Interview with Christine Turner, Founder of TaURNER: Keys to Success in PR
Christine Turner, Founder of TURNER, talks shop about going from a 27-year old marketing and PR professional to starting her own successful PR firm. (Hint: her keys to success include specialization, hiring diverse talent and not being afraid to fail).
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
For young entrepreneurs, the question of what it takes to start a successful business is in our every thought and action. Christine Turner of TURNER says success is found through a number of actions and decisions, including defining your brand, knowing your audience, messaging clearly, not being afraid to take intelligent risks, specializing in the industries in which you have passion, caring about the people who work for you, and standing for something. I sat down with Christine to discuss starting TURNER, the importance of social responsibility and the future of the industries she targets.
LM: Let's start by giving me a snapshot of you and the company.
CT: I started Turner PR (now TURNER) in 1997. We specialize in travel, tourism and lifestyle brands focused on public relations, social media, content marketing, influencer programming, entertainment and digital services. Today we have 40 employees across New York, Denver, Chicago and Miami.
LM: Tell me about your origin story. Why you? Why did you start this company? Where did this all begin for you?
CT: I was 27, fearless and nave. I had agency and in-house marketing and PR experience with brands crossing many sectors. I started the firm out of a passion to be a voice for brands I admired; and maybe a little frustration from being told to publicize brands I wasn't interested in. I understood fairly early on the intersection of earned and paid exposure and at the root of it, I was a relentless publicist and enjoyed building trust and relationships with journalists.
LM: What was your favorite part about starting this company?
CT: My favorite part has always been about the people - the opportunity to work with talented, creative minds and hopefully have a lasting impact on their development. The relationships I've forged with colleagues and clients will outlast the campaigns we've executed. Mariana DiMartino, SVP of our lifestyle division, has been with me since '99. We just celebrated our 20-year anniversary so there's been some reminiscing recently about our travel and adventures. Directly or indirectly this company has taken me on service trips in Kenya, India, Mexico and Fiji; wellness programs in Australia and California; sailing in the Caribbean, yachting the Sir Francis Drake Channel; skiing the best slopes in North America; riding camels and elephants; and driving a dune buggy on the beaches in Bahia, Brazil.
LM: How did you think of the concept and what/who was your inspiration?
CT: My inspiration was rooted in realizing the power of publicity when I did an internship for the American Cancer Society. While promoting the risks of smoking, I realized how much good I could do if I built a career working alongside nonprofits, brands and journalists. We've made volunteerism a core part of our values and ensure our associates have the opportunity to engage both in their personal work and as part of our client work. We've had some incredible experiences helping launch and grow social commerce brands whether it was TOMS Shoes, Bombas or working to support nonprofits - it's been rewarding to see these industries and companies grow.
LM: What kinds of brands do you target in tourism and travel?
CT: We work with domestic and international destinations, hospitality companies and luxury hotel brands. Some of our clients include Bermuda, Utah, Travel Alberta, Toronto, Hertz Europe, Audley, Barcel Hotel Group and individual hotels within the brands of Kimpton, Viceroy, Park Hyatt, The Hoxton, AC, Le Meridien, Westin and JW Marriott. We also represent lifestyle, wellness, fashion, retail and modern outdoor/active brands including CorePower Yoga, Pure Barre, '47, Alpha Industries, Alternative Apparel and Duluth Trading Company to name a few.
LM: Talk to us a little bit about why you think this has been so successful?
CT: Our decision to specialize allowed us to recruit well, and when you have a service business, it's your people that make you successful. This team has a collective passion for the industries we represent. We seek diverse talent, take smart risks and pivot quickly when the market shifts. This industry is high stress and endurance is critical; you can't be afraid to pivot or fail. Success is often built on a series of failures and we've had our fair share. But we deliver - this insanely talented team always delivers relevant results because our campaigns are always rooted in business goals.
LM: Discuss the aesthetic/branding of the company.
CT: Clean, concise, bold, consistent. Authentic.
LM: How can emerging brands in the space be successful?
CT: Define your brand, know your audiences, message clearly, don't be afraid of taking intelligent risks, listen to the market, specialize in industries you're passionate about, care about the people who work for you, and stand for something.
Understand that PR doesn't work on its own, and plan resources accordingly. It's important to execute the right mix of services to reach business objectives. And brands should ensure they are thinking about new audiences while growing with primary targets. When brands market to the same audience perennially, they risk saturation. There should always be a future proof strategy to expand a brand's awareness authentically for the next stage of business, looking at evolving audiences, product line, customer experience, etc.
LM: What is your take on the future of the brands that you target?
CT: Our industries are changing quickly. The travel and retail industries are reshaping with technology - tech is now in between the customer and the brand. Experience leads all - travelers are seeking experiences, not just a great hotel or beach. Retail consumers are seeking experiential environments and photo worthy moments. We'll continue to see hospitality brands shift with experiential and lifestyle offerings and industry acquisitions to unite these consumer preferences. Our specialty at the intersection of travel and lifestyle serves us well for the future.
LM: What other brands are you currently into?
CT: I'm drawn to brands with socially responsible business models, and brands that have the ability to create something special that people want to be a part of. I admire Bombas for its philanthropic model; Nadaam has a good story; Target's ability to stay in front of consumer trends in the changing retail landscape; RAEN and Rhone have cult followings and great collections; I admire Kimpton, AC and The Hoxton hotel brands; SNL is an institution; Chobani's founder has turned me into a loyalist; TRUFFLE is a brand to watch (you didn't know you needed 10 until you bought one), and I love shopping Spiritual Gangster, Mara Hoffman, Vince and Frauenschuh.
LM: What's next for TURNER?
CT: We'll continue to pivot further in digital, content and video. We may make an acquisition. We opened our Miami office last summer and will continue to expand our Latin American portfolio. Next up is LA and diving further into the entertainment landscape.
I'll be sure to stay on the lookout for TURNER's brands in the headlines.