The founder of Facteur PR, whose clients include some of the city’s most-beloved businesses (Harness Cycle, Banyan Tree, Liza Michelle Jewelry) shares how her gritty entrepreneurial spirit helped her create a career all her own—and how she helps others to do the same. By Jillian Kramer
During Reena S. Goodwin’s first weeks as the new communications coordinator at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she reached out to its senior leadership with what was, at the time, a radical proposal: the non-profit should have a social media presence.
It was 2008, a time before everyone who’s anyone gauged success in engagement rates—when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drew hundreds of thousands of visitors and yet, not a single follow on its non-existent Twitter account or Facebook page.
“The responsibility sort of fell in my lap to illuminate these channels for my bosses,” Goodwin, 35, reminisces to Modern CLE. At the time, she says, “It was just lowly me saying, ‘Hey, CNN’s on Twitter. Maybe we could communicate with them this way.'”
The leaders listened. Goodwin launched a Facebook page for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame later that year, and it grew to some 250,000 followers by 2013, when Goodwin left the organization to become Cleveland Museum of Art‘s digital communications director. (As of the time this article published, the non-profit’s Facebook page has 666,114 likes and 670,698 followers.) In subsequent years, she also launched the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, FourSquare, and Vine accounts, too.
And she snagged a CNN anchor’s attention, ironically but purposefully, on Twitter.
At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Goodwin also had the chance to interview—for the non-profit’s blog and social media accounts—a few musicians whose names you might recognize: Cyndi Lauper, Peter Hook, Darlene Love, Wanda Jackson, Liz Phair, Alice Cooper, and “the lead singer of Third Eye Blind—oh my God, what’s his name?” Goodwin laughs. It’s Stephan Jenkins—but Goodwin’s memory slip is forgivable. After all, her career is full of storied names and incredible opportunities.
In less than a year since launching her boutique public relations firm, Facteur PR, Goodwin has snagged some of the city’s most-beloved businesses—Harness Cycle, Banyan Tree, and Liza Michelle Jewelry, to name a few—as clients. With grit that comes from New York City-borne experience and what she calls eternal optimism, Goodwin is revolutionizing Cleveland’s PR scene with an approach that is so fresh and stylish—just look at her website—that this revived city is indulging enthusiastically. Goodwin is, in other words, the PR agent any smart and savvy Northeast Ohio businesswoman wants in her corner—and to have her back.
Today, Goodwin is seated behind a long white table, her bubble-gum pink case-clad MacBook open on a standing desk she often erects while taking client calls or building Squarespace sites—part of her job as the founder and director of Factuer PR.
The firm, which Goodwin launched in May 2016 and took full-time last year, sits above Harness Cycle in Ohio City, occupying a room with exposed brick walls and two windows, and bedecked in the company’s colors—gray, dusty rose, and mint—a calming palette that counterchecks the cycling studio’s loud, heart-pumping music.
The medallion area rug beneath her desk is gray. Two velvet client chairs are a dusty rose. Even her trash can, tucked away where hardly anyone will see it, is mint green.
Goodwin herself stands out in the scene: She’s dressed in all black, a tailored blazer over a black T-shirt pulled over torn black jeans. The airy décor in her office, Goodwin admits, “balances out my personal style, which is usually a little darker.”
Smile lines meet her signature cat-eyed black liner when she admits the two plants in the office are fakes. “I see a date with the Lakewood Plant Company in my future,” she laughs. But it’s easy to see Goodwin is proud of the serene space she’s created.
On Goodwin’s office wall hangs a plaque commemorating the sales of “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” by Modest Mouse, a framed memory of her success at Columbia Records—its colors also happen to coordinate with Facteur PR’s signature mint and pink hues. That may be coincidence, or perhaps it’s part of the branding Goodwin has so carefully curated for Factuer PR, from those signature colors to its streamlined Squarespace website and its French-originating name.
“Coming up with a name is absolute torture for me,” Goodwin admits now. Facteur is a French word that means both, literally, “postman,” or in English, “factor,” like the common factor in a complex issue. “I like the duality of the name,” Goodwin says.
