The BLACK paPR Report


PR from an African American Perspective

Box Them In

I love my mentor who also happens to be my godmother, Bernardine D. Douglas. Bernardine is a retired veteran radio station sales and general manager. One of the first people to support her during the start of her career was Joan Crawford, the legendary actress who had a seat on the board of directors of PepsiCo. The older tough cookie gave the younger, Negro (as we were called then) tough cookie a huge sales order and it was on and popping from that point forward. 

Over the years I have learned a lot sitting at the feet of this precious woman. She’s is in fact the first person to recognize my talent as a publicist and practitioner. She is the first person to recognize that I have this odd gift of connecting people with other people or to what they need. For all of the above, I’m extremely grateful.

Here is a partial list of the things she has taught me:

  • Never enter into agreements with people who complain about previous service. They will complain about you too.
  • Always ask potential clients or customers, What do you need? What are your goals? How can I assist?
  • Sidestep foolish people. Loosely translated: Don’t waste a time of your talents and time on someone who makes silly choices.
  • Be teachable. It’s okay to be a know-it-all but remain open to learning.
  • Don’t operate in false modesty. Accept compliments, simply say thank you. 
  • Don’t lie or embellish.
  • It’s okay to burn bridges. You really don’t want bad energy or people to follow you. And you don’t want to introduce them to the good people you know and will meet. (Future blog post.)
  • Always make fast talkers repeat themselves and then repeat back what they say to them. 

But this is by far the best advice she’s ever given me, “Box them in, baby. You can’t make them do right but you can make it hard as hell for them to do wrong.” It took me a few tries but I not only get this but use it, sadly, frequently. I’ve even passed this advice onto people who thought they got it and used it on me, the wrong person. (It’s really difficult to use the lesson on the teacher, especially if she didn’t pass on the intricacies of the lesson. The didn’t know the intricacies.) 

At any rate, boxing people in has come in handy for me in business. I don’t understand underhandedness and deceit to the extent that I can outthink it. I don’t understand the hustle, so I won’t always recognize it in its beginnings. And I don’t understand how or why people like to use other people. 

Boxing folks in helps in deterring crazy and helps me to discern when someone is just not right. 

For example, some years ago an evangelist asked me to ghostwrite a book for him. I sent a quote, which was half of what he should have been charged for the project. He told me that he had people to do it for free, and that I should do it as a gift to the man of God. After careful consideration of his offer, I declined. And that book has yet to be written. 

How did I box him in? I merely agreed that if he could get it done for free, then he should go for it. I wasn’t terse in my response to him at all. I just relied on a biblical principle: If you do something for nothing, you will get nothing. And my debtors wouldn’t be too happy with that decision. 

The other thing that made it necessary to box the evangelist in was the fact that I am a woman working for herself. Some form of compensation should have been offered in my best interest. Oh well…

I honestly wish Bernardine could teach a course in this, but it’s advice that is best explained on a as needed to know basis. 

Best, Robin


Filed under: Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, The Business of PR & Publicity, Uncategorized, , , , ,


Last week, I blogged about status updates, posts and tweets showing up in a public timeline in the form of Google and other searches.  Some of those updates can come back to haunt you if they are not carefully censored. 

That’s a bad look.

However, I am a huge proponent of ‘playdates’ with clients or even by myself. Playdates is the intentional use of updates, posts and tweets to initiate a discussion, engage online followers/friends or even to track traffic to a site. Playdates when used intentionally is a great publicity, PR and marketing tool.  Playdates are anything but random though the results can be.

