269 Lee Caraher: LESS Good Is Better Than More Mediocre

Lee Caraher is an expert in all things PR, digital content marketing and social media. CEO and founder of Silicon Valley’s Double Forte Group, Lee shares what is working (and not working) in 2019 for companies that want to stand out from the crowd with an effective and engaging message that converts. She shares her entrepreneurial journey plus advice on how to attract and retain top millennial talent with inspiring workplace cultures.

Melinda Wittstock:         Lee, welcome to Wings.

Lee Caraher:                       Thank you so much Melinda. It’s so great to be with you.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m excited to have you on too because I love to geek out with other women who are really, really big on digital marketing as I am. I want to get right into the trends in 2019, so everybody listening to this podcast has the latest tricks and hacks at their fingertips. What are some of the biggest ones?

Lee Caraher:                       I think on a trend basis it’s always, it’s not a trend it’s just real. It’s always better to do less really well than to do more really crappily. And I’m not even sure that’s a word, but less of good is better than more of mediocre, so choose what’s most important for your market. I would say you have to have LinkedIn, you have to have either Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest, and you have to have an email list. So if you just choose three, email, LinkedIn, and one of the others, and then just focus, focus, focus and do one thing, and make sure that you are doing it well and communicated well in it. That’s number one.

Number two-

Melinda Wittstock:         Can I just say-

Lee Caraher:                       Go ahead-

Melinda Wittstock:         Let’s, before you go to number two-

Lee Caraher:                       Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Define well.

Lee Caraher:                       Yeah, so what is well? Let’s talk about that. What is well? First of all, just because it’s social doesn’t mean it’s the same. So how you operate on LinkedIn is not how you operate on Instagram, it’s not how you operate on Pinterest, it’s not how you operate on Twitter. So what is the goal? Who are you trying to reach, and where are they? Where are those people?

First of all, so much work is happening on LinkedIn today that if you’re not, you should have very good personal page and a very good company page for your business. And you should be publishing work. You should be publishing not just your ideas and sharing other articles, but if you have a blog, which you should have because you can own that, repurpose your blog onto LinkedIn in the publishing function so that you’re publishing your own work within LinkedIn. LinkedIn will favor things that are published in its own publishing format over things that are published outside of its format, so you can repurpose things. Just change the title of the blog post, don’t use the same blog title twice.

But be in there, choose a few groups to be in and contribute and participate in those LinkedIn groups once or twice a week if you can. On LinkedIn it’s also making sure you’re in the 98 to 100% on that little dot on the right hand side that says oh, your profile’s up here, that it’s a healthy profile. Use great words, and there are lots of things you can do to make sure you’re using the right kind of keywords … and that you are being selective about who you link in with. I would say don’t accept any invitation from someone who doesn’t have a photo. Don’t accept just any incitation. If it’s an invitation, I got invited today from somebody who’s not in this country, speaks a different language, and nothing near what I would be an expert in, and I was like nope. If you don’t know who they are, don’t accept it. But in your industry, you can vet them, you can see how they’re linked to you. Accept those, but be selective about who you let into your network. I think that is best practice in all social media.

Also in social media your best practice is to be native. And what I mean by that is what is native to that platform? So when I say what works on Instagram doesn’t work on LinkedIn, I mean it. The picture you’re going to use on Instagram, you want it to be a square. You want to use lots and lots and lots of hashtags that are below the line in the scroll. You want to use the carousel, because when you use the carousel function every time one of your followers opens up their app, the next photo will show up so that you have a better chance of showing up in someone’s stream if you have multiple photos in the carousel function. That obviously would not work in LinkedIn. In LinkedIn you want to use maximum three hashtags, and I would focus your LinkedIn activity on work and work related activities. And then Instagram, if it’s a professional Instagram page you absolutely want to be making sure that you’re not just posting pictures of the food that you’re eating, but mixing it up with the kinds of content that you’re going to provide to the people who follow you. So it’s inspirational, educational, informational, and self-reflective so that people can see the whole you.

