Foundations for Authentic Public Relations

Foundations for authentic public relations support building solid connections whether you are an organization or individual. The value of truly listening to others, understanding different perspectives and pathways toward a goal, and then following through on what you learn cannot be overstated. These principles of communication and relationship building are critical to create an impact and drive meaningful change in a way that respects all people. Giving the space to engage in a relational process is not easy in the world of urgency and sound bites but it’s necessary for authentically engaging the public.

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Valerie Friedlander 0:00
Hello, my friends, and welcome to another episode of unlimited today we are talking about foundations for authentic public relations. So this is about our theme of relationships and how that applies to the public, to how you put yourself forward or put your organization forward into the world to your audience, how you connect to the people you want to serve. So now, if you are someone who’s like, well, Val, I don’t run a business, I’m not in leadership. Does this still apply to me? Yes, it does for two primary reasons. One is because I think these foundations apply to all relating, especially when it comes to relating to groups. But also, because I think it’s important to know what to look for when you’re engaging with organizations, what to notice, there are so many manipulative tactics out there and algorithmic things that it gets really overwhelming sometimes to figure out, Is this a company? Is this an organization I’m aligned with? And while there are a lot of things to dig into a lot of ways to research that understanding some of the dynamics of public relations can help you assess is this organization relating to me in a way that I’m aligned with? Are they showing up authentically? And is that connecting? So keeping that in mind, some of the things that are important about public relationships and being authentic in those relationships is its core to building trust, to establishing credibility. And of course, as I mentioned, to connecting to the people you want to serve, that applies to all of us in a variety of spaces in our own life, when it comes to how we relate to others. Now, of course, with an organization with a company with a small business, it also has to do with your reputation, and managing that reputation in an aligned way, and driving engagement connecting to the people you’re trying to serve and do business with. To engage this conversation. I have asked Catherine Montgomery to join me. She is the founder and CEO of better together a communications agency that galvanizes positive change for purpose driven organizations through creative strategies, messaging and branding. Katherine’s vision for better together is to build a more just environmentally sustainable world centered around human and labor rights, access to education and health care for all through collaborative and creative communication campaigns. After spending more than 15 years working in public relations, Catherine knows what truly drives results and leaves a lasting impact. Catherine is a seasoned communication expert with deep expertise in education, environment and social justice issues. She founded better together after a successful career working in house and at multiple communications agencies on numerous campaigns that have helped bring about social change. Catherine has always displayed a careful approach to concise and effective messaging by clearly articulating the objectives, strategies and tactics that lead to successful communication campaigns. She has led the development of strategic plans from the ground up that not only changed perceptions but resulted in ongoing behavior change. Additionally, she has had the opportunity to work with third party stakeholders which furthered her ability to communicate with all audiences. Katherine holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and Marketing from Auburn University, and an MBA from the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. She also successfully completed the Vital Voices visionaries program in partnership with the Estee Lauder Emerging Leaders fund. And one of the other things that that highlights for me, just as a note is that the way we communicate can be part of what makes our impact. So keeping that in mind, it is so important to engage how we show up. Some of the things that we’re going to be talking about in this episode are people pleasing versus really caring, the importance of follow through to build trust, evaluating your purpose and priorities, ensuring alignment with clear expectations, and having patience with the information gathering process and the importance of that information in how you communicate. I really enjoyed this conversation and I know you will too. And without further ado, let’s get started. Hey there, I’m Valerie Friedlander Certified Life business alignment coach, and this is unlimited. This podcast bridges the individual and the societal, scientific and spiritual, positive and negative, nerdy and no, there’s just a lot of nerdy. come on board. And let’s unlock a light. This is badass as you are.

Valerie Friedlander 5:32
Welcome, Catherine, I’m so excited to have you on unlimited today. Thank you. Thank you. I’m happy to be here. Awesome. So let’s kick off with a question about being unlimited. And that is, what is a limit that you took for granted? Or that you internalize that you have since unlearned?

