This Is Why They Call Melanie Williams Of Guru PR The Olivia Pope Of Detroit
Good PR is vital to building a company and Melanie Williams, who’s been dubbed the Olivia Pope of Detroit, knows a thing or two about that. PR firms don’t just send out press releases, they help spread the word about companies and their products as well as step in to handle public crises.
Williams is CEO and founder of Guru Public Relations and has clients in a variety of sectors from entertainment to healthcare and technology. Williams knew public relations was her career calling early on and she knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur as well. Right after graduating from Wayne State University in 2007, she launched Guru with a focus on providing publicity services to small businesses, which are often overlooked by PR firms vying for mega corporate clients. There are 29 million businesses in the U.S., however fewer than one percent are represented by public relations agencies. This is where Williams steps in, and she’s now launching a webinar series, Pick My Brain, aimed at new startups and entrepreneurs.
Check out our conversation with Williams about the importance of public relations for all businesses.
MadameNoire (MN): Tell us how and why you wanted to start your own company?
Melanie Williams (MW): I wanted to start my own business because there was an untapped market for small businesses like myself that needed a bigger voice which I was able to offer with my PR background and event services.
MN: Why is publicity and brand building important even to small businesses?
MW: Small businesses are competing with large established conglomerates that have endless budgets for publicity and brand building; Guru PR creates an outlet for small businesses. Our personal relationships with the media help small businesses, even with their smaller budgets. Clients and customers of these small businesses also should know why the small business is more favored over larger companies, so building a small brand through PR is key.
MN: Why are you called the Olivia Pope of Detroit?
MW: Guru PR makes things happen! If you’re great at what you do, you leave little room for people to tell you no. Again, it’s the personal relationships that we’ve nurtured and fostered that make us get the job done no matter what. That is what makes us different from other firms, we question and evaluate with an open mind, unrestrained by conventional wisdom. We decide for ourselves and aggressively bridge the gap between traditional and nontraditional mediums. We follow our business model: strategy, design, content, and narrative. Telling the new story equals identifying the message, engaging, and inspiring.
MN: How do you handle difficult clients?
MW: Like the old tale states, “the client is always right!” We put our best foot forward to ensure the client has a favorable experience that sheds a positive light on their brand and their PR experience.
MN: What have been some growing pains and how have you addressed them?
MW: Smaller clients have smaller budgets, but Guru PR has been able to make small budgets go further with our extended relationships and clientele that we’ve built over the years. Also, good help is a rarity. At Guru PR we lead with integrity and we make sure that our staff knows that there is no “I” in team.
MN: What has been the most important business lesson you have learned?
MW: Your reputation supersedes you and don’t burn bridges because you may have to come back across. I offer an intangible service, so I must maintain a favorable representation at all times and foster positive relationships.
MN: What are some of your goals?
MW: By next year we want to grow business by an additional 25 percent and add additional staff and offices across other cities. In the long term, we want to be the go-to PR and Events and Concierge company not just in Michigan but across the world. Right now we service clients in Detroit, New York, Chicago, North Carolina, and Los Angeles.
MN: What advice would you give the other Black female entrepreneurs when it comes to branding yourself?
MW: Many people find themselves doing too many things at once. Become a master of one craft and nurture it like a baby to help it grow. Don’t look at other small businesses and entrepreneurs and mimic other people’s small business ideas. Be original and passionate about what you do and you will succeed. When you’re in your own lane, there is no traffic!