Conversations: Kate Colley Owner of Colley Communications, Vancouver
Meet Kate Colley. She is a media specialist and principal at one of British Columbia's top PR firms. Colley Communications is in its 11th successful year of business, with an impressive list of clients. And she inspires us.
What originally drew you to public relations and/or marketing?
After doing my BA, I was really inspired by travel and tourism. I was looking at Rick Steves and thought he had a very cool job writing about travel. I decided to take a tourism and travel management program and later landed an internship with Christine Coletta. I didn’t know about food and wine PR. Working for Christine changed everything. If you work hard for her, she really gets behind you. She showed me how work could be fun, different and interesting. I had a taste of lifestyle PR and thought it would be a good fit for me.
What made you decide to strike out and establish your agency?
I had worked for Tourism Vancouver for six years and learned a great deal. I started as a Media Coordinator, then became the Travel and Trade Media Manager, responsible for promoting Vancouver to global markets. It was high level and everything I learned set me up to own an agency. I jumped in with both feet and made a bold move to the Okanagan when I initially started my firm. All I did was work!
Are there specific challenges you faced being a woman in the industry? If so, how did you deal with it?
I don’t feel like I have had any specific challenges being a woman. Having Christine Coletta as a first boss and mentor demonstrated what was possible. She showed me how you could have success, command respect and be a professional even when working from home with your dogs around while wearing sweatpants. She showed me how hard she worked, and what I could achieve.
Women tend to undervalue themselves, so one essential thing is to set your price properly from the beginning. When you initially set your price, take what you think you’re worth and add 25 percent. Clients who pay your full rate will allow you the freedom to choose your passion projects.
What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?
You don’t have the structure of a typical job or regular hours. You don’t work less, you definitely work more. You can get into the habit of obsessively working, especially in the early years. As a contractor, you are always worried about how much work you have and what’s coming along. So you take on more and more to make sure you don’t run out.
What do you love about it?
I love the variety; I love that I can take on 10 different projects at the same time. I love as I get older, I can catch a glimpse of my knowledge and why my clients pay me. It’s good to recognize your value.
What inspires you?
I feel happy in my life, I have a great husband and kids. I have a good perspective about it and am always grateful for what I have. I have a flexible career which commands a certain amount of respect. It’s a hard-won appreciation for how lucky I am. These things inspire me
What frightens you?
As I get older, I wonder if I’m still relevant, or if I will become obsolete, less valuable. That scary voice hits you at certain times and leaves you with twinges of self-doubt. My mortgage frightens me and the cost of living in Vancouver.
Many of your clients are in the hospitality industry, is that coincidence?
It’s what I know best. There is PR for many industries, but hospitality is the business I know and love. It’s fun, and I have personal connections to it. I stuck to my wheelhouse and what you learn you bring to your next client. Each client teaches you something.
Do you have any advice for young women starting off in this industry?
There is a sense of glamour and ease in the industry, but it’s hard work and long hours. There are plenty of perks, helping people, fancy events, but on the flipside, you need to put in the time. It’s more work than people think.