We ask our members to share a few thoughts: to introduce themselves to fellow members, and those who are interested in our community.
Tell us about your business:
The idea for my company Media Wise was born in the 1990s when I was a TV journalist with Reuters Financial TV in London. During the company reporting season I would interview directors of stock exchange-listed companies at 07:30 as their quarterly results were released. The idea behind the programme I worked for was to allow investors to look into the eyes of the person behind the brand. Some directors thanked me for helping me polish their performance – and one said ”Did you know, you could charge money for this!” So Media Wise began as a media and presentation training company and gradually expanded to offer a broader range of PR support as well as professional coaching.
What 5 words would you choose to describe your business?
Simple, strategic, creative, empowering, evidence-based.
What are your most popular products or services?
Media, presentation and crisis communications trainings, in English and other European languages.
Creating website content.
What do you like best about owning a business?
The ability to target clients whose products and services interest me most and whose values best match mine. I am an idealist and like to work with people and organisations that make the world a better place. In terms of sectors, that means healthcare, food, technology and sustainability as a whole.
What or who inspired you to start your business?
There seemed to be demand for the services I was planning to offer (see first answer) and just before launching Media Wise I created a six-part documentary series on decision-making that won the annual Amsterdam Stock Exchange broadcast journalism prize that year. This gave me a big confidence boost. I then spent a couple of months researching the market and talking with PR contacts at companies I had reported on as a journalist. They were all very encouraging and asked to be on the mailing list.
What makes your products/services special?
Thorough preparation and research and a structured approach. Ahead of any communications training we aim to have a solid understanding of a client so that we can think from their perspective. During the mandatory story & message development hour, we dissect, analyse and help clients to reassemble their stories, making them clearer, more compact and harder-hitting. We’ve developed an effective training methodology using simple communications techniques that enable clients to master the most difficult interviews.
Who is your role model or mentor?
I have no particular business role model or mentor, but in terms of great public speakers, I’d nominate former US President Barack Obama. He was a great orator whose speeches inspired trust, hope and a feeling of inclusiveness in me. I very much like Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s speaking style too. His manner and tone of voice to my ears sounds in control, reassuring, empathic and reliable.
What is your biggest fear?
Another major disruption like a pandemic.
What motivates you on a daily basis?
Each item I strike off my to-do list gives me a sense of achievement. When I’ve sat for too long at my desk, a quick bike ride, especially in the sun, can be particularly refreshing. I play piano nearly every day and sometimes my saxophone. Playing music perks up and validates the musician in me, unleashing a fresh stream of energy that seems to improve my focus when I return to my desk. I get similar benefits from speaking languages other than English (native). In general, I much prefer voice calls to email or Whatsapp. I think most humans would agree with me, and yet the volume of voice calls seems to dwindle each year. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I find myself listening to more podcasts or leaving the TV news on in the background when I’m pottering in the kitchen.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Logistical challenges, such as getting from one client in Milan to another in Montpellier, within a day, when there are no flights or inter-connecting rail networks. Or mother alarm – receiving a phone call from a home-alone son in Amsterdam, aged 15, just as I am starting a media training in Rome, and hearing the words: “I’ve been shot in the eye and I can’t see.”
What advice would you give women who are starting a business?
If it makes sense, feels right and gives you energy, go for it!
What is your favourite business book?
I really enjoyed and learned a lot about humans from Sapiens (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari) and The Body Keeps the Score (Bessel van der Kolk). I always enjoy learning about the psychological and physical animal aspects, geography and history that make humans behave as we do. Malcolm Gladwell has written several books that fall into this category. I was impressed by his chapter in “What the Dog Saw..” about tomato ketchup and why it is so universally popular. The simple answer was it stimulates our five main tastebuds (salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami) and now comes in a handy squeeze bottle. Thinking, Fast & Slow (Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and psychologist by training) is another fascinating psychology book that explains how our minds’ work. I found it useful for understanding why people believe conspiracy theories and how we make decisions, among other things.
What are your top tips for networking?
At an in-person event, If you want to be really strategic, you can research the key speakers and guest list so that you can prepare appropriate talking points for when you bump into them. If it’s an online event, chances are you will be able to get access to the email addresses of attendees for you to follow up with directly. However, meeting someone in person will give you a better chance of establishing rapport and of them remembering who you are when you follow up.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I moved to The Hague city centre recently from a village outside of Amsterdam and I am finding it much easier here to balance work with my social life. There are so many activities, services and areas to explore within a few minutes on foot or by bike.
What is your motto or theme song?
There are two main ones: Accentuate The Positive and the Mission Impossible theme tune.
How do you relax?
I find doing yoga at least once a week essential for keeping the body supple and mind calm and I like to take long walks and shorter bike rides. Cooking and eating marvellous concoctions provides great creative therapy and satisfaction. The other day both my largest and smallest supermarket had run out of wheat flour just when I wanted to make a pizza. Instead I bought a bag of cornmeal which will allow me to try out a whole new series of recipes I have spotted online.
What place inspires you and why?
I love historic city centres with fine architecture. In The Hague, I like to cycle through the Binnenhof and be swept back in time for a moment, or to wander down Molenstraat and its side streets. I also like walking in the mountains and the countryside. Although Holland may not have any mountains, the dunes are great to cycle along until I once again visit my house in Italy, at the foot of a mountain range.
What do you care most about, as a business owner?
Trust and transparency.
What are your future plans?
I think I will continue working until I drop! I love what I do and my life would feel incomplete if I stopped everything I am doing and learning professionally. When I am really old I see myself playing jazz piano in a quaint wine bar/cafe in some historic centre!
Are you running any offers or promotions that you would like us to mention?
I continue to offer a free introductory hour to anyone interested in professional coaching.
Thank you, Emma!
For more information about Emma Robson visit Media Wise.