Expert Q&A: Shaun Leavy, VP and member of the Bospar Leadership team

Why hire Bospar? 

In this series, senior Bospartans share their areas of expertise. This month, VP Shaun Leavy shares what inspires him and his team to do their best work.

What makes you uniquely valuable to Bospar and its clients?

I think it is because I truly care about my work. I’m not just here to do a job. I want to do good work, and I want clients to be happy. I’m also fiercely competitive, which gives me an edge.

What values do you think a great public relations agency and its people should have?

I think that they need to really understand the industry that their clients are in. Many people in the media relations sector pitch a story that they don’t understand. I don’t think they do enough research that would allow them to understand their client and their client’s value proposition, nor do they understand where their clients fit in the competitive landscape.

The ones who ensure they have that deeper level of understanding are the ones who tend to thrive versus some of the others who just keep the lights on by doing the basics like “spray and pray.” Those that truly get extraordinary results are the ones who are proactively crafting the narrative.

If I were a new client, how would you approach my business?

I would try to relate it to something that we’ve done in your industry. I’d want to set up a call to learn more about you – what you’re doing and why, what your priorities are, what’s worked and hasn’t worked for you, if you’ve been doing PR in-house or if you’ve worked with another agency. But I’d try to keep it short and simple because I don’t believe people read giant emails.

You have worked for other agencies previously. What kinds of clients did you represent?

I’ve worked with major spirits and alcohol companies including Heineken, Herradura and 1800 Tequila. I’ve also worked on consumer accounts like Gold’s Gym and Everlast.

How do you motivate people on your team?

I try to be in the trenches with them, so they can see that it’s not just me telling them what to do. If you need me to do something, I’m happy to do it.

I think because my last agency was a boutique PR agency, I was doing everything from writing the press releases and pitching media to having those client calls and working on new business. There is no task too small. So, I think that if you demonstrate you truly are a part of the team and that they can come to you for anything, it motivates them to want to be part of that.

What should clients look for in an agency when they’re doing a search?

They should verify whether the team they’re talking to is the team that they’re getting and that the people on their team really understand their industry. The people pitching you should be asking you very pointed questions about your business, what you could be doing better, and what you foresee as your company’s future. It’s not just about getting good press–it’s moving the conversation in a direction you want it to go and showcasing how the brand is evolving. You want a partner who’s in tune with your company and what’s’ going on in the world. The media results they’re getting should reflect those things.

How do you motivate yourself?

I’m naturally competitive, so I’m not just going to hand in an assignment and be glad that I got it off my plate. I’ll just torture myself about it. I’ll be up all night burning the midnight oil to get it done right, because when you’re sending documents to people, they associate those documents with you. If you run into them again in the future, they’re going to remember whether they consider you someone they want to do business with or not.

How do you feel about telling a client, “No!”

I believe in pushing back when necessary and saying we don’t think something will play well with the media, or we don’t think this is a good storyline for you. The last thing I want is a client asking why we didn’t tell them earlier that a campaign probably wouldn’t work. I believe in being very truthful and giving clients the proper counsel, not being a yes man who provides no added value.

What are the traits of a good client?

Good clients will provide you with the information you need when you need it so you can succeed in bringing them media opportunities and getting them covered. There are some common mistakes clients make such as micromanaging. If you really want to have the best relationship and results, you need to be giving as much to us as we’re trying to give you.

For example, one client was happy to give us access to their CEO, and the amazing thing about this CEO was that he’d respond to us within 20 minutes every time. Because he was so responsive, we could immediately go out to the media with a few interesting points to talk about. I remember once when we shared an idea for an event, but we thought it could be a whole campaign that could justify a larger media conversation. We ended up making a huge splash which got picked up by the Today show and 2,000 other outlets.

It’s Important to understand what PR can do as well as what it can’t do. If you don’t understand it, you’re going to make faulty assumptions about how it works and what actually drives results. For example, if you assume you can submit a byline to a publication that reads like an ad, you’ll probably wonder why we can’t place it in Fast Company. They will reject it out of hand. You need to discuss broader principles that can be applied across industries. Or, if it’s a specific industry, discuss something specific to the industry, not just touting your services or otherwise talking about how great you are. Editors want you to add value to the conversation, and you do that by focusing on the information that journalists and their audiences care about.

Why should prospects hire Bospar as opposed to another agency?

I think we are better than others at listening. We have principals who are very involved. We have our own specialty experts in our broadcast, content and social departments, and we have a media relations team that has been in the field and understands what’s going on. We genuinely care about our clients and the work they’re doing. It’s not a one-size-fits-all model.

Of what are you most proud at Bospar?

My team and the work we do. They are some of the best in the business, and if it were up to me, I’d have them on every account I work on. I can count on them to do the right thing for clients, and if they don’t know what to do, I’m always happy to help. We have great chemistry within the team and great chemistry with clients. The results we get speak for themselves.

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