During the presidential campaign process had a lot of fun, sometimes too much, tweeting on Twitter. On some days I posted random updates but during pivotal campaign moments I was intentional for a variety of reasons. The chief reason was to articulate, without directly boasting,  my ability as a practitioner and publicist to predict outcomes. Perhaps, my most impressive playdate were the days leading to Mr. Obama’s selection for vice-president. As my choices narrowed I predicted it would be Joe Biden and many of the people who follow my tweets objected. That wasn’t a big deal. The big deal was when I projected to the minute when the Obama campaign would reveal via text message the selection. I tweeted it would be at 3 a.m. and while many of my followers disagreed,  the playdate presented me with an opportunity to explain in 140 characters why I thought it would be at that time. (Wisdom dictates you send out breaking news at the start of a print and broadcast shift change. It’s a courtesy extended, plus if you want the news to break big, you break it at dawn.) And because my updates were unlocked and unprotected (a part of the public timeline), I acquired a lot of new followers on Twitter. 

I also established myself as an expert in a way that was comfortable for me who doesn’t like to brag or boast. I just like to work and win. Go figure.

Practitioners and publicists can use playdates to post information on projects or just the normal tasks related to our work. And we can also have fun with clients.

I love scheduling in playdates with clients and even potential clients to demonstrate the viral nature of online exchanges. With all due respect to my clients and potential clients, I never worry if these playdates will cost me in income, because that’s the nature of social networking/media – sharing. Plus, it’s not all I know. is perhaps the best tool for playdates and intentional exchanges because updates and conversations can be seen on friends’ home pages. I’ve acquired new friends using this practice and even business inquiries. Clients and potential clients have received the same as well as a method of tracking people from to their sites. 

Have fun by posting links, videos, articles and anything you can think of to draw attention to the playdate. 

Best, Robin

Filed under: Client Relations, Help for the Practitioner, Social Media, , , , , ,

Set Your House in Order

Yesterday I posted a status update on that read ‘Robin thinks cleaning and organizing her apartment is a form of pampering. Sick, huh?!’ I do think cleaning and putting things away where they belong is a form of pampering and self-care. One of my colleagues posted on my wall that I could receive more pampering by cleaning her home in Atlanta. A friend was curious; she wondered (on my FB wall) how I thought that, while another friend totally agreed. The exchange offered me an opportunity to articulate something I believe not only my PR/publicity colleagues should know, but something everyone should know.

Years ago, as an undergraduate, I couldn’t sleep and called my uncle in the middle of the night. I was whiny and frustrated. Being incredibly patient with me, my uncle told me to clean out the hidden spaces of my dorm room and then take out the trash before trying to sleep again. His advice worked and I maintain that practice to this day.

If you come into my home, you will find organized drawers, closets and cabinets. No, I’m not anal, but those hidden spaces are in order. is a great online organizing tool and it is free. You can manage tasks and people with this tool.  


Here’s the lesson. When my personal life is uncluttered and organized it makes it incredibly easy to navigate through my professional life. I think clearer and don’t succumb to the temptation of cleaning and organizing things when I should be focused on work, especially since I work from home. I can operate more efficiently when I take the time to do something that brings me peace and above all, order.

Independent practitioners and publicists should schedule in time to put things in order and to take care of themselves. (I’m preaching to me too.) We should:

  • Schedule doctor and dentist appointments
  • Exercise and watch our diets
  • Make time for family and friends
  • Have quiet time alone to hear your own thoughts as well as meditate on spiritual matters

 Last night I went to bed accomplished and slept well. This morning I woke up with a clear head. I don’t know about you, but I can’t live any other way. And I certainly cannot work any other way.

Best, Robin




Filed under: Colleague to Colleague, Help for the Practitioner, Uncategorized, , ,

Guest Contributor: Alfred Edmond, Jr.

Memo to Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Learn Before You Launch

As found on

Entrepreneurship is one of the most important keys to wealth creation. However, too many people—laid-off or forced to take a buyout, eager to leave jobs they hate, or hungry for fast money—start businesses without taking the time to really learn the industry related to their respective businesses first. At Black Enterprise, if we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: “I’ve found a location, written my business plan, invested my life savings, and chosen the name for my barbershop (or fashion design firm, event planning business, music production company, etc.), but I don’t know anything about the business. Can you tell me what to do?”


