Last year, during the research-and-development phase of creating my travel website, one of the people I sought advice from was Anna Crowe. The CEO of San Diego-based Crowe PR runs a public relations and marketing firm that represents a wide swath of clients, including five Kimpton hotels and several other hospitality industry brands.
She’s just released her first book: Get Real: The Power of Genuine Leadership, a Transparent Culture and an Authentic You.
Crowe, a longtime friend, is flying high these days. Over the last four years, Crowe PR has grown to be an award-winning staff of 10 full-time employees, with billables between $1-2 million and a new remote office in New York City. She’s also an adjunct marketing professor at the University of San Diego.
While we were brainstorming website names, I ran Junkets & Jaunts up the flagpole. Crowe shook her head, as if to say, get real. Then we realized she’d thought I said Junkets & Johns—which might be a fit, albeit a risqué one, for a site servicing the world’s oldest profession, but not travel.
My first-person takeaway: All of her branding and marketing advice was genuine and authentic. I’d advise you to take notice of her book. Achieving authenticity is a key tenet. The book is primarily aimed at helping 20- and 30-somethings get ahead of the personal development curve, but offers wisdom for anybody seeking to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Q&A With Anna Crowe
Junkets & Jaunts: What was your motivation to write this book?
Anna Crowe: Initially, I was working on a book about motherhood. I put that aside for a couple years, and when I went back to working on a book the topic of authenticity was something I felt very passionate about.
J&J: There’s the famous show biz joke: “Authenticity is great—if you can fake it you’ve got it made.” How does someone create genuine authenticity?
AC: It starts with figuring out who you are, and with understanding that even if you’re unsure in your personal or professional life that the key to your happiness is being your most real self. I spent 20 years of my career changing jobs. Each time, I learned what I’m passionate about and what I needed to adjust to be my most real self.
J&J: How do you personally bring authenticity to your workplace?
AC: I encourage my team to bring their best self to work and to add their voice to the conversation. Everyone has a unique perspective, and not everybody should be managed the same way. Some people want to make money. Some want recognition and some want to grow.
All of our Monday meetings start with a “gratitude” session that we share with each other. I encourage open communication at our office. We also have quarterly retreats that are out of the office, and we have been doing leadership training.
I encourage authenticity and showcase how to do it. It really is hard to teach someone to be themselves. I try to offer practical tips and recommendations.
J&J: Herb Kelleher, the late founder of Southwest Airlines, didn’t believe the customer was always right. His goal was to take care of his employees, with the idea that happy employees would do right by the customers. How does that fit into your model of authenticity?
AC: I’m in 100 percent agreement with that. [Virgin Group founder] Richard Branson does the same thing, and I’m a big fan of Sir Richard. If you have a transparent culture, and you know the person working beside you is there to support you and lift you up, not to compete with you and bring you down, then that will be transferred to your clients and customers.
J&J: In the travel sector, how do you promote clients with authenticity and encourage them to be authentic?
AC: I need to be in alignment with the core values of the clients we have. It’s not a list of boxes that have to be checked. But if a client doesn’t want to communicate with us, or be transparent or authentic, it makes it hard for our team to do its best work.
Kimpton, for example, was ranked number five on the 2019 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. That’s because of similar leadership tactics. With some big brands, you need 17 approvals before you can make a decision. That’s ridiculous. You need to be trusted by your management team to make decisions.
J&J: Junkets & Jaunts aims to be authentic—is it accurate to say it’s one of your favorite travel sites?
AC: (Pause). Yes, you can quote me on that. You said Junkets & Jaunts, right? J&J