Test Drive My Job:: 32 Flavors PR Founder Lizzie Sorensen
Name: Lizzie Landon- Cole Sorensen
Current City: Saratoga Springs, NY
Job Title: CEO and Founder
Company Name: 32Flavors Public Relations
Length of Time in this Role: 6 years before that consulted for 2 under another company name
Mopwater: Describe your path to PR. How did you wind up in this field?
LS:I grew up around a lot of creative people, between a mix of artists and innovators who made a good living, and then starving artists. I could always see both sides to the story but couldn’t deny my genetic ability to create, have ideas, and follow through with them. My grandfather replaced Kurt Vonnegut when he left GE, and he (R. Ned Landon) was the chief speech writer for the CEO of GE, as well as the PR liaison between GE and Disney. It always seemed like a shirt and tie job to all of us 10 grandchildren growing up, but little did we know that we would all inherit a bit of his creativity. On my father’s side, my grandmother is an incredible painter, sculptor and photographer, and that didn’t start to hit me in my own creativity until just recently.
I couldn’t wait to get out of high school where I was president of my business club (nerdy yes, but hey, those soccer jocks aren’t being interviewed right now are they?). I found a college that had a PR/Ad department and would take me as a senior in high school and let me do both senior and freshman year simultaneously. I loved to write, and was always coming up with ads and commercials in my head so I thought it would be interesting. My father, who has had his share of starving artist and layoff moments in the field of advertising, photography, and graphic design wrote me a 17 page letter about how I shouldn’t move from upstate NY to Providence, R.I., 1. Because I was 16, and 2. Because the marketing industry can be tough. Along side the artists in our family we have our share of lawyers, and professors, and as much as I tried for a more stable profession, it just wasn’t in me.
I attended Johnson + Wales University for two years however I became bored by the small PR/Ad department. I kept having the same professors over and over again and we would draw ads and write pitches, but it was boring. It was a very odd time; it was 1995 and right on the cusp of new technology. Nobody taught me how to use photoshop, we didn’t have computers or laptops in class, and we barely had email. It is amazing to me that I didn’t even have my first email address until 2000 (because my now husband begged me to get one) and by 2001 I was consulting major companies on their affiliate marketing programs. By 2003 I ventured out on my own to consult, and then started my PR firm formally in 2004. I have learned from others along the way, but I am glad that I didn’t waste my parents money staying in a school where I wasn’t learning anything that I could apply in my career. It’s not the schools fault, it was just a strange time and we didn’t know what the Internet would be bringing us just a few short years later.
Mopwater: What aspects of the industry are you most excited about?
LS: I love discovering new and innovative companies who design absolutely unique products, then I adore getting the word out for them, or if they can’t afford a PR campaign, my services like “Best Face Forward” help them to attract customers, buyers and editors.
Mopwater: Describe a typical workday including your work hours. What do you do all day?
LS: I have 2 girls under the age of 5. We get up around 7:30 and make our way downstairs for coffee and “baba milk” and I immediately turn on my Blackberry. I weed through the urgent stuff and then settle in to my laptop by 8:30 or 9. I work on and off from laptop to blackberry through the day until about 11pm. I am fortunate to have local family and a little crop of babysitters for the almost 2 year old, while the almost 5 year old is in school. And Thank GOD for my Blackberry because I feel like I can be both a flexible mom and business woman. I am often alienating all other moms on the playground by chatting with editors and producers while I am pushing the baby on the swing.
Mopwater: Describe your office setting and workplace.
LS: I have my own office where I can shut the doors. This was after two homes without this option. We finally were able to find a house that had this nice space for me and I am so fortunate. I take my clients samples very seriously and I need my alone time when I am working so this was very important.
Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks and why? Do you love to pitch?
LS: I do love to pitch, but I also love the “receiving” end. When the editors respond and they need product, or information, or photos. I love the follow through with that and it gets me excited knowing that we are getting potential press action! My least favorite is probably standing in line at the post office with boxes to go to out to editors and everyone behind me rolling their eyes at the sheer volume of packages!
Once I get going on a release I like it. I love to write so it all comes together. I find that they aren’t as important any more though. Editors and producers want the eye candy which is why my website is full service with high and low res photos, and digital press kits for all clients.
I do keep my PR blog fresh when I can about my clients products, however it can’t be my top priority. My time is spent getting OTHERS to blog about or show my clients!
Mopwater: Who are some of your clients, and what kind of projects do you take on for these clients?
LS: My current roster clients are dearjohnnies (the Get Better Hospital Gown), The Strapper (Ultimate Bra Accessory), Kemby (Makers of the Sidekick which is a Baby bag. Baby carrier. Both!), Tooth Tissues (Dental Wipes for Baby + Toddler), and Organic Blankees (luxe organic blankets for home, baby + spa). The roster clients receive unlimited pitching as well as the benefits of being listed on the roster which is viewed by editors, producers and celebrities constantly. It is a family of great products and they receive regular media attention.
Mopwater: Describe a recent project where you produced results of which you’re really proud.
LS: Most recently I have been helping small independent businesses with my new service that is part of my firm’s branding department. I think it is important for any designer to have a great website even if it is 1 or 2 pages. It is their calling card, and we call it “Best Face Forward”. This service is available so that designers who sell on Etsy or through other channels can have a professional website where they can showcase great photos and their contact information which sometimes sales channels don’t allow the artists to have. This service is also available to any business and I am proud of the idea and the sites that we have been putting out. My goal is to help any small business with overall branding, merchandising, marketing and PR and this is my way to hand something back to a new company who cannot afford to hire a publicist, but can take this out and pitch on their own.
Mopwater: What is your favorite thing about this job?
LS: I love that I am a woman and mother who really only works with other women and mothers. When I was consulting in 2004 I was about to have my first baby, Ruby. My client, a childless and divorced older man in NYC told me that he wouldn’t have hired me if he knew I was going to have a baby so soon and he hated pregnant women and children. My contract was up 1 week before I was due with Ruby and the day after it expired with him my water broke. Thank goodness, as he threatened to sue me if I delivered before the contract was up. He would want my entire years pay back. I decided at that moment to start working exclusively with parents (not ruling out dads as there are some pretty cool ones out there), and helping other mom entrepreneurs get the word out about their companies.
Mopwater: Do you think you’ll be in this position in 5 years?
LS: Yes I do think so. I am sure that I will be working until the day I die. When you are self employed things like saving for retirement are very difficult. My husband has a good job but I have to work as well to support our family. I know that this job is not hard on my body, it’s not taking me away from my family, and I should be able to do it for as long as I can or want to continue to work. I have managed to do it while having and raising children so I figure that is the hardest part!
Mopwater: If you could work on any PR or marketing project of your choosing, what would it be?
LS:I would like to continue to work with even more products for women and home. My roster has a lot of baby and maternity products in it which I love and certainly have built a name for my firm in that category, however I am not limited to that and welcome more innovative accessories, as well as home décor, stationery and apparel. I also have been doing a lot of styling and product development which I will be doing locally in the Saratoga Springs, NY area while my roster is currently made up of all e-commerce companies.