Eric Fischgrund, CEO of FischTank PR tells us about the conception and execution of marketing and communications campaigns for organizations of all industries and sizes..
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded FischTank PR.
Eric Fischgrund: I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and attended Shippensburg University in Central PA, where I graduated with a degree in Communications/Journalism with a minor in Psychology. I held a marketing job in San Diego for a couple of years after college, then moved back east to NJ, where I started working for a PR firm in Hackensack. After nearly four years there, I left to take an in-house role with a real estate investment firm and its affiliated broker-dealer. I loved this job, but the CEO and the President didn’t get along, so the writing was on the wall. I was fortunate enough to get out before the company blew up.
Getting out = starting FischTank PR, which I did in December 2013. Earlier that year, what began as a side hustle turned into enough work to make me self-sustainable for much of 2014. As that summer progressed, I continued to garner referrals and requests from people and companies to work with me, and in September, Matt Bretzius joined me as a partner and is now President of FischTank PR. 8.5 years later, we have 30 colleagues and over 40 clients and are doing our best to grow in a healthy, scalable way.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Eric Fischgrund: Tough to answer this question without seeming preachy, but here goes. I start every day with reading nonfiction (usually 30-60 minutes) and end each day with reading fiction (another 15-30 minutes). When I was younger, and FischTank was brand new, I would wake up at 4 am, open my laptop and get to work. Now I realize how unhealthy that is. As I’ve gotten older, I find that the peace reading gives me in the morning and evening makes for a much smoother day and a better night’s sleep.
Other small habits – I take a break, usually somewhere early afternoon, work out, walk my dog, read again or take a nap. These breaks are usually only 30-60 minutes, but they give me a bit of a reset that has really helped improve my focus for the remainder of the day.
The last thing, I simplified my to-do list into just three sections: In red is what I need to do today. Yellow is what I will need to do tomorrow or later this week. Green means long-lead; I don’t have a deadline. Green is usually things like blog post writing and branding campaigns for FischTank, while red is generally reserved for client obligations and tasks. This simple means of prioritization has helped me significantly.
How does FischTank PR market its product/services online?
Eric Fischgrund: I don’t want to give away the secret sauce, but we do a great job of publishing insightful content (blog, images, survey data, etc.) that informs specific readers. Those audiences fall into many categories – job candidates/recruits, client sectors, financial decision-makers, professional services providers, and so many others. We put a lot of time into our content, ensuring there is value in each piece and that each post is optimized effectively.
We also empower our colleagues to build their own brands on LinkedIn. Enabling this vs. restricting it due to poaching concerns, as many firms do, has, in turn, expanded the FischTank PR footprint.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Eric Fischgrund: We use MailChimp for email marketing, WordPress for blogging, LinkedIn and Twitter for disseminating content and news monitoring, and Facebook and Instagram for FischTank PR culture stuff. In terms of management, we do it ourselves and recently hired a Social Media Manager whom we’re very excited about.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Eric Fischgrund: Our hiring process usually requires two rounds as we want to be respectful and cognizant of people’s time. We care about industry know-how, work ethic, and the ability to add to the team’s culture (including leadership). If a candidate can impress us across those broad categories, we’re likely to make an offer.
We try to retain our employees by being flexible, making ourselves available, and remaining fiercely authentic. We have a four-day workweek program, virtual and in-person events, charitable fundraisers that the team participates in, and other fun stuff.
We may not be the largest or smallest PR firm, so we aren’t ideal for everyone, but we are very transparent about who we are as people and what we like to work on. That seems to work for both my colleagues and clients alike.
How are you funding your growth?
Eric Fischgrund: We have been self-funded since day 1, mostly because launching FischTank PR from a one-bedroom apartment in 2013 required only a laptop, a rudimentary website, and LLC paperwork. FischTank PR has been profitable since its first month and a subsequent one, something I am very proud of.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Eric Fischgrund: Our competitors are generally small to mid-size PR firms working with exciting and innovative brands spanning cleantech/sustainability, B2B tech, healthcare, and real estate/engineering. I don’t think we have specific companies worth mentioning.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Eric Fischgrund: A good client success story from our cleantech PR practice comes to mind. We always do an excellent job of getting meaningful and impactful media coverage for our clients, but in this example, we were able to gain extensive national media coverage that has now gone on for over a year. This virtual power plant project comprised of solar + storage technology in the Midwest has currently been featured in Wall Street Journal, Forbes, New York Times, television, and so much more – all because we’ve found multiple stories within that impact distinctly different audiences.
Your final thoughts?
Eric Fischgrund: These are weird times. If you can do a favor for someone professionally, do it. Mentor college graduates and entry-level professionals. Volunteer and support nonprofits and local charities. Show empathy in the workplace – it’s sorely needed.