||Trent & Co.
||Provides public relations services to businesses.
Nancy Trent is President of Trent & Co., a New York City-based public relations firm.
Q. Why did you choose your profession?
A. I really fell into it. I was working as a freelance writer and got an assignment writing a book with a doctor. He asked me if I'd ever been in public relations, because I'd be perfect for it. I realized he was right and decided to pursue his idea.
Q. How did you get started?
A. My first job interview, the interviewer said he'd call me in a week. When I didn't hear back, I called up angrily and asked why he hadn't had the courtesy to get back to me. He liked my chutzpah and hired me. I started out making less than a secretary, but I became a vice president faster than anyone in that company. Some time after that, a client advised me to get an MBA to learn more about business. I did that and then worked for an investor relations firm. After a few years, I decided I wanted to start my own business. I felt strongly that it was time for me try my own thing.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges?
A. Being an experienced practitioner and a business owner require different talents. I have to tell you I made just about every giant mistake you could possibly make. I even got robbed once and hadn't bought insurance. Of course, another challenge is keeping our clients in the news. And it can be challenging to form the right relationships with the media. The media needs to understand that we are their friends and can be information sources. But it's hard to get to know editors.
Q. What are your favorite resources?
A. I am a media junkie. I absolutely love to read magazines. To have a healthy day, I have to start with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. They're like vitamin pills for my brain.
Q. What are your most useful gadgets?
A. What would we do without email? I probably communicate with many more people every day via email than [via] telephone. My cell phone is another one, because much of what I do is on the phone.
Q. What advice would you give someone just starting out in your profession?
A. Don't ask what someone can do for you; it's what you can do for the company. Even if you have no previous experience, you have to repackage what you've done and show how you can use it for PR.
Q. What are the key changes happening in your industry?
A. Computers have had an enormous impact. A whole other influential medium has emerged: Web sites, on-line magazines. And people have to think about how best to use them as a PR tool. Right now, though, I think the big thing is that people are nervous about the future. And that changes people's interests, their passions, tastes.
Q. What are the best and worst parts of your work?
A. It's so exciting, challenging, fulfilling. On the other hand, even though you may be promoting a business you love, you aren't making the business decisions. And there are times we have made mistakes in our clients, picking someone we think is worthy, only to find that they're hiding something. You have to be very careful.
Q. What are the keys to a cost-effective PR strategy?
A. [If you] try to cut corners too much, it will backfire. It costs a lot more to fix something than if you did it right the first time.