Catharine Montgomery 5:53
Right, right. So it took a minute for me to, to think about this. But I had to go way back to when I was younger, when I was bullied constantly in elementary, middle school, not so much high school, but I always felt like I had to be part of the cool crowd and popular and have the, you know, same opinions and likes and dislikes is all the cool, quote unquote, cool people. And as I’ve grown up, and, you know, going down on the limb of, you know, starting a business and doing things in social justice and social impact, I’ve realized that it’s okay to be different. And it’s okay to not always say what other people want you to say and to be a little bit controversial. And I think I’ve been able to take those bad experiences when I was younger, and apply them now and realize how important it is to just be yourself and to do what makes you feel most comfortable.

Valerie Friedlander 6:50
I love that. And as someone who also was bullied in elementary school and middle school that really resonates of like, how do I find my voice, and actually show up with that voice? And that’s a great segue into what I’m hoping we can talk more about, because I’m curious for organizations, especially ones that do social justice work, and individuals potentially, if they’re like small businesses, especially that have a really important message to get out that are really trying to be heard, but maybe aren’t saying it in the way that’s like most people are used to hearing, what are some of the common struggles that you see? And then also, how do people overcome that?

Catharine Montgomery 7:40
Right, right, yeah, a lot of things come to mind when thinking about social justice or social impact organizations trying to get their message across. And one is that they probably are not listening to their audience well enough, and there are a lot of, and this can apply for any company really is that we put out information we think people want to hear or we think that will get them motivated to act or to do whatever our call to action is. But it’s really not what they’re looking for. And so doing the message testing and audience analysis, and not just one time, not just oh, that we’re creating a plan, and let’s do it right now, but ongoing every six months every year, really diving deep into your audience and the changes in culture, and just what’s being said in the world. So I think that that’s important. But I also know that, you know, nonprofits, a lot of times don’t have the funds, the means to do that kind of work. And so you have these large organizations that are able to go out and do all these tests and surveys and really understand their audience. And then they go create the campaign, and the messaging that gets people to lead to action. And so I think it’s nonprofits having to prioritize, and sometimes they think, you know, well, we need to put money and funds and effort towards something else that we think will get us to our end goal. And skip that part of the analysis, which is really important and achieving their goals. So I think just prioritizing getting to know your audience and your message clearly before pushing it out there. And assuming we always know what assuming makes. We can’t do that if we really want to be effective.

Valerie Friedlander 9:22
That is such a great point. And I see that a lot just in general with people of like, I think that you think that I think and then I respond to that instead of to what was actually said, or to the real information. I wonder there’s such stuff around marketing where it’s this like I don’t want to be I don’t want to play the psychological games, you know, so so much of the marketing research is seen as like, I’m gonna get information about you so I can manipulate you so that I can play on what you want. And I wonder if sometimes people are making assumptions because they want to skip that manipulation step. But yeah, it’s, it’s actually missing something. What is the gap there that that you see?

Catharine Montgomery 10:09
Well I do think trust is big. So if you’re assuming that an organization is trying to deceive you into doing whatever it is, and you obviously don’t trust that brand, and that brand has a long way to go to getting you to trust them, but if it’s an organization that from the beginning, you just know that they’re there, kind of figuring out who you are, because they genuinely want you to be a part of their movement, whatever it is, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nonprofit, and like a social justice, or work or whatever it is, it can be some large corporation, that’s really just, you know, wants you to buy their product. I mean, it’s a different type of angle, but they can genuinely want to know, you know, what motivates you to buy X, Y, and Z? Why do you want this comforter? What makes you you know, try these shears? In our world that better together, it’s more of a, you know, how do we make the world a better place type of movement. So a lot of our will, all of our clients, they want to know what consumers want or what just the general public wants, so that they can ensure that they’re educated about certain topics that they can reach them and get them to go to the hospital, you know, before it’s time you before you have cancer or, you know, know more about your genetics, and it’s just a genuine need to educate them and to know who our audiences so that we can communicate best with them.

Valerie Friedlander 11:36
I think that highlights one of the big pieces of trust, which is action, which is one of the things you and I were talking a little bit about is that need to bridge like, you can’t just say a thing, you have to show up to that thing. And so will often see people just saying things is the idea of performativeness, I’m going to say things so that I look good so that I feel good. Instead of actually doing the things which can, I found create a distrust both internally as well as with other people. Because you start, you feel the disconnect of like I’m saying a lot, but I’m not doing enough. And then the doing things, but not actually communicating them? What do you recommend for bridging that? Like, I mean, it specifically, I assume you work with people who are, as you just said, who are doing the things but maybe aren’t really good at communicating about the things? How do you help them step into being able or feeling confident and able to communicate what they really mean, and what’s important and what they’re actually doing?

