Carol Cookerly learned early on that an appropriate demeanor needs to fit the occasion – Today, that demeanor would be happy
When PR expert Carol Cookerly was early in her TV career just after graduating from Duke, her news director gave her a lesson in appropriate demeanor that fits the occasion.
“He called me in to his office after I had done a live shot at an explosion. ‘Carol,’ he said. ‘Instead of looking so happy at doing your TV reporting job, you should probably look more empathetic to the occasion.’ I went back and looked at my tape and that was a eureka moment for me,” Carol said Monday. “Make sure your demeanor fits the occasion. Even though I really was happy doing my job as a live stand-up reporter on the local evening news in Greensboro and Durham.”
Today, celebrating 20 years running her own PR firm, Carol’s happy demeanor seems most appropriate. With 24 full-time employees serving a diversified client base, she reports that the economic impact on her firm’s revenues of several recent downturns in the economy “has been negligible.”
Carol grew up in Charlotte until she was 15 and then her family moved to Washington, D.C. After majoring in economics, she worked four years covering “the mundane to murders” for the Carolina TV stations. Following a move to New Jersey and New York, she joined a PR firm for three years, eventually migrating to Atlanta to work for Hill & Knowlton.
“Then I went into computers and software for two years and learned how to sell,” Carol said. “I learned about the IBM selling process and I credit that with a lot of our ability to grow as a PR firm.”
Three years after she left PR, she opened her own firm and called up a number of the consumer goods firms she had served at H&K. “They weren’t working with any other firms and they were game to work with me,” she said. “So I immediately hired an account person and an admin. I never wanted to specialize in any one vertical and that has worked well for us. We’ve had a very controlled, profitable growth curve.”
Cookerly serves clients such as SunTrust Banks, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Clean Air Campaign and U.S Micro. Carol has served on the Metro YMCA board for the past 15 years and this past year she was honored with the Bransby Christian Leadership Award for the volunteer of the year. She is also heavily involved with the Murphy-Harpst home in Cedartown, supporting severely abused children.
“I can tell you we focus on writing as in-depth a plan as we possibly can and then try to work those plans. We’ve gotten more complicated business propositions and we’ve gotten very adept at complicated stuff. We don’t just say we’re going to do a media relations gig – we try to work out as rounded a marketing program as we can.”
That has included an early commitment to social media. “We got in early in social media. A VP of my staff, Candace McCaffrey, showed leadership early on in that area and became an expert on social media strategies. Then we decided several years ago that everyone was going to be expert in it. We promote our firm heavily in social media. We’re right in the thick of it. Though we also strive, if the goal is publicity, for as much national media, even more than local media.”
Carol, however, just closed down her personal Facebook page. “We’re big into it as a firm, but it’s counter to my nature as a private person to have all this stuff bleeding onto my page even when I don’t post. I’d rather go walking. I take a walk in the woods for 30 minutes each day without a cell phone. That’s how I relax.”
That and horseback riding. Carol was a competitive circuit jumper most of her adult life, but slowed down the past few years. “I’m thinking I’m ready to get back into jumping,” she said. “It’s the only time I can concentrate. When you are riding a horse jumping, you can’t think of anything else.”
– Chris Schroder