The Common Sense Colloquy: Q&A with Tanya Churchmuch of MuchPR and The Change Agencies
We don’t talk as much about our work on equity in this series as we should so we’re addressing that omission. One way is to highlight the work of our colleagues and business partners in The Change Agencies, the national network of multicultural and LGBTQ owned and operated public relations agencies we helped launch in June of 2019.
This month, we’re shining a spotlight on the agency leaders we have the pleasure and privilege of collaborating with to run The Change Agencies: LaTricia Harper Woods of Mahogany Xan Communications and Tanya Churchmuch of MuchPR. Both of these inspiring business leaders will be the subject of a monthly Q&A. We’re starting with Tanya this month and will profile LaTricia next month.
Tanya is the founder of MuchPR, an independent, boutique public relations agency representing travel, culinary and lifestyle brands. Tanya is based in New York City but works with clients across the continent. She founded MuchPR in January 2015 (the same month we started!) after working in-house for Tourisme Montreal, where she oversaw the International Media Relations and Travel Trade team, as well as all the destination’s LGBTQ market efforts. Prior to that, Tanya was a journalist in Canada and was one of the first openly LGBTQ television news anchors in the country.
Tanya has more than 25 years of media relations, communications, travel writing and on-air television journalism experience and it shows. She has spoken at many travel conferences including TBEX, the Women in Travel Summit, FITUR, ASTA Global Convention, ITB Berlin, Salón de Turismo Sao Paulo, GNetworks 360 Buenos Aires, Community Marketing Annual Travel Conference, several International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) Conventions and more. She is a member of the IGLTA Hall of Fame, serves on the Advisory Board of the Women in Travel Summit and is an associate member of the Society of American Travel Writers.
I’ve known Tanya for more than a dozen years and I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with her over the past four years as we worked with LaTricia and a small team of other industry leaders to build The Change Agencies. Tanya is a smart, savvy voice in any conversation and always brings an important perspective to client and other project considerations. I consider myself lucky to call her friend and colleague. As we shine a spotlight on The Change Agencies in the Common Sense Colloquy series, I’m happy to also highlight the work Tanya has done to help us move forward.
My thanks to Tanya for sharing her wisdom with us – and you.
Q: Why is an initiative like The Change Agencies needed? What role do you see it filling in the marketplace?
A: While many companies and organizations talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, there remains a serious institutional lack of knowledge and authentic voices filling that gap. Diversity shouldn’t simply be a box to check, it is an essential part of doing business today, from both a human respect perspective as well as a best business practice. Studies show that a highly diverse environment can improve team performance by up to 30%. Diversity can also lead to better decision-making and higher profitability. But if it’s not authentic and doesn’t include the diverse voices you are trying to connect with, you will fail. That’s where The Change Agencies can play an important role. We are seasoned, experienced professionals who are part the diverse communities that businesses and organizations are trying to reach.
Q: Why should clients hire one or more of The Change Agencies to help them “change the way” they “communicate across cultures?” What benefits do you see from organizations hiring us?
A: We have spent our careers championing this narrative, often because we felt it wasn’t being understood, recognized, or utilized by our colleagues and clients. All of The Change Agencies partner and member agencies have diverse communications as a founding pillar of the work we do. We are part of these communities, and we value its importance. Our unique expertise cannot be matched by bigger firms because when you hire The Change Agencies, you will be working with senior level communicators who would not normally be involved in the day-to-day teams at larger agencies. We bring our lifetime of knowledge and experience to the table in unique, effective ways to help your organization be more successful.
Q: How has your career experience helped you in building and managing The Change Agencies? What lessons have you learned that have applied to this work?
A: One of the most important things I’ve learned in my career is that being my open and authentic self is good for business. There aren’t many out lesbians in the PR industry generally, even less in senior positions. But it’s when I’m embracing this part of myself and not worrying about what people will think of me being a lesbian that I’m able to focus on bringing the best version of myself to the table. Part of building a successful business is having hard or uncomfortable conversations, especially as it relates to DEI. It’s difficult to do this if you’re feeling like your sexuality, gender identity, or cultural identity should be muted. By embracing and supporting our full selves at The Change Agencies, we can successfully have these conversations and bring our A game to the table for both our team and our clients.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you’ve received?
A: Listen and learn before you reply.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you've given to others?
A: Never lie or deflect, especially when you’re in a difficult situation. Honesty is always the best policy, even if it’s painful. Once you’ve admitted to a problem, it allows you to apologize and explain how you will do better and why you want to do better.