A SEASONED PROMOTER
Media Star Promotions
Media Star Promotions specializes in the marketing of highly regulated products and services. In the 1980s, the company got its start promoting bars, but it has since expanded to a full-service national agency. For nearly three decades, the company has been headed up by former mortgage banker Carin Lazarus.
Q: How did you get the idea for Media Star Promotions?
A: In the summer of 1987, I was a mortgage banker and the savings and loan crisis hit Maryland. When the association I was working for fell under federal investigation, I left to explore other opportunities. At the time, my husband Brian was running a music entertainment company and was a key player in Baltimore nightlife. When his colleagues heard that I was unemployed, they started to approach me for help with some internal marketing efforts (grand opening events, weekly promotions, etc.). One evening, I was sitting at a bar with a friend who was in promotions at a local radio station. We started talking about needing sponsorship money for a charity event that we were working on, and a question came up regarding sponsorship from local liquor companies. Current regulations of the day made it illegal for them to participate in promotional activities in the state. We thought that there had to be a way to work with them, so I went to the State Liquor Board to chat. It was determined at that meeting, that because I was a “third unlicensed party,” I could promote on behalf of others with a license. Asking one question opened the door to the forming of Media Star Promotions and developed a conduit through which liquor companies could support consumers in the state.
Q: One of the first things Media Star did was help promote bars. How have your services evolved since then?
A: Although we started out doing local bar promotions in the Baltimore/DC area, we have since expanded our offerings significantly. Media Star is now a full-service national agency providing experiential marketing, branding, strategic planning, design and program execution for Fortune 500 companies.
Q: A lot of your employees have been with you for 10 years or more. How do you explain that longevity?
A: Media Star is a close-knit, family-like agency. Although we are a large organization with more than 1,400 employees and offices in 31 U.S. cities, we are committed to operating as a small, privately owned company. We pride ourselves on creating a team-oriented environment that fosters personal and professional growth opportunities for all of our staff members. We understand the value of the human capital that we are lucky enough to have discovered and cultivated, and we make it a tenet of our business model to invest in our personnel in ways that drive not only longevity, but loyalty, which is far more important.
Q: Media Star does a lot of high-stakes work, including promotions of regulated products such as cigarettes and pesticides. How do you ensure employees don’t get overwhelmed?
A: We do specialize in the marketing of highly regulated products and services. This specialization is a result of years of experience driving continuous improvement of training and development processes. These processes are designed to enhance our staff members’ ability to become experts on pertinent regulations and their impact on acceptable execution practices. Information breeds confidence, so we make sure that even the most complex regulatory controls are imparted to our staff in a common-sense fashion. We are always looking to improve upon our systems, and this continuous-improvement approach helps us expedite the learning curve and achieve an increased level of expertise year over year.
Q: How have you traditionally approached business development at Media Star, and how is that changing?
A: What is surprising to many is that the exponential growth of our company has not been a function of actively investing in B2B sales strategies and traditional business development practices. Business development at Media Star has historically been a function of viral industry word of mouth and probably a small amount of luck. Ironically, our success can be explained based on the same influencer strategy that we have executed for many of our clients. We spend our time and energy effectively marketing the brands that we represent, project upon project and year after year. As a result of our stellar design and execution of marketing strategies, our clients feel compelled to both invest more heavily in the services that we offer and recommend us for other marketing projects both within and beyond their organizations.
Q: Media Star was recently certified as a woman-owned business. How will that help you compete?
A: We understand the importance of supplier diversity to our current and future clients. After being founded by and successfully run for nearly three decades by a woman, Media Star has recently taken a step to file as Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). This move allows us to provide our clients with the ability to officially get credit for what they have unofficially done all along — hiring diverse suppliers like Media Star, who have the capabilities to over-deliver on their marketing objectives.
Q: Having led your own company for 29 years, what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
A: Hang in there. Running a business can be a thankless job at times; remember what motivated you in the first place. Understand that hindsight is always 20/20; don’t beat yourself up playing the “what if” game. You can’t change the past, but you can use it to learn and apply it towards your future. Always work hard, but also remember to have some fun along the way. You will spend one third of your life at work. Make sure that it’s someplace you want to be.