We had the good fortune of connecting with Gretchen TeBockhorst and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gretchen, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Relationships are key when it comes to garnering success in the public relations industry. In order to achieve longstanding relationships with clients, media partners, influencers and team members, a partnership based on trust and mutual respect must be formed. This elevates the individuals on our team from “account managers” to trusted expert partners.
Relationships with our clients
At Prim, we understand that our clients are not simply paying for results. Our role is to offer business consulting, unique ideas, expert guidance and solutions to problems. We see ourselves as extensions of each client’s team and are committed to their success. Of course, media results are a top priority. Therein lies the majority of most PR plans. But simply achieving media coverage for our clients is not our sole focus. We’re continuously looking to instill further trust in each relationship by providing expert strategy and tactics while emphasizing that we are all in this together.
Relationships with the media
Our relationships with editors, writers and producers are more important than ever. Securing the attention of journalists in the current media landscape is becoming increasingly difficult as journalists are experiencing tighter deadlines, lower budgets and more content to cover than ever before. It’s critical that we operate in a way that establishes legitimacy, trust and accuracy. At Prim, we focus on relationships with journalists and have real conversations with our media contacts. It’s about quality over quantity, relationships and creativity rather than blasting an old school press release to a list of strangers to see what sticks.
Relationships with influencers
Like journalists, influencers need to be provided with valuable content. Our relationships and regular conversations with influencers give us an understanding of content needs and calendars. A mutual understanding of expectations and outcomes is required on both sides to implement a successful influencer campaign. The benefits from these ongoing relationships are monumental as followers are inclined to purchase something if validated by someone they respect online.
Relationships with team members
Most importantly, it’s the relationships we have as a team that make all of the above work. Consistent communication and a mutual respect for one another create an environment that directly impacts our relationships with clients, media and influencers. We pitch ideas to each other, brainstorm to develop out-of-the-box ideas for clients and walk through difficult scenarios to determine the best course of action. Our incredibly talented team is always working as a system to generate powerful results and positive outcomes for each client’s unique needs.
What should our readers know about your business?
I began my PR career on the client side, while working with Adams Golf, 7-Up Group and then Richard Sandoval Hospitality. During my time in these positions, I worked with a variety of public relations agencies all over the world. It gave me an understanding of what a phenomenal agency does for their clients. Looking back, my favorite agencies were the ones providing marketing activations, digital strategy and content marketing in addition to the traditional media relations.
When I made the decision to go off on my own, I knew I wanted to emulate and even build upon similar services for my clients. I knew that providing media relations, influencer programming, digital strategy, graphic design and content writing would be a tall order for what once was a one-woman-show, but knew I needed to provide services outside of the traditional PR agency offerings to create a name for myself in a competitive market with some very talented publicists.
My first client paid me $750 a month and signed a three-month contract. I went from making a dependable salary to $750 dollars a month and my husband thought I had lost my mind. A risk adverse individual to his very core, he most definitely was not onboard with my new endeavor. Thankfully, he made a deal with me. If after six months, I still could not cover the cost of our usual household expenses, then I would throw in the towel and start the corporate job hunt. We dug into our savings to cover the cost of our mortgage and daycare for our son, and with a will and a prayer, hoped the business would come. Thankfully, it did.
At month four, my one account sent two referrals my way. I landed both accounts, which put me in a better, but not great, spot financially. The integrated approach was working. My clients were sticking around, and the business continued to grow. The following month, a larger agency was generous enough to send business my way. This was a tremendous help and I’ll be forever be grateful for the support this agency gave me.
About a year into starting Prim, it became clear that I needed help.Two major accounts signed on at once and I was already working 60-hour work weeks while trying to raise three kids. Through mutual friends in the industry, I found the perfect fit for the account manager position. Since then, we have continued to grow, adding publicists, social media and digital experts to our team.
Lessons learned along the way?
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s something I try to remind myself of regularly. Learning not to compare myself to others has definitely enhanced my road to success and enjoyment in the journey. While healthy competition helps to generate motivation, comparison can easily turn to negativity and feelings of anxiety. There was a time in my life when I was constantly comparing myself to others who seemingly had the life and status I wanted. I’ve now come to realize that there will always be someone more successful, smarter, or who outwardly has it all together. Comparing myself to these individuals only results in jealousy and feelings of inferiority. Nowadays, I set my own goals and focus on being the best version of myself. This has opened my mind to creative opportunities and goals that I might not have otherwise conceived if my focus was on someone else.
What do I want people to know about our brand and story?
The people are what make Prim great. I would not be successful if it weren’t for my amazing team. What excites me is the ability to create a working environment that these valuable team members enjoy. I’ve personally been in so many toxic work environments that I cherish the opportunity to generate trust, positivity and excitement from the top.
It seems that so many employers are thinking about work/life balance in the way of perks. While we do have them, I think it’s so much more important to listen to the needs we have for ourselves and those expressed by our teams. I’m constantly adjusting our work culture and my personal culture to make Prim an enjoyable place to work. In the end, I cannot think of anything better than time off to offer my team and myself. Time away from work is, in the end, the best way to enjoy the actual work.
Each Prim team member starts with three weeks of PTO in addition to sick leave and birthdays off. I also make it a point to track my own vacation days to ensure that I do indeed take them all. Celebrating the accomplishments made by team members, saying “good job” and “thank you” regularly, honoring work anniversaries and marking personal milestones as a team keep morale up and make the difficult days more enjoyable. In my opinion, the “balance” comes when work and life are able to coexist with positive feelings for both. If my employees are happy and fulfilled, then our clients will reap the benefits of their mindset.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Let’s start from the south and move our way up. Soak up the sun and the views by hiking around Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, drive north to Castle Rock to enjoy brunch on the covered patio at Great Divide Brewery and Roadhouse. The short rib breakfast burrito is a must.
Head up to Denver to catch a baseball game at Coors Field (when social distancing is no longer a thing.) Buy a Biker Jim’s Reindeer Dog and Coors original before taking your seat. After the game, UBER it over to The Denver Zoo. It’s home to over 4,000 animals (yes, 4,000!). Personally, I’m a fan of the tigers.
You may want to wash off the zoo smell before dinner. I love staying at Hotel Born over in Union Station. It has this luxury-meets-alpine atmosphere and is right in the heart of a really bustling area. Dinner is a no-brainer. Restaurant Olivia near Washington Park has the best pasta in town, along with exceptional service. I cannot stress this enough. You must dine at Restaurant Olivia! Before calling it a night, head over to The Hornet for a nightcap. They have a D.J. playing throwback tunes on Saturday nights and a really cool, retro atmosphere.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Denver’s public relations community deserves a great deal of credit for the success of Prim. When I made the decision to start my own business, I took it upon myself to meet with other agency owners to learn more about their experiences, struggles, learning and tips. In an industry that could so easily become catty and competitive, I was met with open arms and encouragement.
Some of the most successful agency owners in the state agreed to meet with me, a stranger and future competitor, to talk me through their experiences. These meetings led to life-long friendships that continue to flourish. I cannot thank these women (and one man) enough for the guidance and drive they provided me during those meetings.
Since then, we’ve even competed for clients with some of these agencies. When one of us wins the client, the competing agency has always been incredibly proud of the other. We’ll send each other congratulatory texts and meet for celebratory cocktails to cheers to the winning team. It was the referrals that really generated the initial momentum for Prim. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them. One of the larger agencies with which a established a relationship was nice enough to refer clients to us. If I client wasn’t a great fit for them or couldn’t afford the larger agency’s retainer, the owner would send that business to Prim. I will forever be grateful for this generosity.