Hailing originally from Texas, Trey Ditto cut his teeth working for the Associated Press in Dallas and quickly moved into the political sphere, advising legislators and elected officials on their communications strategies. Ultimately this lead him to Washington D.C. where he worked for various political leaders and landed with a position as the deputy press secretary for U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, handling local and national media and external relations on K-12 and higher education issues.
In 2007 Trey moved to New York City and expanded the scope of his communications work beyond politics and worked with PR firms whose clients included Nelson Mandela, Oliver Stone, Lionsgate Films, Tribeca Film Festival, Bank of America, and more. But within the PR industry, Trey experienced a lot of practices he didn’t like, “mostly over-promising and under-delivering.”
And so he founded Ditto PR to run a media relations company the way he believed it should be. Since first starting out, working at coffee shops and kitchen tables, Ditto PR has grown leaps and bounds each year, increasing its revenue, expanding its client roster, and the company is now headquartered in a beautiful South Williamsburg office where Trey and his team of 8 full-time staffers work every day.
I recently caught up with Trey Ditto for a coffee at Marlow and Sons to talk about the growth and changes of the neighborhood and his business.
Greenpointers: What is you favorite thing about Greenpoint/Williamsburg? What’s a typical day for you in the neighborhood?
Trey Ditto: I love the neighborhood during the week when the tourists have left. There’s such an amazing friendly, local vibe, and I try to really take that in during the week when there’s time to stop in and say hi to the owner of La Superior or my coffee guy at SweetLeaf. Having worked in Greenpoint and now South Williamsburg, I’ve come to appreciate the cultural nuances of this area, which includes the Polish, Hasidic and Hispanic communities.
I walk to work, and I know this sounds corny, but I make it a point to say good morning to people I walk by. I think the people that live and work in Williamsburg and Greenpoint need to better embrace their community. I walk past VICE and try not to laugh at the pendulum of underpaid hipsterdom rolling their own cigarettes or adjusting their man buns. And then I go to Gourmet Guild for my coffee.
GP: When did you move to Brooklyn? When you first started your business, what were some of the early lessons you learned?
TD: I moved to Williamsburg from the East Village 4 years ago. Some people reading this will think that’s a good amount of time while others will roll their eyes and murmur about living here since the 90s. My PR firm started out of Pudge Knuckles and grew into a space in The Yard in Greenpoint. We keep growing and now have two office spaces in South Williamsburg near Diner and are looking at commercial space to buy.
I’ve always been a good PR person – and not in that sleazy PR way. But good in the sense that I was honest with my clients and actually did the work. So, we get a steady flow of tech companies hiring us by word of mouth. Every lesson I’ve learned along the way revolved around professional development and culture. Figuring out what motivates my staff, how to do I attract top talent and quite frankly, how do I retain employees. It has been a fun process figuring out what makes people tick.
GP: What are the most important things to consider when moving from “freelance” to “business owner”?
TD: It’s a huge leap going from being good at something to becoming an entrepreneur to becoming a small business owner. First, find someone who has already gone through it that you can get advice from. Second, find a good accountant who can make sure you are paying company taxes on time. Third, keep looking ahead when it comes to hiring, new business, growth, etc. That’s the hardest part. Every year has been a great year for my company and it would be easy to sit back and assume it will grow on its own. But the hard work comes into pushing yourself to keep this thing you created moving up the hill.
GP: Can you please describe your business growth, from political/financial clients to including tech and otherwise? Staff increase, office needs, pitfalls?
TD: Every year our revenue doubles, but this didn’t just happen by accident. After the first year and half, things were great. I had an office and a few staffers and an intern, but there were sectors that I thought we’d have clients in and we didn’t. That’s when I made the decision to pursue new business rather than sit back and wait for people to come to me. As a result, half of our clients are in the financial technology and education technology space. But it took a lot of work finding those companies, the right contact at those companies and then cold email and calling them. We secured 5 new clients though simply based on the amazing work our team had done in the past. People like to see results.
We are at 8 full time staffers now, and while growth is great, I believe there needs to be stability too. So, I’m not looking to grow much more this year. I’m really happy with the team in place, and I want us to grow together as individuals and as a group.
GP: Any advice for local businesses looking for coverage or publicity?
TD: First, this neighborhood needs to come together better. Especially in the retail space, Brooklyn businesses are trying to attract the same customer yet they don’t compete against each other. Think about it: tourists love being told by locals what to do. The person that buys clothes at Concrete + Water should be sent to Franklin Street to find something vintage and then to Northern Territory for a drink and then Brooklyn Star for dinner. But we aren’t working together as a community to do this.
In terms of publicity, the media loves timely stories. So, first is there something significant already happening – like a new season or a holiday? Second, build relationships with reporters. Just email a few and tell them you liked a story they wrote. I think local reporters want to help local businesses, so ask for their help or opinion.
GP: What do you see as the future for the neighborhood? Are you concerned about the L train shutdown?
TD: No one can deny a new genre of person is moving here. Women not going to yoga casually wear LuLu Lemon on a Tuesday afternoon, and men park their white (leased) BMWs and Mercedes at 1 North 4th and adjust their “world’s smallest man bun” in their black jeans and red plaid shirts they probably bought at Rag and Bone. These are the same guys that sweatingly wear sag back hats well into the summer, I only assume to look like the lead singer of a boy band I’m unaware of. Are you Zayn or Harry? Justin? So, residentially, the neighborhood is expanding. People are moving farther north and west in Greenpoint and farther south (like past Broadway) in Williamsburg. As more rental buildings get built, the identity and the core of this neighborhood will change. I think it will still be a cool, laid back place to live and work, but more people will be acting the role instead of actually being it – if that makes sense.
The L Train shutting down is going to be good and bad. Everyone who comes here looks like they are going to Coachella. Seriously, when did festival attire just become the norm? So, on one hand, I’m glad the L train will shut down because it will keep out annoying tourists. It will also discourage people from moving here. So, maybe Williamsburg needs a year off? On the other hand, local businesses are going to struggle and the behemoths like Whole Foods and Equinox will be left standing when the L train is back up. It’s why our community has to come together to support each other.
To learn more about Trey Ditto and Ditto PR visit DittoPR.co