Alyson Dutch – CEO of Brown and Dutch Public Relations

[quote style=”boxed”]Don’t spend any time creating a product unless you know–and are very clear about–who your customer is, why they want your product and why they will pay you for it. [/quote]

Alyson Dutch is a product PR launch specialist. The author of The PR Handbook for Entrepreneurs, she has launched everything from fingertip toothbrushes to bras that eliminate visible bra lines. She’s also worked with many brands you know from Metabolife to Mrs. Fields Cookies, Perrier Jouet Champagne to Swatch. She is the CEO of Malibu, California-based Brown and Dutch Public Relations and the founder of “speed dating for products and press,” Consumer Product Events.

What are you working on right now?

Since 2009, I’ve been building a “speed dating for products and press” concept called Consumer Product Events. We are about to sign a contract to partner with the world’s largest trade show company so that our media salons will be available on trade show floors. I’m very excited about that! I’m also busy bringing a multi-level marketing company called ViSalus to the mainstream. We are redoing/reorganizing my websites so that my book, The PR Handbook for Entrepreneurs, turns all my company websites into lead generators. I’m mentoring a few entrepreneurs through the SBA’s SCORE program and recently became part of the organizing committee for TEDX Youth Hollywood. We are looking for high impact partners to bring this idea to life. Oh, and I’m looking for my soulmate.

Where did the idea for Brown and Dutch Public Relations come from?

I have two companies. Brown and Dutch Public Relations has been around for 16 years. It was established thanks to Larry Winokur of Baker Winokur Ryder, who fired me. He’s one of my most treasured teachers (and is still a good friend). Consumer Product Events came about in 2009 when I was looking for a way to create value during the economic downturn and came up with a “do-it-yourself” PR concept. There are a few other little PR agencies in odd places in the U.S. that offered a media introduction event similar to this, but we took it to the next level by offering an annual schedule of opportunities where certain kinds of products could meet our high-level reporter contacts during the time of the year magazines and blogs needed ideas.

Each year, reporters scramble to find products for holiday gift guides, and for Earth Day, wedding and Breast Cancer Awareness product guides. So we served up products to match their news cycles, and it’s been extremely successful. Because we are providing very exclusive entrées to our precious contacts, we highly vet the products we choose. For anyone who has hired a PR firm before, they know how incredible it is to gain access to publicists’ little black books. If you hire a PR firm at $6,000 a month, you never get their contacts. Publicists, who are highly competitive creatures, never even share their reporter contacts with each other. So, it’s a big deal–and extremely cost effective.

What does your typical day look like?

I’m an early bird. I live in Malibu, in one of the most incredible places, surrounded by ancient oak trees, mountains and a little stream on my property. Around 5:30 a.m. each day, I kiss my two yellow Labradors good morning, make extremely strong French roast coffee in a French press, and check my email and Facebook. I then greet the sun on the deck with a bit of yoga and take the dogs on a hike. I read something inspirational every morning. Right now I’m reading a series of books by a guy named Jed McKenna; the one I’m on currently is called Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment.

I get to the office (which is one of the buildings on my property) at 9:00 sharp. And, despite the fact that the commute to my office only includes a step over a rock or dead coyote, I dress for work every day. I don’t wear pantyhose, though; we have a rule against that here. I spend my day in front of the computer and on the phone. I do a lot of writing, pitching on the phone to reporters, talking to new and old clients, and planning with my staff. I try to spend at least one third of my day on strategy stuff that makes my business grow. I call it my “forest time” (as opposed to “in-the-trees time”). So, this could involve leading a mastermind call, listening to a teleseminar that teaches me about how to build better sales teams, creating wicked SEO ideas that put my companies at the forefront of other people’s minds, or building a new system of some kind. I usually forget to eat lunch because I love my work and tend to get lost in it. I usually leave “the compound” in the evenings, for a dinner meeting, a yoga class or a bike ride. I entertain a lot, and love to cook and discover great wines.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m an executor. I move at the speed of light. That pace is a boon most times, but can be a curse when I miss details. I’m also a dreamer and am pretty darned fearless. I fly a lot, which is great for dreaming, slowing down and really getting my teeth into something. I also tend to birth ideas when I’m outside and in the sun. I’m a cyclist and like to ride in the Malibu canyons or go for 50-mile rides in the Ventura County area. When I’m breathing hard and in the alpha state, amazing things happen. As soon as I return, though, I’m on it. If I lag on an idea, I know it’s not going to happen and wasn’t meant to be. It’s a rarity, however, when that occurs.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m loving the fact that Eastern concepts of spirituality and holistic ways of looking at the body are becoming mainstream. The fact that a concept like Whole Foods has become as popular as it is, or that large vitamins and supplement companies are using natural compounds and mass marketing them amazes to me. I realize that often times, supplements and vitamins are used in miniscule amounts and don’t really do the job, but just the fact that things are moving in this way is incredible. To me, this signals that people are beginning to take more personal responsibility and are relying less and less on things like “big brother” and organized religions telling them what to do. This trickles down to the rise of entrepreneurship; it’s really fantastic and creative, and is the way of the future.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Hmm, well I’ve always liked my jobs, and I learned a lot from all of them. But, I’d say my least favorite was working in my father’s laboratory when I was a kid. He was a chemist and had contracts with the Army to make defogging kits and CO2 testing kits. My high school friends and I were his army of assembly line workers. I hated the smell of the lab and the rote work. But I gained an incredible sense of organization and learned how to systemize things to do more in less time. For example, I was always looking for ways to fold more pieces of felt at once, for the anti-fogging clothes. My dad used to incentivize us with a few extra bucks and make us compete to see who could fill a box with finished goods the fastest. I always won. I learned a huge sense of competitiveness in that job as well.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Now that’s a big question. I’m a kinesthetic learner, so I need to actually “do” things to learn, and that probably takes more time than the average bear. If I were 20 again, I would go to a big school like Harvard or Yale and go through the MBA program. Why? Well, the alum connections that come out of an education like that are pretty incredible–of course, I only know that in retrospect. I looked into the executive MBA programs at UCLA and USC a few years ago. After being interviewed by the dean, I realized she thought I’d already learned the curriculum during my years in business. So, what would have cost me $60,000 and three years in a formal education cost me 15 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in mistakes. Also, I might have gone in a completely different creative direction, possibly becoming a costumer for the opera or something like that. If I’d done that, though, I know I would not have been happy with the money.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Execute. Execute. Execute. And do it immediately. You’ll find out if you were wrong pretty quickly. Also, don’t spend time and money on lawyers, staff and office space until you sell your first product. Don’t spend any time creating a product unless you know–and are very clear about–who your customer is, why they want your product and why they will pay you for it. Be fearless. Move forward no matter what. Express your sorrow and joy, otherwise those feelings will haunt you. Make sure you keep a focus on the forest, at least for a certain period of time every day. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in the trees.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Capital, cash flow and hiring/retaining hires are constant problems. I overcome them by never giving up, always looking for alternative ways of handling things, seeking advice from mentors and peers, reading and constant learning. Flexibility and adaptability are the keys to a happy (successful) life. When John Kerry was running for president and was being accused of being a “flip-flopper,” all I could think is, “It’s a bad thing to change your mind?”

