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The vast majority of our clients come to us via word of mouth. Someone I worked with in the past will either call or pass along my name to someone in need of PR services. Or sometimes a contractor on my team will have a piece of business that he or she cannot complete alone and needs our help.

Once we won some work from an extensive RFP (“request for proposal”) process; I learned so much about government contracts by working with the U.S. Department of Energy!

Occasionally I have encountered a new client or lead in a more surprising way. Like at a party. Or sitting beside me on a ski lift. Or on a first date with zero sparks (romantic ones anyway).

But my all-time favorite new client story happened last summer.

It was August. It was a sweltering Friday afternoon. I texted a friend this New Yorker article about social media that made me laugh out loud.

He LOL’d as well and more texts on the topic ensued. I told him I really wanted to find a way to do work that “helps address our society’s technology addiction issues.”

“That’s great,” he responded. “We [he and his wife] spend too much time sitting next to each other interacting only with our phones so I support your endeavors!”

About 20 minutes later, I decided to take a walk to buy an iced tea. I had been on my computer or iPhone almost nonstop since 9 a.m. and needed a break. I purposely left my phone on my desk.

Sitting inside the café in a large, wingback chair (that could have been stolen from the set of “Friends”) I leisurely enjoyed both the air conditioning and the people watching. More often that not, I buy coffee or tea to go – and am usually checking my phone while I wait in line. I made a mental note to take more breaks without my phone.

A woman walked in and immediately caught my attention. She was wearing a 1950s-style swing dress; the black-and-white fabric print was… wait, is that newsprint?! My fascination only grew when I noticed a tattoo of the New York Times’ “T” logo on her calf.

I knew I had to speak with her. Just the day before, hundreds of newspapers across the country had published coordinated editorials to denounce President Trump’s ongoing attacks on the news media. While I wholeheartedly agreed with their message about the importance of a free press to democracy, I disagreed with their strategy; these newspapers were preaching to the choir – i.e., people who still read mainstream editorials. I had spent the last 24 hours eagerly speaking to anyone who would listen about the need for an integrated public awareness campaign to help demystify journalism and re-establish credibility.

Fortunately, Caitlin welcomed the idea of a stranger coming to her table and asking about her tattoo, and shared my passion for talking about media. During our animated conversation, I learned that she is a film producer. In fact, she had bought this amazing dress to wear to the premiere of Obit, a documentary she produced about obituary writers at the New York Times.

“I’m actually waiting to meet a client who wants me to produce a short,” she told me. I inquired about the topic of this new film.

“Cell phone addiction,” she said.

My jaw dropped open in awe. I started to tell her about my enthusiasm for this topic, and even the text exchange I’d just had with my friend, when Caitlin’s client – the director – walked in.

After a round of excited introductions, I left them to have their meeting. But not without sharing my contact information first.

Caitlin got hired to produce. A few weeks later, they called me with some questions and ultimately hired me as well. It was a small project but I’m very proud to have played a strategic role in this campaign. And hope it is a sign of more to come in this space.

The director and choreographer Mary John Frank created this entertaining, three-minute musical to encourage us all to “put our phones down, look for beauty in the world around us, and reflect on how technology is benefiting or distracting us from our lives.”


“A Smartphone User’s Guide To Etiquette” is the first in a series of shorts she plans to make in her “Musicals With A Message” campaign. Her next two films will explore climate change, rising sea levels, and actions we can take to participate in possible solutions; and the Mexico City policy, also known by critics as the global gag rule (another topic I’ve been passionate about since my days reporting on women’s health).

It’s been a fun few months with a very valuable lesson:

Amazing things can happen – even in your business – when you are not tethered to your phone.