The duality of the name also mimics the duality of Goodwin’s job. As the head of a PR firm, her job can seem glamorous: Goodwin “supports emerging and established brands and businesses through public relations, social media, content marketing, and digital creative efforts,” she says, and hob-knobs with writers at the nation’s most respected and infamous publications. (She’s landed clients in Food & Wine, Refinery 29, Bridal Guide, Men’s Health, Glamour, House Beautiful, and many more.)
But she also sends dozens of pitches each week into the Internet ether, without so much as a “no, thank you” in response. It can be a tough career, she admits. “I tell folks all the time, most of the time you’ll hear nothing more than you’ll hear a ‘yes,'” Goodwin says. “But those yeses totally are worth it, and they outweigh any no.”
In work and in life, Goodwin has faced plenty of those “no’s”—those challenges that, if they happened to someone without her special gritty and entrepreneurial spirit might push them to quit. But Goodwin has always had the gusto to push past them, even as a brand-new, wide-eyed college graduate in 2005.
Months after graduating with a journalism degree from the Ohio State University—and after months of serving as the college marketing representative for Sony BMG Music Entertainment—Goodwin was contacted by Columbia Records, a Sony subsidiary, and asked on a Tuesday if she’d be interested in interviewing for a position as a marketing coordinator in New York.
“I thought, I can’t book a ticket to New York City to interview for this job,” she recalls. At the time, Goodwin, 23, was a working as a waitress in her father’s restaurant, a Gold Star Chili in Cincinnati, and scraping by on tips. But she negotiated for time off, and “I drove overnight to New York,” she says. “I didn’t sleep at all, and I stayed at a friend’s house [to save]. But I got the job, and had this dream job right after college.”
What makes a woman get in the car and drive overnight to chase a job? It’s not the prospect of a steady paycheck. “I’ve always been kind of this optimistic dreamer,” Goodwin says. “And even though I lived in Cincinnati, which isn’t a small town by any means, I just had bigger aspirations knowing that there was more out there.”
She continues, “I felt that if I didn’t seize this opportunity, I could truly miss it. The job itself was very high stress, high paced, but I could not have asked for a better first job out of college.” And she met Billy Joel, Celine Dion, and Carly Simon there.
She had that dream job for all of two years, before a corporate restructuring led to a round of layoffs that included axing Goodwin’s position and dozens of other jobs.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened but I can’t say that, looking back, it was the worst thing that could have happened,” Goodwin says somberly now. “As someone new, fresh out of college, where all you see is the road ahead of you, all you see is an open road and endless possibility, it was devastating. It was definitely a slap of reality.”
Goodwin estimates she attended a dozen interviews in New York and Ohio in an attempt to find another job, but with the 2008 recession in full swing, she found nothing that fit, and returned home to work at her father’s Gold Star Chili locations.
Goodwin’s father immigrated with his family from Jordan, to Cincinnati where his family had already started the Gold Star Chili chain, a competitor to Skyline Chili.
“My father has always been in that business, even though he went to college to be an electrical engineer,” Goodwin says. “He took the entrepreneurship route, which I think he’s grateful for—but this is not a route for lazy people.” She reflects, “In that respect, too, entrepreneurship and working with small businesses has always been of interest to me and I think it really started with my family business in that regard.”
Within months, Goodwin interviewed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and moved to Cleveland—a move that would eventually lead her to opening up Facteur PR.
When Goodwin started Facteur PR two years ago, she was juggling the business with a full-time position at Hathaway Brown School as its assistant director of marketing and communications and a pregnancy. (Today, Goodwin has an 18-month-old daughter, Simone.)
“About two months after I launched Facteur [PR], meaning my website was up and I had a couple clients, I got pregnant,” Goodwin says. “I think a lot of women who are pregnant for the first time know that panic.” It was a sense of upheaval, of a higher power’s ironic timing—and later, of gratitude, as she realized the experience of so many milestones occurring simultaneously taught her valuable business lessons.
