Jarman Johnson Knows Media

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — She successfully made the often difficult transition from working in radio and television to owning and operating her own media relations company. She feels she made the change because she was able to reach others with her simple message, and now she looks to extend her reach in the coming years.

Since 1989, Lynne Jarman-Johnson has been running Jarman-Johnson Communication Inc. (JJC), a full-service firm that offers public relations, media imaging and community service.

JJC has a list of clients that includes many of the city’s more notable nonprofit organizations, like the Heart of West Michigan United Way, and noteworthy businesses, like D&D Building. Jarman-Johnson also works with celebrities, like promoting Olympic skating sensation Tara Lipinski and her Miracle Charity Tour at stops in Lansing and Toledo.

“The business has branched out to where I have a lot of clients who are not nonprofit, and I think that’s because what we do works,” she said.

The 37-year-old Jarman-Johnson began her media career in the late 1970s as a student doing an internship at WOOD TV-8, working everyday for a summer with reporter Henry Erb and news director Dan Spaulding. She effortlessly credited them with giving her the early skills she needed to go out on her own in a competitive and complicated business.

“I learned the business and learned what I needed to know to truly launch what I would end up becoming, which is a media conduit for a lot of people,” she said. “Without that hands-on experience at that young age, without the guidance of people who showed me not only how to write, but how to think objectively, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Jarman-Johnson particularly recalled Erb, now the station’s investigative reporter, as the one who fine-tuned many of her skills.

“I remember being frustrated because I had to rewrite and rewrite at an age when you think you can do anything. Henry taught me the value of learning and listening,” she said. “And that is what launched my career.”

Jarman-Johnson spent almost seven years at TV-8 producing news and serving as the station’s director of public affairs. She left in 1989 to start her communications firm. But then she jumped back into the media five years later for a two-year stint as a radio talk show host on WOOD AM-1300, while continuing to run the company.

And after nearly a dozen years, Jarman-Johnson still refers to JJC as a niche firm — one that largely works with nonprofit groups. While at TV-8 she saw that nonprofits weren’t very media savvy. She often found that the executive directors weren’t sure how to get electronic and print exposure for their worthwhile causes and events, a situation that became a business opportunity for her, as few were paying attention to what was then a mostly-untapped market.

“What we do is we look at the big picture and see what the needs are for a client in public relations, advertising and imaging. Every client has their own personal needs. We’re not a cookie-cutter operation where we just decide to do a commercial, for instance,” said Jarman-Johnson.

“It takes a long time to learn about the organization or the business and to truly get to know that client and what their goals are, then take those goals and target ways to achieve those goals,” she added. “The exciting part about our company is that it’s just so personal, everything is very personal in what we do.”

Her first customer was Kent Regional Community Coordinated Child Care, or 4-C as it’s more widely known, which continues to be a client today. A report was released in 1989 that heavily criticized organizations like 4-C, and it became Jarman-Johnson’s job to turn that image around. So she teamed with 4-C Director Laureen Kennedy and the pair created a powerful campaign that elevated the nonprofit’s status.

“We created what I think has become one of the strongest images for child care agencies and referrals marketing in the country. They’ve actually received national recognition for their branding and marketing,” said Jarman-Johnson.

“It wasn’t a quick turnaround. It was a long process that had to do with organization and consistent messages. It didn’t take a huge advertising budget to create that, either. A lot of people like to throw money at something and think that is going to fix it. But it just doesn’t.”

Right now, Jarman-Johnson is working on a pair of big events that take place in April: the 3rd Annual West Michigan Women’s Expo at the Grand Center and a benefit concert by the legendary Ray Charles for the 50th anniversary of Welcome Homes, a nonprofit retirement community for the visually impaired.

As for her personal life, Jarman-Johnson and her husband Robert, a local attorney, have six school-age children. With four daughters and two sons, it’s not unusual to find her active in parent-teacher organizations and spending a lot of her free time with the family.

“They’re very bright, fun and energetic and at very exciting ages. They’re from four to 14 right now. So, we’re very busy in the schools because of that and that is so much fun,” she said.

Jarman-Johnson also does volunteer work for various organizations and serves on the board of one of the city’s most established private clubs. “We have an exciting opportunity at the Peninsular Club to really create a new club almost, in one respect, and it’s been fun to be a part of that from the ground level.”

As for her future, Jarman-Johnson sees herself extending her reach through simple messages and complex technology. Her broad vision has her touching everyone anywhere, a concept that wasn’t possible until just a few years ago.

“We can reach out to anybody in the world and because of that we can help people and educate people on exactly what we do, which is help them organize and gain access to the media,” she said. “So for me, the world is right here at my finger tips and I’m very excited about that. It’s giving me the chance to be able to touch more people with simple, yet effective, messages.”

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