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The PR Zealot and the “Glob of Nothingness”

April 30, 2019 | Productivity

Cody: Hey everyone, welcome to the podcast today. Very excited to introduce my friend Brad Domitrovich. He is commonly known as the PR Zealot, but if you don’t know who he is, Brad is one of the most influential figures in public relations, and especially in public relations as it relates to education. If you have any questions about Ashore, email us at or check us out online at Talk soon.

Abby: Hey, why are you drinking your whiskey out of your espresso cup?

Cody: Well, I feel like it’s really good whiskey, and it would be doing it a disservice to drink it out of a plastic cup.

Abby: You’ve been doing it all week.

Cody: Yeah, but now I’m with Brad and I want to impress him.

Abby: Oh. Are you impressed, are you impressed by his cup?

Brad D: I’m impressed by [Abby’s] water.

Cody: Brad, thank you for hanging out with us today.

Brad D: It’s a pleasure.

Cody: I’m excited to do this podcast with you, because you’re one of my best friends in the world. If the point of this podcast is to talk about the problems that creatives deal with, you are certainly someone who, you come with a lot of experience.

Brad D: I’m ready.

Abby: Yeah.

Cody: Have you ever had a startup idea, Brad?

Brad D: It depends on what you consider a startup idea. I’ve started up businesses.

Abby: That’s what we mean, I think.

Brad D: Well I know nowadays, you know, you kids think it’s all of software and app development and all that stuff if startup.

Cody: True. Yeah.

Abby: That is just Cody and his …

Brad D: The first business that I started was when I was in college, and it was-

Abby: When were you in college?

Brad D: I was in college, I graduated in 1980. This was in ’78 I started this business, and it was a beer can collectable business, because beer can collection was real big. All my friends were beer drinkers, so we would go around, buy cases of beers, open them from the bottom, and then I’d sell these cases of empty beer cans to collectors across the United States.

Cody: No way. Was it big business?

Brad D: Using a newsletter format and buying advertising, and it was profitable. It beet working for minimum wage at a restaurant or a store, or anything like that.

Cody: Wow.

Abby: Wow.

Brad D: That was my first business idea.

Abby: Okay so Cody, what’s your startup idea?

Cody: I’ve been doing a lot of video gigs lately, and last week I was in Vancouver. One thing that I think is really important for a lot of director of photography’s is to know basically how to create a really good lighting set up. You kind of watch TV shows or you watch movies and you see really beautiful scenes, and you wonder to yourself like, “How was that shot?” You kind of make guesses on it, right. But, what I think would be really cool is to have an app where you could basically log in and then look up a movie, and then look up scenes from that movie, and then have like cad drawings or just like diagrams of how the lighting was set up. Maybe some BTS, some behind the scenes footage. Ultimately you could learn how the greats produced those scenes, and then reproduce them yourself.

Abby: I’m really bad at-

Cody: She’s still trying to come up with an idea.

Brad D: My second one was then I became a consultant after my corporate times, did that for eight years, before I decided to live my fantasy that I always wanted to do, becoming a teacher.

Abby: That’s your fantasy?

Brad D: Yup.

Cody: You were a consultant for eight years and then you were a teacher.

Brad D: That’s what I always wanted to do. I was in corporate world for eight years, business consulting for eight years, and then went into education for 22.

Cody: No way.

Abby: Sounds like you liked education the best.

Brad D: I do, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cody: You were a teacher for 22 years?

Brad D: No, uh-huh (negative).

Cody: Okay, sorry.

Brad D: I only did that for three years, and then I had someone figure out what my background was, and then I went into educational public relations.

Cody: Oh, no way. Okay.

Abby: Did you like being a teacher?

Brad D: I loved it. I did elementary school.

Abby: Oh.

Cody: You did PR for corporate America.

Brad D: Mm-hmm (affirmative), marketing and advertising.

Cody: Then you moved into a freelance consultant role.

Brad D: Correct.

Cody: For eight years.

Brad D: Primarily as a trainer, doing sales training and marketing improvement for businesses.

Cody: Got it, okay. Then you became a teacher and then you became PR for education.

Brad D: Correct.

Cody: That’s kind of where most of your career stems from.

Brad D: You are correct.

Cody: I know at one point you were the president of the Texas school PR association.

Brad D: You are correct with that, too.

Cody: Yeah.

Abby: Sounds fancy.

Cody: I’m a fan of you.

Brad D: It was fancy. It didn’t pay anything, but it was very fancy.

Cody: Tell me, was it easier being a creative back then than it is today?

Brad D: The difference is, you know, it’s much easier to research now.

Cody: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Abby: That’s true.

Brad D: Back then if you had to research you had to go to a library and read stuff that was two and three years old.

Cody: Would you do that?

Brad D: Oh, yeah. Or, you had to pick up a phone and call people.

Abby: Ew.

Brad D: Find out what to do.

Cody: Yeah.

Brad D: Or, send them a letter through the post office you know, “Please answer me back.”

