For many years, Jacqulyn Paneque worked in communications and advertising, finding great success in sales. So when she started as a Seattle Area Director with N2 in 2013, she felt she already had a leg up. She knew the lingo, the jargon, the tactics and strategies.
But in the first few months as an AD, Paneque says, “I failed miserably.”
And yet, just a short while later, Paneque found terrific success with her first publication. Four years later, she’s expanded to add a second. What changed?
“The best piece of advice to this day that I ever received was from Jason Hietbrink, my mentor and my hero through ramp-up. He said, ‘Stop stressing and just go make a friend.’”
That was an ‘ah ha’ moment for Paneque. She says, “Once I stopped worrying so much, thinking I need this sale, I need this sale, I realized that I’m actually going to make sure that the advertisers in my publication are quality and that I would recommend them to my mom and my dad.”
She recognized that the old saw is still true: the best way to advertise is to place the advertisement directly into customers’ hands. And she realized that the way to convince people to actually notice advertisements — rather than just chuck them in the trash — was to offer something of quality, a magazine people actually want to open.
But more importantly, Paneque realized that her success with N2 would need to be built on relationships — building trust with her communities and her clients.
“Once I took that pressure off myself, it wasn’t about the sale, it was about the community,” she notes. “That’s what changed.”
Paneque took that advice one step further — she thinks of her clients and her community residents not just as her friends, but as her family. Her strategy for keeping this purpose at the forefront is profoundly simple, and profoundly thoughtful.
When she thinks about including a new client in her publication, she says, “I first think of my mom and dad, whom I love more than anything on earth, and would I recommend that service to my parents?” If she wouldn’t, she lets that sale go by and seeks out another client.
In short, she sees the ads she runs as actual recommendations to her community residents, not as profit-generators. And she sees her role as a kind of mediator, a “gatekeeper,” she says, between her advertising clients and her community, a way to ensure that relationships are good on both sides.
“I look at my residents as my family, and my family is the most important people to me,” Paneque says. “So if these advertisers are going to be in front of my residents, they’re going to be there because I trust them enough, I like them enough, and it’s a good enough fit to allow that.”
That close attentiveness to the quality and trustworthiness of her advertisers has paid off — they are, as Paneque describes, “the best of the best. Not necessarily the most expensive service or business, but the best.”
It’s clear, too, that many of her clients and residents see Paneque as part of their family, too. One of her clients invited her to her wedding, “and then her baby shower, and now her daughter’s birthday party,” and Paneque was thrilled to go to all three. She’s gone to see one of her clients, a dentist by day and musician by night, play in his rock band at a bar in West Seattle. And though she’s not Jewish, she’s invited once a month to a Shabbat lunch with some of her residents.
Paneque has become even closer with one of her best clients, a mother-daughter team. She’s spent holidays with them over the years, and Paneque explains that the daughter has become that close friend who, “if I’m having a problem at 2:00 in the morning, she’s the person I can text or call.”
Currently, the mother is battling cancer. “That’s been pretty heart-wrenching,” she says. But Paneque has been a part of her support network, staying by her side and her daughter’s side throughout their difficult ordeal. After all, she’s family.
That 180 degree shift in Paneque’s thinking — away from profit margins and toward community building — makes all the difference. Paneque sums it up this way: “You have to live for a deeper purpose than a monetary one. You have to put yourself out in the community.”
And she sees this different viewpoint reflected in N2, throughout its support systems, all the way to the top. Paneque explains that N2’s leaders are “the real deal.” Duane Hixon and Earl Seals, the founders of N2, have become Paneque’s good friends — though they live on the other side of the country. Their kindness and dedication to each member of the N2 community really resonates with Paneque. She says, “They’re the type of Christians that I’ve wanted to find my entire life. They’re the real walking-with-God men.”
N2’s Care Team — a group of volunteers who provide motivational ideas, weekly outreach, and extra support for any member of N2 experiencing a challenging time — have also shown Paneque that N2 is about relationships, above all. “That’s the thing about N2,” she reiterates. “They genuinely care about their people and about their residents and their clients.”
Paneque has picked up on that caring spirit, and she’s brought it wholeheartedly into her work in Seattle.
Even better, she has found that her kindness, concern, generosity, and trust in her community has come right back to her, in stronger friendships and better connections with each person with whom she works.