Catharine Montgomery 12:49
Yeah, and you know, we’re actually going through that process with one of our clients right now. And we were taking a step back, and we’re taking months of interviews, focus groups, surveys, reading past material during the SWOT analysis, just like really getting down to the basics of, you know, what did they do their members want? What does the community want? What do they need to convey it to them, and then from there moving into, okay, this is our strategic plan, this is our messaging. So I think a lot of times we put the cart before the horse, we, you know, want to just get out there, put something on LinkedIn, or tick tock, whatever it is, get a podcast, you know, episode or, you know, whatever it is, we can get our name out there, but it makes doesn’t have any traction. Nobody’s listening. Nobody’s reading, nobody’s swiping to see what you’re saying. And so it’s first it’s resonating with that audience, like, you know, like I’ve already mentioned, and then it’s going out there and having putting your message out there, I will say that a lot of it does also come down again to funding and you know, these larger corporations, they can spend so much money putting a message out. But you know, smaller nonprofits don’t always have the means. And so what I got our clients and doing is starting small, so you don’t have to do million dollar campaigns to be effective. It’s just getting to the right person, to the right people getting that message to the right person at the right time. And so knowing that you don’t need to be on Instagram, Facebook, tick tock snap, LinkedIn, all the things you need to be on like one where you know your audiences. You don’t need to write a blog every single day or week you need to do whatever you know, is where your audience is, is that a new newsletter is that in person events? Do you need to make it more community driven and you’re doing your know you’re going to these special places where people are and they want to see each other face to face and not be on Zoom. So I think that’s where the research comes in, where we took a step back with this client, we’re going to know what their members want. We’re going to know how to get new members for them, how to retain their current members, and we’re going to go to those places and communicate in ways that resonate the most with them.

Valerie Friedlander 15:02
Hmm. It sounds really simple in that, like, it’s about building connection and communication. And I mean, I know as individual communication it is being able to listen, really listen to people and then show up to what you heard. Instead of just kind of coming up with ideas, I, I’ve worked with people pleasers before and I saw this great meme a little bit ago, I was like, Oh, so you’re a people pleaser named three people that are pleased with you. And it’s like, yeah, because people pleasing isn’t about the other people that you’re pleasing. It’s about you. And feeling okay in yourself versus communication. And really connecting with somebody is about really listening. And it’s, it’s you too, but like having that ability to hear someone and show up to that. And I’m hearing like, showing that you care. Like, I actually care to know what you think. And then connecting, being there and doing the things that build trust, which is then following through, I’ve connected with you, I’ve learned from you. And now I’m going to follow through what you told me.

Catharine Montgomery 16:09
Yes, that’s so important that follow through. I have there are so many clients who we might have done all these focus groups, surveys, interviews, and so their members are involved, their staff, their board, they all know they’re doing this, but if nothing happens, and six months, there’s no change, there’s no activity, there’s nothing that’s worse than not even, you know, listening in the first place. So it’s so important that organizations take, you have to know from the very beginning, we’re going to take what we’ve learned what we’ve heard what we’ve listened to you, or we’re going to put that into action, we don’t know what that action might look like, right this second. But we’re going to do something and we’re going to communicate that clearly. Because we would have learned what the best methods of communication are. And then we’re going to change or we’re going to keep doing or we’re going to start stop, continue to do that all the time. Whatever it is that our stakeholders want. And so that follow through, you’re right, it’s just so key to any successful campaign or communication that you’re delivering.