Cody: No way.

Brad D: Time wise everything took longer, you know. When you think about when I first started one of my tasks was to help put together these sales presentations for national roll outs at a company.

Cody: Okay.

Brad D: We put together the presentations that the execs would use to talk to people. That process was you all got in a room, 10 of you, you talked about, you did a little sketch of what now a PowerPoint slide would look like, or a keynote slide. You then took that information over to the graphic designers who sketched it out for you. Then, you took it over to the art department to have them work on a thing. Then, they created cells so you could then change colors and stuff like that easier, on top of that. Then, when that got done, you took it to the photography department and they made your 35 millimeter slide projector that you put into your carousel projector for presentations.

Cody: Oh my God.

Abby: Wow.

Brad D: The process to make one slide that we could do now in about 10 minutes or less, took probably a good 10 days.

Abby: Dang.

Brad D: By the time you went through all the different departments.

Cody: Wow.

Abby: Whenever you were freelancing, you know back before you lived out your teacher fantasy, what sort of things did you do? Besides, you know, you talk about making really fancy PowerPoints.

Brad D: Well, no I didn’t do much of that with that, but it was primarily going in and looking at what people, how they were marketing their business. How they were marketing themselves, and how they could improve their relationships with their customers and their clients.

Cody: This was back at a time though when it was really hard to measure ROI on any kind of marketing activity.

Brad D: Uh-huh (affirmative). Right, uh-huh (affirmative).

Cody: Today when we do an AdWords campaign or we do virtually any kind of campaign that involves web at all, we have the ability to track our conversion rate and our cost per conversion really, really easily. Back then, how would you handle ROI. How would you measure that?

Brad D: You’d look at what your sales were, but of course then that was, you’re looking then at history, because by the time you got sales in a corporate environment it would be three to six months afterwards. You’d have nothing instantaneous. While you were doing the process you would do surveys, you would do in store popups if you were doing with consumer sales, and actually have somebody watching like in a grocery store.

Brad D: If you were marketing something you’d actually have people standing in an aisle watching how people go to that product. Like, if you were buying paper towels, you’d have somebody watching how people looked and where their eye went to when they are doing that. All that stuff that had to be done was very physically intensive.

Cody: Yeah, that’s true.

Abby: If everything is happening online, watching how the customers pick it out on the shelf, like that wouldn’t really work anymore. Like, now you can watch how people browse Amazon.

Brad D: How fast things sell.

Cody: How visually disruptive a product image is, right. It’s like when they’re scrolling down the feed of their search or whatever, you’re searching for microphone arm. You’re looking for several things, right. You’re looking for the reviews, you’re looking for social credibility. Then you’re looking for the photo yourself. You’re trying to determine what you see to be a credible product, right. You’re looking at the brand of course-

Brad D: You see stuff that you looked at yesterday on Google, because that’s popping up in your feed.

Cody: You’ve watched the creative industry and the PR and marketing industry evolve for the past two decades, three decades almost. You’ve seen how not only marketing tactics have evolved and how we’ve changed our approach to consumer purchasing and all these things, but you’ve also seen how customer service initiatives have changed over the time. You were describing earlier how you used to see people at stores watching how people pick up brands and set them down in grocery stores. Do you think that the way that companies are approaching customer service today is equal to how they used to approach it?

Brad D: I think peoples expectations are lower than they were. Your expectations are not there, you know. My expectation when I walk into Walmart, and I love shopping at Walmart, that’s just in case they become a client of mine or something. Say that I really love Walmart. Walmart’s great.

Cody: We love Walmart.

Brad D: But their philosophy is, you know, stack is high, sell it cheap.

Cody: Yeah.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad D: I’m aware of that philosophy to go in, so I’m willing to sacrifice certain things in order to get something cheap. Now, I could buy you know sometimes the same product at a smaller store or something similar, you know if I want a pair of tennis shoes I could buy a pair at Walmart or I could go buy a pair at some athletic store. I’m going to get a higher customer service level at the athletic store, because the way they departmentalize and stuff like that, but I’m going to pay more for it.

Brad D: So, I think our expectations are different, and one of my customer service workshops that I do, I bring up the point just like what’s your expectation when you go to McDonald’s? It’s usually the same thing. You’re going through a drive through, you want something quick.

Abby: Cheap.

Brad D: You want it cheap, and you want to fill up. You really don’t care if the big mac doesn’t look like anything on their poster when you get it.

Abby: That’s true.

Brad D: That it’s crushed, that it’s melted down, that the special sauce is leaking out and the lettuce is coming out the other way. You don’t care. You’re willing to sacrifice some of those things for the price that you’re paying.

Cody: True.

Abby: I mean, you’re getting a four dollar meal, you don’t look at the picture.

Brad D: Exactly. You know. I think the consumers are better educated, but that also allows for customers to take advantage of their education, because if you’re expecting something cheap you can provide cheap.

Cody: Yeah.

Brad D: Does that make sense?

