I am EXTREMELY happy to bring to you what will most likely be my favorite interview of all time. Terrie Williams is a personal friend of mine and someone who I have ALWAYS looked up to and strive to achieve some level of her success and grace. A Mount Vernon, NY native, Terrie rose to the top in publicity, representing powerhouse clients such as Miles Davis, Eddie Murphy and the always amazing Michael Jackson.
She now works as an activist for mental health awareness and is the author of four books. One of her latest mental health advocacy campaigns, called “Sharing Ourselves…Healing Starts With Us”, garnered $2.5 million in donated national advertising space and 11 million media impressions to significantly heighten the awareness and importance of mental and emotional health.She is the recipient of many awards for her work, including Ebony magazine’s Power 150 for Activism, Woman’s Day magazine’s “50 Women on a Mission to Change the World” and more.
Terrie gave me the HONOR of allowing me to interview her and she dropped some serious insight and knowledge on how to make it professionally, spiritually and more. Read on to learn more.
Thank you for speaking with us! First off, can you tell us a little about yourself?
TW: I grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y. and went on to earn my Bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology (cum laude) from Brandeis University and my Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University. From there I began working at a New York hospital as a social worker, but deep down I knew it wasn’t the right career for me. After I heard Miles Davis was staying at my hospital, I walked on over and introduced myself and during our conversation, he too felt like I wasn’t in the right field and encouraged me to try something else. I knew I had to!
How did you originally get into Public Relations? Describe for us your transition from Social Work; was it difficult?
TW: After some soul searching, I realized Public Relations seemed more aligned with what I would like to do, so I enrolled in 2 courses that I found in the Amsterdam News. The professor was uninspiring, but I did learn the basics that I needed to provide me with the fundamental skills of a publicist. From there I volunteered my services to friends and non profit organizations in order to provide them with free assistance while I honed my skills. I did this while keeping my day job as a social worker so that I was able to pay my bills.
I was finally able to take the full leap over to PR when I was offered a permanent spot at Black Enterprise magazine. During my time there, I met Ed Lewis, co-founder of ESSENCE magazine, who asked me to join his company and the rest is history! [She’s being modest, she became the youngest VP in the history of the company when she was appointed head of their corporate communications department!]
You have worked with some huge A-list clients. How did you go about bringing them on to your roster?
TW: After ESSENCE, I started my own agency in February of 1988. A lot of it was through me being proactive and introducing myself to them and simply engaging them in conversation. The rest was through them hearing of the success I had with other clients and wanting me to do the same for them. Eddie Murphy was my first “big” client. I bumped into him at a party, and once I saw how many people were swarming him, I made a note of that and went and spoke with the individuals in his entourage. Nothing special, just conversation, but I did mention that I was a publicist. When the time came for Eddie to seek representation, I made sure to send over a package that detailed my work and requested that I be considered. One of the individuals who I had spoke to in his entourage, just so happened to be one of his top aides, who put in a good word for me. Soon after, I signed Eddie.
Once Eddie was on board, other clients were more open in the idea of signing with me. Miles Davis, Anita Baker, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michael Jackson and more.
That is amazing! What do you think was the biggest factor in your success?
TW: As I speak on in my book, The Personal Touch, you must always pay attention to even the most minute of details. The personal touch is about going a little more above and beyond than the “status quo” and adding your own personal piece to whatever it is you are working on. This will be appreciated by your recipient. In today’s times, with all these computers and instant messages, how many still take the time to send a hand-written note?
I also think it is important to always treat everyone you come across the same, whether they be a janitor or a CEO. Everyone is human and deserves respect.
In addition, I followed my instincts. I knew social work wasn’t the right fit for me, and followed my intuition which led me to PR, where I was able to achieve success, fulfillment and reach so many through my platform.
Yes! You are also a published author; share with us some information on your books.
TW: My first published book was The Personal Touch. In it, I speak on my path to success and share information on how my readers can use the power of respect, intuition and presence to do the same. In my book, A Plentiful Harvest, I share with my readers seven virtues and different steps that should be taken to help with personal and spiritual growth.
Black Pain, It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting speaks on the prolific presence of mental diseases within the black community, including depression and drug and alcohol abuse, both of which I believe are symptoms of our inner sorrow. It tells of how we need to stop sweeping these issues under the rug and seek help for ourselves and others in need. Finally, Stay Strong, Simple Life Lessons for Teens shares with young people that with the right attitude and strategies, they are capable of accomplishing anything they dream of.
What would be your best piece of advice for young individuals?
TW: At the risk of sounding repetitive, follow your heart. Your instincts will always tell you exactly where you need to be. It’s when you start doubting them and second guessing yourself that you start running into trouble.
Life is to short to do something that isn’t fulfilling. Make sure that in whatever you do, it is adding to your growth, professionally, personally or spiritually.
Stay grounded in spirit and nothing else matters. Make sure you always stay true to yourself.
What is up next for you?
TW: I am working on creating an updated version of my first book, The Personal Touch, as it’s message still seems to reach people 20 years later.
I am also launching a self-care, lifestyle series that addresses and scars that resurface in one’s life. It will be a guided dialogue me and participants, that will aim to bring about positive and permanent shifts in their lives. These shifts will provide them with the freedom to be absolutely at ease no matter where they are, who they are with, or what the circumstance. That is the power to be in action effectively in those areas of their lives that are important to them.
I would like to thank Terrie for sharing her amazing story with us. If you are interested in reading her books, feel free to purchase them here. If you are interested in her upcoming life series, leave a comment and I will be sure to pass the message on to her or reach out to her via her Twitter.