I Will Survive

In this episode…

Join David Hernandez, host of There’s Always a Lyric, as he reconnects with long-time friend, industry colleague, and founder of GLA Communications, Pam Golden. The duo discuss the evolution of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Pam’s 40 years of communications experience, and how she has survived in the industry all this time!

Episode Transcript

David Hernandez (0:44)

Welcome to another episode of There’s Always a Lyric, sponsored by lotus823 and today I have a very, very special guest because she’s also a friend; Pam Golden is with us today. Pam founded GLA Communications in 1986, which provides high-level strategic and tactical counsel to clients, bringing the benefit of nearly 40 years of experience in creating and executing successful campaigns. She has a keen understanding of the inner workings of the media, an affinity for strategic communications, consumer technology banking, and public policy. Prior to forming the agency, Pam was an account supervisor at Robert E. Griffin in New York, and Frank Barth in New York. Before entering the public relations field, she was an editor in trade publishing, for the technology industries and she started her career as a newspaper reporter at a daily newspaper in western Pennsylvania. Pam earned a degree in Journalism and Communications from Point Park University in Pittsburgh. She was a member of the Public Relations Society of America and its Counselors Academy section. And from 2014 to 2017, she served on its executive committee. She was a 2017 recipient of the Leading Women Entrepreneurs Brand Builder award. Welcome, Pam. How are you?


Pam Golden (1:58)

Thank you, David, so great to be here. And thank you for having me.


David Hernandez (2:02)

It’s all my pleasure. I have so many things to talk to you about. Especially on this edition where it’s kind of a little bit of a CES Special Edition. And I know you’ve got a lot of thoughts on that, a lot of experience, and a lot of knowledge. But I wanted to start where we are right now. And what led you to even take the path of being an agency owner and sort of becoming an entrepreneur and starting GLA communications?


Pam Golden (2:29)

I want to say, I kind of fell into it. You know, I really did. It wasn’t like this thing I planned. It kind of just sort of happened. I was getting frustrated at one of the agencies and I was very close friends with Frank McKenna and Judy Fleming at RCA. And they said to me, you know what, you should go out on your own. And I’m like, really? Oh, okay. I can think about that. So, I did, you know, that’s kind of  what happened, you know. And RCIA was my first client. They put their faith into me and said, we know you can do this. I knew them from being a journalist, a trade journalist, and I became friends with them. And they just became my people who said, we know you could do this, you’ve got the capability, you’ve got the talent, and we want to help you do it. And so, without them, it wouldn’t have happened.


David Hernandez (3:25)

Wow, so, you were in business, you had one client.


Pam Golden (3:28)

I had one client; I was in business.


David Hernandez (3:30)

What were those early days like? I mean, okay, so you like kind of jumped in both feet and just said, okay, I’m going to go do this.


Pam Golden (3:37)

Yeah and I was lucky because my dad was a CPA, and he had his own practice. And it was him and my mom. And I went to them and said, I was going to do this. And I, you know, there was no email. There were no laptops, there were no cell phones. It was a big desktop computer, fax machines, and a landline.


David Hernandez (3:59)

That’s right.


Pam Golden (4:00)

Yeah. The 80s. You know, 86. That’s what we had for technology back then. So, my dad had an office and it was a three-room office. My mom was in the front, there was a center area that she had a computer in and then my dad was in the back. And they had a table in there. And I just took over that table. So, I shared space with my parents in the beginning.


David Hernandez (4:23)

That kind of dovetails into the next question a little bit about mentors. And it sounds like your parents were mentors as well. I mean, I’m sure you had others, but certainly, it started there.


Pam Golden (4:35)

Yeah, definitely. They were super supportive about it. And my daughter, she was born in 1989 and I was still sharing space with my parents. She, the first couple of months before she went to daycare, she came to the office with me. And so, it was great because my mom got to help. I’d get on a call, and she’d help and it was super helpful because you know, back then, you know, you couldn’t take three months off or four months off, when you run your own business. You know, you just you just had to make it work. And I’ve always been grateful to my parents for helping me get started. And you know and giving me the space and the support.


David Hernandez (5:08)

That’s so great. As you grew in your profession, and in the space, were there other folks that you can kind of point to or say, you know, I really got great advice from so and so or this person was a good coach or mentor for me?


