With over two decades of experience, MJ Pedone is a results- driven leader with B2B and B2C experience. She is a seasoned marketing and public relations expert who possesses a unique perspective when it comes to business branding from grassroots to a multimedia level.
This week, MJ sat down with us to talk about her career, the strategies she takes to prioritize clients, and setting up her organization for success.
As the President and CEO of Indra Public Relations, what is your favorite aspect of your job? Your least favorite?
As the President & CEO of Indra Public Relations, I find that my favorite thing since I started the agency is the ability to choose the clients I want to work with, and not settle into partnerships with those that I don’t really feel a connection and/or labor of love with. In addition to being selective, my lifelong passion is to support the various charities that we work with, helping to shine a spotlight on those in need. Beyond just PR, we get athletes involved in all aspects of events — from fundraising, being a Brand Ambassador and appearances — to showing support and lending their image and/or likeness to promote awareness on social media. It’s about giving back.
The thing that I like least is having to make every single decision! At times, it would be easier if I had a partner; but all in all, not the worst problem in the world to have!
Since you have supervisory and strategic control over the organization, how have you used your role to shape the future of public relations? What keeps Indra PR on the cutting edge?
I feel as though I use my knowledge and expertise to shape the future of public relations. I have been posting PR tips on my Twitter page and LinkedIn network for several years, and have grown my followers and engagement. People will reach out to me for advice, if they have questions, and I have been interviewed and cited on many sites. I think what keeps Indra Public Relations on the cutting edge is delivering relevant, quality information, and employing new PR tactics that keep a brand top of mind. PR has been the champion of defining, shaping and sharing a client’s story and as a result, we’re extremely impassioned about making that come to fruition. Pairing that competency with content development, we garner extensive top-tier media placements.
You have a wonderful history of working in marketing and PR across a wide array of platforms. What advice do you have for organizations when strategizing on a successful PR plan to meet their needs?
The advice I give to organizations is to first, understand the difference between PR and marketing/sales. That seems to hold a sense of confusion for a majority of clients — and people in general who don’t understand the function of PR. I’ve had clients ask if I was going to sell their services and call different companies to solicit their business. I feel as though educating a potential client on what the role of an agency is and what they can expect is one of the best things you can do! When your client understands the role of the agency and you can successfully manage expectations upfront, then you will be in a win/win situation, leading to a successful long-term partnership — because the rest will be easy.
It is increasingly important to be able to strategically utilize paid, owned, and earned media. How do you leverage each differently? Do you find one holds more value than the others? What advice do you have for approaching these different types of media strategically?
I wrote a blog on this topic, and it’s imperative to understand the difference between these elements which make up the digital landscape’s ecosystem. I think all media is invaluable, as it’s essentially doing what you want — getting your client as much brand awareness and notoriety as possible. Based on the campaign, budget, time constraints and goal of the client, I’m able to conceptualize a plan aligned with our overall strategy. I typically will explain my thought process, give them advice on how we should proceed, and then execute our plan, which might very well be utilizing all of the aforementioned tactics.
You have worked on business branding from the grassroots level up to the multimedia level. How do you modify your strategy for different types of organizations? What carries over? What is the biggest mistakes PR companies tend to make when working with a variety of organizations of different sizes?
Each client, whether it be an individual or an organization, is different. Their goals, strategy, thought process and what they deem as success comes in different shapes and sizes. Based on the client’s goals, we discuss our strategy, which leads to a delineated plan, which then gets put into action.
No matter who the client is (big or small), our boutique services, personalization and work ethic focuses on their specific needs, based on both a short and long-term strategy. This, to me, is extremely important and the reason why Indra Public Relations is such a success! Every client is important, no matter who they are.
I think one of the biggest mistakes PR agencies make when working with organizations of varying sizes is when they hire to fill a short term need, not a long-term vision. Some agencies, tend to hire as they secure business, which is basically filling an empty desk for the short-term. Instead, taking a strategic approach to hiring and growth is where your agency can find success. Deciding what you want the outcome to be for various roles within the organization helps to develop your business and maximize your team’s effectiveness. Not to mention, focus on succession planning ensures that future leaders will be shaped and molded for success!
You are an exceedingly accomplished leader – what keeps you motivated?
My passion for what I do and the success that I achieve keeps me motivated. I feel blessed that I get to do what I love each and every day with some of the greatest names. People always tell me that they can feel my passion and energy and would expect nothing else but success. A great compliment indeed!
As a successful woman, what advice do you have for young woman trying to make it in the field? Have there been any particular struggles or obstacles you’ve encountered as a successful woman? Do you have advice on how you overcame them?
The advice I give to young women trying to make it in this field is to intern for several organizations and to get as much on the job experience as you can before getting out in the workforce. It is one thing to have textbook knowledge, but there’s nothing like job experience. I also suggest identifying business mentors who can help you learn and grow and who will be reliable resources throughout your professional journey. I’ve had struggles and obstacles along the way — and still face obstacles — but it is how you handle those barriers that makes you successful or not. My advice: in order to overcome barriers, stay positive and focused and turn to a mentor who will help get you through it.
Rapid Fire Round:
- The best gift I have ever received… Business advice and guidance from my father, as well as from the greatest basketball players in the world, Michael Jordan.
- If I was a superhero, my powers would be to be able to: read people’s minds, and my superhero name would be MJ because I think it’s a pretty cool name. And in true superhero form, Spiderman’s girlfriend is MJ. In essence, “I think, therefore I am.”
- My favorite family tradition is… Sunday dinners that begin at 3:00pm, and last for several hours with the immediate family.
- If I could join any music group, it would be…U2 because they are one of my favorite groups and I would love to play the electric guitar alongside Bono.
- I feel accomplished when… I successfully balance my work and home life and everybody is happy, including me.
- If I could have three wishes, they would be…. 1. To have my father here with me again 2. For all terrorist groups to be eliminated aka world peace and 3. For my son to live a long, healthy and successful life.
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