Kristi Morris

Founder of Morris Public Relations

Kristin  (Kristi) E. Morris founded Morris Public Relations, LLC, a strategic public relations, marketing and communications firm, in 1996. Backed by more than 25 years of corporate communications experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit arenas, MPR specializes in innovative public relations, marketing and communications for a variety of industries, including: health care, pharmaceutical packaging, education, fitness, commercial real estate, manufacturing and journalism.

Morris focuses on over-the-top creativity as well as pinpoint-strategy for clients. Her professional background, prior to opening MPR, includes: senior marketing executive for a Columbus, Ohio, hospital; award-winning strategic planning operative for city-government economic development marketing; and senior advertising/PR executive for an international industrial computing and technology corporation.

She is an avid martial artist and kickboxer who holds a 4th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, and she is a former competitive bodybuilder. In her spare time, Morris teaches women’s and family self-defense workshops to benefit area non-profit organizations, and she thoroughly enjoys spending time with her husband, David, her daughter, Paige, and her special-needs cat, Sophie.

Where did the idea for Morris Public Relations come from?

It came from Mike Suddendorf, who was my boss at the time. I was a marketing/PR executive with a Columbus hospital, and I had just had my daughter. When maternity leave was over, I went back to work, but I missed her terribly. I’d arrive at work, go straight to my office, shut the door and cry. Every day. One day Mike knocked on the door and asked if he could come in. He was so kind – and incredibly forward thinking. “Why don’t you start your own business?” he asked.

What? I didn’t know anything about running a company of my own. “Get yourself some good mentors and do it. You’ll learn.” He was so confident.

It sounded daunting, far-fetched, hard. But being away from my baby was even harder.

Mike let me give seven months notice so I could build a client base, work from home two days a week as long as I kept my beeper on me at all times (remember those?), then signed my first client contract. This was unheard of then. He was one of the best bosses and mentors I ever had.

I opened Morris Public Relations on July 8, 1996, and I’ve never looked back. As business grew, I still got to watch my daughter’s first giggle, first steps, first runny nose, first day of school … so many firsts that are priceless.

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

My morning prior to work begins with reading my Bible and doing a quick puzzle. The workday always begins with checking emails and messages. As a communicator, it’s imperative to stay connected with our clients in the way they most prefer and to respond in a timely manner. They trust us to do that.

Productivity, for me, starts with a prioritized to-do list. Because we serve multiple clients who also have multiple projects at any given time, we prioritize each client’s projects by due dates, deliverables and the amount of time needed to complete the efforts. Organization is critical to productivity.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It depends on the clients and their needs. For some, that might be a discovery session with their team members to assess goals, successes and challenges. For others it might be brainstorming while throwing axes (actually quite effective – and fun!). Still for others, it might be what we call a “Grab & Gab” – a relaxed-atmosphere focus group that’s inviting for everyone to participate while enjoying healthful appetizers and snacks.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The “over and above” experience. For example, remember when we made reservations or used call-ahead seating before the pandemic? That all ended with the shutdowns, so restaurants had to find a way to stay afloat. They would text patrons when a socially distanced table was available or when food was ready to be delivered to their car. So convenient! When the shutdowns ended, people had come to expect that over-and-above experience in all areas – restaurants, shopping, healthcare, pharmacies, you name it.

I like that. I like the idea that customers expect more and expect personalization. That’s how it should be. It pushes all of us to be better.

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

I can choose only one? For me it’s a combination of habits that work well, so if I string them all together in one sentence, will that count as one? Here we go: I pray every morning and throughout the day – God is my CEO and has been since Day 1; I work out at least 4-5 days a week, setting aside a specific time of day just like I would for meetings, so that I get the exercise I need to keep me focused and fit; I do regular calls with a dear friend, Mary, who is extraordinarily wise and wickedly funny – nothing like a good belly laugh while getting great counsel and opinions; I make lists and keep a calendar that allows for blocks of in-office time to get work done (everything is color-coded for easy reference); and finally, coffee – give me all the coffee!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Oooo, good question. I would start with the definitions of “no” and “yes.” When someone says no to an idea, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad one – keep going until that no becomes a yes if you want it badly enough. Conversely, “no” can be a full sentence; it should be used when someone is trying to take advantage of you, your skills or your expertise.

“Yes” can be scary and exhilarating – sometimes we have to say yes to things out of our comfort zone so we can stretch, grow and put some new experiences in our quiver of talents.

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

Calendly! Oh, how arrogant it is. It so easily masquerades as a convenience, but for whom? “Here’s my calendar … see when I can fit you in.” It’s the scheduling version of a humble brag. What happened to a bit of graciousness and asking others what dates and times might be convenient for them? It’s really about putting others first – especially if we’re seeking their business and time.

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

Okay, I need multiple answers (are you rolling your eyes yet?). Prayer is number 1: take it to God and get His take on things. Number 2: do everything with honor and integrity. Your word is everything in this business. People need to be able to trust and count on you. Number 3: breathing – combat breathing, to be specific. First responders use it to bring calm and clarity in high-intensity situations. Breathe in deeply and slowing for four seconds, then release that breath slowly. Repeat until you feel calmness settle over you. Nothing like lungs full of air and a brain full of peace and clarity.

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

Rising above the white noise. Columbus is fortunate to have an insane amount of crazy-talented PR/marketing professionals, all of whom pride themselves on what they can do for clients – and they can do a lot. I’ve never seen a city with so much brilliance and talent. So for us, we had to pinpoint our parity-plus and deploy it consistently and continuously for all clients. What can we do that others can’t or don’t have time for? How can we deliver the best possible experience and results for our clients – and then some? Once we zeroed in on that, word of mouth was pretty swift.

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

When I first started Morris PR, I was hesitant to hold my ground on requested contract changes and deposit/billing due-date practices. I worried that if I didn’t change certain terms to meet client-asks or if I didn’t waive deposit fees/late fees that I would lose account opportunities.

I was wrong, and I quickly learned that that’s an easy way to get burned.

How did I overcome it? Using the power of the word “no” and the services of wonderful legal minds.

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

It would be so nice if someone would invent a way to get the last bit of the shampoo or lotion out of pump-bottles without having to remove the pump and pound the bottle on the shower door or counter. Any takers?

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

I bought all the ingredients for a made-from-scratch birthday lunch for my dad, who just turned 88. I absolutely love to cook, so making everything from scratch was a blast. I made an entire feast.

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

Webroot, Malwarebytes and CCleaner. All necessary in this day and age. That and an excellent IT person (an actual human).

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

The Constitution & The Declaration of Independence by the Founding Fathers and Paul B. Skousen.

Skousen breaks it down brilliantly. Reading both documents, especially together, is an eye-opener – I hadn’t done it in years. Our founding fathers lay out their grievances and the human- and civil-rights violations committed by the king of Great Britain, step by step, point by point.

When someone casually throws out what he or she believes is right or wrong, constitutional or unconstitutional – it’s helpful to know exactly what the documents actually say and why they were necessary. They’re beautiful and they cemented the sovereignty of the United States.

What is your favorite quote?

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Key Learnings:

  • Faith and family first, do hard things that scare you and push for success.
  • Take care of your physical health so that you can focus on priorities and stay vigilantly organized.
  • Add fun and laughter to brainstorming sessions – do something different to get new results (hence the ax-throwing).
  • Over-and-above service makes us better entrepreneurs – and better humans.
  • Find your company’s parity-plus, then deploy it consistently and continuously.