Brigitte Lyons – Founder of Unfettered Ink

[quote style=”boxed”]It’s useful to make a habit of asking where people are coming from, while acknowledging that you can never know their motivations or feelings.[/quote]

Do you ever wonder how you can use the media to deliver your message to more people? Brigitte Lyons helps creative visionaries do just that–through a highly focused blend of consulting and teaching. She’s continually awe-struck by her clients and can hardly believe how fortunate she is to be helping them get heard.

What are you working on right now?

I’m preparing to open my first course, Media Moxie. I’ve distilled my decade of experience working with the media into a four-week program that teaches you exactly what you need to do to get covered by the media. I recently finished up a beta run of the course, and I’m thrilled by the feedback. My goal in creating the program is to take away the fear and uncertainty that prevents even the most savvy business owner from reaching out to the press, and to provide a clear and concise roadmap for creating your first pitch.

Where did the idea for Unfettered Ink come from?

I worked in the PR industry for years, but I quickly learned it wasn’t the creative, do-good path I wanted to follow. Around the time I was coming to terms with this, I discovered design blogs and an incredible, thriving community of creative entrepreneurs. I realized I could combine my talent for strategy and communications with the unique needs of creative micro businesses. I think of Unfettered Ink as my contribution to a community of people who inspire me. I strive to give small businesses tools that level the playing field and allow them a voice in a media landscape dominated by big industries.

What does your typical day look like?

I’m not big on routines, which is why I took to self-employment like a fish to water. But, without fail, I sleep in until 10:00 a.m. or so (because I write between midnight and 3:00 a.m.), make myself a delicious breakfast and split time between client projects, marketing and mid-afternoon bike rides. In the evening, I take a break to make dinner with my husband and go for a walk around our neighborhood. When he goes to bed, I typically fire up my computer and write.

How do you bring ideas to life?

One of my greatest innate talents is the ability to synthesize information. Typically, I’ll start with the germ of an idea. I might mind-map it out or write a draft for a project, but the actualization of the idea is always sparked when I read something completely outside of the field in which I’m working. For instance, I might have an idea for a newsletter topic on key messaging and then I’ll watch a TED talk on storytelling or read a piece of information about how we create and retrieve memories. I create my most compelling content and services when synthesizing a variety of inputs.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I think it’s more of a social paradigm change than a trend, but I’m hugely supportive of the movement away from “The American Dream.” I’ve done a lot of work to uncover my own personal aspirations and map my own value structure, and it excites me to see so many of my peers pioneer this same process. Diversity of thought leads to diversity of story–and it’s crazy to think this is the result of a movement and not the natural state of affairs. This is an exciting time to be living and working.

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

All of my jobs were my worst jobs. I’m a natural-born entrepreneur. No matter how well I did in a position while benefiting from raises, promotions and mentors, I was miserable. I don’t regret my career path. I learned a lot about the craft of communications, how to work with other people, and other things like that. But most of all, I learned I had to go start my own thing.

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

In my business life? Nothing. Now, if we start talking about the personal… don’t even get me started.

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

Every morning I ask myself, “What am I most excited about doing today?” And then I do that thing.

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

I’m still struggling with pricing. The nature of my training means I can–and am frequently expected to–command a high rate. But I started my business with a very specific customer in mind. I watched as my former employers tried to profitably serve this same customer, and it wasn’t pretty. As a solopreneur myself, I don’t have overhead concerns, and I operate dramatically differently than PR agencies. That said, I’ve yet to find my own sweet spot. But I’m getting there. I’m starting to offer a combination of courses and high-end consulting. My clients are happy, my course participants give excellent feedback, and I’m able to make a fair wage without pricing myself out of the market I want to serve. I’m confident I’ll have cracked this nut within a year.

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

Don’t bill by the hour! I’m passionately in opposition to hourly billing. Trading time for money is a losing game. Instead, think in terms of deliverables. Ultimately, clients care about results.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

World change can only come from personal change. The one area I focus on above all–and I think this applies to all of us–is empathy. Empathy is something we can always use more of, and it’s nearly impossible to put into practice. Think about it. Can you really put yourself into another person’s headspace? Of course not. The best we can hope for is to try. It’s useful to make a habit of asking where people are coming from, while acknowledging that you can never know their motivations or feelings. All we can do is accept that they are doing the best they can do with what they have, just as they are.”

Tell us a secret.

I have very few secrets, so this is a tough one! Anyone who’s ever met me can attest to the fact that I’m open to a fault.

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

As a highly extroverted person in the communications business, I gravitate, unsurprisingly, to online tools that help me connect and organize. Currently, I would die without Evernote, Twitter and Pinterest.

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

Just one? I have a personal canon, which I cycle through every two years or so. I’ll recommend one I doubt most have cracked: How to Win Friends and Influence People. I think the title turns people off. It sounds a little like snakeoil, right? In fact, this book makes a business case for genuine empathy and unbridled generosity; it basically shows you how to be both a better person and a better networker.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

I’m something of an info junkie, so I enjoy following people and organizations that consistently share a diversity of sources, inspiration and articles. My top picks right now are:

  1. @the99percent
  2. @muckrack
  3. @NYT_JenPreston

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

Oh my gosh! I laugh out loud all the time. I love nothing more than to laugh and to make others join in with me. It’s such a problem, actually. I just got back from a conference, and my face hurts from all the smiling.

Who is your hero?

My mom. It’s so cheeseball of me, I know. My mom is a woman of tremendous intelligence, and yet she’s quick to acknowledge her mistakes and change course. She literally could have chosen any work (with multiple scholarship offers on the table), but she dedicated her life to others as an E.R. nurse. She’s fearless–much more so than I am. She loves nothing more than a good crime show.

What is your top tip for connecting with the media or other influencers?

The guiding principle behind my PR practice is what I call, “The Source Mentality.” Always seek to understand the pressures the other person deals with on a daily basis and ask yourself, “How can I help?” Think of it this way: a reporter or journalist is overworked and underpaid. They work on crazy deadlines.

How can you make their day?

By sharing a story they cannot wait to tell.


Twitter: @brigittelyons
I’ve put together a video Q&A series, called The PR Primer, that I’m very proud of. Any reader can submit a question about working with the media or getting the word out about their project, and I’ll respond via video. You can find the series, as well as my other free resources, at