Those are the best practices. Understand how each format, each platform works, what its purpose is, who the people are who are on there that are valuable to you, and then make sure that you’re serving up the kinds of things that’ll keep them engaged.

Melinda Wittstock:         And it’s important, this idea of native, because at the end of the day all these social platforms, their customers are their customers, I mean the people that are coming. So they’re trying to provide a great user experience-

Lee Caraher:                       Exactly-

Melinda Wittstock:         For their customer, so you really just need to fit into that. I think one of the big challenges that a lot of people are having right now is there’s just so much content out there. I call it infobesity.

Lee Caraher:                       I love that. You’re so right.

Melinda Wittstock:         There’s just so much, right? And so it’s frustrating. It’s hard to be heard, it’s hard to differentiate in all the noise. How do you become signal in the noise?

Lee Caraher:                       Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         What can you do to stand out? What do you tell your clients?

Lee Caraher:                       The most important thing in that, you just hit the nail on the head there Melinda. First of all, how are you different? Can you write it down? If you can’t write it down, stop everything. What is your purpose, what is your mission, what is better about the world because you are in it and your business is in it? [inaudible 00:14:44] down first. And then who is your market? Who’s your best client? Not the peripheral client that you’ll take because they have money, but who’s your best customer, who’s your best client? The people that are going to be repeat buyers, repeat customers, whatever it is. Who is that? [inaudible 00:15:03] define them.

So for Double Forte, the best customer for us is a client who is either in the consumer lifestyle, digital life, or professional services, who needs assistance and strategic help with what is their story and who should hear it and how do they get it heard, and can spend a certain number of dollars a month, at least a certain dollars a month. And they want strong opinions. A lot of clients do not want strong opinions; that is not the right client for us. We have very strong opinions. We like to share them.

So you have to make sure that you’re spending your time finding the clients who are best for your business, not just any client, not just any customer, so that. And then when you have decided those things, and then what makes you different in that category? So now you’ve decided who you are, why you exist, what’s better about the world, and who is your best customer, your best client. Now, who competes with you in that market, and then how are you different. Then find four or five, no more than four or five. Three is good, five is good, six is too many, ways that you’re different. And then key your content, key what you spend your time on. Are you speaking, are you blogging, are you posting? Whatever you’re doing. Are you having events? Around those differentiators, not around the things that everyone competes in, because that’s where it’s just blah blah blah, more of the same. But if you’re really good with people who like tomatoes on Thursdays, well then spend time where people who like tomatoes on Thursdays are and then just kill it, right? That will get you more attention than if you just try to be everything to everybody, which is, boiling the ocean is never a good strategy.

Melinda Wittstock:         Gosh, but it’s amazing how many people don’t know this.

Lee Caraher:                       So true.

Melinda Wittstock:         And what is it that stops them from knowing this? Is it a lack of confidence deep down that they think they have to be all things to all people?

Lee Caraher:                       I think that it’s nervousness. I think when you decide who your market is you’re pretty confident, you’ve got a lot of ego in that. Not a bad ego, just saying here’s what I’m best at; here’s who I’m best for. And that actually takes a lot of confidence to say. Also, in a business we all have to make payroll. We all have to put shoes on our feet. We all have to put a roof over our head. And money looks good because it’s the same, but I would tell you that all money is not the same and you want good money, money that contributes to your business, not money that sucks the life out of your business. And the more you can line up who your customer is, who your client is based on that it’s contributing to your business, would actually lead to more of the business that you would like to do, is in your sweet spot, is with a customer or person who doesn’t require crazy things, the better it is. When you take any dollar, you diminish your value in your business.

Melinda Wittstock:         Hey, I’m sorry. I was just pausing there because my son ran out the door and made, I don’t know if it picked up on the mic-

Lee Caraher:                       I don’t think so. I didn’t hear it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Okay, good. [inaudible 00:18:24]

Lee Caraher:                       How old’s your son?

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, he’s 12. Bang, you know?