Pam Golden (5:27)

I mentioned Frank and Judy, but you know, them helping get this started. But you know, later on in business, Scott Dussault who is my consulting Chief Financial Officer. He’s been a partner by my side for the last, like, 15 years. And I met him in 2005, I think. I don’t make a financial decision without him, you know. So, he taught me how to read a PnL, he taught me how to create a budget. You know, I didn’t know any of that stuff. So, you know, one of the things I’ve learned is, we’ve always talked about this, David, you can’t only be in the business, you have to be on the business. And stepping back and looking at it. And you know, you have to know how to run the finances of your agency. So, anyone who’s running a company, whether you’re a PR agency or retail store, you need to understand the business side of it, and I didn’t for a long time.


David Hernandez (6:22)

You’re very specialized. You’ve done a lot of work, and specifically in tech, period. Obviously, we’ve got the, you know, the 800-pound gorilla staring us in the face, CES 2024. It’s unbelievable. It’s only a few months away. As you’ve seen everything that’s happened pre-pandemic, to pandemic, to post-pandemic tradeshow experience, to last year. What do you think? What are your thoughts about CES and how it’s evolved, how it’s continuing to evolve, and specifically about CES 2024?


Pam Golden (7:01)

So, I’m gonna take us back a little bit into history. So, my first CES was June of 1979.


David Hernandez (7:07)

Oh, my God.


Pam Golden (7:09)

Right. I was a reporter and I covered software. There was a consultant to freelance writer contributing editor, I was working in videography at the time, who covered the hardware side of it. And the guy, his name is Mike Heist, still in business, lives in LA, good friend. And he and I went to CES together and I covered software. Now in 1979, the only software that was at CES was porn. And I was like, 22 or 23 years old. And Michael and I would walk the halls and do the show together because it was my first CES and then we went to that area, and I was just like, Southern Baptist and not sure what to do. That was pretty much a very unique experience for me. It was a fun time because it was so small. And the group of press that covered it, you know, I started as a trade reporter and even then, when I went into PR, there were only you know, there were 10, or 15 reporters that really covered the industry. And all the PR people at the folks at RCIA and GE and Sony we all got to be friends. And there was a handful of agencies, and you know, we coordinated everything. So, RCIA would do dinner and GE would do like this dessert thing afterward. And it was just it was a different time, you know, is it was more relaxed and not as competitive, I think.


David Hernandez (8:31)

You really watched this whole thing explode. I mean, you were there for those much smaller, early days to really what it became what it is.


Pam Golden (8:42)

Right. Now it’s technology everywhere. I mean, you know, CES has technology, ranging from TVs, you know, 4k TV and 8k TV, that all launched at CES. I launched, for RCIA at CES, Direct TV, back in the day, and all sorts of other technologies, that launched at the show. And now you look at CES and it’s really the biggest automotive show. The entire West Hall is dedicated to automotive and automotive technologies and ancillary businesses. And you know, West Hall opened for us last year, it’s CES 2023. And, you know, we’ll be back in there with automotive again in 2024. But now you’ve got a lot of the content side, you’ve got artificial intelligence. Somebody asked me recently, you know, what’s your thought on AI? I mean, this is all new. And I’m like no see, CTA and CES have been talking about artificial intelligence for years. It’s integrated in so many products over the years, you know, Siri is artificial intelligence. Alexa is artificial intelligence. You know, people don’t think of it that way. Or now they’re only thinking of it as ChatGBT or Bard but it’s been around for a really long time. So, when you think about the history of the industry, it’s evolved so much, because technology touches everything from whether it’s the computer, the phone, the refrigerator, your microwave, you know, everything. And it’s been an interesting journey. And one of the things that’s changed at CES, as well, as, you know, it used to be very retail-focused. It was really a show for retailers. And that has shifted as the retail landscape has shifted, and now it’s everybody. You got government folks, you’ve got congressional people, you’ve got content producers, we’ve got C space where, you know, for marketing and advertising and content, you know, at the show, and it runs the gamut from every industry. Advertising people come because everyone’s marketing and using technology to market.


David Hernandez (10:51)

With all of your experience, do you have advice that you can give in terms of a new company that’s coming into the space, and they are going to exhibit at CES, and they’re expecting, you know, this to be a big moment for visibility for them, and hopefully gain traction and gain retail customers, and all the things that a new brand is looking for. Do you have any thoughts from all the years that you’ve done this?


