Test Drive My Job: Media Guru Marc Silverstein
Name: Marc Silverstein
Current City: Washington, DC and environs
Job Title: President and CEO
Company: On The Marc Media
Length of Time in this Role: 5 Years
Mopwater: Describe your path to PR. How did you wind up in this field?
MS: I was a crusty but lovable TV news reporter for close to 20 years, so skepticism of all spokespeople, PR folks and spinmeisters was in my DNA. Over time, I came to appreciate the few who “got it.” They knew how to successfully spar with reporters, leak stories, get out their message—and when they had to—take one for the team (usually a critical story) without too much whining.
Then I left news and hosted a long-running show about restaurants on Food Network called The Best Of. Many of the places we profiled had publicists, some of whom were incredibly helpful, and succeeded in making good stories better. But far too often, we had to deal with what I nicknamed Philadelphia-type PR, based on a company in Philly whose reps were so inept that we stopped covering their clients. They got in the way, raised tension levels with the crew and consistently made the process so difficult that even eating the free food offered by the chefs became a chore. That takes some doing.
From both the news and entertainment experiences, I saw there was an opportunity—to offer the kind of PR that provides a more effective bridge between clients and the media. Clients need public relations people who know how to:
• Understand reporters, their pressures and their personalities—and make their lives easier. (Like providing “one –stop-shopping,” and not calling to pitch stories when reporters are under deadline).
• Speak the language of news reporters (Forget the elevator speech; you’re lucky if you get to ride one floor while you’re pitching them).
• Identify what their client does that’s newsworthy, and figure out every way we can to get it in front of an audience.
• Write short, dynamic news releases that don’t waste anyone’s time.
• Use a lot of bullet points.
After Food Network, I hosted a show on Discovery Channel. After shooting the episodes, I was under contract and couldn’t work elsewhere in TV for several months. Much to my disdain, my wife wouldn’t let me sit home in semi-retirement. That’s when On The Marc Media actively started going after PR clients—and since then, we’ve been successfully getting them on TV, in print and on the Internet, in addition to providing a vast array of other marketing services.
Mopwater: What aspects of the industry are you most excited about?
MS:The “what-comes-next part? A year and a half ago, who would have thought we’d be having Tweet-ups for clients? Facebook is as mandatory as a website, yet there’s still the challenge of having to explain its value to clients. Soon, someone will merge all the social media tools into one—or find another, even more exciting way to connect with an audience. In the meantime, it’s a blast trying to keep up with all the innovations, the apps and the widgets. But as Conan O’Brien’s recently joked: “In the year 3000, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge into one super time wasting Web site called YouTweetFace.”
Mopwater: Describe a typical workday including your work hours. What do you do all day?
MS:My 9-year old son Spencer asked me the same question recently, but in a different way. “How do you make money by sending e-mails all day?”
I meet regularly with our clients, so that’s an important constant. I also meet almost daily with our team, to stay on course, plot strategy and keep up with developments. In addition to PR, we have a video production side to the company, which is a great benefit to our clients. It helps promote their services online, and gain media attention. Basically, we’re generating news stories—and since that’s my background, I really enjoy those efforts. In addition to all the PR and marketing, I try to split my time between working in the company and working on it. So rainmaking and schmoozing are vital to each and every day.
I’m never off the clock. I can’t believe how much I can accomplish late at night, when apparently everyone else is also up and working. Emails are returned, ideas are generated and projects get approval. So, like news, PR is 24/7.
Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks and why? Do you love to pitch? Dread writing releases? Adore blogging for your brands?
MS:There’s nothing better than when “it works”— when the clients’ phones are ringing after a story and the reporter wants more pitches. Those moments come together after we mined a great story for the client, wrote an awesome news release, pitched it successfully—and media trained the client and the so-called “victim” for the interviews. Yes, there are usually bumps along the way—but if you can get from start to finish without too many issues and the client is happy, then it’s a great day.
The downside is the business administration. Overseeing the invoices, payroll, bills and taxes can be mind-numbing, but it has to be done—and, given the economy, it’s certainly better than not having to do it, so there are no complaints.
Mopwater: Who are some of your (or your organization’s) clients, and what kind of projects do you take on for these clients?
MS: We have doctors, lawyers, authors, major products, small businesses, the U.S. House of Representatives and a popular documentary as clients. I love all my children equally.
We don’t limit our services. If a client needs a Web site, or their current site needs revamping, we handle that. Social media services are a must, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin and posting news releases to a social media newsroom. We write and design brochures and newsletters, and more. This is all in addition to pitching stories, writing news releases, getting them in the media, producing videos and media training.
About that documentary, we’ve had incredible—and sometimes unexpected success. It’s called UNDER OUR SKIN, and it’s about chronic, or long term Lyme disease. We’ve been able to get the film on Good Morning America, CNN, FOX News, Diane Rehm as well as on countless local TV newscasts and in publications. But online, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with thousands of Lyme sufferers worldwide, and they have been incredible in their support. The film’s Facebook page keeps getting more fans. The big surprise is when we hold tweet-ups, and trend #1 on Twitter most of the event. Those are all achievements we’re proud of.
Mopwater:Describe a recent project where you produced results of which you’re really proud.
MS: Here’s a scoop. We’re proud to announce that On The Marc Media landed a book deal for one of our clients. It’s with St. Martin’s Press, a major publishing house.
The client, a local attorney and a business genius, always said he wanted to write a book about the proper way to build and sell a business. Having written a book myself (Food Network Best Of The Best Of), I knew the process. The client put together a proposal, and we shopped it around, and eventually got him the book contract. It is an incredible accomplishment for the client, and, quite frankly, for On The Marc Media. It’s proof of our “we do it all” approach. But in addition, I got to work closely with the client during the process, so I learned an incredible amount about properly structuring and growing my company. This is truly one of those situations where they say, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.”
The book comes out in less than a year, and we’re already working on publicity. It will be a must read for everyone who owns a PR company, or any company, for that matter. I can’t give out the name just yet, but anyone who wants more info about the book and author can email me at email@example.com or contact me on Facebook.
Mopwater: What is your favorite thing about this job?
MS: Media “gets.” They make for happy clients.
Mopwater: Do you think you’ll be in this position in 5 years?
MS: Absolutely. The plan is to keep growing the company.
Mopwater: If you could work on any PR or marketing project of your choosing, what would it be?
MS: GM, Chrysler, along with the banking and newspaper industries. I like challenges.