Lee Caraher:                       Bang, exactly. There’s only one volume at 12 … asleep or very loud.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, exactly right. But it’s interesting, so I know Lee that you’re based in San Francisco, Silicon Valley area, right?

Lee Caraher:                       Yep.

Melinda Wittstock:         So when you talk about good money and bad money, gosh. You’re right in the epicenter of that right now. I know so many founders. I have a long technology background, and it’s so easy to get the wrong investors or do things that are not in alignment just because we’re people pleasing at the end of the day. And you’re right, it does come back to lack of confidence.

Lee Caraher:                       I think so. I mean we were very choosy about the companies we work with who are startups. We’re in San Francisco. We also have an office in New York where there’s also a large startup community, but not all startups are the same. Just because you’re a startup doesn’t mean it’s sexy, number one. Number two, just because it’s sexy doesn’t mean it’s sound. And depending on … there are funders we will not work with their portfolio companies with because of how they conduct themselves as board members and investors. It’s not all the same. All dollars, they look the same, but they don’t mean the same, and [crosstalk 00:19:58] you really got to know it. You just got to do the due diligence on in a startup situation who’s behind the face. Who’s pulling the strings; who has the voting power is very important to understand so that if you engage with a company that you actually understand what’s going on behind it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Beautifully said. And so when you work with your clients, and you talked a little bit about the selection process, what are the biggest challenges you have in getting them to do all the right things in social media? Because it’s not easy. A lot of people will hire you for your expertise, but then not be willing to do the work or want to continue doing what they’ve always done and expecting a different result, right?

Lee Caraher:                       Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         So how much of what you do requires real education, almost at the point of personal development, right? To allow people to really get into alignment and be able to really market with authenticity.

Lee Caraher:                       Yeah. We try to do as much vetting of that process in our new business process before we sign a contract so we understand what we’re walking into. Do they listen to us? Are they interrupting us? Do they have a track record of hiring firms, are we the fourth firm in there in two years? What’s their track record with working with outside partners? Who will be the client, what is their experience working with agencies or not and what is their experience in the field? There are a lot of people who are responsible for marketing communications who have no expertise in the topic. And we don’t work with jerks, so we try to figure that out too beforehand.

We are very pragmatic though when we get into the situation. Here’s what you asked for. Here’s the program that will deliver what you asked for. Here are the conditions under which that program will succeed. Please sign here. And when they start trading things out, Chinese menu-ing it, but I want this instead of that, well then you have to change your scope of work because you’re the expert. You put together the program that you think will succeed, so you have to be in a situation where you have confidence to say “Well, I’m not agreeing to those PPIs based on these activities if you want to change the activities.” It doesn’t mean you’re saying no to the client, you’re just saying “Okay, if you want to do that here’s what you can expect, here’s how much it costs, and here’s how long it takes.” And if they can’t agree to all those things then you need to revert to your first program with the timing or you need to come to another agreement.

“Okay, let’s stop. Let’s reset. You told us you wanted this to be accomplished. We brought you the program that will deliver that, and now you’re not happy with our program.”

“But Lee, I want a big party.”

And I never think it’s a great idea to spend a lot of money on a party unless it’s a birthday party for me, because there’s not a whole lot of ROI unless other things are built around it. And if you’re not willing to talk to your advisor and take their advice, I’m really probably not willing to be your agency of record because it’s not going to work.

Melinda Wittstock:         Gosh, yeah. That makes so much sense. So one of the scary things about marketing and personal branding for CEOs and PR and all of it is that it does require us to be authentic. It does require to succeed no daylight between your walk and your talk, and that’s scary for a lot of people.

Lee Caraher:                       Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         And it’s scary to be polarizing, which is also the best marketing. I mean, to really stand for what you actually, truly believe in in an authentic way. So a lot of people I find, and this podcast is interesting because we do. Sorry, I’m just going to pick up there. And on this podcast we talk a lot about the intersection between personal growth and business growth.

