Blog: Lisa Maas

Never deny the importance of a good image. As comedian George Carlin observed, "The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity." Enter Lisa Maas, president of Publicity Works, a marketing and ad agency in Royal Oak, who will be advising businesses from a PR perspective and discussing diversification as the key to fiscal fitness.

Lisa Maas - Post 2: Build Relationships to Build Your Business

Case Study: 2Mission Design and Development

Successful entrepreneurs have a knack for embracing the bigger picture and carving out new opportunities by fostering the business relationships they already have. In business, relationships are commerce. Quality service creates dependency, which ultimately leads to growth. Publicity Works has experienced significant growth by focusing on the synergy between relationships and service.

Our work with 2Mission Design and Development in Ann Arbor began as a smaller project. It has since expanded, one project at a time, into a major statewide endeavor for our agency. This is just one example of how businesses can benefit from building strong relationships. By going the extra mile – even on smaller projects – and focusing on the bigger picture, you can grow your company at the same time. Look beyond the immediate payout and commit to long-term potential.

Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell, founders of 2Mission, initially expressed interest in hiring our agency years before the group had secured a location for its multi-concept restaurant and nightlife project. That project would become a Royal Oak landmark, the Bastone Complex, including Bastone, Vinotecca, Café Habana and Commune.

Several years later, 2Mission managers took notice of our agency again after we completed a successful launch for one of their competitors, Melange in Ann Arbor. By garnering international media attention and creating a buzz that expanded beyond the restaurant's opening, the Ann Arbor-based development company recognized the potential for their own venues. As a result, in 2008, we were formally hired to promote the Bastone Complex in Royal Oak.

The project involved re-introducing Bastone to a market where restaurant competition was and is fierce. In September, we re-focused public attention on Bastone as a brewery and highlighted the international award-winning efforts of brew master Rockne Van Meter.

Furthermore, Publicity Works partnered with Ambassador magazine to reintroduce Commune, a previously overshadowed space that has become a French Belle Epoch-inspired destination. Our strong relationship with the magazine helped to draw a new crowd to Commune that may not have otherwise discovered the nightlife venue.

The Bastone Complex project proved that success breeds more success. While Publicity Works still maintains a varied group of clients, in early 2009, 2Mission signed the agency on to duplicate those efforts statewide with three of its Ann Arbor-based venues: Café Habana, Grizzly Peak, Blue Tractor, and destination restaurant Bowers Harbor Inn in Traverse City.

Publicity Works proved to be a perfect fit for the project because of the connections we had built and the strong ties we maintain with members of the media. Those ties span from Detroit to Ann Arbor to northern Michigan and extend to national food, lifestyle and entertainment media outlets. Publicity Works transformed one project into seven, each with specific needs and goals, across the state.

The expansion of these business opportunities grew organically and allowed the agency to broaden its sphere of influence. Diversification of our own clientele required a broadening of our skill set. As new opportunities presented themselves, the agency was prepared to deliver the individualized results those clients needed.

What began in our own backyard expanded to a statewide reach. I believe we owe this, in great part, to the relationships we have built, both in the business community and with the media itself. After all, relationships are commerce.

Our media relationships extend beyond restaurant critics and feature reporters. We have connections with business editors, lifestyle writers and bloggers. As the media hooks expanded, so did the possibilities for placements in print, online, radio and television outlets. Publicity Works was better-positioned to serve our clients and our clientele continued to grow.

In any industry, relationships can make or break your business. When it comes to connections with the media, treat the media as a client. Treat reporters as you would your most important client and you'll be viewed as a helpful resource.

Don't simply aim to achieve your client's goals, work to exceed expectations and to anticipate and solve problems before they happen. When you create that kind of added value, business partners automatically call on you when work becomes available. Focus on providing a valuable service that clients grow to depend on, and, you will find, the work will follow.

The Takeaway
  • In any business, relationships are your commerce
  • Excellent service creates dependence; dependence grows additional business and solidifies customer loyalty
  • Treat all business partners – media, vendors, even employees – as you would your clients.
  • Always share relevant information and you will automatically position yourself as an expert.