Q: Why did you start Forté PR?
Inspiration for change comes from different sources. Sometimes it stems from passion, other times it is just plain necessity. Forté PR was born of both a deep desire to share stories and ideas that could inspire change and because I was flat broke and needed a job. Badly.
I moved to Las Vegas in late 1998 because of the city’s proximity to world-class rock climbing. When it came to the outdoor recreation opportunities, Las Vegas was like the promise land. Yet because my resume was littered with gaps of time prospective employers considered unacceptable, in the early 2000s, with about two years of staff experience in public relations with a local company, I couldn’t even land an interview.
The periods in question were years spent traveling both the US and abroad and rock climbing, and before that, teaching snowboarding, working with an action sports photographer, and waiting tables in a ski town. I’d been freelance writing for several years and had a healthy portfolio of articles and PR placements. However, still, those gaps were like the great divide between security and not knowing how I was going to pay rent or buy groceries.
Yet the experiences that HR directors figured made me undesirable or a flight risk were what inspired me to tell stories
During my time living in a ski town and climbing fulltime, a new kind of curiosity about people and businesses stirred. I met artists, athletes, and founders of companies and nonprofits who had a unique vision and purpose that extended beyond the bottom line. They wanted to create change and design solutions to problems big and small. I learned more than how to write a pitch, press release, or plan, but how to look deeply into a person or organization’s story and understand how it could transform others. These were stories of courage, hope, and inspiration.
These were stories that needed to be told.
I started as a freelance writer but learned how public relations offered a platform where stories and messages could scale. So, when I couldn’t get a PR job in Las Vegas, I worked two part-time jobs, coached climbing at the gym, hustled freelance and writing, and offered public relations services to friends with new businesses, nonprofits, and creative ventures. I learned by doing, and eventually, I had some big wins and even bigger disappointments. While the former got me well-paying jobs, the latter is where the real magic happened.
In climbing, I celebrated the success of climbing a route in good style. But real growth and progress come from studying my mistakes. In sports and business, I spent a lot of time looking at what didn’t work, figuring out what I needed to learn, and then training those skills. Learning and training are a continuous process because, just like the weather, conditions in business are always changing. Especially in media.
Q: At this point in your career, would you say you are an expert?
Years ago, I wrote a press release about a client who was being honored for contributions in his field. In the announcement, I referred to him as an expert. It came back redlined, with a note in the margins, “I’m no expert.”
It was a curious response. While PR people have a reputation for “fluffing” things up, he was receiving one of his industry’s highest honors. I called and asked him to explain. “When someone believes they are an expert, they run the risk of believing they know everything on a subject,” he said. “And then they stop learning. And when we stop learning, we stop growing.”
I thought that was a great perspective. It’s the kind of thinking that made my client such an asset to his industry. So, like him, I have a lot of experience to pull from, that can be a significant benefit to clients and employees. Sharing lessons we’ve learned, new ideas, and fresh perspectives is how people keep evolving. But I also want to keep growing and keep going.
What’s up with ´on the e in Forté PR and not your name?
Forté means someone’s strength, something one excels at. I opted to use it to let people know PR is our jam.
Long before starting the agency, I put an accent on the e in my name so people who pronounce it correctly. My siblings followed suit. Then at a holiday dinner, as we were about to dig in, my father, who is a man of few words, said, “I just want to point out to everyone, there is no accent on the e in our last name.” And then he asked me to pass the gravy.
I dropped the accent mark in my name but kept it in our logo.