Cody: Yeah, that makes sense.

Abby: That’s true.

Cody: Yeah, I actually had a friend who, he had trouble with one of his Amazon orders. He was trying to return it, it was like basically he was sent a faulty product. He’s working through Amazon to get a refund on this product and actually they responded, I saw the email, and it said, “Here’s the email address of our CEO Jeff Bezos, please reach out to him and he will be able to help you.”

Cody: Well, I can tell you that I think Jeff Bezos is not going to respond to your customer complaint about your refund.

Brad D: That’s going to be one of many people in that department.

Cody: Yeah exactly, right.

Abby: That’s amazing.

Cody: Yeah so it definitely, in terms of the customer service that is expected, I think you’re absolutely right. We hope for more but we don’t expect that much.

Brad D: But when people talk like about Amazon, they have very good customer service ratings because of their return policy.

Cody: Yeah.

Abby: Which is, they’ll literally take anything.

Brad D: Which is you know, and that’s a thing that Walmart offers too. As long as you’ve got a receipt you could pretty much return it.

Cody: Yeah, that’s true. I’m sure a lot of our customers and a lot of people listening to this podcast are in the creative world, and many of them are probably freelancers. How did you determine what your pricing structure looks like?

Brad D: It was based on my market, and since I concentrate a lot on the education market and I worked in the education market a lot, I know what kind of the standard rates are.

Cody: Yeah.

Brad D: What would be the highest point you could charge, what would be the lowest point you could charge. Because it’s like anything, if you charge too low people don’t think they’re getting quality service.

Cody: Yeah.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad D: If you charge too high people will always question whether your value was worth it or not, even though if it was.

Cody: Right. Right.

Brad D: There’s always a good kind of a, I hate to say midway, but there’s always a kind of a good three quarters a way of looking at stuff. For providing a half-day of training, a full day of training, or you know some sort of retainer.

Cody: Yeah.

Brad D: A lot of times knowing what I know, if you stay under like in the education business, and in some companies. It’s always kind of good to know what the company’s policy is on how many levels of approval is there before you get paid.

Cody: Yeah.

Brad D: If $5000 is the clicker, anything over $5000 needs two or three approvals. But, if you charge $4999 you only need one approval. Well, the smart person is going to charge $4999, and get paid a lot quicker.

Cody: Yeah.

Abby: Have your rates changed over your career?

Brad D: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Abby: Like, were you really cheap in the beginning?

Brad D: No, I think it was because I was freelancing also the last eight years that I was working. I had some great bosses that allowed me to take time off and present and talk at conferences, and things like that.

Cody: Yeah.

Brad D: I didn’t charge as much at that time because I was also doing something else, but when I did it then full-time my rates went up. I set at that time, because I knew this was going to be my full-time work for at least the next five years, you know, that was my plan, I already set up my rates on day one to how they’re going to be on the end of five years, so that each year it took an increase.

Cody: Oh, okay, so you planned it out that way.

Brad D: Yes. I planned it out that way.

Cody: As long as BrandCave has existed, it’s never once raised its rate. Our rate is 75 and hour.

Abby: How did you choose that?

Cody: Well, the agency that I was working at prior too was charging, it had multi-tier levels. If you were like a senior level designer you were working at 150 billable dollars per billable hour. But then if the CEO was involved in any project, he was charging $300 an hour, billable hour. I thought that structure was really good, but it was also very complicated. You’ll spend a little bit of time on one project but then you’ll go to a different project and work on it for a little bit. When you’re creative and you’re trying to stay in flow and not get stuck, you kind of move from project to project, so that was always kind of a struggle for me.

Cody: When I started BrandCave I came into it knowing that I wasn’t going to be a 50 person PR firm, and probably never ever will be, hopefully not. I came at a rate that I thought was much more reasonable. Even so, there’s points when I’m wanting to help someone, and so I’m wanting to lower my rate just to help them out, but then it’s like I have so much work that I couldn’t do that if I wanted to. You know, it’s just the fact is if you want to work with me, whether or not I’m even worth doing it, I just have too much work to not charge what the full rate is.

Abby: Well, yeah.

Brad D: That’s a smart thing to do, because if you ever give away your work it’s very difficult to charge for it later.

Abby: Yeah.

Cody: Yes, yup. Yup.

Brad D: Because then no matter how big the world is it’s always a small world. “Really, he charged you that much? Well, he only did it for me for.”

Abby: Yeah. Has anybody ever wanted you to do a project for experience?

Brad D: Yes.

Abby: I hate this.

Brad D: Uh-huh (affirmative). Which is a reason why I’m not in several organizations, because those people always want, there’s some people that get to know you, try to be friendly with you, and then think that they could get your skills free of charge or dirt cheap.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cody: Yeah. Or, if sometimes you work with kind of a startup or whatever and they say, “Well, you know, we don’t really have a budget for you because we’re paying out of pocket for this.” Which I always get frustrated with, because even Ashore we started out of pocket, you know, but they’ll be like, “But, we’ll give you some equity in exchange for your services.” I’m like, “No, I get paid in real money, not in IOUs.” I know how startups work, and if you’re planning to do this self funded I’m not going to expect to see any money any time soon.

