We had the good fortune of connecting with Wendy Guarisco and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wendy, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
I think/hope I’ve set the example for my daughter that you can do anything you really want to do, and you can also do anything you really have to do. I truly loved the 12 years I worked at CNN. It was a great job to have as a single person, a good job to have as a married person, and an almost impossible job to have with a young child and elderly parents. I was fortunate that my husband was still working when I left CNN and started my business, and incredibly blessed to have gotten it completely up and running by the time he became disabled and had to stop working. It was never my intention to be the sole breadwinner, but I’m grateful I’ve been able to step into that role. When my daughter was little, I used to give her my label maker to play with to keep her occupied when I had to be on the phone with a client or media. She would make me little love notes with it, but one day she made a label that said “mom pls stop working 4ever.” That label started years of conversations about how being her mom was the best job I could ever ask for, but I also needed to pay the bills. She got to see how hard I worked but that I also made time to be there and do fun things with her, her dad and her grandparents. Work/life balance wasn’t always easy, and sometimes it was downright messy, but she always told me she hoped she’d inherited my work ethic. Although she has just started her career (she’s a production assistant on a TV show), by all accounts her work ethic leaves mine in the dust.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We help clients expand their brand’s influence/grow their business through strategic high profile media interviews. Our clients are the top health and medicine experts, political strategists, authors and thought leaders from business, law, science, social justice, pop culture and entertainment that are seen in national media every day. Turn on the tv or radio, or check your favorite news site and you’ll see our clients analyzing the most important news stories of the day. What sets us apart from other firms in the same space is that we’ve actually done the job of the journalists we’re pitching. We understand the pressures they’re facing, and they trust us to only offer guests we would have booked ourselves when we had their job. When I launched the business 20 years ago, I was coming off more than a decade of working as a Senior Editorial Producer and Director of Guest Booking Research at CNN. I had a very young child and very old parents – a combo that was not conducive to being in a newsroom at all hours of the day and night. But I quickly realized that I could serve clients from a swim meet or a doctor’s appointment or anywhere else with my handy Blackberry (remember those?) and that was the beginning of the Guarisco Group. I learned so many lessons the hard way but perhaps the most important is that it’s not enough to be an expert at what you do. You must have a trusted advisor who knows about running a business and can protect you from pitfalls you don’t even know exist. Mine is Alex Muñoz, principal of the Atlanta based firm, CSR. I couldn’t run my business without his wise counsel. Through all the twists and turns we’ve experienced over the past 20 years, the one constant, and the thing I’m most proud of, is that my team and I have always acted with honesty and integrity. I put a high value on sleeping well at night so we don’t blow smoke at a client about their media potential, or tell a media contact a guest is better than they actually are. We do what we say we’ll do and we are genuinely as happy about a client’s success as they are.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is hard since I haven’t been out a lot in the last year due to the pandemic. But I always love Atlanta Botanical Garden! No matter what season it is, there’s always beauty to be found there, and especially right now, it’s very social-distance friendly. Same for walking my dogs along the Chattahoochee or the Beltline. Breakfast at West Egg would have to be on the agenda. I grew up and still live in the no man’s land between Buckhead and Midtown that is now known as trendy West Midtown, so I’d have to show my neighborhood some love. Some other musts: coffee with the best view at Chattahoochee Coffee Company Riverside; lunch at Souper Jenny in the Atlanta History Center, maybe a stroll through the garden while we’re there; dinner at Anis where we can pretend to be in Paris; pizza at Antico or dinner at Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano, followed by Caffe Gio’s gelato in Atlanta’s Little Italy. I’m not a shopper but I could be persuaded to wander around Ponce City Market and the Battery for an hour or two.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My team deserves all the shoutouts in the world!! My name is on the front door but I could never do this alone. I am beyond proud of each of them and so grateful for all they’ve contributed to our firm’s success and to my life. A few deserve some extra special recognition. Our managing director Kelly Wolf George is super human! She has extraordinary news judgement and laser focus. Even if she’s written 20 pitches before her second cup of tea, the 21st is as fresh and insightful as the first one she wrote that day. Early on I built my reputation as the one producers could count on to respond to their requests quickly with a well-prepared guest and all the information they needed for a segment. Kelly has carried on that tradition and built a name for herself as one of the most reliable and responsive publicists out there. She keeps all the plates spinning night and day. Account Supervisor Gina McKenzie Hayes is one of the most creative thinkers I’ve ever worked with, and also one of the most fun. When we’re brainstorming what else we can do for a client, we can always count on Gina to bust the roadblocks and come up with something completely new and clever. Her job is one of the hardest in that she focuses on clients in the lifestyle and entertainment space who aren’t necessarily tied to the news of the day. Her imaginative approach to placing clients saves the day on a regular basis. Digital Marketing Strategist Sofia Muñoz Abou-Jaoudé is the wizard behind the curtain. She’s one who makes us sound so smart on social media and in blogs. She eats writer’s block for breakfast and can turn a tiny nugget of an idea into a full blown masterpiece. How she does it all with the world’s most adorable toddler at her feet is beyond me, but I’m super appreciative of all she does.