Lee Caraher:                       Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         That what’s really on the inside is going to dictate your external results, so in that context I’m fascinated by this because you really have to be able to let go of stuff and really shed lots of skins and get right to the core of who you are, and that is scary.

Lee Caraher:                       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melinda Wittstock:         For most people.

Lee Caraher:                       I think it’s absolutely scary for most people, and it’s probably more scary for people who are over 35 than under 35 because people under 35 have grown up that way and people over 35, like myself, you had a public persona and a private persona and you were able to divide the two and today consumers and customers are expecting something very different from that. They’re expecting our CEOs and people they buy from to be their moral compass, to line up with their own beliefs, not to put a dime into an organization that funds what you don’t believe in, right?

So it requires a lot of confidence to say here’s who we are, here’s what we believe in, here’s what we’re here for, here’s our best customer, and to stick to it. Because again, it’s easier to say “Oh, I’ll take that dollar.” But if you just chase the dollar it’s not going to work anymore. It’s not sustainable not to have a point of view and you actually come to strength when you have a point of view. Doesn’t mean you can’t change your point of view, doesn’t mean you don’t need to get educated about what’s wrong with your point of view, but I need to have a point of view so that one, you can attract employees, two, you can attract customers, and three, you can keep them both with you for the long haul because that is what the consumer and the employee is seeking.

It is scary if you’ve never had to do that and you’ve had to work for somebody else, and perhaps you worked for somebody else you didn’t necessarily agree with everything they did, but you were employed and now you’re being held responsible for that organization’s actions. That’s very uncomfortable. If you’re an entrepreneur doing your own thing I highly encourage you to take a moment and say what do I stand for? What would happen if someone said I’m not going to hire you if you don’t support this thing, or if you give money to this organization I will no longer be your client or your customer? Where is that line for you? Because you need to be in control of where that line is. Don’t let your customer dictate to you where that line is.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes, gosh. Okay. This is so true. I’m curious how you ended up in this business to begin with. What was it that attracted you? You have a long background at a lot of top tier advertising firms and there’s so many things that you have done. What got you into the business of advertising, marketing, PR?

Lee Caraher:                       My friend Ramona Ivoni from college.

Melinda Wittstock:         What happened? Take us back there to what actually happened.

Lee Caraher:                       So I went to Carleton College in Minnesota, wonderful institution. I loved it. I went in as a pre-med. I thought I was going to be just like my dad, and basically I just hated chemistry my first semester. I was like “Oh, I can’t do this,” but I didn’t want to tell him.

But my favorite class was a class on Chaucer’s England in the History Department, so I actually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Medieval History and my minor was Performance Music. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew I couldn’t, the History Department was like, “Go be a historian. You’re so good at it.”

And the music department was, “Go be a singer. You’re so good at that.”

And I knew that I couldn’t just focus on one thing with both of those careers’ demand, so I was sort of bemoaning this to my friend Ramona. Ramona worked at a video production firm. She goes “You know, I think you would be really good at PR.”

And I’m like, “What’s PR?” I had no idea. So I went to the career center at school and there was a book, What’s PR? I’m like okay, excellent. There’s the book I need to read. So I read the book and I was like yeah, that looks like me. I could do that. That sounds interesting. I really didn’t know what I was going to do, but it looked good, looked like I could do that. And at that time there were four or five places in the country that I thought I could have a lot of opportunity, a lot of choices. One of them was Boston, which is where I grew up.

My parents at that time lived in San Francisco, so I called my father’s best friend and I said, “Here’s what I want to do Chip. Will you help me please?” He made me write him a letter about why he should help me. I sent him a letter, because that’s what we did back then. We sent letters. And he replied to me, he sent it back to me full of red ink how terrible it was, so I had to re-write it. Then I re-wrote it with dramatically more clarity, and then he agreed to help me. So he set up 11 informational interviews for me and I went to visit for a week. And out of those 11 interviews I got 5 offers, and of the 5 offers I took one that paid the most. And that is how I got into this business.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s extraordinary. It’s so funny, the founder’s story, how we end up doing the things that we’re meant to do.

