Describe your first day at Curator. My first day at Curator was spent at my kitchen table. I had spent nearly a year leading up to that morning concepting Curator – defining the agency’s point of view on the industry, coming up with a name that encapsulated that POV in a word, sketching logos, and working with the incredibly talented, Shawn Herron, who ultimately became our Group Creative Director, to design our website. And once that was all done, on January 4, 2010 I officially launched the company. I tried to start a PR firm almost exactly 10 years earlier and it never really got off the ground, at least not in a meaningful way. My wife and I call that period my MBA – it costs nearly as much I think and perhaps I learned even more. This time around I was rigorous in the planning and far more realistic about the commitment it would take to build momentum. I consider it an absolute blessing to think back on that morning at the kitchen table by myself and to compare it to today with an office full of wonderfully talented team members building and executing campaigns for some of the country’s leading brands.
What area of 'lifestyle' are you most passionate about? One of my favorite things in the world is to sit around a table with my wife and kids, friends and family to eat together and talk. I’m a foodie in the sense that I love food – I love to cook and I love to eat, but more so, at the core I love how food brings people together. So, while I’m passionate about the lifestyle category as a whole, I’m particularly fond of the food vertical within the category. A few years ago we created the Food & Wine Festival in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo in Mexico. We were representing the tourism board there and partnered with FOOD & WINE Magazine to produce the event. About every six weeks I’d head down to IZ to check on the progress. As part of each trip the head of the tourism board would bring key people from the region together and host a dinner where chefs who would be participating in the festival would preview dishes. The bonds I created with people there over those dinners are what bring my wife, kids and I back down to IZ a least once year or more still. We fell in love with the region. It doesn’t hurt that they have some of the most stunning beaches in the world, but it started at a dinner table.
What’s the biggest change that’s happened in the industry since you’ve started? The shift in influencers – those who determine the success of a campaign. When I started in PR everything we did had to go through a media channel of some sort to reach a consumer, so journalists were at the top of the totem pole as it related to influence. They were THE audience. Today there is no totem pole, no hierarchical structure. It is varied in total based on client and category. Just as social media added bloggers to the influencer mix, we’re now seeing those who are most definitely influential but can be neither journalist or blogger. The tools available today to identify influencers are great and are opening up lines for new strategies. I had a conversation today with someone who was creating a pure content development strategy for a brand as their sole program. Their strategy called for zero media or blogger outreach – just proactive content development designed to educate and entertain their consumers directly. Big shift from where I started.
What's the best vacation you’ve ever taken? I mentioned earlier the genesis of the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo trips. A couple years ago my wife, kids and I were there for Thanksgiving. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving we were all on the beach and playing in the water. The head of the tourism board joined us, out of the blue, along with his wife. He had a table brought onto the beach and for the next three hours or so he ordered samples of all of his favorite Mexican dishes. We ate incredible food we otherwise would not have known how to order, drank great tequila and had one of the most memorable meals of my life. But on top of that, the vacation came at about the two-year mark of Curator’s growth and at a time when I was pretty exhausted. It was a slow week at the resort where we stayed and it felt like we had a beach to ourselves. We had a week of perfect family time. It was a wonderful trip.
What’s your career advice? When I was growing up and when I was young in my career I had the impression that all the really successful people I saw made it because they were so charismatic or because of connections and once on top they got to just enjoy the view and their position. I never had any real exposure to people who were at the top of their game when I was growing up so I made assumptions. Then as I began my career and had a chance to work with some incredibly talented people and meet people who were at the head of their class in any given field. I was beyond impressed with the single, unifying trend I saw in all of them. Yes, they were talented, but more so, they worked incredibly hard. In fact it was the opposite of what I imagined as a kid – it wasn’t so much the talent as the effort. When the two combine is when you see those people who are the best at what they do. It’s a mantra I say in my house with my kids all the time: effort over talent. Talent is incredible and needed. But effort always wins.