Valerie Friedlander 17:09
Yeah. And the ability to hear in more input, like you said before, of like, it’s not just a one and done, you stay in communication, you’re building a relationship, which is why it doesn’t have to be like all the places you want to find the place where you can build the relationships, and then show up to those people that you’re trying to serve who you’re building relationships with. I noticed something in your bio, where you talk about the changing perceptions and ongoing behavior change. So I’m curious about the flip side of that. So they’re the people that are trying to communicate, alright, we’re doing these things. And there’s a disconnect. And it sounds like maybe there’s a similar dynamic to the I’m doing things. But I’m not necessarily articulating, communicating them? Well, because I haven’t asked like, where people are looking for me where people need to hear from me. What about the people who are like showing up and trying to articulate stuff, but they’re spending more time communicating than they are in actually doing the things? It sounds like you help people bridge that gap to what does that look like?

Catharine Montgomery 18:16
Yeah, and I think it’s easy for people get caught up in the, like, I need to post to LinkedIn, like every single second, you know, we see people posting long journals, things every day, and but it’s like, if you were to dig deep into whatever they’re talking about, are they actually out there doing that thing. And so it’s, it’s true, you have to, especially as a leader of your company, or whatever organization, you’re a part of, if it’s volunteering or not, you have to find that balance of am I just signing up for this, because I can put it on my resume because I can put it on LinkedIn, and I can say this, or am I actually going to take that step and be in the community and help whatever organization it is. And so sometimes that comes down just to a personal, I need to evaluate, you know, my priorities and what’s truly authentic, and take a look inside. And that’s not really something that PR or marketing can do. Like we can definitely execute on those things. Once you’ve looked inside and said, This is a true priority for myself, I’m going to make time for it, I’m going to not only post about it, but I’m going to go out and do whatever it is or be at home and beyond zero and do whatever it is, that also goes to your point of being genuine or authentic about the things that you’re doing. So if I can just do a bunch of things and say that, you know, I’m supportive XY and Z, but if I don’t have that action and authenticity, people are gonna see right for grid, so I might work for a little bit. You might be able to, you know, increase your followers, do a lot of things be popular, have a top voice on LinkedIn, but when it comes down to it, people are gonna start realizing it and they’re gonna stop engaging until they can see proof that you’re in the community. You’ve listened to what they’ve said. You’re now acting upon it. And one example is for, I would say, for larger corporations, which I really struggled with, with starting better together. And our mission was, you know, in 2020, you know, the murder of George Floyd took place or so many large corporations that gave millions of dollars. And the Congressional Black Caucus came back late last year and said, many of these companies haven’t taken any action, we don’t know where the money went, it definitely hasn’t gone to the black community. And we need to hold them accountable. So they’re supposed to come out with a report, sometime this year, hopefully, it’s in Q1 that evaluates these organizations and what they’ve done. And so this is a sign of, you know, we’re going to check this box really quickly, like we have to do something, or stakeholders are holding us accountable. So here’s a million dollars, maybe, or they think I don’t know where it went. And then we’re gonna go do our thing. And you can add an RNA into list of people who donate it. But now it’s, you know, almost three years later, and we don’t know where that money is. And we don’t see any change in the system. So that’s not authentic. It’s check the box, and it comes back around, even you know, it works at the beginning. And then people start to recognize and realize and hold them accountable. And that’s what we’re doing now. And so when it comes back to better together, I was really nervous about working with for profit organizations, especially the large ones, because Are they hiring me to check that box? You know, what they want to do? The activities they want to do? Are they just gonna say, you know, better together, write this messaging and put it on social and we’re good to go? Or are they really going to mean, what they’re paying us for? You know, it, it’s not just about the money, it’s about the action, it’s about the mission, if I don’t stick to it, if we don’t stick to it, that we’re just like any other agency. So yeah, a long winded way of saying, we have to be authentic and what we’re doing, or we will get called out and maybe not at first, but eventually we will be.

Valerie Friedlander 21:58
Yeah, well, and I so appreciate that. Discernment. And I’m curious, how do you discern whether somebody is like an organization is saying, just saying stuff? Like, when you come in, and you put together a plan for them? What does accountability look like for your organization? Because I know, that’s something that a lot of people struggle with. And I’ve worked with a number of people in the DEI space who are like, you know, I go in and people were like, Yeah, then we start getting in, I’m like, oh, you know, can you cut your presentation from three hours to 90 minutes? Actually, could you cut it to like half an hour instead? And like, all these ways that they talk a good game? And then you find out? No, that’s not? How do you discern that and, and engage it when it happens?