Lee Caraher:                       So true. You know, in this company, Double Forte, my whole career has been in, it’s very actually unusual. I talk to young people today, they’re like “You’ve been in the same career for the whole life?”

I’m like “Yes, I have.” Because that’s not their expectation. Their expectation is that they will have four or five different careers in different kind of categories. But I’ve been in communications since I left college, and in agencies and in in-house jobs at companies, and I started this company in 2002. I had been at a very, very large public relations advertising firm up until … in 2001, 9/11 happened. It was very clear that I didn’t want to stay there for lots of reasons. Basically I didn’t want to be on a place over 100,000 miles a year, which I already was. I was already at 150,000 miles that year on 9/11, and I thought you know what? That could’ve been me on that plane, and let’s not make that happen. So I decided to exit out of my contract and to take a year off. I had two young children at the time. The bottom line is I didn’t make it even four months before my husband’s like, “We are not going to make it unless you go back to work,” because I was driving him crazy. I mean, I had a laundry system, I had label makers everywhere, I was crafting, I had four glue guns. Oh my gosh, and my husband’s like, “You’re just driving me nutty.”

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s funny.

Lee Caraher:                       Because frankly I’m a terrible crafter. I mean, he said “I knew it as bad Lee when you asked for a book around flower arranging for Christmas.” So I decided that I was going to get another job, this is early 2002, another job like the one I had at the video game company. And I was sort of far down the line in between two different opportunities that were great. They were great opportunities and I was basically a week away from having to decide between the two of them when my mother got diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. She was given four months to live. My parents lived in Wisconsin, I was in San Francisco, and literally got the phone call on the Monday morning after she had seen her doctor. I got on the plane like two hours later and I was in Wisconsin. And on my way to the airport I withdrew from both of those jobs because I knew that I couldn’t do either of those jobs and be in Wisconsin with my mother and have that flexibility. In the end my mom lived four years, which was a tremendous gift. And my kids got to know her really well and we spent a ton of time there. In fact, the first four years of this company I spent 32 weeks each year in Wisconsin, not in San Francisco.

But I knew I had to have my own job then. I knew I had to be in charge of my schedule, and I needed to have the flexibility to earn the money I needed to earn but also take care of my family and that wasn’t going to change. So Double Forte really was created out of a need for me to service my family in a way that I would be happy with. So it has been, 16 years later, I didn’t really understand that it was going to be my company. I just had to make some money and get out of the house, otherwise my husband was going to leave me … because I was going to drive him crazy. But here we are 16 years later and we’re still kicking and we’re still doing great things. The company has evolved four or five times. Like I said, we started before Twitter and now we do so many more things than we did when we started. But it is out of a need that then became something that clearly I was meant to do. I was clearly meant to run a small company. I was clearly meant to be working with clients who want to make a difference in the world in their categories. And I was clearly meant to not be alone, because I’m terrible by myself. So it sort of just happened.

Melinda Wittstock:         Did you know that you were an entrepreneur when you were young?

Lee Caraher:                       No.

Melinda Wittstock:         When did you first get that sense? Did you start things, did you organize people?

Lee Caraher:                       Yes, so basically my mother, when I started my company, because again, my mom … great business mind. So I started the company out of this need to be able to do it, and she goes “Well, of course you are Lee. Of course you’re going to start. Why didn’t you do this before?”

I’m like “Mom, really?”

And she goes “You used to set things up all the time and then abandon ship.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Such an entrepreneur.

Lee Caraher:                       I would create the fort in the house and then I’d tell my sisters “Okay, I’m done.”

And they’d be like, “We wanted to play.”

