space. How did the business of Charming Media come about?
We were blogging (Val exclaims this excitedly)! I think a lot of people think that I woke up one day and just decided to start a PR company. I was working at a firm and it didn’t end up being a successful firm, so I was let go. I continued blogging and then over time I started doing social media for teeny tiny companies. Construction companies, etc. Sometimes I would get pitches from PR companies and I would notice that they didn’t have the greatest social presence. So I started pitching them back, offering social media services, saying I would rather work with companies in that capacity which open the doors to other things (rather than a pair of free boots). It just started growing, and I met with bigger companies like Turkish Airlines and things progressed from there.
The company’s only three and a half years old, and a year and a half ago I moved operations into an office. I decided I had to do one thing or another. People were seeing me as a blogger doing a little PR company. I had to say no, and step away – to no longer accept products from other PR companies, attend their events, and to go on this path.
Q: You’ve had a few big changes in your company not too long ago – what were they and what happened?
I started the company by myself, then about a year and a half in I started working with someone that I had initially clicked with. I brought on this person with the intention of having a partner, and after a year and a half it didn’t work out. It’s great to be idealistic, but when it comes down to the dollars and cents, the way that two people work together can really affect your bottom line. We broke off that partnership, and we’ve since had an overhaul of our team too. I love everyone around me, it makes such a world of a difference. Six months ago I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do this anymore. I wasn’t happy. It was amazing to rediscover my passion for my business with a new team and a new outlook.
“Sometimes not everything is meant to be. And that’s okay.”
Q: You seem really pragmatic about it. How do you have these conversations that are difficult and uncomfortable, especially when it comes to business?
For me it was a matter of knowing for a long time. I felt it within my core that our partnership wasn’t working out, even though we tried a few times. I wasn’t as up front about it as I should have been…and I was becoming a person that I wasn’t normally. Unhappy. Angry. Stressed. There was a breaking point, and it all happened. I wasn’t going in that day planning to have a conversation. I felt relieved after in many ways. Trust your gut, because your gut knows better than your mom, your best friend, or your husband.
“Be more upfront with your own feelings, and don’t underestimate how other people will react.”
I think a lot of people do things in business to not hurt other people’s feelings. You have to have enough respect for other people to tell them how you feel. And hopefully you get that respect back
Q: As an entrepreneur you’re creative, you have lots of ideas. What are things that you do to decide to focus within your company?
It’s a matter of putting my blinders on. You’re right – for a long time I was doing things just to get my name out there. I have the tendency to see everything as an opportunity…but I need to recognize what I have to do to take care of the bottom line. You can only do so much. You don’t always have the luxury to do the passion projects.
Q: Hustle coincides with a lot of entrepreneurship. You obviously have a lot of it to transition from blogging to having your own PR company. What does it mean to you?
I think I started off with wanting to prove something to the naysayers that didn’t think I would be able to do this. That’s good for your kickstart, I suppose, but after a year and a half in I don’t think I really needed to prove anything to anyone besides myself. I’ve always been able to pay my staff, I have a nice office, I cover my overhead and I’ve been writing my own cheques for almost four years.
“I don’t care if anyone thinks I can do it, because I know I can. At the beginning it was more about ego, which is a silly drive. I don’t let ego drive me anywhere anymore.”
Q: What’s the Charming Media culture?
I’ve always identified most with the PR companies that were inclusive. The ones that weren’t as precious about only the “who’s who” attending certain events and joining in campaigns. I loved that inclusive attitude towards this business. We get approached by new bloggers all the time and I always tell our team to answer all their inquiries and be receptive to their pitches to work with our brands. I like my team to be open-minded and to see the potential in what newer bloggers and outlets can bring to the table.Everyone works so hard at what they do – bloggers, journalists, PR people. We all work too hard to put up with people who try to get in our way for non-existent reasons. Being empathetic to the struggle and hustle on both sides of the spectrum (media and PR) is extremely important. Give people chances and forgive forgivable mistakes.
Q: Independence is such an important theme for you. What does it mean for your business and your company?
“I love the idea that if something goes wrong…it’s my fault. If someone messes up, it’s because I didn’t guide them properly, or give them the tools they needed.”
One of my pet peeves are people that deflect responsibility. Deflecting responsibilities is one of the most cowardly things you can do in business. Take it as a woman or take it as a man.
Q: Entrepreneurship and Relationships – what’s your two cents?
There should be a national Entrepreneur’s Partner’s day…everything that happens to me happens to him. And honestly, he’s such a part of the business because it’s just as much mine as it is his from the experience at work I take home.
Q: Last note – Entrepreneurs can get intimidated by PR at times. How do you create press opportunities for yourself, even if you’re a smaller business?
I think there’s a PR person for everyone. Sometimes I’ve had to turn down potential clients because I don’t see an interesting story. But that doesn’t mean another PR person won’t see one. It’s a matter of being honest with yourself. There’s no formula! It’s an intimidating process so you have to be real with yourself. Ask yourself the right questions. Do you have a quality product, that’s special and noteworthy?