Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the June 18, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Ways to Leverage A Start-Up’s PR
D‘Anne Hotchkiss, owner of a new public relations
agency named Ellsworth Kaye, found out she liked to do PR at her first
job after college, when she worked on a weekly paper in a suburb of
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her job was to write feature profiles on the townspeople.
"In a small town," she says, "everybody already knew the
things people didn’t want them to know. The feature writer got to
tell what people did want known. Which is the essence of public relations."
Hotchkiss grew up in Cedar Rapids, where her father worked for Collins
Radio, makers of communications equipment. She graduated in 1980 with
a journalism and mass communications major from the University of
Iowa and worked at a PR and advertising agency in Cedar Rapids before
starting her own agency in 1983. When she and her husband, an instrumental
music teacher, moved east in 2000, she went to work for a technology-oriented
agency. "The tech implosion closed their doors in 2001, and I
went back into business for myself," says Hotchkiss.
The practice of public relations in New York is not as strategy driven
as it is in Iowa, she claims. "Here they tend to focus on what
they can do — talk, write, and get media exposure. Where I come
from, we start with what people need to know about your company, and
then how do we communicate that."
story above). Mei understood exactly what her value was — training
— and that this is a good time to do it, but more important than
a press release she needed to establish certain business connections,
so Hotchkiss went with her to some meetings.
Hotchkiss’s other technology and business services clients include
a human capital management company, a technology analyst firm, and
a gold mining operation on the west coast (Ellsworth Kaye Inc., 36
Pierson Avenue, Princeton 08540. 609-987-1013 (877-HITEC-PR). E-mail:
Working with small businesses can be a challenge, says Hotchkiss.
"Sometimes clients think they don’t have competitors. But if nobody
else is in your business, why not? Have others tried to do it and
failed?" She has these suggestions for entrepreneurs.
of your corporate worth. Use public relations to build it and protect
understanding of business, not just of public relations.
when evaluating public relations recommendations.
products and its services, through the eyes of customers, vendors,
employees and the media. "Entrepreneurs think everyone should
be excited about the same thing that they are excited about. They
have to take a step back and look at the value of what they are doing
through the eyes of the customer."
like the company accountant or attorney.
want full control over what’s said about you or your company, buy
or newsletters. They are two of the least effective means of building
success. No one is fooled by grandiose claims for very long. Got a
problem with a product or service? Fix the problem by changing company
actions, then use public relations to communicate the changes.
sales. Selling belongs to the sales team, not the communications
She can’t give you sound advice if she doesn’t know all the facts.
approach played much better in Manhattan than it did in Iowa. That
approach is key to her business. "One client said I had the best
bullshit detector of anybody in the business," says Hotchkiss.
"If clients pontificate about how great they are, I stop them
in their tracks. If all they want to do is tell me how good they are,
they need to find someone else. I don’t need them to tell me my job.
My job is to communicate what is newsworthy about them to the people
who need to hear it. Sometimes things that people need to know are
painful to talk about or less than perfect. But if everything is perfect,
it’s not believable."
— Barbara Fox
I-Chen Mei tells the quintessential story how helping
someone else can prove helpful to yourself. She and a church friend,
D’Anne Hotchkiss, were working side by side at a Habitat for Humanity
project. Hotchkiss was in the process of setting up her own PR business,
Ellsworth Kaye Inc.
"I was helping D’Anne volunteer when she told me she had a computer
problem," says Mei. "I said I could help her set up her local
area network and that I was starting a computer school — could
she help me?" Hotchkiss obliged by doing Mei’s public relations
materials and helping her establish some business relations. "She
has been a great resource," says Mei.
Mei is setting up her school, ICM IT Consulting and Training, to teach
corporate training classes, job-seekers, and those who want to change
or advance in their careers. She offers day, evening, and weekend
classes in computer software development and programming at locations
in Princeton and Philadelphia (ICM IT Consulting and Training, 55
Marion East, Princeton 08540, 609-252-1703; fax, 609-252-1703, www.icmit.net).
These classes, which she says can count towards a bachelor of science
degree at Drexel, include test preparation for certification by such
companies as Sun, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, and others. Among the
courses are data warehousing, data modeling, network management, programming,
systems, security, relational database technology, eBusiness, web
development, and application server development, as well as OLAP and
Ad-Hoc reporting technology. Placement assistance is available for
some of the programs. Mei has applied for approval as a private vocational
school, which would enable participants to take her classes under
the New Jersey Workforce Development Program.
"Teaching was something I always thought was fun," says Mei,
whose mother was a teacher in Taiwan. "Students would come to
our house and help with the housework and I saw that they gave her
great respect. I didn’t become a full-time teacher because I wanted
the challenge of the computer industry, but I always did teaching
anytime I could. I thought, why not start my own school and give myself
Mei went to Tunghai University, earned her master’s degree in computer
science from Central Michigan University, and worked at Citibank on
Wall Street. She was a member of the technical staff at Bell Labs
from 1984 to 1992, then became a consultant and taught at Drexel and
Rutgers, where she established the Microsoft Academic Authorized Training
Program (AATP) at Rutgers University Internet Institution (ITI). "Rutgers
outsourced to my firm, and I set up the program and the classroom
and hired the instructors, including myself," says Mei. Her husband,
WeiChi Chen, is a senior architect at the Hillier Group, and they
have three school-aged children.
Known for her technical skills and ability to communicate in clear
and practical ways, Mei has published two papers and has a design
patent for a computer product. "I enjoy teaching and wanted to
give myself the opportunity to help people be successful in their
careers," she says. "So I have obtained the best instructors.
I want people to know they can come to my school and gain satisfaction."
The faculty members have graduate degrees in computer science and
related fields from such leading universities as Stanford and Harvard.
Executives from various business disciplines will advise students
in strategic planning, finance, human resources, career counseling,
"I would like to run the school as if it were a non-profit and
reinvest the profit into the school," says Mei. "I want to
provide the best education and learning opportunity I can to our communities
and industry professionals."
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