I’m like “Yeah, I played. I made it up.” Or I would set up the relay course outside and I would do it once and I’m like “Okay, I’m done.” So when I set up this company I set it up for me, meaning I surrounded myself with people. Where I’m really talented, I’m really talented at in football terms, the pre-game, the kick off, and the fourth in one. So the pre-game, figuring out what has to happen, who needs to have the ball, what’s on defense, blahbity blah. The kick off, getting it set up and teed up right. And then fourth in one, when something hits the fan man, that’s when they call me in. I’m not so good at first and ten, second and five, third and two-

Melinda Wittstock:         Well that’s so consistent with most founders actually-

Lee Caraher:                       Yes, it is-

Melinda Wittstock:         If you read the book Rocket Fuel-

Lee Caraher:                       Yes-

Melinda Wittstock:         The visionary and the integrator. So most of us tend to be visionaries. When I did that book and I took the thing I was something like 95% visionary, but then on the integrator side I was just good at integrator to be dangerous but not great, you know?

Lee Caraher:                       Exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         So just competent enough. I don’t know, like 75% or something like that right?

Lee Caraher:                       Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         So it was a good score, but it was just like oh God. So I’ve just, what’s so interesting listening to you is how clearly you know yourself, which I think is so important-

Lee Caraher:                       The most important thing.

Melinda Wittstock:         For entrepreneurs to actually know-

Lee Caraher:                       For anybody.

Melinda Wittstock:         For anybody, that’s true. For anybody, but especially for entrepreneurs, because you really want to double down on your strengths and hire your weaknesses-

Lee Caraher:                       Absolutely.

Melinda Wittstock:         So you need to know what your businesses are. You’re a business owner; you don’t have to do everything. You just have to make sure that the best person is doing it. And if you’re not that, because you can’t possibly do all of it.

Lee Caraher:                       No, and it’s hard if you’re a sole entrepreneur trying to figure out where to spend the money, where not to spend the money. The first thing I did, I paid my controller before I paid myself. I hired a controller. He probably worked one day a week, not even. Maybe one day a week for the first few years, but I paid him six months before I paid myself because that’s not where I should be spending my time.

Understanding what your strengths are, who you are. I’ve done a lot of that work around MBTI and strength finders and disc and enneagrams, and they’re very helpful for me to one, help other people understand me. So when I’m moving a million miles a minute they can say “Oh yeah, she’s an eight on the enneagram and she’s an ENFP and this is what you need to know about that stuff.” So helping other people to know what to do with me is important. But if you don’t know where you’re strong and you don’t know how everybody else isn’t like you, then you’re bound to set things up that are unsustainable because we are dependent on people who are unlike us to create our businesses going forward. Even if it’s a virtual assistant, whatever you’re going to do there, making sure that you put your money so that you can focus on where you’re most valuable. And when you understand that you can really create a business.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, it’s true. And sometimes it takes a little while to figure that out, so a little bit of trial and error. How long did it take you to really get to that point?

Lee Caraher:                       Well I knew that I, luckily enough I had started an agency for my last job. I had started a new brand of agency for the company that I worked for, so I was able to sort of work a lot of that stuff out on someone else’s dime. So that was lucky. When I started this company I was very clear that I couldn’t, the first and one thing. So I chose a partner who I didn’t think was going to stay very long, and in the end he didn’t, but he was great at first and ten, second and eight, third and five. And he was also great at strategy, but he really could make sure that anything happened. Basically, I surrounded myself with people who could take the balls that I handed them and who wanted to learn more about how to create the balls, which I’m really good at. Then I hired, like I said, the accountant controller.

But I know, today I have so much going on. I have my company, I have written a couple of books, I’m a speaker. I’m all over the map. I have an executive assistant who helps me keep me on track, and he also does things other in the company. But I actually color code. I’m big on planning, even though as soon as you put a plan together it goes to crap. But if you don’t put a plan together you don’t know where you’re supposed to be, right? And I color code. I color code my calendar based on the activity, so then I look at my calendar and go “Okay, I got too much yellow here,” or “Oh, why am I doing so much green? I shouldn’t be doing so much green. Someone else needs to do green.” It helps me delegate and make sure I’m not doing things where I’m not as valuable as I-

Melinda Wittstock:         I love what I said about the plan though. I would call that intention. You have to know where you’re going or what outcomes you want. You don’t necessarily have to know how you’re going to get there, but you do have to know where you’re going, right?

