Getting Weird in Austin with Starr Baker & Kelly Womer

On June 9th, our President and COO Laura Pesin will be heading to Austin with EVP Jessica O’Callaghan to get WEIRD—Wired, Entrepreneurial, Imaginative and Results-Driven—at the annual PRSA Counselors Academy conference.  In advance of the conference Laura spoke to Starr Baker, APR (CEO at INK Public Relations) and Kelly Womer, APR, ABC (Vice President and Partner at Linhart Public Relations) about  how to Build the Best Place to Work and Rethink Performance Reviews to help people and business grow.


Building the Best Place to Work with Starr Baker

Starr has been in business for nine years, but this past year has been particularly important in her journey.  Having been extremely lucky in gaining clients through good work and referrals, she hadn’t had to think much about the business side of her business.  But potential growth changed that and she went looking for a guide. Through PR News she found the book “The PR Agency Owner’s Guide to Finance.”  The first paragraph in the book nodded to the fact that “you start your agency because you love PR” – yes…but then it went on to say you must run your business like it’s a business – that’s first and foremost.  It took a long time for that sentiment to click.   

In Her Own Words

“I am not a risk taker by nature…my business partner is.  Although my husband would disagree as I have indeed jumped out of a plane for recreation!  But when you start your own business, you question for so long – am I going to be successful, is this really going to work?”

Well, she’s a two million dollar company now and feels like she’s gotten over that hump.  But there are some key lessons she learned along the way:

Some Must Have Tips from Starr

  • You are a business owner now, that comes first, and it’s terrific that you also love what you do.
  • Don’t do things the way they have always been done
  • Be as creative for your own business as you are for your clients
  • Change is hard but necessary – explore and embrace new tools (lots are free!) to make your business more efficient and productive; ultimately enabling your people to focus more on the client and the story than the process


Rethinking Performance Reviews to Help Your Business and People Grow with Kelly Womer

In Her Own Words

“Performance reviews are not a one-time event.  It’s about the dialogue that happens the other 364 days.  It shouldn’t be a dreaded event that happens on a designated afternoon in a cold, dark conference room.” Kelly noted that there was a study done in 2011 by a consulting firm which noted that nearly 25 percent of U.S. employees dread their review more than anything else at work.  Let’s take the doom and gloom out of it.

Some Must Have Tips from Kelly

During her session, she’ll expand upon four ways on how to improve effectiveness of your firm’s ongoing reviews and coaching process:

  1. Take a step back to take a step forward:  look at what skills your business needs to grow
  2. Lose the ambiguity:  make sure each position has clearly defined expectations
  3. It goes both ways:  whatever the review process is, make the dialogue go both ways
  4. Track your progress:  schedule regular conversations with your staff 

“What I appreciate most about Counselors Academy is learning what’s working and what’s not from others – one size doesn’t fit all. In our session, I hope we’ll learn ways together to create a culture of feedback, and make performance reviews an ongoing process.”


For more scoop on the PRSA Counselors Academy happening June 9th-10th in Austin, check out the full itinerary or follow #CAPRSA for more useful tips on being WEIRD.