This month in our Young Professional Profile, we sat down with Ross Winkler, manager of strategy at Winkler Public Relations. In addition to helping manage Winkler Public Relations business development efforts, Ross uses his marketing, sales and media relations experience to advise and counsel Winkler Public Relations clients on sales and marketing programs.
Before your current role at Winkler Public Relations, you were in a completely different field. Tell us more.
After I graduated from Auburn University with my marketing degree, I worked in corporate sales and marketing for the Montgomery Biscuits; a minor league baseball team based in Montgomery, Ala. The team is the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
After working there several years, my parents reached out to me about potentially working with them. Their business was doing well and growing, and they were looking for some help. At first, I wasn’t sure what I could do to help. I didn’t really have a true gauge of what they did; I didn’t understand their business since I had been away for school and starting my career.
So, when your parents asked to come join the “family business,” what was your initial reaction?
(Laughs) I was actually surprised. I thought they were happy with the dynamics they had going on. Being 11 hours away, I didn’t see they were in need of some assistance – their business was flourishing. After we talked a few times, I realized they needed some help. And like my mom said, I also just “happened to have the right last name” too.
How did it initially feel to be back at home and working for your parents?
At first I was really apprehensive. I didn’t understand the synergy between marketing and public relations or the companies and industries our organization represents. I also had been away for seven years and was worried about how this new role would change our family dynamic. But over a short period of time, we all noticed it was working pretty well. I started with some small projects and then as I continued to learn the industry and business, started managing larger projects.
One thing that has really helped, is remembering that I work with my dad for my mom; after all she’s always been the boss. (Laughs)
What have you learned about the PR industry or yourself so far?
A lot of Public Relations work is learning as you go. There is always something new and interesting. But one thing is for sure, it’s about relationships. You have to make time and take an interest in developing and maintaining relationships.
How do you do that?
In our organization, we definitely work as a team. It takes time and effort to develop and maintain good relationships. Our success comes from the relationships my family has built over the years and their hard work maintaining those relationships. It’s a priority for us. We take a vested interest in not only our clients’ interests but also the interests of the organizations we participate in, like the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region.
Our business is about people. That’s our motto; we’re about “Working Relationships.”
So, it sounds like networking is important. What are the characteristics of a successful “networker”?
First, you have to be an active listener. Listen to what people are telling you. It all starts with their name, that’s everybody’s favorite thing to hear – their name. Nothing is more important to a person than who they are. We meet so many people all the time and people know that, so if you can remember and repeat their name, they feel like you really do care and are really listening.
Second, I would suggest building upon conversations you’ve had with someone in the past. Take your conversations deeper than idle chit chat. Find a common ground in a conversation and take it to a deeper level. Talk about their business, who they represent, show your knowledge about who they are and/or what they do.
Third, follow up! It takes time, but following up on conversations is critical. I learned this in my sales role with the baseball team. In my role now, I’m not in this business just to sell our organization; I’m in it to develop relationships. So, following up is crucial. Something simple as a quick email thanking them for their time, or a Christmas card, this shows you are genuinely interested in maintaining a relationship with them.
As one of my college professors once said, “Business and networking is like dating – your goal is always to impress the other person.”
This starts with confidence. You have to feel that what you or your company does is critical to everyone in the room. We are in that room for a reason, identify your value and make sure people know what it is.
Networking is important in business. Is there a difference between “business networking” and “social networking”?
Absolutely, it’s okay to have opportunities to socialize, in fact, it’s a good idea. It helps you develop contacts for potential business in the future. But not every networking opportunity is valuable. You need to be able to tell the difference. Always ask yourself these questions: “Am I in a room with the right people? Is this an opportunity to have conversations that will drive business relationships?”
We choose to be involved in organizations that provide networking opportunities that are valuable to our business. For example, as members of the Economic Alliance, we surround ourselves with people that have similar business interests. We are with people we can help and that can help us. The ability to network is great – but bottom line, it needs to create value for our business.
For more on Winkler Public Relations: www.winklerpr.com
About the Young Professional Profile
The Young Professional Profile is an effort to create a forum for those under 40 who are excelling in their respective fields across Texas. There is a depth and breadth to the Millennial generation as a group of adults that is marked by a commitment to higher principles in the work they do, the ability to professionally marry what were traditionally separate streams of expertise, and a voracious appetite for new skills.