Pam Golden (11:15)

I would say, manage your expectations. The big brands get a lot of the coverage, you know because that’s who they are. But smaller brands do get visibility. But you’d have to start now. And you probably should have started six months ago. Companies that reach out to media in November, December, and it’s the first contact with them. They’re like, you know what, you’re just one and done for me. Building a relationship with them, which is harder and harder to do now I grant that. But I would say at CES, take advantage of everything. If you’re an exhibitor at CES take advantage of everything CES has to offer, as far as you know, providing them with materials, providing them with video. You know, we offer for exhibitors, we look for products that we feature on TV shows that our spokes, the CES spokespeople talk about, so we’ll put out a call for products that are going to respond to that. And if it fits into what we’re looking for, we will include that. Participate in CES unveiled because it’s a showcase where hundreds of media show up and they are looking for something new and different. And you know, promote yourself on social and take advantage and try to come to New York and maybe San Francisco, depending where you are. Maybe try to do some desk sides or some meetings with them, to get in front of them to show them and talk about your product or your technology.


David Hernandez (12:52)

When you look at that landscape coming into 2024. Do you see any specific challenges either for them or for CES itself?


Pam Golden (13:03)

You’ve got to find a way to stand out. My advice would be not to spam. Look at the media that you’re wanting to target. If somebody doesn’t write about the category that you’re talking about, don’t send it to them. You know, there’s a phrase in PR, spray and pray. Just send it all out there and hope that the universe picks it up. And you’re basically just spamming reporters, and they’ve got so much that’s coming into their inbox. They don’t want stuff that’s not relevant. So, take the time to research. I still spend time looking at people’s stories and things like that I just don’t go into the database whichever database you’re using, to find reporters because they change beats really quickly. So, if you just go by that it’s, you know, then it’s not. And then also what I’ve done a few times is if somebody I know and they’re not writing about that area, but I’ll reach out to say, hey I’m writing on, I’ve got a client in this area, I know this isn’t your beat, but could you recommend somebody at the publication who would be better for this? If you’ve got a relationship, with the reporter.


David Hernandez (14:16)

And I think to get to that relationship part, it goes back to your first point, which is you can’t just spray and pray because whether you’re an agency or the brand or whoever, doing that, all it’s going to do is make you, not a person welcome in someone’s inbox and you’ll end up getting blocked. Because the average media person now is getting like 700 emails a day. They don’t have time to get spammed by somebody.


Pam Golden (14:45)

Also, you know, if you’re creating content, whether it’s a press release or a blog, or whatever, making it so that it’s telling a story. So many press releases or we’re the best we do that. As you know, it’s not gonna be past the first three sentences, maybe the first paragraph. And if you don’t get to the news right away. Company X the largest blah, blah, you know, they don’t want to hear it, they just, you know, just the facts is what they want. And why is this unique and different? Why should we pay attention to you? What benefit are you providing the end user, whether it’s a B2B product, or a B2C tech product, or software, whatever. You know, I think if you put your yourself in the perspective of the recipient, as opposed to the sender, that will help.


David Hernandez (15:40)

That’s great advice.


Pam Golden (15:45)

And I tell that to my clients, too, if you know, one of the things I push back on is if they asked me to do something that’s not going to fly, that we can’t write it that way because you have to think about what the reporter wants, not what you want. Obviously, you have to get your message across, but you have to do it in a way that’s going to resonate with the recipient, as well as getting your message.


David Hernandez (16:07)

What became your why? And did the why change over time? Or has it always kind of stayed the same? I know you have, like, I consider your DNA, really, as a reporter, first, a journalist that then kind of flip sides, which I think created a huge advantage for you. But what’s the why? As the company really, you said, this is real, and I’m turning this into something. What became your why?


Pam Golden (16:39)

So, I think it’s evolved over time. I know this has been used, overused probably and may not be unique. But my clients view me as a strategic adviser, you know, a trusted adviser. One of the challenges in PR, and I think as you get, agencies get bigger, and it’s more competitive, and you’ve got more staff, and you need to pay your bills and make your overhead. People take on clients for the sake of taking on clients so that they can make payroll and cover everything. But for me, it’s about working with people I like, companies I respect, people I respect. And that will respect me and trust me. And I’ve found that if I can’t have a conversation with a client and give them the advice, based on my years of experience, or my outside perspective, because being outside is an advantage because I’m not as close to it. And so that has become my why is becoming their trusted partner, as opposed to their agency.


David Hernandez (17:53)

That’s great. And that’s actually a great piece of advice in terms of how to really have a business that is thoroughly connected to who you are. Was there a time that you can point to where you failed, or you’ve just basically felt like you went in the wrong direction? And how that helped you, how that taught you?