Brad D: We only accept farm from a Macedonian farm of Bitcoin.

Cody: That’s right. All of my Bitcoin money has, it’s about 50% decrease.

Abby: Yeah, I still don’t understand how Bitcoin works, but I am pretty sure-

Brad D: Now, there’s a whole different podcast.

Abby: Yeah, right. Cody, why did you buy Bitcoin, that’s the podcast.

Cody: Yeah, yeah, I can tell you why.

Abby: To lose money.

Cody: To lose money.

Brad D: We’ve all lost money. I lost lots of money in investments and businesses.

Cody: What makes a creative good, or what makes a bad creative?

Abby: Do we need to define what good and bad are for this?

Brad D: No, I think, you know …

Abby: This is objective.

Brad D: I mean if you’re hiring somebody? You want to hire the best person? I think always the thing to do is look for someone who’s a self starter, but also you want to find someone that’s a devils advocate. That’s not going to always see things your way, that’s going to be able to point out to you something that you haven’t thought about before. That’s my jobs when I was a PR director for superintendents and board members. A lot of times my job was to the devils advocate. You know, here’s the perfect world but what if the perfect world is not there. What if this happens, what if that happens, and to look at options.

Brad D: I think that that’s an important part. A person also who could kind of see the end result, and then figure out the plan to get that end result. Instead of saying, “Here’s what we want to do.” You know, and then there’s the end result down the road. But, to look at what is the goal, how could we even exceed that.

Cody: I work with plenty of companies that they take this kind if Silicone Valley mentality where they don’t care how it’s done, when they ask for you to get something done they just expect it to happen. If you say to them, “Well, you actually shouldn’t do it this way.” Or, “That’s not a good idea because of X, Y, and Z.” They’ll look at you with kind of disgust and say you know, Steve Jobs style like, “Get it done.”

Cody: What you said is dramatically different from that and I wish more people would adopt that.

Abby: It’s a lot more reasonable. It’s less like, you know, if you just have a positive mentality everything will work out in the end. It’s just, it’s sort of immature to think that way.

Cody: I kind of, like the way I see employees is kind of the way I see business in general, like this is capitalism. The great thing about capitalism is if you mess up you don’t have to repeat that mistake. If you work with someone and they did bad work, well, that doesn’t mean you should try to not pay them. You should pay them because you engaged with them, you made a contract, you said yes, and you should let your yes be yes, but that does not mean at all that you should repeat that mistake again.

Abby: I’m learning so much about my boss right now.

Brad D: About your boss or your faults?

Abby: Boss.

Brad D: Oh. Who has faults?

Abby: Who has faults? Oh, he does have faults, but that’s why I’m here. I’m the devils advocate. I’m here to point things out to him.

Cody: Who is your biggest influence as a creative?

Brad D: Well, one of them is a person, a book I’ve shared with you, which is Marshall McLuhan. Because, that book was written back in ’67, The Medium is the Message. If you kind of look at that you could really see he was ahead of his time in terms of social media and how we anticipate consumers and the, how messages are received and all that stuff. From a creative standpoint how to think, and I hate the terminology, out of the box. I’ve never liked that terminology, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head that’s out of the box.

Brad D: But, a couple of great books that he put out during the ’80s and I still have them and still will look at … I’m one of those people that will re-read books when I get into a situation, I feel like I’m in a tumble or when things aren’t going the way that they should creative wise. I’ll sometimes go to the past and try to refresh myself on some stuff in order to get it. It was Roger von Oech and he had some, two great books called A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants. It will unlock your creativity. Both of those books were really good and they’re still in my library and easy access to where my chair is to turn around.

Cody: Nice. Abby, have you had any books that have influenced you in terms of your marketing career?

Abby: I don’t read books.

Cody: I know for a fact that I’ve given you some.

Abby: Yeah, okay, so in the very first interview I ever had with Cody, he gave me this book called …

Cody: Wow.

Abby: Don’t, no.

Cody: Wow. Paul Graham. She’s stalling.

Abby: It’s called Hackers and Painters.

Cody: That’s right.

Abby: I knew it. I knew it the whole time.

Cody: Okay.

Brad D: Was it red? Did you read? No, it was blue, I know.

Abby: It had a really cool picture on the front, I liked the cover a lot. But, I did open it.

Cody: She mostly just read the cover.

Abby: I mostly read the cover. Hackers and Painters was about how, you know, he was one of the guys who founded Microsoft, right?

Cody: No, not at all.

Abby: Not at all?

Cody: No. Paul Graham started the Yahoo store. Well, he ultimately, he created one of the first e-commerce platforms that I think became the Yahoo store.

Abby: Okay, my bad.

