Steve Turner on Strategies for Staying Ahead
Steve Turner, Principal of Solomon Turner PR
Can you introduce yourself and share a little about your background?
I have been a small business owner for over 30 years in an industry that is always changing and changing rapidly. When we first started there was no internet and smartphones did not exist. Relationships were built and work got done through face-to-face meetings and speaking with clients, business owners, and members of the media on the telephone. The internet and the change to digital media turned our industry upside down. The hard copy of the printed newspaper or magazine was the main source of communication, along with TV and radio news. That has mostly migrated to digital versions of each medium and has created dozens of various publications all aimed at niche audiences. The main source of business communication changed from telephone to email. Some of our colleagues closed shop and others simply refused to learn these new methods, hoping to stay alive in business as long as they could. Social media also did not exist and that is another skill that had to be learned. Now AI is on the forefront of making a large impact in our industry. Over the years we have been able to adapt to these new technologies and become proficient in a variety of skill sets all necessary in today's world of public relations and communications. We have pivoted as necessary and have thrived as a highly respected agency and business resource for those looking to amplify their brand, generate awareness, and reach audiences in high-tier publications. Solomon Turner has expanded our expertise into video and video marketing, and various forms of social media communication to go along with the more traditional methods of marketing and public relations. For our efforts we have been named one of the top PR firms in St. Louis for 15 years in a row by Small Business Monthly.
As a forward-thinking professional, how do you identify ways to stay ahead in your industry?
The main goal is to remain open and flexible to change. Things will change and your team needs to be receptive to learning new skills and how they can apply to helping your clients better accomplish their goals. You cannot stay complacent, no matter how successful you are. In order to stay ahead we belong to various organizations. One, in particular, is highly focused with some of the top PR people in the industry getting together monthly to share ideas and exchange information. It also is necessary to read key trade publications and we subscribe to several of those. I also subscribe to several newspapers and magazines to keep abreast of overall trends and changes in business and the world in general. Selected podcasts can also be helpful to gain knowledge on various topics. Social media is a good outlet as many professionals communicate with each other within groups on LinkedIn or Facebook.
How often do you reassess your competitive landscape and, as I know you're very busy, I'd love for you to share any tips you have on carving out the time to do this?
I probably spend 30 minutes to one hour per day or more reviewing social media posts in one key group and reading pertinent articles in newspapers or magazines. This works best at the end of the day when things have settled down, and you have an opportunity to breathe and reassess your accomplishments. I also use this time for additional research on any key topic. You can use this time to learn what others are thinking and adjust your strategy and game plan as needed.
What have been the most significant challenges you've faced when striving to stay ahead in a rapidly changing world, and how have you overcome them?
As mentioned earlier, the internet and the change to digital media totally changed the public relations industry. Communications professionals had to learn to adapt to a changing digital world. Journalists needed to learn to write for a more digitally produced product and public relations professionals had to adapt to help these journalists as needed. Social media also became a big challenge for traditional PR agencies. For a time, business owners were hiring young college graduates to handle their social media thinking they would know this new method of communication. Unfortunately, in most instances, these young professionals knew how to post on some platforms, but they had no understanding of the business side of communication. They were not trained and did not understand business strategy and corporate objectives. Eventually business owners figured out they did not gain any impact from simple social media posting and migrated back to a more traditional communications approach, using social media in a targeted method. We stayed the course and eventually did offer social media but only as a vehicle to enhance and leverage a client's exposure in newspapers, magazines, TV, trade journals etc. That approach has proven to be successful and has helped us to continue to provide award winning services to our clients.
Can you pinpoint a defining moment or experience where your innovative strategies led to success or a competitive advantage in your business or career?
One skill or strategy that has proven to be highly successful is the ability to create great story ideas for each and every client. As a former journalist I had an inherent sense of what makes a good story for a newspaper or a television newscast. I have used this skill to help a business owner determine their competitive advantage and then determine how to find the right words to communicate that into story ideas for various journalists. We have been fortunate and have landed client stories on many top-tier media outlets such as NBC News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and dozens of others. Some agencies achieve similar results, but we are storytellers and package our results and approach into a presentation that prospective clients can understand, and better visualize how that approach will help them achieve their objectives, both near and long-term.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients of an effective strategy for staying ahead in 2023?
One key ingredient is to observe and listen. Speak frequently to your team about what they are hearing from their clients and prospects. Some team members may be hearing about new products or services your competition is beginning to offer. Research those new products and see if they are also a fit for your business. Secondly make a list of your key competitors and monitor their websites. Again, see if competitors are suddenly changing direction and embarking into a new business area that could make sense for your company. Third, read key trade journals and other publications, and listen to podcasts to get a true reading of where your industry is headed and what additional products you can offer. Finally attend and participate in key industry peer groups so you can learn what challenges like-minded CEOs are facing. Peer groups are a good way to learn how other businesses are adjusting to the marketplace. You can also lend your expertise to help others as necessary.
In your opinion, what role does continuous learning and personal development play in staying ahead, and how do you incorporate these practices into your own professional journey?
Someone once said if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. I agree that as a business owner you constantly need to replenish and enhance your knowledge base to maintain your edge. Identify trends and even take courses to learn new skills and approaches to problem solving. Learn how you can maximize your time to improve your own personal performance, and that of your team. Spend a designated amount of time each day in personal uninterrupted activity, whether it is studying for a course, reading, physical activity to improve your health and mindset, participating in mastermind sessions etc. Enhance your writing skills and learn to contribute articles that showcase your skills as a thought leader in your industry. As you expand your knowledge and become recognized as an industry leader, your own value within the organization will rise.
Looking ahead, what emerging trends or technologies do you believe will have the most significant impact on businesses or ambitious professionals, and how are you preparing to leverage them for future success?
AI is definitely the next big thing. The challenge is going to be how to harness the functionality of artificial intelligence to benefit your career and your business. Everyone is going to be using AI in one form or another if they are not already. The government is keeping a close eye on how AI is going to impact the workforce in the near future. We are currently using AI to help formulate certain writing tasks to trim the time it would normally take to accomplish the same task. AI, at this point, will not provide a totally finished product but will provide enough content to shorten each project and enable a team member to become more efficient and accomplish more in the same given time. I am confident all companies are exploring how AI can benefit their companies and have procedures incorporating some use of artificial intelligence into their business practices.
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