Adventure is calling, Toot and Puddle

Just a few weeks ago, I was celebrating my PR company’s 20th anniversary and thinking about the many amazing experiences I’ve had thanks to clients. Serving as spokesperson for a world-class sled dog race through snowbound Wyoming backcountry; traveling to Winnipeg to see polar bears in their habitat, trekking to Mexico to witness millions of migrating Monarch butterflies, watching wolves and grizzlies frolic with their babies in Yellowstone springtime, helping organize a celebrity gala to launch the first five-star hotel in South Lake Tahoe – all of these adventures were the result of working on client projects.

While I was often out of the office traveling to client locations, WordenGroup Public Relations never missed a beat thanks to the people at the heart of our business: Anne Parsons in our Denver office and Amy Stark in Jackson. They held down the fort, allowing me to be mobile while they made certain that our clients were getting outstanding results. They have been the consistent force that drives the work forward and have created relationships with our clients – and media – resulting in businesses that have stayed with us for 16 years.

When my daughter was small, she had a favorite picture book, Toot & Puddle, the story of two darling pigs. Toot decides to leave to see the world while Puddle remains at home. Both pigs have adventures – Toot, around the globe, and Puddle, home in Woodcock Hollow. I was thinking of Toot and Puddle writing this today.

I wasn’t even thinking of leaving the PR company that I had built. But then an unexpected opportunity to become editor-in-chief of Mountain Living – a new adventure – presented itself, and, like Toot, I jumped. As a result, Anne and Amy will also have a new opportunity – assuming lead roles managing the company, Anne in Denver and Amy in Jackson, no doubt with their own adventures along the way.

To reflect the changes, the WordenGroup name has changed to Word PR + Marketing – a new name that also emphasizes the firm’s focus on the written word, the building block of the all-important content and storytelling that drives PR. And Word PR will continue its niche focus on travel and tourism as well as art, architecture and design clients throughout the Rocky Mountain West.

I hate goodbyes. I avoid them whenever possible, preferring a bon voyage, ciao or “see you soon.” For now, I’m looking forward to the next phase as Amy and Anne move forward with Word PR + Marketing and I leave this blog in their capable hands as I reconnect with the world through Mountain Living. So this really isn’t a goodbye, it’s “until we meet again.”

Taking Stock

In 1996 I started a PR firm with two clients in Wyoming.  It was a leap of faith—I was divorced with a 2-year-old and I wanted to create a life with flexibility, unlike the 60-hour work weeks I’d experienced in publishing houses and big PR agencies. What I learned is that you still work the 60 hours, but you get to decide when to work those hours so that you don’t miss out on life’s important moments. You sandwich work between dinner and bedtime and between weekend soccer games and shopping for groceries.

Starting a business allowed me to curate a list of clients who are fascinating, to work with people who have become lifelong friends, and to learn something new each day. Being a small business owner isn’t for everyone—it can come at the price of sleepless nights worrying about one thing or another—but for me, it has been the right choice. Cheers to all the people who have helped WordenGroup Public Relations grow—here’s to a bright future!

Darla Worden
WordenGroup PR

Email Marketing Tune-Up

Recently I met with our friends at Wigwam Creative marketing to see what they’ve been up to lately. Since at WordenGroup we’re interested in hospitality PR, they previewed some work they’ve done for resorts like Devil’s Thumb Ranch and Antlers at Vail.

One takeaway I had from the meeting is that email marketing continues to be one of the most effective marketing tools when used correctly. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has an average ROI, or return on investment, of $38 for every one dollar spent. It makes sense to make the most of this powerful form of communication:

  • How often to send: When I asked how often to send an email to your list, they said, “when you have something to say.” Makes sense, there’s no absolute rule about timing. If you have real information that people want to receive, they’ll open your email whenever you send it.
  • A little info goes a long way: Citing the Barefoot Contessa as someone who does this well with her emails, the guys at Wigwam said just a little snippet of plaintext like “12 inches of new snow and a room for you….” followed by a link is enough to make someone click to learn more. You only have a few seconds to make an impression in email. Make it count with an engaging relevant information up top … and an engaging subject line too.
  • Templates: Some email service providers give you the option to use a preset template. Some of them are fine, but many of them can end up looking a little generic. An well-designed template can improve response because it completely reflects your brand, which your readers trust. Trust equals more time spent reading your message.
  • MyEmma, Constant Contact, and MailChimp are three of the most popular email programs—each with unique benefits. Constant Contact is the most basic for DIY, MyEmma and MailChimp with DOE for more advanced options.
  • Newsletter sign-up: There’s a reason why websites continue to pop up with offers for email newsletter sign-ups—they work. Mailing lists are currency; the more emails you gather, the more names you have of people potentially interested in your product. Always ask for permission first. When you get that permission, make sure to honor it by delivering valuable, interesting content. It’s highly likely you will see an impressive return on that investment.

Darla Worden
WordenGroup PR

What I have learned from Rob LeVine so far

Fifteen years ago, when we were both starting out in our careers (not), I met Antlers at Vail hotel GM Rob LeVine during a talk I was giving in Vail about PR tips for businesses. There was Rob, a speaker’s dream come true—a friendly face. He’s been my firm’s client and friend ever since. Although he hired WordenGroup PR to help him, I should have been paying him all these years for what he has taught me about business:

  1. Use every chance to send a handwritten note. If you’re sending a package, always include a note. It’s a personal touch that goes a long way.
  2. Eliminate extra exclamation marks, let the words convey the emotion. Emails with typos and excessive exclamations are one of his pet peeves. I’m not sure how he feels about emojis :).
  3. “The answer is yes, what’s the question?” That sentence is a Rob mantra; he truly runs his business by it.
  4. Give away more for free. In the “Free Economy,” Rob is a master at complimentary amenities. Snowshoes, bikes, GoPro cameras, yoga, an electric car charger–as well as WiFi and parking. He thrives on making guests happy.
  5. Plug into the power of Seth. Rob enjoys reading Seth Godin, who recently wrote: “Average stuff for average people is getting ever more difficult to sell. If that’s all you’ve got, get something else.” The post reminded me of Rob; not only does he make the Antlers stand out, he understands that his guests aren’t average either. And treats them that way.

Rob could teach a class on how to be your best self in business: not by hiding behind titles or jargon or policies, but by putting yourself out there as a human being. In our office – and I’m not making this up – we often ask, What would Rob do?

Darla Worden
WordenGroup PR