Cher Hale

Founder of Ginkgo Public Relations

Cher Hale is the founder and director of Ginkgo Public Relations – a national boutique agency that believes in using storytelling and public relations as a force for good. They specialize in boosting visibility for underrepresented or marginalized authors, experts, and entrepreneurs through comprehensive communication and media relations efforts. As a first-generation Taiwanese-American, Cher is passionate about leveraging the power of media to tell diverse stories through online, print, TV, radio, and podcast mediums so she can play a role in reshaping how our society views social justice, give-back initiatives, feminism, and multiculturalism.

Where did the idea for Ginkgo Public Relations come from?

I had been freelancing online for a couple of years when one of my clients asked me if I would be willing to pitch podcasts on her behalf. Thanks to a couple of well-timed internships, I had the skill set to give it a try. Within six months, that service generated a record amount of income, and I was able to hire help to sustain the growth.

Since then, we’ve added more traditional PR services like editorial, TV, and radio pitching as well as outreach for speaking gigs.

Recently, we rebranded from my name to a separate agency name so I could let the business build its own social and economic capital.

I chose “ginkgo” as the primary symbol of the brand because it represents everything I want myself and my clients to remember: that, with the help of PR, our stories and the impact we want to make, can stand the test of time and that we’re resilient enough to keep speaking up — even in the face of certain rejection.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There are so many factors that go into making sure I can be productive every day! Beyond the usual self-care stuff like getting enough sleep and meditating, I plan my schedule at the top of every week so I know exactly what projects I’ll be working on every day. If I skip this step, my week will be a total mess and I won’t get anything done.

I work from home, so I’m in my home office by around 9am every day. Even though I work from home and have schedule flexibility, I find that it’s easier to stick to the typical office schedule. So much of my work is dependent on hearing back from producers, podcast hosts, journalists, and editors, and they’re usually working 9-5ish.

At the top of each day, I take a quick peek at my inbox to look for any urgent client requests, team questions, or booking problems before diving into a pitch session. Then, for the rest of the day, you’ll find me pitching, creating content for marketing, drafting a client proposal, meeting with team members, or jumping on a call with a client to discuss strategy.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When I have an idea, I let it steep for a while before jumping in full force. At this stage in my career, I don’t have the luxury of unlimited time to create, so I want to make sure that the idea is important to both who I am as a person and to our values as an agency before I spend time and resources bringing it to life.

That process is messy, and it looks like writing down random thoughts I have when I hear something that relates to my idea, journaling, meditating, and doing tons of research to check its viability.

Right now, I have a podcast idea that I just can’t get out of my head. Everything that I watch on TV, every article that I read, and every person that I talk to these days offers me a piece of the puzzle that I need to flesh this idea out.

If I decide to move forward with it, I’ll need to set aside money for production costs, put together a project plan that consists of tons and tons of lists, and then start delegating the tasks so we can make it a reality.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I am so excited about the open and honest conversations that people across all industries are having about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We can no longer ignore the existing body of research that proves that DEI creates more opportunity for innovation and profit. We have a long way to go when it comes to implementing and following through with DEI initiatives, but I believe we’re on the right path.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I religiously — probably to the point of being OCD — track my time. I use a tool called Toggl to record exactly how long it takes to complete a task or a project, and I evaluate my reports at the end of each week.

Honestly, the fact that a timer is ticking is enough of a motivation for me to stay on task.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell her to experiment with as many creative ventures as possible while she has the naivete and the brazenness that youth offers. I would also tell her to make as many connections as possible to influential figures. People in power are much willing to spend time with and mentor high school and college students than they are for someone five or ten years into their professional careers.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I was in my early twenties when the lifestyle business space exploded, and I spent a lot of time in and out of various online programs learning about business and marketing. One of the principles that many female business owners abide by is pricing based on a blend of minimal research, overly-simplistic psychological principles, and intuition.

It drives me crazy that this pricing model is still taught to many well-intentioned, fledgling business owners as opposed to a solid formula based on expenses and profit margin percentages.

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

I recommend that every entrepreneur reach out to someone new both in their industry and outside of it every single week. That way, you are always building your network and increasing the diversity of thought around you. The solutions to some of your most challenging problems — even the ones you didn’t realize you had — come from the unlikeliest of sources. By exposing yourself to new people and new ideas, you will naturally be more competitive and ahead of the curve.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

When Diane von Furstenberg, the fashion designer, started her fashion line she sent one email every single day to help someone else. That story made an impression on me because kindness is at the core of everything I do. Sometimes that looks like leaving a podcast review on a show that I love, emailing someone personally to offer them a visibility opportunity that they wouldn’t have known about, or making an email introduction to two people in my network who would get along.

That simple marketing strategy of doing one kind a thing a day has made me thousands of dollars and has expanded my network to people I couldn’t have ever imagined meeting.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Every failure I can point back to started with me not trusting my intuition. The most significant failure that comes to mind was when I worked with a client who I knew wasn’t a good fit for me.

She didn’t have sustainable revenue and I didn’t communicate clear expectations about our work together. In the end, we both weren’t happy. Since that experience, I’ve learned to take note of how familiar the potential client is with PR and then educate accordingly. I’ve also started asking clear questions like, “How do you make money?” and “Why do you need PR right now as opposed to in six months?”

Being clear and upfront about what they need and what I can offer has allowed me to make better decisions when it comes to the kinds of clients I take on.

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

Right now, podcasting is a rapidly growing medium, and more people than ever are looking for independent podcast editors, production companies, or experts who can help them land sponsorships for their shows. If you can deliver that service well, you’ll have a sustainable source of recurring revenue.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

With all of the panic and uncertainty that the pandemic brought to light, I decided to open a 12-month CD at my business bank. Luckily, my cash flow hadn’t been impacted by COVID-19, so I had the necessary funds to make the initial deposit. The $100 that I recently spent was the monthly deposit I’ve been making toward that CD.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I am obsessed with the project management software Asana. We use it as a team to keep track of all of our pitches, client bookings, and ongoing marketing tasks. It also helps me keep track of the life cycle of each of my clients. Because of Asana, I know exactly when to check in with them before a contract ends to allow enough time for them to make a renewal decision, when to buy gifts for a birthday, anniversary or special occasion, or ask for a testimonial.

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

I read Accidental Genius by Mark Levy during a time in my business where I had more problems than solutions, and it helped me get unstuck with a majority of the issues that I had been having. The book is essentially a series of writing prompts that help you approach difficult problems from multiple perspectives.

One of the recommendations that I found most helpful was Levy’s suggestion to build an inventory of thoughts, which is basically a system for keeping thoughts you’ve had for future content. For me, the categories ended up being:
PR Campaigns + Events
PR Strategy
Pitch Starts, Middles, and Ends
Headline Swipe File
Pitch Calendar
Problems to Solve
Expert Quote Examples
Notes from News
Hard Things/Rejection File

This has allowed me to create a storehouse of valuable information that I can use in client strategies, for pitches, and for training my team members.

It’s also helped me develop my thought leadership platform.

What is your favorite quote?

I collect quotes like some people collect coins, and one of my favorites comes from Pema Chödrön.

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”

Key Learnings:

  • How Cher uses tools like Asana, Toggl, and weekly scheduling to keep her PR agency running smoothly
  • How to build your network and your social capital so you can increase your influence in your respective industr
  • A strategy to organize random thoughts that will help you develop your thought leadership platform
  • What Cher learned from her failures to properly vet clients, and the exact questions she asks prospects now to land ideal clients
  • A simple marketing strategy that has made her thousands of dollars and expanded her professional network