Behind the Bio: Courtney Ellett
An avid reader and writer since the age of 5, Courtney believed she was destined for a long and happy career as a writer of novels, short stories and poetry. While she still uses those very writing skills on a daily basis, her education and career track led her down an unexpected road – first as a journalist at The Commercial Appeal, then eight years spent as director of public relations at Baptist Memorial Health Care before venturing out on her own to start Obsidian Public Relations (with just a laptop and two clients).
Now, 11 years later and with more than 200 clients having passed through her influence and guidance, Courtney leads a team of 12 PR professionals in serving a diverse roster of clients and navigating the vast opportunities available in the world of public relations. For this month’s staff feature, we are putting our fearless owner in the spotlight to find out what makes her tick!
What makes you tick, figuratively and literally?
A more romantic answer is that I like chasing blue sky. I’m borrowing that turn of phrase from one of my favorite movies of all time – Sense & Sensibility. The suggested metaphor – a portrait of the ever-optimist – is so lovely and timeless to me. I’m lucky to have the freedom to do that – chase my own blue sky. It’s all about freedom really. It’s one of the most precious things – one that everyone should have.
On the more literal side of things, I need lots of family time, strong coffee, cold ice tea and quiet moments at home to indulge in movies and novels.
Of all of the things that make up Obsidian, what is your favorite part of the business?
I’m a writer at heart, so telling stories is my answer. Always my answer. We have a sticker on our window at Obsidian that reads “Great stories start here.”
Can you share one or two particular client projects that you’ve been particularly proud that Obsidian was a part of?
It was very exciting when our team secured ESPN to do live shots from Flyer Saucer Draught Emporium during the 2010 World Cup. All of us were there rooting on the US soccer team and having a blast.
More recently, our agency had the great privilege to partner with Habitat of Humanity of Greater Memphis on the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. It was an unforgettable experience for the team.
Can you share a particular job or experience in which you learned something you still think about to this day?
In our first year as an agency, I lost out on a particularly big prospect and felt such disappointment – tears even. I was so thin-skinned about things. Time has given me a much broader sense of myself and our work. We can’t win every time. When we don’t, we learn and move on. Simple as that.
In your opinion, what makes a GREAT PR professional?
I often call our team the wizard behind the curtain. PR people are so many things. Here are the qualities that bubble to the top for me:
- Professional maturity beyond age
- A writer’s heart
- Desire to make a difference
In your opinion, what makes for an ideal client?
Love this question. Truth is, not every client is good for business. The sooner you realize that, the more time you can spend on getting the right kind of client. While that varies certainly among agencies, I do think any agency looks for clients who value the work you do, trust you, communicate with you often and hold up their end of the bargain in the relationship.