Give more than you get. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also a proven strategy for success. Business is a repeating game. When the person on the other side of the table — be it a reporter, a partner, or an employee — feels that they got the better end of the deal, they’ll keep coming back. With a scarcity mindset, you’ll fail, and you’ll also be a miserable human being. Adopt an abundance mentality, foster goodwill, and you’ll ultimately reap the results.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nathan Miller.
Nathan Miller is the founder and CEO of Miller Ink, a full-service strategic communications firm based in Los Angeles. Nathan is a communications strategist sought out by executives at the highest levels of business, government, and the non-profit world, who has helped dozens of organizations tell their stories better — and navigate complex issues and crises spanning the globe.
Before founding Miller Ink in 2013, Nathan was the Director of Speechwriting for Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, serving as a senior communications adviser and the chief speechwriter for Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor. Nathan also served as the policy director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and as a Goldman Fellow at the Transatlantic Institute, a think tank in Brussels, Belgium.
Nathan has been recognized by OC Metro as one of Southern California’s “40 most inspiring entrepreneurs under 40.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
There so many in my line of work, most of which can’t be published.
I’ll share one particularly memorable moment. The morning of the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, I landed in Phoenix to give a keynote speech to an audience of more than 4,000 Jewish community members at a major conference. Shortly before my speech and about an hour after the shooting, a neo-Nazi was able to infiltrate the event and unfurled a giant Nazi flag. He started shouting anti-Semitic slurs before he was hauled away by security. I felt a deep sense of purpose as I stood up at the podium after that and spoke to 4000 Jews about what had just happened — and the importance of fighting anti-Semitism.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At my first agency job, I drafted a press release announcing a major deal between a financial services client and a tech client with placeholder quotes for both parties. The financial services company sent back the release as “approved”. I assumed that they had approved the partner’s quote as well. That was a big mistake. I was traveling the morning the release went out. I crashed in my hotel room after flying all night — and woke up to 30 missed calls and a livid supervisor at the agency. The partners quote had been published in several major papers, who saw it and was livid. We had to scramble to correct it. That incident taught me the importance of paying attention to every detail, and of always triple checking my work. I often share it with associates at our firm.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are blessed with a wide variety of mission-driven clients who are not only leaders in their industries, but who care deeply about making the world a better place. I am proud to be able to help them maximize their efforts to effect social good and get customers involved in revolutionary ways. During the current pandemic, rather than simply turning inward to focus on surviving and thriving in this strange new world, our clients have also spearheaded initiatives that harness their unique areas of expertise to help as many people as possible. Our current projects include:
- implementing a social media campaign for a fashion brand offering gift cards to anyone who sews more than 50 masks for front-line workers. This campaign resulted in the production of more than 1 million masks.
- helping a social impact fintech startup revolutionize the way we treat essential workers and support them in original ways.
- reimagining how to talk about affordable housing and innovating ways to make it more available to people across the country.
- conceiving and executing a global virtual program for a major philharmonic orchestra working on supporting musicians and the arts during this time.
- assisting the President of Israel in a major collaboration related to promoting connection between Israel and the Diaspora.
- supporting a venture coordinating the donation of PPE and gifts to hospitals across L.A. County.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Give more than you get. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also a proven strategy for success. Business is a repeating game. When the person on the other side of the table — be it a reporter, a partner, or an employee — feels that they got the better end of the deal, they’ll keep coming back. With a scarcity mindset, you’ll fail, and you’ll also be a miserable human being. Adopt an abundance mentality, foster goodwill, and you’ll ultimately reap the results.
- Understand the importance of compounding investments. The idea of compounding is central to everything in life. If you accumulate friends and connections, the benefit of your network grows over time. If you accumulate enemies and negative associations, the cost to your success also grows over time. In other words, every positive or negative impression you make makes a difference, and a good name is worth its weight in gold.
- Train yourself to listen to others. As a culture, we’ve become too busy and self-centered to give someone else our full attention. Next time you’re talking to a client, a colleague, or a family member, ask yourself: What is this person really trying to say? If you can take a step back to fully focus on another person, your relationships and negotiation skills will improve exponentially. I developed this skill during my training as a musician, and it’s something I look for in anyone I hire.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of good writing. As any athlete will tell you, mastering a sport takes time, attention, and sometimes-painful training. Good writing is no different. As communication professionals, writing is the tool of our trade. The words we use don’t just convey information, they shape our message and the world’s perception of our brand and our clients’ brands.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. You never have full insight into what’s going on in another person’s life. You don’t know their motivations or what happened immediately prior to your interaction to make them behave the way they did. So why not be humble and assume they mean well? If you do this regularly, you’ll be far happier and more successful than if you think everyone is out to take advantage of you.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Networking isn’t just about knowing whom to call; it’s about investing in reciprocal relationships. When you gain a reputation as a person of integrity who says yes whenever they can to help others, people will feel good about helping you out.
I still remember the people who went out of their ways to come through for me when I started my business. I’ll always be grateful for them, and I’ll always be glad to take their calls and do whatever I can to make a difference for them.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Most of our business comes through referrals from current or previous clients. The best way to get new clients is to build a reputation for doing a good job with the clients you have.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I gleaned so many great insights from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. One takeaway that has impacted the way I work is that the human brain is only capable of 2–3 hours a day of really creative thinking. Carving out time in the workday for deep thinking takes effort, but if you spend all day answering emails, you won’t be able to do the work that requires your unique focus and skills.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We need to make structural investments in public health and science to address the range of health challenges in front of us, including global pandemics like COVID.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.