As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry McGlothlin, CEO of Special Guests, director of 20 Days to Save The USA, an unprecedented 20-day event running October 15, 2020 through election day.
Jerry McGlothlin is CEO and founder of Special Guests, a boutique publicity agency specializing in using techniques of social activism to procure publicity for his clients on Talk Shows including on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, Oprah, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and numerous radio talk shows.
Jerry McGlothlin has been featured in thousands of times in publications including The Washington Post, O’Dwyer’s PR, and The New York Times.
Editorials and articles by Jerry McGlothlin have been published in hundreds of news outlets including USA Today, The Chicago Tribune and Israel National News.
In addition to running a publicity agency, Jerry McGlothlin is a producer of multiple full-length motion pictures, and is a television show talent agent.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I met a man named Tom Madden who heard about my promotional abilities I demonstrated with my decorative art publishing business, and he offered a partnership in his PR Firm. My first project went so well (and also so badly) that we got my first event, “The Most Kissable Lips Contest” featured back to back on The Tonight Show and The Later Show and in many other venues, worth millions of dollars in publicity value.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Continuing my last answer, the big Kissing Contest event backfired in that while we got great coverage of the event, the client’s company name was never mentioned, and we were promptly fired. Just goes to show you that sometimes ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story? Since I was primarily a political pundit and author publicist for years, when I ventured out to book celebrities, I needed a success story with a celebrity. I began booking Ed McMahon, sidekick of Johnny Carson of Tonight Show fame, and from that I was able to book many more celebrities. But none came close to the down-to-earth warm personality of Ed. May Ed McMahon rest in peace. He was truly a class act.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
The purpose of Special Guests was to achieve positive publicity on purpose. I did work for charities and issues-oriented speakers, and helped advance them and their causes, and I advanced from that work also.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Curing the Covid Crisis, I immediately saw a need for the public to know more about that emerging story. I had my staff jump right in and convert our guests into coronavirus experts. Our generic physician publicity clients become Covid experts. Our business publicity clients become Covid business era experts. What’s more, we seized the opportunity to provide expert interview guests via Zoom video, when major network television studios closed their doors to in-person interviews. Katie bar the door. We booked more television interviews remotely in 4 months then we did for any 4 years prior. Wow! Pivot, pivot, pivot! We pivoted to success. Instead of hiding from corona, we ‘embraced’ the virus.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I’ve felt like giving up at times after big successes, not failures. In the publicity business, when you succeed, you do so by helping someone else succeed. In short, if you make them famous, you have succeeded. Unfortunately, sometimes I saw how quick fame created unappreciative ‘monsters’ out of clients. One of my biggest successes for a publicity client of mine ended after 4 months since I over-served him and he was the big man on the block, thinking his success was due to he being who he is. Bummer. I hate it when that happens. I simple dropped that client and asked him to come back in 4 more months after trying it on his own or with someone else, to get some appreciation for how difficult it is to do what I make seem simple. In another month, the 4 months is up. It will be interesting to see if he calls with an honest comparison.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
As the Disney movie, “Frozen 2,” says: Do the next right thing. Just continually doing the next right thing is what a leader needs to do. We stumble at times, but trying to do the right thing the next time — and the next time — is of paramount importance, leading by example.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
While it is best to get our value from our good works and not from praise, there is something to be said for giving credit where credit is due. That sort of ‘praise’ is just and also quite motivating.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Short and sour. Don’t sugar coat it. Let them react and process. Later, approach them with some positive mitigating factors.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Plan for the unplanned. Expect change. Embrace change. Pivot and go the ‘new normal.’ Darren Hardy is an expert on pivoting. He’s taught me what I know on that topic, relative to these new uncertain times.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Serve a higher purpose. Never do it just for the money. Doing the right think keeps you sober in good times and bad. Sometimes the best thing is to take a step backwards financially, just to do what is the right thing to do at the time.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times?
What should one keep in mind to avoid that? 1) Failure to change. 2) Fearing change. 3) Refusing to take risks. 4) Spreading yourself too thin. A person can avoid all four by simply being and acting courageous, but not so bold as to embrace all new ventures, at the peril of old established profit centers.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Be a change agent. Be ahead of the curve, even in a small way. And the toughest thing for me is to cut out old dead wood in business. I’ve been a bit of a pack rat, clinging to old products or services and not taking my own advance to embrace change.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Embrace change 2) Do quick tests with the new model (s) 3) Invest deeper in the new successes 4) Abandon what is truly dead and don’t hold out for the Edsel’s to come back to life. Your first loss is your best loss. 5) Don’t insist on doing everything yourself. Let others fail and learn from that failure.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the perfect,” by Morton Blackwell. This doesn’t mean to be lazy. It doesn’t mean not to be thorough. It simply means, shift gears and don’t get hung up on the small stuff. Sometimes, it’s all small stuff.
How can our readers further follow your work?