Pam Golden (18:18)

I think, early on, and you know, I made probably some, not the best hiring decisions. As you’re growing, and looking for people, and trying to build a team. And, you know, it was something I hadn’t done before. So, you don’t always know what to ask or you don’t always, give the best guidance to your staff, best leading, you know, I wasn’t the best leader in the beginning, I think. And over the years have that’s something I’m very proud of how I’ve evolved in my leadership skills. And so, knowing when to step away and say, okay, this isn’t working for any of us, that kind of thing. But I think hiring decisions and leadership in the beginning of first few years, was probably my weakness. But I think that I’ve grown and as a result, I’m, you know, President of the Board where I live in my community where I live. And I’m on a board at my synagogue and helping lead there. Also I know you asked about mentors on who mentored me, but also I really love mentoring young PR people. Or even just young people, especially women, because you notice that most of my connections have been men, because in the early days of consumer electronics, consumer technology, it was mostly male.


David Hernandez (19:47)

To me that’s kind of like a giveback from you to a career and an industry that gave you a lot and really shaped your direction professionally. With all that said, how do you find balance? Where do you?


Pam Golden (20:07)

Where do I find balance? I play pickleball. I love pickleball. That’s one thing. But I think more importantly I find balance through my family. As you know, I have a two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, so that puts everything in perspective, right. So, I’m very fortunate they live not too far from me; my daughter and son-in-law, and my granddaughter and my grandpup, can’t leave him out. And I have made that a priority. So, when they need help, I make myself available. I love that. I love being around my family and having my friends.


David Hernandez (20:53)

That’s where you rejuvenate there. That’s where you energize, is through the interactions. That’s wonderful. And it’s wonderful also to have family nearby that you can spend time with and watch your granddaughter grow up. I mean those are all gifts, I’m sure. Well, listen, I have a couple more questions. But one is, with all of your experience, any advice, you can share? A little free advice for folks that are getting started in the industry and want to make a career like you?


Pam Golden (21:26)

Yeah, I mean if you’re looking at starting your agency, you know, my number one advice would be, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most of us business owners think we should know everything and should be able to do it on our own. And we can’t. We can’t, we need to have a group of people and advisors. So, I have Scott my consulting chief financial officer. I work with George Rosenberg as a coach. I met him through Counselors Academies through PRSA. You know, join Counselors, if you’re starting out. I mean, I’ll do a pitch for counselors. It’s a great group of folks, PR people who support each other. Find your people that you can call in and ask for advice. David, you and I do that. Find partners. I bring in, if I get new business that I don’t think we can handle or I’m not quite the expertise, I’ll bring in another agency to partner with me or consultants. Don’t do it on your own. You don’t have to do it on your own. It’s very lonely, running an agency, when you don’t have a business partner. I mean, you’re lucky because you have your lovely wife. But when you’re by yourself, even if you have staff, everything falls on you. So, you have to find the people who can help you navigate and provide advice because otherwise, you can’t make all the decisions on your own.


David Hernandez (22:55)

And there are a lot of times that you need that objective third-party voice of someone that’s trusted, but that will give you an objective viewpoint on something.


Pam Golden (23:03)

Right. I mean, think about it this way. We’re trusted counselors and advisors to our clients, so why wouldn’t we need that from somebody else to help us?


David Hernandez (23:12)

Totally agree. All right. So now to my favorite question. If there’s one song title or lyric that captures you, or your view on life, what would it be?


Pam Golden (23:23)

It would be I Will Survive.


David Hernandez (23:27)

Such a Pam Golden statement. I should have guessed. That’s so you. Perfect.


Pam Golden (23:37)

Well, you know, 37 years in business, changes in your personal life, changes in your business life, ups and downs, pandemic, post-pandemic. I mean, you know, business. It’s just, you got to look at it and say, you know what, I’m a survivor. I’ve gone through ups and downs, and I am still here 37 years later.


David Hernandez (24:00)

Thank you, Gloria Gaynor. Pam, it’s such a pleasure speaking to you today. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. I know you’re super busy. It’s really been a pleasure having you and thanks for all those insights. This has really been a great conversation from someone who has been on both sides of the aisle, which is really great. Thank you.


Pam Golden (24:22)

Thank you, David. I’m so glad you asked and I’m so happy to spend this time with you today.


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