Cody: Then he became one of the primary advisors on [inaudible 00:22:49], so he was kind of the advisor behind AirB&B, Dropbox, some of these really big unicorn companies.

Abby: Oh, he’s still alive?

Cody: Yup, yeah, he still lives, yeah. Yeah. He was a really big advocate for programming languages like Lisp.

Brad D: Probably younger than me Abby, so.

Abby: How old are you?

Brad D: I’m old enough to know better, but still young enough not to die.

Cody: That book is a collection essays which I now understand that you never read, so that’s good.

Abby: I did. It was four years ago.

Brad D: You brought up something about that book that I thought was unique.

Abby: Hackers and Painters?

Brad D: Yeah.

Brad D: Which was what, what did you say about it?

Abby: Just now or earlier?

Brad D: Yeah, just now. It had a really cool cover.

Abby: It had a really cool cover.

Brad D: So the visual effect-

Abby: The visual effect was there.

Brad D: … is what we look at all the time, right? I mean, and that’s what advertising and marketing has been throughout eternity. If that appeals to you, you need to borrow the book I gave to Cody about The Medium is the Message.

Abby: Yeah, have you read that book Cody?

Cody: Of course.

Abby: Yeah.

Brad D: It only takes like 10 minutes to read.

Cody: Yeah, it is really short.

Abby: Oh. Why don’t you give me short books?

Brad D: But, I mean because all the visual approach that we see.

Cody: Yeah, in fact that book has maybe like five words per page, it’s mostly-

Abby: That’s my kind of book. Five words per page.

Brad D: But again, that gets back to the thing of why, before we look to data and the way that we do now, that’s why people would actually be in a store. Because the visual of what’s your package and where product was placed meant a lot.

Cody: Yeah. That’s something that I think we might have lost a little bit in the transition to web, right. I used to love going to the store and feeling something and knowing kind of really what I was buying before getting surprised.

Abby: Oh, I, that’s the only reason to go to the store.

Brad D: The only time you really seem to do that nowadays is if you go to a small business retailer.

Cody: Yeah.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad D: You know, like the jewelry store here on the square in Georgetown, Franklin. I mean, you go in, he knows his stuff, he treats you well, there’s customer service. That’s the important part when you go to these smaller based stores.

Abby: Do you think in half a century, or even less than that, those sort of small business, those small retailers, will still exist? I mean, that’s kind of like, there’s knowledge there and experience that’s sort of dying out because these are stores from a different time.

Brad D: Well, small business have to exist or else where will people drink their coffee?

Abby: Starbucks.

Cody: I think it’s actually a little bit more complicated than that. I think every city, well this is my theory I don’t know if it’s true or not, I have no evidence for this. But, every city kind of goes through these phases of evolution, like a little small town square will be revitalized by the antique stores, right. That’s like phase one, right. Every small town in America has just a shit load of antique stores.

Brad D: That’s phase two.

Abby: What’s phase one?

Brad D: Phase one is usually pawn shop and finance shops.

Cody: And bail bonds.

Brad D: Phase two becomes the antiques, and then phase three is when people start coming in and they start selling-

Abby: Those overpriced nick-nacks.

Brad D: Yeah, chatkis as we like to call them in my generation, and then stage five is when it becomes a full boom and you wind up selling a building that’s actually only worth 100,000 for a million and a half. Because somebody wants to come to that community.

Cody: Right, right, so that’s when you have the, maybe the more niche products enter in. You have the fourth wave coffee shops and you have the big brands come through.

Brad D: Antique map stores.

Cody: Antique map stores — we don’t talk about that here.

Abby: It’s like art washing.

Abby: Have you all ever heard of the phenomena of art washing?

Brad D: Uh-huh (negative).

Abby: A neighborhood? So, whenever there is a neighborhood in a city that’s sort of run down, like it used to be probably in the ’60s or something like a center of commerce or industry. Everything, all the buildings are really cheap, there’s big warehouse spaces, things like that, so artists will move in there because it’s cheaper for them to get rent and to have studio space. These are also poorer neighborhoods, the residents who still live there are really poor. Everything’s cheap, there is probably some crime in the neighborhood, and whenever artists move in there it kind of shifts the neighborhood, and people start to look at it as this like really eclectic artsy place where people want to live. Because people want to live where the art and the culture is.

Brad D: That’s interesting.

Cody: They push out the artists when they move in?

Abby: Yeah, so artists come in and they’re like the first wave of gentrification. They don’t even really mean to be, they’re looking for cheap studio space. Then, whenever they have lived in the neighborhood long enough and they’ve kind of beautified it, and they’ve made it more like, I don’t want to say tolerable, like they, you know-

Brad D: Livable.

Abby: Livable, yeah.

Brad D: Livable would be a good word.

Abby: Then the richer people move in and all their coffee shops and their fancy deli’s and stuff, and they push out the artists who can’t afford to live there anymore. It’s a whole phenomenon with gentrification.

Cody: Does this happen in every big city?

Abby: Yeah, it happens in every … it happened in San Antonio.