Catharine Montgomery 22:46
Yeah, so I think from the very beginning, if there’s a client that wants to partner with better together, I tell them upfront what I’m thinking how I feel, I’m not a person to hold back in telling people what I think in a respectful way, but I will tell them, you know, people do not like you, they are they do not trust you. And when I say them, I mean, a company’s brand, they do not trust you, they do not trust that you do care about the AI is going to take a long time for you to have your external stakeholders and your internal stakeholders believe that this is a true core value of the company, we are here to help you do that. But this is what you’re going to need. And if this isn’t what you can do and commit to in our contract, then we’re not the right partner for you. And I’ve had companies come to me and say, we know the vision, the mission of Better Together, we’ve made sure that we’re going to align with it. So it’s that they need to align with better together than better together, aligning with them. And I’m okay with that. Because that’s going to make us different, that makes us unique, and we’re not going to get every account, we’re not gonna work with every company. And that’s okay, we’re gonna work with the ones that truly want to make a difference in this world.

Valerie Friedlander 24:01
Yeah, and I’m hearing with that, that you have a clear, honest, upfront conversation and you set really clear expectations. And with those set expectations, I’m sure that you typically get people who have done their research and everything. But have you had an experience where you’ve had to be like, This is what we agreed upon. You’re not doing these things. This is what has to happen to repair this or this isn’t a good fit anymore.

Catharine Montgomery 24:36
Yeah, you know, I haven’t had that experience yet. Now, we launched about a year ago, I have a feeling that it could definitely happen in other ways like that. Normal businesses have conflicts with clients, of course, but when it comes to values, we haven’t strayed on those. And so I think that comes down to the vetting process before, you know, when client It took more than a year for or almost a year for us to start actually working together because there was so much of like, do you really understand what it means to work with us? Like, are you really okay with, I don’t know, just committing to, to change to positive change to really action to not just talking about what you want to do, but bringing that into reality. And so it’s okay for those long conversations, it does take a lot of patience on my end. But I think that helps make sure that we’re not just rushing into into things, especially when it comes to those for profit, large for profit organizations.

Valerie Friedlander 25:45
Yeah. And I would guess that there are certain organizations that you can kind of see initially as you get going that like, they’re like the ones that are doing the things and taking action, but there’s a gap in terms of how they’re communicating versus the ones that maybe will need the extra support to match what they want to say to what they’re doing, right. And that would probably mean a little bit more vetting in the front end than otherwise.

Catharine Montgomery 26:11
You know, what I found harder when it comes to finding the right organizations to work with have spend organizations understanding the value of communications. And so a lot of times we might get into partnership with an organization and they don’t understand that communicating with your audiences and changing mindsets, behaviors, things like that, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort. And I know the PR industry marketing industry has been saying this for you know, since the beginning of time, that it that it takes a long time. But it really is more about showing the value of communications in general. And you know, for the nonprofit that were smaller for profit companies, they don’t want to take that time to understand their audience. And they’re so excited about, you know, the good that they want to do that it’s hard for them to communicate. And I think that goes back to what you were saying at the beginning of, you know, we want to do doo doo, but we can’t communicate it correctly. And so I think it’s those instances where we have to say, you know, not just from a DEI or values perspective, but from a process perspective, are you okay with taking this process and taking these steps, and knowing that it’s going to take longer than three months to reach your goals. And sometimes we have to step away from those types of projects, because we can’t just spend our wills or expect the world in a short period of time, it really takes commitment to understanding your audiences and your stakeholders and what really drives them.

Valerie Friedlander 27:45
Hmm. That makes sense, though, it’s not something that I thought about, but like, how much we get focused on production. Yeah, and doing the things instead of talking and listening and the value of that. What do you find helps people understand or recognize that importance of pausing and actually taking the time to hear their audience hear other people have those conversations?

Catharine Montgomery 28:16
Yeah, I think the examples of previous clients home, so always a good case study of work we’ve done before, and showing, you know, we’ve gotten these results during this process these results during this process and showing that, you know, if you want to achieve x, then you’re gonna have to do Y and Z. And so I think just showing them that true value of the process, and not just going into Okay, well, we can sign a contract, we can get this money, but we want to make a difference. What’s the point of doing any of the work, if we’re not going to make the positive impact that we want to do? So? I wouldn’t just definitely say real life examples.

