I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Izaks, President of All Points Public Relations.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have been a newshound my entire life. For as long as I can remember television news, the newspaper, radio, magazines, online as well, have always captured my attention. In Chicagoland especially, television news personalities, radio hosts and columnists are stars. They were people I looked up to as a young child. Early on in high school, I knew news writing was something I wanted to pursue. But, I was actually a terrible writer. I always had ideas, but my ability to string together a coherent story was way off. Thankfully, a kind group of women working in my high school’s writing resource center showed me the way.
I joined the high school newspaper, TV station and did as much as I could outside of school as well with journalism. I went on to major in journalism at Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism, where I wrote for the Indiana Daily Student, hosted a radio program on the student-run station and was part of the school’s TV news program, among other professional development programs. I also interned in the sports department at WLS-TV Chicago (ABC), which was a formative experience heading into my senior year of college.
As I moved into my professional career, I earned my stripes in the news industry as an anchor, reporter and producer at various NBC, ABC, FOX and FOX SportsNet network affiliates. The most notable time in my television journalism career is the nearly two years covering sports and news in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Soon after 9/11 rocked the nation and shook the U.S. economy, a major downturn in television advertising forced the cancelation of the fledgling shows I worked on at FOXSports Net in Chicago. I quickly started reporting in Rockford, Illinois to stay in the industry and to decide my next move. I had recently proposed to my wife, Lauren, and was considering the next phase in my career. Obtaining an MBA had been a goal of mine, so I moved ahead with doing so, while at the same time pivoting towards a new facet of the media world for me, public relations. I earned a position in the corporate public relations department at Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
PR was a natural next step and I truly enjoyed leveraging my television journalism work, undergrad education and MBA experience to make the most of my time at Hyatt. I grew into a manager role in the department, overseeing specific strategies and agencies.
With the Hyatt experience under my belt, an MBA earned and time in the media, I figured if I could go and work at an agency I will have seen the world of PR from “all points” (our company name comes from this perspective that we bring to our clients). So, before launching All Points, I spent five years as an executive at a national PR agency serving the franchise industry.
All three facets of the first fifteen years or so of my professional life lined up perfectly for launching All Points Public Relations with Lauren. As a company, our vision has always been to raise the bar for Chicagoland-based integrated PR agencies and provide exceptional support to franchise brands nationwide. We have built the business from the ground up with a commitment to our mission of persistence, which has led to hiring an extremely talented team made up of creative, professional and driven individuals that are emotionally invested in our work and enjoy being with each other everyday.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
There are moments along the way that are unforgettable. Some are milestones, others are indicators signaling that all the hard work is paying off. From winning new clients when multi-national PR firms are vying for the same accounts just a few years into the business; and pursuing the same prospective client for three or more years until we win it, to earning results with the biggest of the big media in the country and being part of so many of team members’ successes, I have vivid memories of these uniquely special moments.
If I had to pick a “most interesting” story to tell it would have to be back at the launch of our business. I was working solo in an office, Lauren was more part time because we didn’t have many clients. However, even then, when talking to clients All Points PR was referenced as “we” and “team”. I was putting in 12 to 18 hours a day pumping out results, press releases, social media posts, etc. I’m of the belief that we are not, and never have been, a boutique agency. Rather, we want to “look big, act big, present big.” Our clients want that type of thinking from us. So, as a result, we’ve put processes and systems into place since day one that we continue to refine and build upon today. That type of professionalism is a differentiator.
Back to the point — because of the “we” mentality, we were able to grow the business quickly, and begin hiring. I can only imagine what our first few hires were thinking as we brought them in for interviews. I was in this tiny, tiny office. Lauren was part time, and we had no reputation built. But, we shared our passion, vision and our approach, and we earned the trust of our candidates for jobs. Two were hired first, and we took off from there. Leading by example has been a core belief to develop our team members into leaders, and that has never changed, beginning with the first two hires.
I love the tale of hiring and grooming leaders with minimal validation behind us, but a lot of passion and upside ahead back in mid-2011.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
If you don’t have a sense of humor along the journey, it is going to be difficult to swallow a lot of what happens in business. It can be humbling, humiliating and filled with challenges. But, something that Lauren talks about a lot is enjoying the journey. I do my best to take that to heart and pass that on to the team as well. It allows to minimize the lows and accentuate the highs.
Loving PR and media comes naturally to me, and so does being part of a team. For me, starting and running the business is more about creating something that a group of people can believe in and get behind. We are up to 20-plus employees.