Cody: Yeah, I know it happened in San Antonio.

Abby: It’s happening in East Austen right now.

Cody: I was going to say that, yeah.

Abby: In Denver there’s something called the Rhino Arts district, and it used to, way back you know it used to be this place with a bunch of warehouses. It’s right near downtown and, you know, it’s kind of in the midst of this, so there’s a lot of arts and there’s little coffee shops, but there’s also crime and people still sleeping on the streets, and it’s very strange. It’s a really straight dichotomy of seeing these rich people with their fancy cortados or whatever those little coffees are. Then like-

Cody: That’s just a cappuccino with less milk.

Abby: Whatever. Then there’s homeless people camping on the sidewalk, it’s very strange, and that’s what you guys, whenever you guys are talking about the phases of revitalizing-

Brad D: The phases have an overlap.

Abby: Yeah, yeah.

Cody: Yeah. Brad have you ever had to fire a client?

Brad D: No.

Cody: Never?

Brad D: I have not. But, I have opted not to take some on because of what my perception would be.

Cody: How do you mean?

Brad D: How you get bad vibes during perhaps the proposal process, or maybe doing some research with some other folks that they have worked with. Just kind of realizing that it may not be worth your while to … that money isn’t everything.

Cody: Yeah. Yeah.

Abby: Has there ever been a client you wish you had fired? That you were like, “No, I’m going to stick it out to the end.”

Brad D: No, I don’t think so. I’ve had ones that have been more challenging than others, but you know.

Abby: I mean, why do you think that is, do you-

Brad D: The more challenging ones that I’ve had are probably the ones I enjoyed the most.

Cody: Why is that?

Brad D: Because it pushes me as a creative person.

Abby: Yeah? I mean, do you think it’s your selection process, or do you think it’s like I guess, you know.

Brad D: I think it has to do with two things. The selection process and the reputation, so people know what they’re expecting of me if they call my office and ask for a quote or ask for my services. They have, there’s a reputation that I have, and probably it’s a 85% good reputation. I think you’re always going to have, no matter what, you’re always going to have a 15% out there. They’re probably people who’ve never used your services, but for some reason or another you may have met socially, you may have interacted professionally, you know in organizations and stuff like that, and you just don’t click. A lot of times your perception of somebody will be different, and it has nothing to do with your actual knowledge of their work.

Cody: Yeah. I think what you’re saying is valid, but for me personally I usually am wrong about my intuition about a person. Like, case in point, the reason that I’m even on this career path is because I had an interview right out of college with a man named Jorge Sauri, who owned a software company called MortgageDashboard, and we had this interview where he hired me but I left the interview saying, “He’s going to be an awful boss.” I had all the wrong vibes about him, and he ended up being the best boss that I ever had.

Cody: I don’t know why I felt that way, I felt maybe he was just coming across aggressive, and I thought maybe I was just going to be kind of under the thumb the entire time. But, he ended up being the most nurturing kind of employer I ever had. That’s actually happened to me several times, picking up clients, where I would think that this client is going to be … like literally one of my longest running clients, if not the longest running client today, my first meeting with him I was actually kind of a dick to him. Because I thought this was going nowhere.

Cody: I kind of, he was a very kind of short, you know, he was very a business man, and I kind of talked about his brand as if, I was like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, you got an orange, blue, and white, you’re like every software company.” You know, I talked to him like that, and he ended up being one of the best clients I’ve ever had.

Cody: Conversely, I’ve had meetings with clients where I walked out of the meeting like, “Oh, this is going to be really fun, I really like them.” They have been absolutely awful, so, I don’t know. I don’t trust my own tuition.

Abby: I mean, what it sounds like is that Brad, you need to teach him how to really pick out a person.

Cody: That’s right.

Brad D: It just comes with experience, because you know that’s all it is, it just it kind of comes with experience and building your reputation and kind of understanding what you’re willing to accept and what you’re not willing to accept. Because, over time, over the years, I’ve been burned.

Abby: How do you market yourself to-

Brad D: Pretty much I just kind of market myself with a database of people who’ve signed up for newsletters and stuff like that in the past, or people I’ve met, and I just kind of market that way. Market myself through some organizations that I belong to.

Abby: It’s kind of, it’s very word of mouth for you.

Brad D: Very word of mouth.

Abby: It’s knowing people who know people.

Brad D: Yes.

Abby: Being well connected.

Brad D: Correct.

Cody: But, you’re kind of skipping over that you actually built a really healthy email subscription base.

Brad D: Mm-hmm (affirmative), I did do a pretty good email subscription, and that was done over the years. My open and click levels and everything else that you want to look at are always very high.

Cody: Yeah. You actually have one of the highest open rates I’ve ever seen in a large email list.

Brad D: Yeah, I mean my open rates usually run anywhere from 60 to 80% each time that I do something.

Cody: Yeah. I’ve never seen anyone hit numbers that high for the kind of number of emails that you send out. Here’s a good plug for the PR Zealot, if you want to sign up for the PR Zealot’s email list and get monthly emails, he does an incredible job of sending really helpful tips for PR, go to That ones free.