Valerie Friedlander 28:58
Yeah. Well, and meeting people where they’re at is such a important piece to actually being able to effectively do work. If you don’t know where people are at how are you actively doing the work? Right. Yeah. I mean, it seems so basic, just, you know, listening to people and finding out where they’re at. And it does seem like it’s like a grand idea. But it’s implementing it. It’s just so difficult for companies, it’s so different for leaders to take that step and really identify and understand their audiences. So I know maybe your listeners are like, Oh, I’ve heard this before. But, you know, just putting it into, into place into action is just so much different. But I feel like you can’t hear it enough, really, especially when there’s so much pressure to take action and show what you can do and everything. I mean, I’ve run into this in a few different places, both personally and professionally. I had a client who would not actually say like she was afraid of making promises she couldn’t keep so she would just take on something and then like, she wouldn’t say anything. And then the client that she had would be like what’s going on, they would lose confidence because they weren’t hearing something. So we did work around like, while you may not be able to totally estimate this is when I’m going to have it done by, tell them when you’re going to communicate to them set that expectation. Because, you know, they want to hear if they want to know you, you have to have the communication piece, even if the product isn’t ready yet. Letting people know is where you’re going to be able to build that trust of like you can rely on I’m going to say something and then I’m going to follow through, like we were saying before, how important that is, even if it’s just, this is what I’m going to communicate with you.

Catharine Montgomery 30:43
Yes, yes, I tell my employees that with our clients. So, you know, if they send an email, even if we don’t know the answer, let’s just respond and say we’re working on it, but not responding for days, that doesn’t work. And that, you know, I know, that’s a simple example. But that works is every situation of we have to communicate with each other. This is a strange example. But I was returning a product and it had a warranty. And I didn’t hear back from months. And I just thought like, okay, maybe they’re not going to and then finally they responded, it’s just the simple things of, you know, reaching out connecting, having those touch points of, you know, we’re thinking about you. And that can be applied in so many different ways. But just communicating and keeping people updated is so important.

Valerie Friedlander 31:29
Yeah, well, I mean, it goes right back to what you’re saying about building relationships, you have to have that give and take, and looking at where where do you have that give and take what’s important to you? What are your priorities? And so where are you showing up? I would also be curious, sometimes we get feedback from something that is a little bit rough. Like I’ve seen people make statements, you know, they care about things that are happening in the world, and they make statements and then people are like, that was not okay. The way you said that what you said here, you were trying to show up to something and you did it very badly. You need to pause and think about things. But like as an organization, you don’t want to just sit on it. What do you recommend to people when they run into feedback that maybe is hard to hear? And they need to digest? And they need to like actually look at not just how they want to say it differently. But also how does this implement? What do we need to change? To address what we’ve been called in on?

Catharine Montgomery 32:35
Yeah, I mean, I would say to start, they should be prepared for those instances. So you know, having outline statements, talking points, all those good things of staying in tune with culture in the way people are dressed. You know, the language people are speaking, that kind of thing. So just being prepared in general before saying anything or writing anything, releasing anything, if you are getting feedback that you shouldn’t have said, X, Y and Z. I think Joe Biden’s first talk, he said something or another and everybody just hated on it. It’s just like, how long did they have to decide what his first competence on Tik Tok were going to be? So a big way saw that he got heat for that I immediately thought, Okay, well, at least they can learn from it. And it’s true. I mean, he’s the President of the United States, his team is going to take that you’re going to realize, okay, well, we don’t need to say it this way. Why is it this way, let’s focus on these types of things, that kind of thing. And so you think if you’re open to hearing constructive feedback, which people can be non constructive, they can just be outright meeting. But you know, you have to take that in stride and realize that that’s just how society is, it is important to take the constructive pieces, though, and incorporate them into your future talking points, future statements, just your, your understanding, I’m constantly learning, I’m in the social impact space 24/7. But there’s so many things I don’t know, so many things that I have to learn before I put something out there. And I think we all have to have that mindset of continuous learning, and be okay, that we’re not going to always get it right. The key is not to get it wrong again.

