RIP: Patti WebsterPublished by Torrence Glenn on Friday, September 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm.
I’m starting to become wary at how many posts like this I’ve had to/been able to do recently and the closeness with which I can speak on them. But we’ve all got to do what we’ve all got to do. This morning on Friday, September 13 acclaimed entrepreneur and publicist Patti Webster died in Somerville, NJ after being ill for some time. Patti was the founder and CEO of the well known and highly successful PR firm W&W PR. She was 49 years old.
In the days and weeks to come you’ll hear a lot about her legendary career. How she’s represented some of the greatest in both gospel and secular entertainment. With a client list that at different times ranged from Halle Berry, Chris Brown, Ludacris, and Patti Labelle to Mary Mary, James Fortune, and BeBe and CeCe Winans. You’ll hear about how as a young African American publicist she started her company in 1991 and never looked back. You’ll hear about how she crafted press strategies and campaigns that helped make household names of some of your favorite entertainers and sports figures. You’ll hear all of this and it will be true and is to be celebrated.
But I also want to make sure you hear about the person as well as the publicist. She was a public relations executive but her ability as “people relations” person is what made her who she was. Anyone who does anything has a reputation. Good, bad or indifferent, if you exist you have one. Some will have both a professional and a personal one. Overall these two SHOULD line up. Most want to be known as a good worker and a good person. You’d be surprised though at how rarely this is the case which makes the legacy of people like Patti Webster so profound. Her professional and personal reputation lined up.
They say in today’s society you can learn a lot about a person from their twitter handle. I’ve found this to be true and in the case of Patti, she was ALWAYS @PursuingGod. We often joke that everyone in gospel ain’t saved but Patti was one who was. No matter what, God was at the center of everything Patti did. She always had “God intentions.” When Patti would call you or run into and say she prayed for you. You knew it was true. And if you weren’t sure, sometimes you’d get the blessing of her having her do it for you right there. Nothing deep and over the top but she’d pray for you instantly and sincerely. She didn’t compromise her faith no matter what room or circle she was in (and she was in some heavy ones!) and would use any opportunity she had to share her love for God and was an inspiration to so many in this business because of her professional and spiritual integrity. She was an encourager and motivator. She’d lovingly tell you what you did wrong but would congratulate and love on you when you got it right.
I remember there was a time I had to write a “not so nice” story about one of her gospel clients that had gotten into some legal trouble. I was able to secure an exclusive interview with someone very close to the situation. Later that evening, another of her r&b clients was having a showcase I attended. As soon as I walked in she greeted me even though I was nervous to see her because I’m sure she was on top of the story I had run. She saw me, hugged me tightly as always and said “I’m gonna get you!” And then as she let me go she looked me in my eyes and said “you did your job Torrence. You’re good. I want to know how you got that interview!” That meant a lot to me because I knew her well enough to know that if she said it, she meant it.
That was just one of our many interactions. Some of the the others I’ll take with me or at least parts of it. For example, there was one “thing” that I had been wrestling with (still am) that she saw in me when she first met me. Would call me by the name of said “thing” whenever she saw me and we’d laugh about it. Last fall when she preached her initial sermon and I was in attendance, on a day that should have been about her I walked up to her and she brought it up again. Backstage at the Stellar Awards this year when she was called into an impromptu meeting to help put out a major “fire” that was brewing in the gospel industry, she still stopped to talk to me about me.
Our industry has lost another giant and as much as it hurts it actually feels good to know that finally our dear Patti is in the words of another great industry publicist, Jojo Pada – “healed, whole and amazing.” Seated with a God she loved and wanted everyone to know about, so much so that she pursued him daily. Patti, your pursuit paid off.