When Sharon Wright was in high school, she found it unacceptable that Americans had forgotten about the hostages in the Iran hostage crisis. There was a yellow ribbon campaign going on for the hostages, but she didn’t see any yellow ribbons around her suburb. “I knew that I had to do something to fix that,” she says. “So I did.” She spoke to her church congregation and handed out 100 yellow ribbons. When she saw that it was working and yellow ribbons were starting to pop up around town, she did it again. And again. Nine or ten churches later, the area was blanketed in yellow ribbons.
When she went to college and noticed the little problem of her college not offering her desired major of Public Relations, she founded the major herself. Now several hundred students have graduated with a degree in public relations from her alma mater.
Sharon has since founded Loudon Clear Marketing, a public relations and marketing communications firm that solves problems for the Northern VA region.
What Do You Mean I Have to Know My Target Audience?
Clients often come to Sharon and say that they want to sell their widgets to consumers, but don’t realize that they aren’t aiming for the entire population of consumers. “[It’s] staggering to me how often clients will come to me and not really know who their target is,” Sharon says. She’s passionate about solving that problem for clients so that their widgets can start flying off the shelves.
Solving Problems, Saving Lives
Sharon’s problem-solving is even life-saving. When a college professor was shot and desperately needed blood, the local blood bank just wasn’t bringing in enough donations. The public relations club that Sharon founded at her school got involved, and in no time, everyone was giving blood.
Her problem-solving, life-saving genes have passed on to her teenage daughter. Now Sharon and her daughter are working on solving the problem of a shortage of car seat inspections. Now they have several technicians in the county saving babies.
You’re Just Not That Interesting
Not every problem is solvable, for example, the problem of not having media-worthy news every single month. Clients sometimes come to Loudoun Clear and want them to write press releases every month. None of us have media-worthy news every month. “There’s a difference between writing press releases and writing press releases that are going to get picked up,” says Sharon. Her firm is founded on great morals and professional standards, and she’s not going to write a press release just so a client can tick some boxes. “If I don’t see the news potential in it, then I can’t sell that to a reporter because it’s my reputation and our firm’s reputation to make sure that when we’re writing a press release, that it is legitimate, with legitimate news value,” she says.
Throw Some Noodles
The clients Sharon enjoys working with the most are the ones who don’t come in with their heart set on one thing, like monthly press releases, and instead are open to new ideas. “There’s no magic formula right out of the gate for every new client,” she says. “So we have fun. We really get into the weeds and we try a lot of things.” She throws a lot of noodles at a lot of walls to see what sticks.
Messages and strategies also have to evolve with the times. On social media, for example, Facebook feeds were becoming cluttered with so much outside noise that their clients had to know how to cut through the clutter. “We have to become our own news generators,” says Sharon. “We have to tell stories that are more authentic.” Turn that phone camera around and do a Facebook Live video. Social media gives businesses access to a much larger audience, and it’s very inexpensive. “It’s an amazing vehicle that we have as marketers to use different social media platforms,” she says.
That being said, don’t go wild on social media, either. Your message has to be consistent across all platforms. Make sure that the social media is married to the print advertising and the messages that the CEO uses when they speak.
It’s Not Just for Big Businesses
Every business, regardless of size, should be doing some form of marketing. “Whether they’re at a place where they can hire a firm like ours doesn’t matter,” says Sharon. “There’s some very basic things that they can be doing, telling their story.” Take advantage of little opportunities to get your name out there. Join networking groups. Do something.