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VOL. 122 | NO. 41 | Monday, March 5, 2007

Obsidian Public Relations 'Makes Today a Great Day' for Clients

By Rosalind Guy

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MAKING WAVES: Obsidian Public Relations' staff members (left to right) Jessica Neal, Courtney Liebenrood and Christy Racy, have quickly developed an impressive client list. -- Photo By Rosalind Guy
"The laptop and the Blackberry don't come out when I'm spending time with my kids. But after they go to bed at night, that's all right."
-Courtney Liebenrood
Founder, Obsidian Public Relations

Every morning when Courtney Liebenrood drops her 7-year-old daughter Savannah off at school, she tells her to "Make today a great day."

That farewell statement, opposed to the usual "Have a good day," has an important meaning. Liebenrood said she tells her daughter that because she wants to instill in her the belief that she has to make it a good day, rather than letting the day, or even herself, be defined by circumstances.

That positive outlook has served Liebenrood well during the past year as she has worked to grow her firm, Obsidian Public Relations, into a success.

Quick success

When she started the firm a year ago, Liebenrood had two clients - her former employer, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., and Weichert, Realtors - Chapman & Associates, which is owned by her sister, Amy Chapman.

Now her portfolio has grown to include more than 40 clients, including the bioscience technology company Luminetx Corp., accounting firm Cannon Wright Blount PLLC, Bonne Terre Country Inn in Nesbit, Miss., and the firm's newest client, nonprofit organization Porter-Leath Children's Center.

And not only has Liebenrood's client portfolio grown since she launched Obsidian Feb. 1 of last year, her staff also has grown. Last month, Liebenrood beefed up her staff by hiring two former colleagues from the communications department at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., Jessica Neal and Cristy Racy.

Racy was named account manager and Neal was named account executive at the firm.

Having Neal and Racy on board will allow Liebenrood to focus on the development of the business.

Different services for different needs

Of the more than 40 clients the firm has, Liebenrood said about half are on retainer.

"We work with them year-round," she said. "They make us feel like a part of the team."

Obsidian works with its other clients on an as-needed project basis.

At Obsidian, a gamut of services is provided to help clients "tell their story."

For some business owners, the concept of public relations can seem like an intangible idea, Liebenrood said. But one of her aims is to let them see the results of her work.

Those results differ from client to client.

For Bonne Terre, the results could come in the form of an increase in the number of guests at the inn.

For a biotechnology firm such as Luminetx, a successful public relations campaign can be measured by looking at the amount of local and national media coverage given to any of their latest technological advances.

And since Luminetx announced its premiere product - the VeinViewer Imaging System - the firm has received coverage in newspapers and magazines across the country.

The VeinViewer allows doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to see through the skin to patients' veins before drawing blood, inserting an IV or starting other procedures involving a needle stick.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare was the first medical system to buy the device, announcing within recent weeks it would buy nine of the machines to be used throughout its hospital system.

Working relationships

A trend Racy and Liebenrood said they have seen recently is having more companies wanting to revamp their Web sites.

Obsidian currently is involved in redoing the Web site for Benefit Recovery Inc. While Obsidian doesn't directly handle the technical side of Web site development, they do assist with content and seeing the process through to the end.

For those types of projects, Liebenrood said her firm serves as the project manager and usually partners with companies such as Rocket Science Design. She also said even though her company hasn't developed the logos for the companies she works with, Obsidian does serve as what she calls the "brand stewards."

Learning the ropes

Liebenrood, who spent nearly a decade working in public relations at Baptist, said she has faced a number of challenges, or "speed bumps," in getting the business up and running.

Though she was solid in the writing and creative side of things, Liebenrood had to learn how to be an entrepreneur. And part of being an entrepreneur was learning she can't do everything herself, advice she said she often received from her father, who was president and CEO at Hardin's Sysco in Memphis.

"A good leader knows how to delegate responsibilities," she said.

Another lesson she's had to learn is how to keep balance in her life. As a single mother of two, Liebenrood has set certain rules for herself so she is able to keep family first.

"The laptop and the Blackberry don't come out when I'm spending time with my kids," she said with a laugh. "But after they go to bed at night, that's all right."

The attitude she carries to work ties back to the simple statement Leibenrood makes to her daughter every morning: She's determined to make every day a great day.

And that's not so difficult when you're doing something that you love. And, with a smile, Liebenrood declares she loves what she's doing.

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