We had the good fortune of connecting with Valerie Failla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Valerie, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Experience. Experience from both the public relations agency side–and experience from the client side. One early example of this factor lies in a story from my first public relations job when I was eighteen. I was working as a PR coordinator at a large showroom in the Childrenswear Center on West 33rd Street in Manhattan. The PR Director gave me cash for purchasing lunches and coffees during a scheduled, catalog photo shoot in Washington Square Park. At the end of a long, exhausting, shoot day, the PR Director asked me for the receipts from my purchases so she could hand them in to the client for reimbursement. I didn’t have them. My hands were so full that day I hadn’t kept any of the receipts and I didn’t even know they had to be turned in. After all, it was my first shoot ever and I was not previously instructed to keep the receipts. It was so embarrassing—who knew?! From that day forward, the PR Director had to readjust her style of teaching, just for me–the young, inexperienced student running six and a half blocks to and from work and my dorm room several days per week. She quickly came to the realization that I “didn’t know what I didn’t know.” This teaching moment cemented in my mind that experience is a two-way street. In other words—and as it relates to our professional world today– an experienced agency should accomplish client goals in a timely, effective manner, and without unexpected hurdles. The client wants and needs to work in tandem with an experienced agency because the agency team is viewed as consultant, sounding board, and leader for the client. BUT, sometimes said agency must step back and take the intentional time to educate and explain the “why’s” and “how’s” behind their efforts so that the client has full understanding of “what they didn’t know, they didn’t know.” The client always deserves clear explanation. Just because a client hires an experienced PR agency, doesn’t mean said client knows exactly what their return will net. Public relations is a myriad of earned media, social media, organic and paid influencers, bespoke events, brand imaging, and internal as well as crisis communications. We wear a tremendous number of hats (chapeaus, visors, and the like)! My advice is that any prospective client needs to vet an agency that will guide them in all these areas—not simply to place their name in the press.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Is it easy to go out on your own? Absolutely not! If it was simple, everyone would be working on their own accord. I’m absolutely certain that there are moments when business owners, no matter the size and experience of the business, ask themselves–“Are we making the right choice?” While my agency has close to sixty years of combined public relations, media, and consulting experience, we learn the business every, single, day. If you are an owner, and think you know it all, I will stop you right there–because you are dead wrong. Our industry, even more than others–changes at a rapid pace–more precipitous than any other previous decade. As Via Failla Public Relations & Events enters its fifth year, our agency has become well-known for listening to our clients first. Our agency handles all things lifestyle–food and beverage, travel, residential living, design, and more. We are consultants with combined experience in public relations, media buying, copywriting, and as of the last few years, everything social media. My husband handles the organic as well as the paid social media clients that we have brought on board. We have had incredibly successful campaigns as well as some tests that have proved us on-point or sometimes, not due to circumstances that couldn’t have been foreseen. Providing clients with A and B testing is something we have become extremely skilled at the last few years. We pride ourselves on our dedication and intentional work. We only commit to a select handful of clients so as founders, we are involved in each account daily. Clients have commented that they prefer the owners involvement. Over time and with experience agencies learn that transparency is key. Be honest with a client about their ideas, if they suggest something that you as an owner knows will not work it’s the owner’s responsibility to speak up. If not, and the owner carries out the directive from the client and success is not reached, then it’s on the agency for not providing an educated discussion. For us, one of the most fun parts of what we do is dot-connecting. We align as many individuals and groups as we can in order to provide worthwhile connections and answers. As a brand, we also spend time digging into organizations and other brands that are a match for our brand, our passions, our vision. For example, we are aligned with two nonprofits, Giving Kitchen and #ATLFamilyMeal. They both serve the culinary industry but in different ways and we have connections that we bring in to help out each organization. Overall, there is nothing that I’d rather do and I’m so proud that our agency is based in the biggest, baddest, business city in the southeast, Atlanta, Georgia.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As an event planner, I literally live for creating itineraries for our house guests. Especially when my sister comes in for a visit because there are so many places that I wish she was able to visit with me on the daily. With a city as booming as Atlanta one needs more than a weekend to fit in all the fun! My favorite do-not-miss is the Atlanta BeltLine with our kids because they have a blast exploring and eating along the way. It’s advised to make Ponce City Market your final destination because the food and drinks are deserved after walking such a long way! High Museum and FOX Theater too — currently missing the theater due to Covid-19 but the minute those doors open, I’ll be back with my girls in tow! Since I’m from New York, it’s extremely difficult for me to go very long without incredible Asian food so we hit Buford Highway as often as possible. When I want to do nothing but submerge myself in complete decadence, we are sure to hit an outdoor spot that serves raw oysters, house-made crackers, and fresh horseradish. We also have an incredibly fun habit of driving off to Charleston and hitting the beach in Isle of Palms, shopping on King Street, as well as visiting our most favorite eateries such as Indaco, The Macintosh, or the beautifully designed restaurant, The Darling for more oysters.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow. How much space am I allowed? I have been working in the lifestyle sector of the public relations and event industry for twenty-seven years. There has not been one moment whether I was at a global agency, in-house “mom and pop” shop, restaurant group, or production company that didn’t make a lasting impression on me—both positive and negative. Let’s remember that negative experiences are also outstanding learnings. I once had a boss who told me he never wanted to see the same mistake twice, because the second time isn’t considered a mistake! Ouch. On a daily basis, I lean on my husband for the media purchasing and negotiating side of the business since he is a savvy businessman. Anyone that can save a client money and steward their resources is a pro in my book! In addition, my go-to outside my agency is the one and only Tara Murphy, Founder of 360 Media Inc., she is the original OG of the Atlanta public relations industry — no fluff, all tough, extraordinary experience with a big heart and always perfect hair!
We have the right to use images provided, my agency, Via Failla shot all the photos we turned in