Patty Briguglio is the owner of MMI Public Relations, a full service PR firm that creates customized strategies to tell their clients’ stories.
“We do one thing and we do it really well and that’s public relations,” she says.
Briguglio started MMI Public Relations in 1994 in Arizona, where it was ranked as one of the top ten PR firms. Briguglio and her husband took a year off to sail and fell in love with North Carolina. They bought property on the coast and planned to retire here, but when her husband’s company offered him the Raleigh office and Briguglio got an offer to buy her firm, the hastened move to Raleigh was a no-brainer.
Public relations isn’t a field that Briguglio studied, but rather one which she says comes naturally to her. She saw a need in Raleigh for her skills and was happy to fill it.
“I never took a PR class in my life,” she explains. “To me, PR is all common sense. There are a lot of really talented people who can design logos, or create ads, or buy media, create marketing plans, but doing good PR is really, really hard. So I decided when I came here that I was going to focus exclusively on public relations, so that I could create a niche and do one thing really well, and it has been a good strategy for me.”
MMI Public Relations is unique in that it only takes one client per industry. Briguglio says this lets her company work with the best of the best, since they can be so selective.
“So, if you look at something like engineering, we work with SEPI Engineering. She has such an amazing company and amazing story. That’s the kind of client that we like to align ourselves with. It’s so much easier to find somebody who’s doing great work and shining the light on them, than to find somebody who doesn’t do a great job. I can bring people all day long to your restaurant, but if your food doesn’t taste any good, what good is that?”
Another distinction of MMI Public Relations is the culture. Briguglio says she tends to have a somewhat younger staff than most other firms, which she attributes to the changing nature of public relations and the fact that electronic media and the internet play leading roles now.
“Younger people are more willing to adapt to changes to help us stay in the leading edge and the forefront of what’s occurring,” explains Briguglio.
Briguglio explains that working with her young staff does bring up some challenges.
“I was hiring these Millennials, and I was so frustrated because they just didn’t think the way I did. They didn’t do things the way I did, and I finally just decided I had to let go, and that we would have to come together, and there’s certain things I just decided I can live with, but there’s certain things I can’t.”
One such example is that Briguglio requires her employees to wear a watch. She doesn’t want employees relying on their cell phones as timepieces and giving the client the impression they’re doing something else.
Another workplace requirement is general niceness. Briguglio says she doesn’t tolerate gossip or fighting in the office under any conditions, and that “being nice” is a chief characteristic of her employees.
“This is an environment that fosters collaboration,” Briguglio explains. “People have your back. If you don’t have somebody’s back, you can’t work here. We compete with the outside world, we don’t compete with each other. I’ve had employees who have gotten married, and I have had employees who have roomed together. That’s because they genuinely like one another. They do things after work or outside because they genuinely like one another. That’s the kind of environment I want to have.”
With all the technology available these days to help promote her clients, Briguglio says that choosing which is the best medium is a case-by-case situation.
“You know, so often what you see is something comes along as the bright shiny new toy, and so people want to get into it,” she says. “So with us, we look at social media as tools that we can use. So we say, ‘Is this tool appropriate for this client?’ So, if we’re using blogging, or Twitter, or podcasting, or video, or Flicker, or Facebook, whatever it is, how can that help us to tell the client’s story?”
Staying at the forefront of change is a concept close to Briguglio’s heart. She believes video is the future of PR and thus, MMI Public Relations has a video division, its own film studio and a full-time videographer.
“About every 18 months I have to blow this place up and start over again because of what’s going on with the internet. And so, about three years ago, I thought that hand-held devices were going to replace computers. I thought that people would be getting a lot of information on those hand-held devices, and that video would become increasingly important, and typically PR does not do video.”
Briguglio’s father, a business owner himself, instilled confidence in his daughter at a young age that she could meet her goals.
“I was raised in a time where little girls became housewives or maybe they could be a school teacher or nurse, that was about it. And my father didn’t necessarily ascribe to that, so I heard messages as a little girl that other young girls didn’t hear, and my father told me when I had my first job that I should go in and do one thing a day that I didn’t want to do because it built character.”
Briguglio relates that her father also told her to, ‘Go to your job and look around for the biggest mess you can find in a company. Look around and then, very quietly, on your own time, without telling anybody, or making a big deal about it, go clean that mess up.’ She says doing exactly that has served her well.
MMI Public Relations has grown every year it’s been in business and continued growth seems to be in its future. The company just moved into a new building in March and is already anticipating outgrowing it. Luckily there is more available office space out back.
Growth and success like this comes with the help of a strong team, and Briguglio is quick to recognize it.
“I really would like to give kudos to my staff,” she says. “I have an amazing group of people. I have an amazing group of clients. It is because of them that we are successful. I am just sort of there with the flashlight lighting the way, but they’re the ones doing the work, not me. I would put my staff up against anybody, I don’t care who they are. They have a great work ethic, they’re smart, they’re creative, and they’re problem-solvers.”