Elizabeth L. Boineau, founder and owner of E. Boineau & Company, based in Charleston, S.C., is a 35 year+ veteran of the marketing communications and public relations industry. She offers extensive senior management experience in the public relations, marketing communications, media strategy and crisis communications for professional service firms, corporate entities, tourism/hospitality, cities/towns, chambers of commerce, non-profits and individuals. The agency also handles crisis communications challenges and Elizabeth routinely presents on that topic to national conferences. Before re-establishing E. Boineau & Company in Charleston in 2002 (she founded the firm originally on East Bay Street in downtown Charleston in 1990) Elizabeth served in senior management positions (1996-2002) with the three largest communications firms in the world - WPP for Hill & Knowlton in Los Angeles (managing director, marketing communications); Interpublic Group for Weber/Shandwick in Atlanta and Miami (EVP, corporate and energy); and Omnicom for Fleishman Hillard in Atlanta (SVP/healthcare). In these roles, she offered strategic communications planning, insight and counsel to develop and build the brand identity, awareness and reputation of leading companies and organizations.
What do you do best?
Being a “visionary with an eye for detail” is how management tests identified my management style early in my career, so I would say that helps on the entrepreneurial side of things. Writing well definitely helps too, and being able to articulate your point/position (or that of a client) and be genuinely convincing and persuasive because you have passion for it- that’s been helpful personally and professionally, I believe.
What makes you the best?
I have been at this business for a long time, and I love it. Being confident in your abilities, surrounding yourself with smart colleagues always and mentors early on who were in the forefront of their field, and never really thinking about gender stereotypes in the career setting- I just pretended they didn’t exist and chose to work through and around them if ever I sensed discrimination. I am sure I did early on- it was “that” era. I was working full time in a man’s world here in Charleston, S.C., back in the late 70s, early 80s. Also, working for “big agencies” around the country from 1996-2002 clearly gave me a depth of experience not that common in this market. That, and being organized, professional, determined and having the “killer instinct” gene, as my dad labels it, to win the deal/sale/account helps when it comes to new business development. Being fearless about the next challenge comes from confidence in your abilities, yet humble and grateful for every single opportunity you’re blessed to have.
What are your aspirations?
I would like to do more speaking/presenting to large groups coming through town and/or around the country. I have done a good bit of that but have not formally marketed it- they seem to find me, and I’m always grateful and enjoy the opportunity to train and inspire, motivate and inform on topics very familiar to me. The most frequent topic is crisis communications and media preparedness-it’s like a group media training that you can do in an hour or two. I’d like to write a book too- haven’t decided if it’s a PR/branding and/or crisis communications how-to or a romance novel (as a widow 20+years, that could be a “how to” or “how not to” as well😉).
Probably winning Addy Awards early in my career (local, regional, and national), early 80s and several National School PRSA awards mid-80s, then receiving the Ad Federation’s Silver Medal Award in 2012 are the most memorable. The national Addy Award for the campaign I chaired for Ad Fed of Charleston’s public service committee (Come See a Class Act) took me to the White House, and led me to being asked to take the post of director of communications for Charleston Country School District in 1984. I was the first woman in that role, in fact. There were 200 applicants, and I was personally recruited for it by then Superintendent Ron McWhirt, and even given a gentle shove in that direction by former Governor Dick Riley, who had just led the initiative to pass the extra penny tax for schools. That was a big career turning point for me and I was there until 1990, when I left to start E. Boineau & Company, which just marked 27 years this spring.
Most Challenging Moment?
I am sure it was agreeing to close my firm and move to LA to join my late husband in 1996. I said goodbye to amazing clients, wonderful team members and my life as an entrepreneur to take a big job with Hill & Knowlton and share a home with my husband, a native Californian, whom I was sure I could have convinced to move to Charleston. Alas, he went from being a consultant to buying a company and becoming its CEO. That was March, 1996. I started my new job April 6, 1996 and he died unexpectedly July 6, 1996. We had been married 19 months, lived together just three months. My move there and his sudden death took life and my career in a totally different direction than I had planned when I established my firm in 1990. The experience at the three big agencies (WPP, Weber Shandwick, Omnicom) was formidable but the stress of working in those settings and big clients, big budgets was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. At the last big agency of that six year “career adventure,” I started with a negative billing amount (a past due invoice in the six figures) and was sent to collect and renew the account, which I did. Over 2.5 years, I grew the healthcare billings to over two million and watched my team shrink from 12 to 8 due to cutbacks. Stress and exhaustion took on a new meaning. It was past time to get my life back and return to Charleston and start my own firm again. Best thing I ever did!
Two of my favorite quotes come from Mario Andretti:
“If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough.”
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
But I also cherish:
“Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for…”
Favorite People/Role Models?
I followed and read a lot of Tom Peters’ books- In Search of Excellence, Thriving on Chaos were some of my favorites; Al Ries and Martin Lindstrom come to mind in the branding world. I admire Sally Krawcheck tremendously, and I have known her father here in Charleston for years. She broke a lot of glass ceilings for women, and grew up in the deep South!
Take me to France, preferably Provence or Bordeaux, or the Rhone region, or to Italy- Tuscany region, any day. Domestically speaking, Yountville, CA, since I have partial ownership (due to my late husband) in The French Laundry, and have loved travelling to Napa and Sonoma for decades. I feel very fortunate to have a home on Edisto Island, an hour south of Charleston, and that’s a great getaway too, very close by.
Life without an I phone and I pad would be tough to handle- but imagine life without technology, the internet and social media. Still, if you take away books, I would be heart- broken for sure. Oh, and the news!
I am excited about a couple of national prospects who found us recently, and about seeing our clients experience incredible success—nothing could make me happier than seeing them and my team thrive professionally and personally.