Judith Moose has some great insights to share for anybody who is thinking about opening a PR firm.
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There are some great lessons learned that she shared with us in the interview below, as we took a dive into the story about how she founded her entertainment PR firm, JM Media Group.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly and how did you get started?
JM Media Group is a full-service PR firm with an emphasis on the Entertainment Industry.
We also do corporate and literary PR, depending on the client's needs.
We are based in Henderson, NV just a few miles outside of Las Vegas. Oddly enough, despite being located in Nevada, not one of JM Media Group's current clients are in the state of Nevada. They're spread between Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle and even as far away as London.
I started the company in 1995, while working on a project for "Dynasty" star Joan Collins. She was working her second autobiography and needed additional research material.
I was asked to find said material and while on the phone with the curator of the film vault at Universal Studios, I was asked for my company name. The first thing that came out of my mouth was "Stars In My Eyes" and that's what the company was called until 2004 when Gary Conway of "Land of the Giants" fame suggested I change the name to reflect the credit that I should have since the company had taken on a life of its own.
What started as an entertainment research project is now a company representing celebrities, authors, corporations and feature films.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before starting JM Media Group, I was the Entertainment Director of a concert promotions company and had also served as the Commercial Traffic Director for the then highest rated radio station in Las Vegas.
I've always lived, walked and breathed the Entertainment Industry and knew that regardless of what I was doing, it would definitely have something to do with the industry.
Where did you get the startup money?
Oddly enough, JM Media Group started without a single penny of startup funding. Its sister company, Signing Stars Publishing, also started in 1995 without any additional funds. Signing Stars has since been sold, but JM Media Group not only represents the authors who wrote the books under the Signing Stars imprint, it represents the publishing company that purchased it!
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
My main competition is other Entertainment PR firms, and although competition can be fierce, I prefer not to compete all at. There are more than enough people in the Entertainment and Literary fields that need someone to take an interest in their careers and guide them through the twists and turns of the industries, that I don't feel the need to stab someone in the back for the sake of getting a client.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
The old adage "feast or famine" definitely rings true in the PR industry. One day you've got a client that is the "flavor of the month" and the next, that same client can't get invited to a birthday party.
There's no guaranteed paycheck coming in every two weeks and you've got to accept the fact that some months, or years for that matter, may not have you swimming in money. Thankfully, I'm not one of those people who really cares that much about the financial aspect. Yes, money is needed to pay the bills and buy food, but I'm not in this profession because I want to get rich. I'm in it because it's the only profession I've ever truly loved.
That's great. It's always easiest to start a company if you love the work. So, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I had taken the advice of a few friends and expanded the business earlier than I did. I wish I hadn't waited so long to get a few assistants to take care of additional projects. It's tough balancing a roster of clients, searching for additional projects and have any time left for yourself.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I've created rates that are so incredibly low that some of the potential clients' mouths fall open.
Where agencies in LA or New York charge $3,000 to $5,000 a month for a retainer, I charge $1,000.
Another thing that NEVER happens at JM Media Group is an hourly rate. I absolutely refuse to have to keep track of how many minutes I spend working on something for a client.
The clients hired me because they needed someone to pay attention to their projects and that means they get my attention 24/7 without ever having to think "this 20 minute conversation is costing me this much…" I can't work that way, and they shouldn't be expected to be billed that way.
That's a smart way to operate. What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Choose your path carefully. Know the industry you want to break into before having the business cards printed.
The Entertainment Industry is one of the hardest to break into, and one of the hardest to get out of. Sometimes it can be compared to being addicted to drugs or alcohol. There's a high that comes as you walk down your first red carpet with one of your clients, but there's also a huge letdown when the cameras stop flashing and you're wondering when your next month's rent is going to come from.
If you think you're strong enough to be able to take rejection, and this industry is 99% rejection, give it a shot. Otherwise, try your hand at corporate or even non-profit PR for a few years before revisiting the entertainment idea.
That's great advice, Judith. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business.