Convention of Statesmen


Interview with Doug Johnston, President of Sublime Expressions Public Relations & Marketing

Today, Doug Johnston of Sublime Expressions Public Relations & Marketing has dropped by Dream a little dream . . . to visit with us. Doug, as many people will recall, was the brilliant publicist and marketer of Cedar Fort, Inc. before a contract caused the parting of their ways. Authors from across the nation begged him to launch his own company, and yes, I was amongst those requesting the launch of Sublime Expressions. As soon as the company was launched I signed right up and formalizing the launching of my speaking career.

So, let's dive right in.

Doug, please tell us a little about your history, both personal and professional.

Let’s start with the personal history. My parents divorced when I was one, so I was raised by my mother who loved me and always encouraged me to follow my dreams. She was my biggest supporter throughout my life. When I was in third grade, my mom remarried my step-dad. He was also a very big supporter of me and everything I have ever done. My step -dad was in the U.S. Air force and I lived in Spain for four years and then Mississippi for two more years. They took time off of work to go to all of my sporting activities, acting activities, etc. They have now both passed, but I still think of them both every day.

Professionally, I started my career working several different odd jobs. I worked in bowling centers when I was in Junior High and High School. I then managed a convenience store, worked as a painter. By the time my first son was born, I started working at Kimberly-Clark, in Northern Utah, making Huggies diapers. I worked there for thirteen years and hated every minute of it. By the time I left there I had five children. I struggled for years knowing that I was meant to serve a greater purpose. When I was in high school, I dreamed of being a writer when I graduated from college, but a school counselor told me that I should pursue something else. This dream never died for me, and after thirteen years of diaper making, I knew I couldn’t spend another thirteen years doing the same job I hated.

In 1999, I decided that I needed a change. I wanted to forge a relationship with my real dad. After all, I had spent most of my life with my mother and step-dad, moving all over. I moved my family to Morgan, Utah, where I was born. I approached the local newspaper in Morgan and offered to volunteer my services to learn the business and get my feet wet in the newspaper business. I really wanted to have a venue to tell my stories. They declined to let me work for them so I started a competing newspaper in the same market. Soon after, they ended up selling their newspaper to my mother and I became the publisher of The Morgan County News. The Morgan County News has been in business since 1923 and I was proud to continue the legacy. I ran the local Morgan paper until late 2007.

In 2006, I married the love of my life, Tawna. She has a great job with a local insurance carrier in South Jordan, Utah, so the 140 mile daily commute for her to get to work became burdensome. During this same time frame, my mother’s health continued to fail. I realized that the only way I could properly take care of both my wife and mother, was to find a home in the Salt Lake Valley so my wife would be closer to work and my mother could live with us so we could care for her properly. We moved to Riverton, Utah in January of 2007. I managed to publish The Morgan County News remotely for about eleven months, but it became increasingly difficult to keep in the loop of the happenings of Morgan, when we lived 73 miles away. In December of 2007, I sold The Morgan County News to Chris VanCampen. Again, I was wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up!

I looked for work for a few weeks when I saw an ad that really intrigued me. It was working for a small book publisher in Utah County. I was the Public Relations Manager/Publicist. From my first day of work, I loved working with authors and being a publicist. The problem was, after working there for six months, they demanded that I sign a very, very bad non-compete contract. I talked with an attorney, and they told me that it was the worst non-compete agreement they had seen, so I told them I wouldn’t sign it. I was fired on the spot. That day, on my way home I called a friend, and she said, “Doug, you are the best publicist in the LDS market, why don’t you start your own public relations company”. So, that night I gave my last post on the blog I started with 23 authors and the message was clear. If I started a public relations/publicity company, I would have a lot of people follow me. I discussed this with my wife and she gave me her blessing. She had seen how much I loved working for the authors at my prior job. Thus, Sublime Expressions Public Relations & Marketing was born.

How did you get into the marketing end of the “book business?”

When I started at the book company as the publicist, I was set at a desk and said, we fired the girl that had this job before you, and you will have to look at her notes to see what she did. Two weeks later, I had spent over 150 hours taking a crash course in learning what was not working in the book business. I decided to change some things, and fast. They didn’t even know all of the contact numbers or e-mail addresses for their own authors. I began by creating a database of all of the authors with their contact information and book listings. I started by picking up the phone and talking to the authors and finding out what had been done to market their book and what they felt could be improved. I asked them, what would be important to them to feel adequately represented. Most of them didn’t know what a media kit even was. In my prior life as a newspaper man, I received countless media kits requesting book, movies and music reviews. I knew what grabbed my attention and what would inspire me to make time to read their book or view their videos, etc. I took these principals, as well as my marketing and sales experience and applied these principles to book-selling. At the time, I think there were less than 10 authors that were actively blogging. Most hadn’t done a book signing, EVER. So, I reinvented the wheel and started emailing them, talking to them on the phone, and taking them to lunch. Big things started happening very fast. The sales numbers were up, the morale was up and I loved this job.

