Meet Laurie Halter
Owner of Charisma! Communications and the Carearing Podcast Host
"I would create a family newspaper when I was in elementary school with pictures and articles."
Laurie Halter always loved writing stories and, from a very young age, knew she was destined to connect with people by sharing their stories.
I was going for broadcast journalism. That's what I wanted to do. I had a professor at the time who said I think you would be fantastic in public relations. I remember saying, "Oh, I will never be in public relations. I'll never sell products that I don't believe in for companies I don't believe in."
Laurie was right. She would never sell products she didn't believe in nor work with companies she didn't believe in.
Instead, she would go on to build a brand that is two decades old, a brand that connects people, shares stories, and seems to thread a large part of the automotive ecosystem together.
"I didn't think I'd ever have my own PR company."
After College, Laurie moved to Portland, Oregon, and found herself at a career fair, speaking to tech companies. Chrome Data, now known as Chrome, didn't have any positions open but created a Marketing Manager role for her, "I was there for three years and loved all of the people that I met," Laurie smiled. "I really loved the team I worked with. I just really started feeling stuck and like I could do more. It was difficult for me to stay in a seat for eight hours."
Chrome Data became Laurie and Charisma! Communications' first Client. That was over 20 years ago.
It’s the early to mid-2000s, Laurie's business, had, at the time, only one Client. "I didn't have enough work, I didn't really have any backup plans or clients, and so for the first six months, I would go into my office and create work for myself," Laurie giggled. She would force herself to sit down and try to figure out how to generate leads and strategize about getting more Clients. Laurie had given herself one month to secure more clients, or else she would need to "return to her job."
"I want to give you your first break."
One of the other Board Members took a shine to Laurie who was in her mid-twenties and on the Board of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, giving back to a non-profit. At the time, he had a 20-property retirement community group and gave Laurie the opportunity to help with the marketing and PR for the different retirement communities.
Greg Roderick gave Laurie her big break, and they are still good friends today.
"He gave me my first big opportunity, and that allowed me to have a stable monthly base of money. I was then able to build the rest of my client base," Laurie beams, "he knows. I tell him all the time. He saved my company."
"I still have mentors today."
John Traver, the CEO of Traver Connect, called me, and he said he'd like to mentor me. So I still have people coming forward and trying to help me in different ways. I think there are absolutely people willing to step in and help. You just have to let them.
"And here we are 20-plus years later, and I own a public relations firm."
I love people, and I love hearing their stories. I love feeling the connection of what draws them to the industry. I like telling their stories so other people can understand who they are.
Public relations is a really big offshoot of journalism; it is about making connections and introductions for my clients and different people in the industry to help further their product, their careers, and themselves, as thought leaders.
I really love the idea of working behind the scenes and connecting people in the industry in that way.
"I made a lot of mistakes early on, and it was an expensive lesson to learn."
I've learned the hard way. I've done it a number of different ways through the years to try to figure out how to scale because the truth is, there's only one of me, and it is tough to scale when you have a service-based company.
I hired a lot of account managers and tried to push my clients through to the account managers. That doesn't work because what they're buying into is me, and they're buying into working with me, and so I finally figured that out, but it cost me quite a few clients.
Now I am purely focused on client relations and bringing in new work, so all communication between our clients and prospects goes through me directly.
"My Team deserves so much credit."
I have an amazing team that I work with. Ali Livolsi handles all of our PR activities and helps manage the contractors. She executes the strategy that I put together with our clients. Brian Pofahl is my marketing and social media lead. He does all the social media content for clients and helps create all the marketing and branding campaigns. We have a whole stable of writers, producers, and video producers that then create the content that we're strategizing for on a monthly basis with our clients. Ali and Brian are incredible. It's really all about your team and who you bring on board, and what they bring to the table. Staying at the center of client relationships is my goal while focusing on the strategy, which my team then executes on.
I think one of the most important lessons I've learned is to do what you're passionate about and let other people do what they're passionate about in your organization.
I'm honestly in the stage where I'm trying to decide if it even makes sense to grow. We're doing great work, and our clients are very happy with that. My team is happy, and I'm happy.
"I'm actually questioning growth."
We have a waiting list, and so I would like to get enough people on board so that we don't have that waiting list anymore. But I'm really asking myself the questions; if we want to grow, why, and what will that bring into the equation? And will that be good for my team and our clients? How can we get better for the clients we already have? They are giving us their risk, their time, their resources, their money? Can we be doing things better instead of kind of continuing to grow?
For me, it's always been very much about figuring out the balance of the life I want to live.
Laurie Halter is one of the most put-together yet warm people you will ever meet.
And as she continues to create the pathways which connect the automotive ecosystem, we are sure that she will grow, perhaps not necessarily by the book.