Heather Whaling, President and Founder of Geben Communication, is a PR powerhouse and someone that I'm honored to have as a friend as well as a women I've worked with on multiple occasions. Heather and I were also part of the twenty women to launch the Nike Women 'Make Yourself' Movement in 2011. Read more about her journey, her advice, and don't forget to follower her on Twitter!
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START?
My career actually began in politics. My first job after graduation with with a public affairs firm that specialized in campaign management. That was a perfect place for me to learn the importance of focusing on outcomes. There’s no deadline quite like Election Day. It doesn’t matter how many media placements you get for your candidate if voters don’t go to the polls and vote for her. I’ve always kept that front and center, making sure our team keeps a laser-like focus on client goals.
WHAT RISKS DID YOU TAKE?
After living in Orlando for five years (moving there was a pretty big risk, too!), I decided to move back to Ohio to be closer to family and start my own company. It was 2009, the height of the recession – making it an especially risky time to start a business. Now, we’re a 9-person team, so I’d call it a smart, calculated risk that worked out even better than I could’ve imagined.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT SCARES YOU?
As a working mom, I constantly fight the battle between wanting to spend more time with the baby, but wanting to devote enough time to grow the company. The constant battle is a bit frightening, but it’s also something that millions of other working moms struggle with. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by a strong network of successful, professional women who are generous in sharing advice and tips from their experiences.
LOOKING BACK ON YOUR CAREER, WHAT WAS A MAJOR TURNING POINT FOR YOU?
In 2007/2008, I was working for a PR firm. It was around the time when clients were asking about social media. I must’ve been the geekiest person in the office, because the firm tasked me with figuring out how social media fit into PR and opportunities for us to offer it as a service to clients. I started to blog and tweet as prTini just to learn for myself. Then, I could apply those learnings to clients. I had really fantastic case studies early on and started connecting with other people in the industry. That provided the foundation I needed to start my own company a few years later.
WHAT ARE THREE PIECES OF ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED THAT YOU’VE CARRIED WITH YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
- Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from crossing the start line. (paraphrasing @PeterShankman)
- Trust your instincts. Always. (@KeithSpeers)
- It’s not about the journey. It’s about the people on the journey with you. (My dad!)
Not trusting myself. I have really strong instincts. While I typically follow my instincts, sometimes I stray … and those are the times when I end up in trouble. For example, I hired someone even though my instincts told me she was a flight risk. Lo and behold, just a few months later, she took a new, out-of-state job. Similarly, I’m selective when deciding which clients/projects we take on, because we’re focused on working with people who are looking for PR partners, have realistic expectations and adhere to our “no jerks” rule. When I ignore my instincts and take on a questionable project or client, it ends up being more trouble than it’s worth.
Thankfully, I’ve learned a few hard, quick lessons and now I’m much better about staying true to my instincts!