Valerie Friedlander 34:23

Catharine Montgomery 34:25
Learn from the mistakes that you make, and make sure that you don’t do them again. It’s when you repeat things that people stopped forgiving you. And that’s what you don’t want to happen. People can understand one or two times but if it just continuously happens, that’s unacceptable. And honestly, like you don’t care like as a, as a spokesperson, as a organization. If you’re continuously doing the same thing over and over, you’re not trying to improve. And again, it comes down to listening comes down to action, all the things that we’ve you know, talked about, and if you don’t do those things, and you don’t do them over and over, then you really don’t care.

Valerie Friedlander 34:59
Yeah. So what is your process when somebody comes to you, that you walk them through to help them make sure that they’re setting a solid foundation?

Catharine Montgomery 35:09
Yeah. And honestly, it depends on what they are trying to achieve. So we really have to understand their goals, is it building awareness? Is it changing their perception of the organization is it trying to reach a particular audience. So depending on what that is, we’ll lay out a plan for achieving that. And I like to say that it takes at least a year to really dive into and make change, because it does, that initial process does take a long time of listening. And then also, the plan doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to do traditional media, then we’re going to do social media, and we’re going to write op eds, and then we’re going to, you know, go to this conference, it really depends on who the organization is and what they’re trying to achieve again. So we tailor that to the specific organization to the specific company, we have some organizations where, you know, really, they just need to be on social to achieve what they need. We have some where it’s like, they have a thought leader, they have, you know, a president of the board, they have a CEO, and they really need to get their voice out there and their profile and who they are, so that people start to believe in their credibility, and what they they’re saying is true. And so we have, you know, a strict platform that’s on, you know, raising their profiles in an authentic and genuine way and building those connections. And then some are really about events and activations. Like, we need to have people in the room to see that we’re there. We as in the client, were there that were being honest and trustworthy. And we’re putting this into action, and hear from the voices themselves of like, why this cause is important, what we’re doing, what they can do, what is the call to action, and so it’s a lot of going around the country or the world and really engaging with those people who want to take those steps. So it really depends. And some, it’s everything, you know, you know, we’re going to redo all this, we’re going to amplify this company’s voice and you know, all of that it’s just really exciting. And knowing that everything, I’m getting chills right now, knowing that everything we’re doing is making a positive impact. It’s just so rewarding. It’s hard work, but it’s, it’s definitely rewarding.

Valerie Friedlander 37:16
Oh, I’m sure it is. So I’m hearing understanding the problem, where they’re at now gathering the data to bridge that gap, and then helping them take aligned action that matches what their purpose is to what they need to do to connect with the people they’re trying to connect with. And then staying in that conversation, even when it’s uncomfortable, and continuing to learn. So that there is that give and take between the people you’re trying to serve. And you as an organization, what you’re trying to do, and I love that you said, you know, remember that it takes at least a year because I think a lot of people who want to make an impact to jump in. And especially in my own industry, and in coaching, there’s a lot of like, well, you can start a business right away, if you have the right mindset. And it’s like actually, to know your audience and who you’re serving, you have to do research, and that’s gonna take time, and that’s gonna take reaching out and learning and implementing and trying again, and communicating. And that process is an evolution as a business, because if you’re actually creating real change, you’re not just imposing stuff on the other people, you’re listening to them, and you’re showing up to a real conversation. And so yeah, I mean, chills to that, like 100%. It’s powerful. And it takes time. We can’t rush it.

Catharine Montgomery 38:39
Yeah, completely agree. Yeah, people want to make their own decisions, like they want to be informed, so that they can make their own decisions, not having an organization, a person, whoever force that idea. And if they do come to a conclusion themselves are more likely to follow through with it. So that’s where we have to do is give them the information, give them the easiest way to try to make that informed decision to the way that we want them to go. But having them make it not forcing an idea or perspective on people.

Valerie Friedlander 39:12
That sounds like respect.

Catharine Montgomery 39:14
Yeah. Oh hmmm. (laughter)

Valerie Friedlander 39:19
(laughter) Like, that means you have to respect the people that you’re talking to. All right.

Catharine Montgomery 39:24
Yes. Where did that go?

