Lori Richards

Coffee Break

Lori Richards
President, Mueller Communications
1749 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee
Industry: Public relations
Employees: 18
Family: Married to J.R.; daughters Sylvia (5) and Juliana (2)


In June, you were named president of Mueller Communications. Have you made any changes since assuming the role?

“As our succession plan was long in the making, we began transitioning major clients for this change over the last two years, so those reassignments were well underway when I assumed this role. Since taking on the role, I have, however, enhanced our internal HR practices, hiring a consultant to update our policies and procedures and add more flexibility to our office environment that appeals to working parents and millennials.”

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?

“Our industry has several trade associations that host local awards competitions. In the past, we’d spend hours upon hours compiling award nominations to win awards and be honored in a room that was mostly filled with peers or other agency professionals. We know we do top-notch work: our ongoing business and referrals from current clients is a strong indicator of that. Instead of spending the time to show off our work among potential competitors through awards submissions, we took the time and invested it into planning and hosting several annual events for clients and prospects that demonstrate our areas of expertise and our unique niche in the market.”

Do you have a business mantra?

“It can be a challenge to work through crisis situations for a living. At Mueller Communications, we live by ‘do the right thing’ and it has served me well both personally and professionally.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“One of our primary areas of focus is media relations, so as the media and communication landscape evolves, so too must our business. We work very hard to understand who our clients are trying to reach and customize a communications plan for each one. We understand that different generations and demographics get their information very, very differently and that repetition and consistency of message is the best way to have a lasting impact. In the past, public relations equaled press releases, news conferences, rinse and repeat. The ongoing challenge is to have a uniquely tailored plan for every client and every situation using the most current communication tools.”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

“We are predicting growth for 2016, so I do anticipate adding to our team.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?

“More and more companies are realizing how a crisis can take on a life of its own once it reaches the social media space. We are increasingly working with companies who are wisely proactively anticipating what types of crisis situations would be damaging to their business or reputation, and planning ahead so we can swiftly and systematically address it head on if it occurs – sometimes even staging mock crises to give the crisis plan a test run.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“I enjoy learning more about local stories of business growth and success. I recently heard Nan Gardetto speak about her business philosophy, which is, ‘Hire good people and take care of them, and the business will take care of itself.’ Smart.”

What was the best advice you ever received?

“I’ve been so fortunate to have had terrific mentors and role models who have supported me, so it’s hard to isolate just one piece of advice, but one of my favorites is, ‘Never apologize for having high standards. Make others rise to your level; don’t work down to theirs.’”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?

“Fairly early in my career, (then president) Carl Mueller and I were pitching a piece of business with a large statewide insurer, and we knew several other local firms had also been interviewed that day. Just before the meeting, Carl had a really rigorous workout with his trainer over the lunch hour and was struggling to recover and get his wits about him for the meeting. He told me, ‘If I look like I’m struggling, jump in.’ And I did, during a point in the pitch at which he was starting to flounder. Part way into our pitch, the CEO of the insurance company stopped us and told us we’d gotten the business. Why? He liked our ‘collaborative approach’ and how Carl let me take over the discussion. My first big break was really due to too many jumping jacks.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I grew up in a very hands-on household: we never worked with handymen, mechanics, tailors, painters, etc. Though my ‘day job’ is spent in an office, I love to work with my hands at home, including minor home renovations, appliance repair, DIY projects. Many of these are with the virtual or in-person assistance of my dad or Google, and I especially like to tackle projects with my girls, to teach them how to be handy, too.”

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