“… I wasn’t ready. I mean, I’m always, always working, and I knew I would never know it all—at least not to say, once and for all, ‘I’m smart enough, or I’m good enough.’ Those affirmations didn’t run through my head because I knew I would always be learning and growing.” — Reena S. Goodwin
“Being pregnant taught me how to manage my time a lot better,” she says. And “also, with a baby in the mix, I knew it wasn’t about me and my dreams at that point. It was about survival.” Her first two clients were friends, but her roster quickly grew.
Goodwin quit her job at the school in May. When asked how she knew she was ready to take Facteur PR full time, she says, “I would say that I wasn’t ready. I mean, I’m always, always working, and I knew I would never know it all—at least not to say, once and for all, ‘I’m smart enough, or I’m good enough.’ Those affirmations didn’t run through my head because I knew I would always be learning and growing.”
On the day that Goodwin put in her notice to Hathaway Brown School, a prospective client—Anne Hartnett of Harness Cycle—gave her a call. “She and I had been going back and forth for almost a year about working together,” Goodwin says. As she recalls, “I reached out to her and she was like, ‘I’d love to work with you.’ But we both had babies like a month apart from each other and we just couldn’t connect.”
But on this day, Hartnett called at just the right time, and Goodwin picked up her cell phone. Hartnett raved about their recent meeting—ready to sign on to Facteur PR—and before she hung up, mentioned she had an office available above her studio.
“‘Do you know anyone who might be interested in it?'” she asked Goodwin, hoping she might have a creative client interested in the space. But “right after I hung up the phone, it dawned on me: I was like, ‘Wait a minute. That could be me,'” Goodwin says. “And I was like, ‘No ,wait. I just quit my job. I don’t really have the funds to be able to pay rent on an office space.’ I just got really excited about it, but I gave it a couple days. I talked to my husband, who is the realist is our relationship. I’m like the idealist. I’m like, ‘Listen. What do you think?’ He had said I should go for it.”
Goodwin still argued with herself. But ultimately, “I knew I was already taking a risk by doing Facteur PR full time, but I also wanted to make my risk as worth it as possible, if that makes sense,” she says. With a dedicated office space, Goodwin told herself, she was making a mark on the Cleveland market. “It reminds me of how—I know this is silly, it’s just like a little office—but it’s another reminder of how far I’ve come kind of a thing,” Goodwin says.
3 Tips to Help You Sign On Your Ideal Clients
Take a look at Goodwin’s client list—FreeRange SkinCare, Liza Michelle Jewelry, Banyan Tree, Oak & Honey Events, and Harness Cycle, to just name a few—and you’ll quickly see she’s curated a roster of dream customers, mostly women whom Goodwin says she’s proud to represent. But Goodwin also admits she wasn’t lucky; it takes work to attract a client roster that looks as good as Goodwin’s does.
So, photographers, designers, shop owners, and business women—if you’re ready to have your dream clients come to you, Goodwin has three tips that you need to read today.
1. Like attracts like.
“Keep in mind that your brand is a reflection of who you are and what your mission and values are,” explains Goodwin. By making your mission and values apparent in your branding and on social media, you’ll find ideal clients come to you. “A brand that’s strong in its mission and values will attract like-minded clients,” she says.
2. Produce quality over quantity.
“I think so many folks are consumed with quantity, like, ‘I’ve gotta be on everything all the time,'” says Goodwin. That’s not the case, however, and taking on too much with too little effort could mean losing dream clients. “It’s been my professional and personal experience that if you are trying to attract a quality client, you should share quality content,” she says. “You want to walk the talk you’re saying is important.”
3. Make a connection.
“If someone really is your dream client, being a part of their community—whether that’s joining their email list or being actively engaged on their social media—is important,” says Goodwin. When the dream client sees you’re interacting in a non-transactional way, they may come to you. “It doesn’t have to be a sell at first. Just reach out and say, ‘I love your brand, and I’d love to connect with you sometime.'”
Goodwin is partnering with Modern CLE for its inaugural Behind the Story event. You can learn more and purchase tickets here.