Brad D: Sign up there.

Abby: Free plug.

Brad D: Free plug.

Cody: Free plug.

Brad D: Free plug, how about that.

Abby: Do you think that God smokes cigars?

Brad D: Well, put it this way, he invented tobacco.

Abby: That’s true.

Cody: That would also mean that he smokes weed.

Abby: Okay.

Brad D: He invented that, too. He invented hops and barley.

Cody: Well, he’s definitely a beer man, I know that. I’ve had beer with God before.

Abby: God definitely smokes weed.

Brad D: I’m sure my God has a good cigar in his mouth.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cody: As long as I’ve known you, there’s been periods of time when you’ve communicated to me that you were facing some burnout, and you were able to get through those periods of time. I’m still figuring out how to deal with … I’m always at like a constant level of some level of burnout.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cody: How do you deal with it?

Brad D: Well I think with burnout, that’s why I said you know there’s a couple books that I like to always go back to, which were kind of like my founding principles, which I talked about before. They’re always easy reach at my desk, and sometimes you know even if you might be working on a project and running against something, pick something out, read a couple pages, and to me it has an opportunity to inspire me.

Brad D: Second thing, over my career of working for people, you know to be an actual employee, I’ve had some bosses that were more concerned with the hours that you put in than what you’ve produced.

Cody: I hate that.

Brad D: I’m at the point that if I come across a burnout, the best thing to do is shut the computer down, unplug, go outside, go smoke a cigar. Go do some yard work. Go shopping. Get away. Unplug for a day or two and then get back too it. I think weekends are very important when you’re starting to suffer in a burnout period.

Cody: Mm-hmm (affirmative), but the challenge there is like sometimes you have so much work that you just can’t, you-

Brad D: Well, that’s a challenge for you because you’re young, but the challenge for us older ones, we don’t have as much work as you younger folks do.

Cody: Okay.

Brad D: I mean, but that’s something that as you get older it will be easier to do.

Cody: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad D: Then I’ve had employers in my career that were more interested in the content and what you produced versus the amount of hours, or what time you came into the office, you know.

Cody: Right.

Brad D: Who understood that you were a late worker, that you didn’t need to be there at 8:00 in the morning because a lot of your time was spent in the evenings doing stuff. I mean, it’s just kind of all one of those things, so I kind of learned from that because I have peak times. I’m a very good early morning person in terms of creative … any time after 1:00 in the afternoon my creativity level is completely shot.

Cody: So it’s shot right now?

Abby: Yeah.

Brad D: I’m not being creative, I’m just being talkative.

Abby: That’s true.

Brad D: Then it peaks back up around 7:00 at night.

Cody: Yeah. Really? You just have a lull from 7:00 to 6:30.

Brad D: Yeah, if I was going to do anything creative wise I choose to do it in the morning, because my minds very alert. I can do things right away when I get up.

Cody: Yeah, that makes sense.

Brad D: I was working on some stuff this morning. I got up at 5:00, got showered, got ready, was sat at my desk by quarter to 6:00.

Abby: Dang. Is the sun is the sun even up at a quarter to 6:00?

Brad D: I don’t know.

Abby: I don’t either.

Brad D: I just got lights on in my office so it really didn’t bother me.

Cody: What do you think the future of the creative industry looks like, and how will designers and marketers-

Brad D: I would have no idea on that, because who would have thought 10 years ago it would look the way it does.

Abby: Yeah, 10 years ago what would you have predicted?

Brad D: 10 years ago I was doing a workshop for school board trustees on how to get started putting out an electronic newsletter.

Cody: No way.

Abby: Wow.

Brad D: 10 years ago. Now it’s what messaging system are you using, what social media platform are you using, how do you think about your YouTube channel before you implement it.

Cody: You were one of the first PR professionals in Texas to begin using social media for dissemination for information for schools.

Brad D: A lot of the policies and guidelines that me and a gentleman who lived up in Dallas at the time worked together with his school district and the school district I was with and created policies and procedures and everything on the use of social media. Because at that time, there was a lot of legal implications because when you’re dealing with the government you’re dealing with freedom of information acts and all that other stuff. In fact, the Texas association of school boards adopted most of the stuff that we wrote as the given policy for the state, and it’s still being, still implemented, and it’s funny sometimes I’ll go to, when I visit school districts and I look at their guidelines, they look very familiar because I wrote them, they just don’t know it.

Cody: Because you wrote them. That’s hilarious.

Brad D: Yeah, I mean you know at the time you know, and I was totally opposed of getting into it. I went to a conference and met Brian Person one time and Jeff Livingston, and I forget what book Jeff was … Jeff was promoting his book Now is Gone, if you haven’t read that one, it was really good at that time because it talked about how now is gone. We’re working all the time.

Cody: Oh, right. Right.