Did you know that habits and thought patterns literally carve a physical route in the myelin of your nerves? Have you ever noticed that as a body ages, it moves in a more linear (as opposed to curvilinear) pattern?. Get upside-down every day–in every way. Yoga is good for that, and playing is good for that. Laughing is good for that too. Go to a meditation retreat in India and really turn yourself not only upside-down, but also inside-out. Then tell me about your “problems.”

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Buy your competitors’ keywords (including the actual names of their companies). Do this especially if they have more mindshare than you do. You can find their keywords by going to their websites and going to “view source.” If they have hidden them on purpose or have a site that’s in a language that does not show this, make some good guesses. Also, become the expert in your industry by making a stake in the ground on Wikipedia and through expert hub page articles. On Wikipedia, create two pages: one as a descriptor of the kind of product you make and the other as the name of your company, or you. As for hub page articles, write as many as you can and post on, and others. Link back to your sites.

Tell us a secret.

I’m terrified of getting my heart broken. And, because I put so much energy into all parts of my life, it’s hard on me when someone doesn’t like me. I have a client who inherited me when my contact got fired, and for whatever her reasons are, she just hates me. It’s hard to remember that not everyone will like you, especially when you have opinions and are talented. People are either attracted to beauty and light, or are repelled by it. I’m an “in the flow’ kind of person, and so I get a lot of opposition to that.

They say that you are only given what you can handle; so I handle it, am as graceful as possible and learn. No matter how much I know that I need to stay and with “my kind of people,” I still am hurt easily and try to please everyone. I can be reactive, and it just comes down to a fear of being hurt. What if there was this meter that was built into us that told us where all our new relationships were going to lead, from the moment upon our meeting? I secretly wish that I’d know when to invest my talent, heart and time, and when to walk away immediately. I’ll do anything to avoid pain, and I think this would be the perfect solution.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Office Auto Pilot is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s a database auto-responder that literally runs my business.
  2. DropBox solves a lot of problems because it allows us to send art to reporters, in huge MB files.
  3. Googledocs. Though it’s very clunky to use, it is a brilliant sharing tool to keep my team, which has members in different cities, on the same page. We use it for status reports and invite our clients to share so they can see what’s going on.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Power vs. Force is by far the best book I’ve read to date. David Hawkins breaks down the levels of energy on which humans operate and then quantifies that energy into numerical measurements. It’s life-changing.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. Steve Case, because he is a voracious reader and shares all kinds of interesting and vetted news stories about entrepreneurship and business.
  2. Warren Buffett, because it’s fascinating to listen to the thoughts of one of the wealthiest men.
  3. Queen Noor, because she’s a girl from Santa Monica who married the King of Jordan, and now that’s he’s gone, she spends her time rallying for the Palestinians. I love that she actually became a queen.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Often. I see a lot of things as being funny, especially weird things that others see as being serious. I don’t mean that to be cynical, although it may sound that way. My dogs make me laugh a lot; I love watching them run into the ocean with exuberance and then get crushed by a wave they didn’t expect.

Who is your hero?

Richard Branson. He’s a guy who never finished high school, takes wild risks, and has failed horribly and gotten back up (and done that over and over again). He’s incredibly inspiring.

What are the secrets to building–and keeping–a good sales team?

That’s been one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to learn. Keep learning from others. Implement what they tell you. Be patient. Keep doing it.

Why are people mean?

They don’t know any better. Don’t react to them; be kind in return.


Alyson Dutch on Twitter: @alysondutch
Alyson Dutch on Facebook: [email protected]
Brown and Dutch Public Relations’ website:
Consumer Product Events’ website:
Alyson Dutch’s book:
Alyson Dutch’s email: [email protected]