Lee Caraher:                       Exactly, so true.

Melinda Wittstock:         And then from there oh my goodness, you have to iterate. You have to be willing to throw it all out.

Lee Caraher:                       I don’t understand. Some people are like “Well, I made the plan.”

I’m like “Yeah, well a plan’s a wish.” You know?

Melinda Wittstock:         I like to plan too but it’s so funny when you go back in your old plans and you’re like “Oh, well okay. That obviously didn’t make sense.”-

Lee Caraher:                       I mean PR, social media, marketing, all of this is planning and all those plans are wrong because you can’t control what helps in the world. And if you’re not ready to react and respond to make your plan actually functional and what’s actually happened transpired, we’re not in a bubble. But if you don’t plan there’s no possible way you can achieve your goal, right? So at the end of every year I go through this process and I used to purchase all the planners. I would take pages from one and pages from the other because nothing was really fitting what was my life, so in the end I actually created my own planner that probably looks very neurotic to people who aren’t me. But it’s super helpful and I can see where things are, and it helps me keep track to make sure.

One of my goals in 2018 was to take six weeks of vacation. Well, I almost made it. I didn’t make it, but I almost made it. So my goal in 2019 is to take six weeks of vacation. But the previous year, in 2017, I only took three weeks of vacation. So the fact that I almost doubled it in 2018, I never would’ve done that if I hadn’t written it down.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, gosh. So interesting. So where do you see yourself going next?

Lee Caraher:                       Well you know I am very, one is this continuing evolution of what is communications. I feel that, particularly as you said earlier, you’ve got to walk the talk and the gap between intention and execution has to be really shallow, shallower than it ever was and transparency’s important in that in this moment in time my two passions, communication and engagement, and then company culture are sort of coming … the Venn diagram is closing. And I believe that leadership is love, and that you can’t lead without communication, and that communication is leadership. So the more we can start from the center of our businesses what we stand for, what we don’t stand for, what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and what is positive and what is negative, and how do we keep moving and evolving and learning? If we’re not learning all the time we’re going to be irrelevant pretty quickly in today’s world. That the more that we can have communication that is authentic from the beginning is that’s when you can actually have communication in PR externally with the customers and clients that you want that is authentic and sustainable. And that sort of intersection is where I’m very energized and I’m spending a lot of time on.

I see myself here. I see myself at Double Forte helping Double Forte move to whatever’s next in communications, because it’s definitely, basically communication was a typewriter and a book for the first 50 years of PR. And then there was a fax machine for the next 15 years of PR. And then in the last 5 years everything has, every year something new, right? And we just have to keep ahead. But if I’m not learning I’m losing, and that keeps me moving.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s just wonderful. So how can people find you and work with you? And what sort of clients are you looking for?

Lee Caraher:                       So in the communication culture side of the world, our business where I work with CEOs to make sure that they have a strong, authentic story and a culture that matches it. We are looking for clients who are under 150 people who may or may not be in a crisis, but who want to make sure that they’re aligned, that they have people who understand what they’re there for and that are motivated by their purpose and their mission every day, and figuring out how to do that. If you’re in a crisis we’re definitely a place to go. We know how to not just take care of the PR crisis on something bad that happened in the world, but also to make sure that the company shifts to accommodate, to make sure that that crisis never happens again. And again, we’re probably in the under 150 people, $1,000,000 to $500,000,000 in revenue, depending on what category you’re in. We are best in food and bev, health and wellness, sports and fitness, accessories, anything that has to reach a mom of all ages or an athlete, a weekend warrior or a trained athlete. And then people who like video games and AR and VR. That’s where we specialize.

And if you want to reach me you can follow me on Twitter at @leecaraher. You can go to my personal website, which is leecaraher.com, L-E-E C-A-R-A-H-E-R dot com. From there you can find my agency Double Forte and my books and my blog.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us Lee.

Lee Caraher:                       Melinda, it’s been so great talking with you. Thank you for having me.


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