Before we hired our first two employees, we brought in an intern. This individual was to work in the same extremely small office, more like a closet, with me. The mistake we made was not accounting for how two chairs would fit into the office. So literally if she turned her chair it would knock mine, and my chair would do the same. It was tight, and there wasn’t anywhere else to go, and I needed to coach her to know more about our clients and the job. What we learned quickly was the environment in which we work is critical to productivity.
As such, when we hired more people, Lauren and I put much more thoughtfulness into environment, and that has continued to evolve. Today, we have a fantastic space with a lot of thoughtfulness and input from our team.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
Franchisors are placing an increasing demand on integrated public relations solutions, and we’ve always been at the forefront of answering their calling. In fact, werecently expanded our team and office space just ahead of the agency’s seventh anniversary. We’ve been broadening our capabilities consistently year over year and with that has come a growing eagerness from existing clientele to deepen their relationships with the business. Likewise, we frequently attract a collection of new clients.
Amid this growth with existing and new clients, we increased our team of talented and creative public relations professionals by more than 30 percent in 2018. The impact of the new team members reinforces the company’s reputation for exceeding client expectations in media relations, content marketing and social media.
It has been remarkable to be part of building an agency that has brought to life a dynamic culture and vibe that inspires an environment where creativity, determination and leadership development all flourish. Our team’s passion, professionalism, personal approach and persistence continues to reinforce our reputation, and more company decision makers are seeing the value that our PR services provide, especially when it comes to brand awareness, lead generation and franchise growth.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We continually stay at the leading edge of the public relations discipline. In today’s digital world, that means we are looked to for more and more integration of our services, well beyond the traditional PR realm. It now includes graphic design, social media, content marketing and a variety of email marketing and website responsibilities.
I am most excited about building more and more into our programs for our clients. The strategies we can deploy because of the talents of our team are becoming much more comprehensive, multi-dimensional and encompass so many forms of media.
I am excited to be managing our clients’ voices in so many ways.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Public relations practitioners help positively shape a company’s reputation. That’s why it’s important for young professionals to make the best first impression possible. Show up to interviews confident, dressed for success and properly prepare beforehand by researching the company and anticipating difficult interview questions. If you want to reference a project or writing sample you’re particularly proud of, be sure to bring a hard copy for the employer to read through and keep. During the entire interview process, remember to be responsive to any phone calls and emails with timely replies. And lastly, always send a thank you note. It’s common courtesy to send a follow up and call attention to something you’ve learned during the discussion. If you don’t receive a response, don’t be afraid to check in with the hiring manager with a friendly touch base message to show your eagerness and interest in the position.
At All Points, the most memorable interviewees embodied a mixture of professionalism and personality. We’re a hard-working, charismatic bunch, so we’re drawn to people we can actually picture sitting around the conference room table and interacting with clients.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
1. Be available and open: get out of your comfort zone and show up to events and conferences. Schedule meetings with prospects, have coffee with them, grab a beer or a meal. And once there, know what you are going to say, have an ice breaker and talk beyond business.
2. Bring enough business cards: you always want to stock up before visiting a client or attending a convention. Don’t leave your new contact empty-handed.
3. Have an elevator pitch about your services: be able to explain what your company does in 30 seconds or less.
4. Be personable: Be yourself and strike up conversations in a non-salesy way. People would rather have a genuine interaction than listen to a business pitch
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I consume the news daily. There isn’t one particular book, podcast, etc. that I can point to as a game changer for me. But, as a PR pro, read the news, watch the news, listen to the news. There are two big reasons why — first, you are better able to understand what to pitch the press because you hear what type of stories they are reporting on; second, you stay current and can build your angles around trending topics.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
More free professional training is needed across the country. Education systems crumble, poverty cannot be cured overnight, but prepare people for the real world through professional development and they can earn a living, communicate better at home and advance themselves. So much of what the world is about comes down to demeanor, communication style and presentation of oneself.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously: I often carry work around with me day and night and can lose perspective.
2. Know who to trust: I can be dense when it comes to aligning our company with other companies.
3. Get out of your own way: I sometimes over manage situations.
4. Understand the value of what you do: We do amazing work and often don’t make the most of every opportunity.
5. Be patient with new client acquisition: When you’re as hungry as I am, you can jump at opportunities that may not be a perfect fit; we’ve become much better at this.