Brad D: Brian was one of the first, probably had the first position in any corporation that he was called an evangelist. You know, product evangelist at that time.

Cody: Yeah, that’s really common now.

Brad D: Yes, uh-huh (affirmative). Both of them, I presented to them a lot of the issues that we had within public education, and we kind of all talked about how things would work. At that time, and I’m still in contact with Brain, I mean he was one of my first twitter followers and I was, I think he was number one or number two that I follow, so it’s kind of funny. That was 12 years ago.

Cody: No kidding. If you can’t predict the future for us, can you at least give creatives listening to this podcast your best tip for working as a creative-

Brad D: Listen.

Abby: Listen.

Brad D: Listen. Because when you think about it, listening is the key to communication, and listening is the way that you could become more creative. Because if you’re actually listening to your clients, you’ll understand your clients better, and you can produce for your clients better.

Cody: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Brad D: It comes down to people.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brad D: Even though we’re all electronic nowadays there’s still a person.

Cody: But what if all the people you work with are just really stupid.

Brad D: Well, you know, that has to-

Abby: What if listening to them actually makes you lose brain cells.

Brad D: That happens. But remember, your job as a good creative person is to take the glob of nothingness and turn it into something.

Cody: Yeah, that’s a great point.

Abby: Beautiful. That’s the quote. “A glob of nothingness.:

Cody: “A glob of nothingness.”

Brad D: A glob of nothingness.

Cody: And turn it into something.

Abby: Into something.

Cody: That’s so true, that’s a lesson I’m learning.

Brad D: That’s right. What is I don’t know, but you turn it into something.

Cody: That’s a lesson I’m seriously learning. What I’ve discovered even in the past six months is just the patience that you need to have with clients is just hearing what they say, but hearing what they’re trying to communicate. So often they just do have the ability to articulate how they feel. That’s most of us about most things, it’s just that because creatives work in this industry they kind of, they have their finger already on it.

Brad D: That’s what the thing to, as you continue to be successful like you are, you’re going to have almost like standard questions and like a checklist that you could take clients through. That you’re going to understand them better, and they’re also going to be able to understand their goals better.

Cody: That’s a good way to do it.

Brad D: That’s kind of a thing to do, like you know, I received an email from somebody yesterday who wanted to talk to me about doing a communications audit at their firm. I send them up one simple question, “Why do you want to do this?” Based on that answer you can kind of understand why they want to do it, and you know sometimes the reason why someone wants to do something is because their boss told them to do it.

Cody: Right.

Brad D: Why did their boss tell them to do it? Because some other company or some other school district is doing it, and that sounds really cool. Is that a good, valid reason to have a communications audit, or what are you trying to do? Are you trying to improve your communications, are you trying to prove your … like, this was school district to parents, to employees, to the outside. Who are you trying to do? Once that answer comes back then I usually send off three or four more questions, and then we could kind of see what we could do together.

Cody: Yeah.

Brad D: But you know, that helps them define it and then, you know, sometimes I tell the person, “Sounds like you don’t need this, what you just need to do is.” Kind of really think about what your goals are, put them together. Now, is that smart?

Cody: What you’re doing-

Brad D: No, because I lost money. But, you know, I don’t want someone to pay $15,000 for an audit and they have nothing better or worse than they have now because they didn’t put any plan into it.

Cody: Well, here’s something that you are doing that I think does make it smarter. I’ve seen this with other firms in the past, where they’ll just say, “Okay, client asked for us to do social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.” Right, they think they need to have a big presence on Pinterest. Okay, fine, so they do that. They just go with whatever the client says and they never insert themselves as the authority, as the creative, with the person who does actually have experience. What occurs from that is that they ultimately lose that role as the creative expert and just become kind of this workhorse, and they work for cheaper. When the creative retains the ability to be the expert in their position, ultimately it leads to a stronger relationship in the long-term, and I think that does mean more money.

Abby: Just a work horse with Pinterest boards.

Cody: That’s right.

Brad D: That’s right, yeah. The client wants you to do something that they either don’t have the time for, or don’t have the expertise for, and you know it’s nice when both of them mix. If they don’t have the time for it and you have the expertise for it, then you’re making money.

Cody: Yeah, that’s true.

Abby: Yeah.

Brad D: You’re making money. That’s what it’s all about. Pay them bills.

Abby: Yeah, and I mean it’s also important not to take advantage of people who are like, “We need to be on Facebook.” And they don’t, and they’re paying for that, and they don’t need to be.

Cody: Yeah, true. Brad, how can people reach out to you or follow you on the social mediums?

Brad D: Well,, PR Zealot is my Instagram, you’ll find always pictures of me smoking cigars or meeting with clients and doing strange things.

Cody: Or pictures with your cute dog.

Brad D: On Twitter @braddomitrovich.

Cody: All right. Thank you for joining us today.

Brad D: Thank you, it was fun.

Cody: Let’s do it again. All right, see you guys.

Abby: Bye.

Cody: Talk soon.

Brad D: Bye.

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