Valerie Friedlander 39:26
Yeah, it’s so important. And yeah, an agency supporting agency.

Catharine Montgomery 39:32

Valerie Friedlander 39:35
I love it. So if there’s like a key takeaway that you’d really like the people listening to grab as they listen to this episode, what would you want them to? Hold on to?

Catharine Montgomery 39:48
Yeah, I think the main thing I’ve learned, especially over the past year is about building authentic relationships. And I’m not talking about necessarily as a big brand or anything but personal authentic relationships and going in with the mindset of, I’m not trying to get something from them, but I’m trying to learn something from them, or I’m just trying to see what they have to offer. It’s not always about it’s not always transactional. But it’s about building true relationships, no matter nothing is too big or too small, or you never know what is going to happen from a situation. And I’ve truly learned about building those relationships and just, you know, reaching out periodically and not having any preconceived notions or expectations of like, what I’m going to get from it, but being very open and genuine with that.

Valerie Friedlander 40:44
Thank you. So now, my last two questions are, what does it mean to you to be unlimited?

Catharine Montgomery 40:55
I think being open minded about all aspects of life. So I am a very adventurous person. So I will jump off a cliff if there’s an opportunity. And I might not have planned it.

Valerie Friedlander 41:12
Hopefully you planned it enough to have safety gear.

Valerie Friedlander 41:17
Okay, good. (laughter)

Catharine Montgomery 41:19
Or, you know, someone was like, Catharine, have you thought about opening an office in London? And I was like, No, I have not. Who knows, you know, so I think just like, really being unlimited, and really being open minded. And that’s how I got to starting better together. I had not planned on starting an agency was not even on my radar. But I have my passions of social impact and working at agencies and was able to combine them and receive venture funding as well. So it’s like, don’t hold yourself back by thinking that you’re limited and what you can do. And I really thank my parents for that. I think being around very inspiring women and others throughout my life has been instrumental to that.

Valerie Friedlander 42:02
Yeah, definitely. And What song do you listen to when you want to evoke that unlimited feeling in yourself?

Catharine Montgomery 42:10
You know, there are mornings I wake up, and I’m like, You know what, I just need to listen to this song. And one of them is, you’ve already won by Shane and Shane. Just very random. But it’s a live song that they sing about, like, why am I going through these tough times, but it’s like God has already solved them. And they’re already like, there’s already a path forward. I just have to go through these tough times to get to where, you know, I’m really supposed to be. And the other is John Denver’s take me home country road. And that always brings me back to Girl Scout camp and being around a fire and singing that song. And so I think it makes you feel warm, and, you know, homey and all those things. And so it just the good peaceful mindset is what happens when I listen to that song.

Valerie Friedlander 43:03
Yeah, I feel you on that one, for sure. So if people want to connect with you from here, where should they go to find you?

Catharine Montgomery 43:12
Yeah, so my website is the Better Together dot agency. Really straightforward. I’m also on LinkedIn, Catherine Montgomery. And just remember, it’s ca t h a r I and II spoke a little bit differently. But yeah, those are probably the two best places to catch me.

Valerie Friedlander 43:27
Awesome. I will have links in the show notes for everyone. And thank you so much for being here. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Catharine Montgomery 43:36
Yeah, great questions. Love the conversation. Thank you so much.

Valerie Friedlander 43:39

Valerie Friedlander 22:46

Speaker 1 41:16
I was tied to a rope.

Valerie Friedlander 43:12

Valerie Friedlander 43:41
Thanks for listening. I so appreciate you being here. If you got something out of today’s episode, please share it. Leave me a review. Take a screenshot and post it on social with a shout out to me, send it to a friend or you know, all of the above. Want to hang out more join me on Instagram, or better yet, get on my mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. And remember, your possibilities are as unlimited as you are. Allow yourself to shine my friend. The world needs your light. See you next time.

Transcribed by

In this episode of Unlimited, I invited Catharine Montgomery (she/her) to join me in a conversation about how to set and sustain the foundations for authentic public relations.

Some of what we talk about in this episode includes:

  • People pleasing vs listening and serving
  • The importance of follow through to build trust
  • Evaluating your purpose and priorities
  • Ensuring alignment with clear expectations
  • Patience with the info gathering process 


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