What brought you to public relations?

As I mentioned above, after I sold the newspaper business, I knew I wanted to stay in the media business and I read the ad for a publicist for a local publisher and thought to myself, I am uniquely qualified for this position! I had a lot of contacts, knowledge of book reviews, setting up events, etc. from when I produced, directed and wrote musicals. I also brought musical acts to the area, and was a big fundraiser while running the paper. Also, if I don’t know the answer, I find it out from others, as they do to me. So, I learn every day, and I put up the numbers. Some agencies are already wondering how I do it. It isn’t a secret. Be nice to people, do what you say you are going to do, and treat them right. Soon, they tell their friends and the business takes off. When I started the first newspaper I had less than $13 in my pocket. I ended up getting the profile talked about on KSL Radio, the biggest radio station in Utah, and I knew then, that I had something about taking businesses and making them better.

What do you hope to accomplish with Sublime Expressions Public Relations & Marketing?

I would love to make every client more successful. I am very selective of who I work with. Most agencies will work with anyone if they have money. I tell people, if they have a book that I don’t think will work with my company, that I can’t help them. I don’t want to waste their money or their time.

Please tell us about the services you offer and the people you currently have signed.

I started the business with some goals in mind. I wanted to let authors have a company that will work on their books the same way their book companies should do. While employed at the publishing company, I was responsible for representing hundreds of authors and I, as one publicist, couldn’t devote the time and attention to each of them that they needed. I made every effort to work with each author and identify what their strengths and weaknesses were and how to maximize their strengths in order to learn skills for self promotion. These authors work for thousands of hours on their books and I think they deserve a publicist that will actively work to promote their books. The sad truth exists in the publishing business, that they don’t devote the necessary resources to promoting each book they sign. My goal is to work directly with authors to make sure they have the best professional representation, for a cost that is not prohibitive.

I have worked with bands and promotions for a very long time, so it worked out good. I am surrounded with some very good people, including Candace! She has been a big supporter of this new endeavor and also Abel Keogh, who is not only a great author but a great friend. Candace and Abel are speakers in our speaker’s bureau also. This is something that I have dreamed of doing for a very long time. I go to about 20 events a year that have speakers and I have been disappointed with how poor some of these speakers are. I have kept a list of speakers for a very long time, and I only hire ones that I know are good and ready to do a great job.

What is different about Sublime Expressions and other PR firms?

Most PR firms are filled with a lot of people that are answering to the bottom line, MONEY. If they don’t make the money fast enough they are replaced. If you open a daily paper that shows people changing jobs, look how many of them are from Public Relations firms. It is amazing how big the changes are. We are small enough that if you sign with our company, you will work directly with me, or Tawna. I am also lucky to have a wife with a great head for business and a lot of connections in her own right!

Why should authors, actors, musicians and public speakers sign with Sublime Expressions?

We are small and different. We know not only how to market and promote authors and entertainers, we know how to teach them to effectively self-promote. if you want to work with the owners of a company and not be passed on to a string of new employees every few weeks, we are the choice for you. Our success is your success. Our fees are competitive and the extra personal attention makes our services a real value. We have a great foundation of talented authors and speakers and we are ready to make great things happen.

Any final thoughts?

Everyday I get out of bed with a smile on my face, knowing I get to do a job I love, and that I get to work with people I choose. I love calling my clients and telling them that I got them a book review or a speaking opportunity. That makes my day and theirs

Tongue in cheek . . . who designed that great website you have?

Ha, ha. Some cool woman that if I had a million dollars would be one of my first employees. I can’t remember her name!

And there it is, my interview with Doug Johnston. I can personally give my recommendation in regards to Doug and his company, Sublime Expressions. I, as an author, who has actively involved in the marketing and branding of my own name, was blown away by his efforts, although I was not signed with the publishing house he represented. He made waves in the LDS market and he made an impression that just would not quit. I have no qualms in putting my marketing and speaking engagements into his hands knowing that he will do better than I have done, which is no small thing. I can now devote that extra time to writing and simply show up where Doug tells me to show up, or get on the plane he tells me to get on.

To book Candace Salima for Motivational Speaking, contact Sublime Expressions at (801) 556-4404. By mail at PO Box 783, Riverton, UT 84065 or at
Interview with Doug Johnston, President of Sublime Expressions Public Relations & Marketing Interview with Doug Johnston, President of Sublime Expressions Public Relations & Marketing Reviewed by Candace Salima on Wednesday, September 03, 2008 Rating: 5