What?! Come on, now! Memo to all you aspiring entrepreneurs: Learn before you launch. Even the editors of Black Enterprise, as expert as we are, can’t tell you everything you need to know about how to make a success of your business in a phone call or e-mail. You have to do your homework. If you’re thinking about starting a business (or, heaven forbid, you’ve already started one), but you haven’t done any of the following, you’ve got work to do:

Get A Job
Get at least two years experience by working in or for a business similar to or directly related to the one you want to start. Ideally, this would be paid, full time work, but if you have to take unpaid work to learn an industry on nights and weekends, do it. Also, this is the time to find out about any licenses, training, certification or degrees required in the business you’re interested in. This is also a great way to find out if you’ll even like working in the business every day. If your dream business is a natural hair-care salon, you don’t want to wait until after you’ve quit your secure job and taken out a second mortgage on your home to find out that you can’t stand being on your feet for 12 hours a day, six days a week, braiding hair. True entrepreneurs work to learn, not just to earn.

Read Industry and Trade Publications
Subscribe to and read trade publications, whether digital or print, for the type of business you want to start. This includes books, newsletters, magazines, blogs and websites. There are almost no businesses that do not have at least one how-to book on the ins and outs of success in that industry. If you don’t know what they are, you don’t know enough to compete in that industry. It’s time to get started with your research.

Join Trade Groups
Join and become active in a professional or trade association for your industry. A few minutes with a search engine such as Google should help you to identify the right groups for your business. These groups often have useful websites, offer informational and education seminars, and may provide member benefits such as discounts on purchases for your business or group health insurance. Most importantly, these associations keep you connected with others in your industry, including prospects, strategic partners, customers, industry mentors, potential employees and sources of financing. You should join national groups, as well as be active in their local chapters. If the trade group for your business has no chapter in your area, maybe you should be the one to start one.

Participate in Conferences
Attend conferences for your industry as well as conferences for entrepreneurs in general. You’ll find out about these through the aforementioned trade associations, most of whom have national and regional conferences and events. In addition to industry-specific events, you should also be attending programs devoted to entrepreneurship across all industries.

For example, the annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference is the largest gathering of black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the country each year. The 2009 conference, hosted by General Motors, is from May 17-20 at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance & Detroit COBO Center in Detroit, Michigan. This is a must attend for aspiring entrepreneurs who are serious about business, not just playing at it. More than 1,000 business owners, ranging from the CEOs of the Black Enterprise 100s–the nation’s largest black-owned companies–to many of America’s most successful small business owners, will share information on financing, launching, and growing your company. They are joined by hundreds of representatives from America’s largest corporations, all looking for businesses prepared to provide products and services to their companies. (Go to Black Enterprise Events to register or for more information.)

Now, to do all of these things will take time, money, and effort. In fact, it feels a lot like work. The question is, are you serious about starting a business, or are you just talking about it–or worse, playing at it? If you don’t want to study the industry, read about the industry, spend time around other people in the industry, work in the industry, why in the world are you trying to go into business in that industry?

Too many businesses fail almost before they start because entrepreneurs want to first do, then learn. It works better, with less risk and less expense, if you do it the other way around: Learn the industry, then launch the business. And this is not only for the start-up stage, but for every stage of your enterprise—the learning must continue even after your business is established, or it will never reach its full potential for growth and profitability. There’s nothing I can tell you in a phone call or e-mail that will change that.

alfred-1Alfred Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of

Alfred A. Edmond Jr. is senior vice president/editor-in-chief of He is responsible for the long-term planning and development of the Website’s content, as well as the hiring and overall supervision of the editorial staff, which consists of editors, writers/bloggers, and contributing editors.

Edmond sits on the BLACK ENTERPRISE editorial board and is also responsible for helping to set and enforce quality standards for the editorial content of the major franchises of BLACK ENTERPRISE, including; BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine; Black Enterprise Magazine’s Keys to a Better Life podcast series; live networking events, such as the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo and the Women of Power Summit; and the Our World with Black Enterprise and Black Enterprise Business Report television shows.



Filed under: Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, The Business of PR & Publicity, Uncategorized, , , , ,