Test Drive My Job: The J Standard’s Robin Caldwell
The J Standard Media Group, LLC
Principal, 5+ years
Web: The J Standard
Blog: The Black PaPR Report
Mopwater: Describe your path to PR. What made you want to get into the field?
RC: My motto is ‘I was born to do this…’ and that’s because if I go back to my childhood I can see the evidence. For example, I was always ‘reporting’ something and my grandmother, Irene, would always say, “If you don’t want it repeated, do not say it around that one.” I can see the evolution of the little loud girl who became the little loud woman who has this ability to connect people and influence decisions. Plus, I was bossy and if that’s not a trait of most PR practitioners and publicists, I don’t know what is. On a practical note, I began college as a broadcast major with the goal of becoming an anchor, but a major melt down (stage fright) while taping audition reels led me to change my major.
Mopwater: What aspects of the industry are you most excited about?
RC: There are two aspects that I find not only exciting but delightful. The first would be the Barack Obama presidency, which I believe from a practitioner’s perspective will ultimately become the Obama Era. As a former college instructor who taught mass-mediated images of African Americans, nothing delights me more than to see a shift in our image on the world media stage. The leader of the free world looks like me and has a background that is not only similar but relatable. It gives me hope that my niche will become commonplace and more of us with great African American or underrepresented minority clients will be able to translate their value to a broader market in mainstream media. The second thing that excites me most is the inclusion of social media and Internet strategies as a part of our campaigns as practitioners. News can be relayed more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Moreover, I love the social media news release because it gets to the heart of your story and offers another way to tell it.
Mopwater: Describe your office and workplace. How many co-workers do you have? Where, how, and how often do you collaborate with them?
RC: My office is my home. I run a home-based business that is, thankfully, mobile. I can do work anywhere in the world at any given time due to technology. I have no co-workers or employees but utilize sub-contractors on occasion and collaborate often with other practitioners.
Mopwater: Describe a typical workday including your work hours. What do you do all day?
RC: My work day often begins at about 5 a.m., I wake up early to pray and to hear myself think before my phone begins to ring. By the time it does begin to ring, I’ve accomplished quite a bit in terms of reading overnight email and sending out queries of all kind. I view my clock in 24-hour intervals, so I can work flexibly (according to different time zones) and at a pace that enables me to have some semblance of a personal life. I’d say the bulk of my days are spent on the telephone. One day last week, I was on the phone from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. with one hour to breathe and it was all client-related. Some days are quieter.
Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks? Do you love to pitch? Do you dread writing releases?
RC: My favorite PR tasks: (1) Connecting people to influencers, (2) placements – big or small, (3) red carpet interviews and junkets (4) and making my clients happy. I love ‘the pitch,’ and I love to pitch and win. Otherwise, pitching with no placements hurts. After 20 years of this, I dread the traditional release. But, social media releases make me giddy. I’ve been waiting a long time for that type of release.
Mopwater: What kind of clients does your company serve and what services do you provide?
RC: I think I have the most interesting clientele. I’ve worked with non-profits, causes, for politicians, TV producers, actors, artists – all kinds of people and entities. I’ve walked Bernice King down a red carpet, which was an incredible experience. Over the years I’ve worked as a tour publicist and a PR consultant. These days I’m focused on the consulting client (God knows I’ve paid my dues) and having fun projects such as teaching new Internet users how to optimize their social networks. That’s actually a lot of fun.
Mopwater: Give an example of a “dream client” or two. What would you want to do for this client?
RC: Can we talk about the nightmare clients?! Guess that wouldn’t be a good thing, huh? J The ‘dream’ client is anyone who not only appreciates me and the services I provide but who understands their value and is not wed to a preconceived notion of PR and publicity. I am so blessed to have clients like that now. Love them to pieces.
Mopwater: Describe a recent project where you produced results you were really proud of.
RC: In this past week, I’ve had four placements for one client. That was a major thing. And at the end of last year I had an assignment with O magazine that is bring me at least one placement. But let me share, my first placement in life was the front page of the New York Times over twenty years ago, I don’t expect less, and am always grateful to receive more.
Mopwater: What is it like to work for yourself? Does it ever get lonely?
RC: Never lonely. Quite the opposite. I have a great circle of personal and professional friends, in fact it is loving and supportive. One of my dilemmas is finding me time to hear myself think.
Mopwater: What is your favorite thing about working at The J Standard?
RC: Watching The J Standard evolve and become more defined as a brand. It’s glorious most of the time, work all of the time, but at the end of the day it is something I own and it pleases me.
Mopwater: What do you wish was different about working at The J Standard?
RC:Wouldn’t trade anything because even during the low times or times when I had to learn business lessons the hard way it’s all made me a better woman – across the board. Je n e regrette rien.
Mopwater: Do you think you’ll be in this position in 5 years? If not, where do you see yourself?
RC: No. I’ll be strictly consulting in 5 years, writing and working in the back room office of my resale shop in Jersey. (lol)