Communication Is Key: Kelly Howard Shares Tips For Using PR To Your Advantage
Communication is the key to a happy relationship, but this small fact applies to the business world, as well. In fact, communication drives our society, and you will never regret learning how to communicate properly. Our next Session will be on PR, and we can’t wait to learn all of the tips and tricks! In anticipation, we sat down with one of our experts, Kelly Howard of EightSixtySouth, for a Q+A. And, we found out she has some amazing advice on how EVERYONE can benefit from knowing the basics of PR. Not just publicists!
Kelly Howard is an accomplished and passionate public relations professional & strategist, who is seasoned in creating targeted approaches for consumer brands in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle market! Kelly has served as the West Coast Director of Post+Beam for the last four years, a leading innovation and communication firm in Los Angeles and New York, and following her acquisition of the US operations of the business in 2016, will be leading her team and clients through a re-brand of the company, debuting under a new moniker, EightSixtySouth, in the coming months.
Be sure to purchase tickets for this Saturday's Session HERE, and keep reading for our Q+A with Kelly:
SS: Tell us about your career journey! It’s certainly been a journey, that’s for sure! For starters, I’ve always tried to have my hands in as many things as possible! The opportunity to learn and grow as an individual, no matter the avenue, has always been of huge value to me.
My first internship was with Taylor Public Relations in New York – big agency vibe with big agency clients. I had the chance to work with some top-tier brands including Jose Cuervo, Guinness, MasterCard, and Xbox and came to understand how an agency fits into the picture of a large brand. It was there I learned the true art of pitching. Cold calling to set up radio interviews, faxing television producers to set up segments, and being on the grind everyday.
Following graduation, I oversaw the PR department for the Iowa State Daily, the campus newspaper at Iowa State University where I attended school. I was a member of the department during college and continued to lead the students post-graduation. It was truly one of the most rewarding experiences as a young professional! Not only was I able to spearhead some truly grassroots campaigns and initiatives that still exist today, but I made some amazing connections with likeminded individuals that went off to do some pretty cool things themselves.
This brings me to 2008 – not an ideal time to find a job in PR. I was itching to get back to the city and was on the hunt for a new job. After sending out over a hundred resumes and nearly ready to admit defeat, I got connected to a fellow publicist in Los Angeles. Her company wasn’t hiring but she was gracious enough to pass along my resume to her fellow PR colleagues – enter my future boss. Never doubt the power of your network!
Upon connecting with my soon-to-be boss, she cut it to me straight. “Let me know when you move to LA and we can set up an interview.” Move across the country for just an interview? That was a tough sell. I countered with the opportunity to fly myself to LA to meet with her in the hopes she would offer me a position. It worked.
At Kip Morrison & Associates, I learned a tremendous amount about the ins and outs of fashion & beauty PR. Kip was tough and didn’t sugarcoat a thing but was an amazing teacher. I give her a ton of credit for grooming me into the publicist I am today, and as I lead my own team, I often hear myself repeating her words.
After four years with KMA, I connected with Post+Beam via a recruiter to join their LA office. It was hard leaving the agency I called home since moving to LA but was excited to be apart of something new. I joined Post+Beam as their PR Director and was quickly promoted to lead operations of the LA office.
As Post+Beam’s West Coast Director, I oversaw consumer fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands across the company, leading media, digital and event programs for a diverse client roster. I also played a key role in new business development, constantly seeking out brands and vetting opportunities for new partnerships.
While still new and not yet announced, I’m excited to say that I recently acquired the US operations of Post+Beam. In the coming year as we realign our focus and introduce Post+Beam as a new brand, I’m looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for both our clients and my team. Let’s just say there’s a lot coming! So I suppose the title now is HBIC.
SS: Let's pretend we don't know anything about PR. What exactly does your position entail? As the media has changed, so has my role…it’s ever changing, more quickly now than ever. Each day of my job is truly unique, working with clients to develop PR and marketing strategies that affect the bottom line of their business.
We primarily partner with clients in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle space, securing coverage and building awareness for their brand across a variety of mediums. We’re able to do this as a result of our strategic thinking, a killer team and our long-standing industry relationships.
Our key pillars of focus are traditional editorial outreach, influencer engagement, social media and events. As the industry has shifted, digital has become a key part of our strategy. It’s a dynamic and fluid addition to the more traditional ways of the industry and never fails to keep things interesting.
Today, my role is multi-faceted. In addition to leading our team, strategizing for our clients and managing the day-to-day operations of the business, it’s important to always stay on top of what and who’s trending. You have to pay attention to what’s new in the industry and understand how today’s consumer likes to engage and receive content in a quickly changing landscape. It’s this knowledge that we leverage to develop strategic campaigns for our clients that are unique, and most importantly, that work.
Overall, I love that each day is truly an adventure. The creative, entrepreneurial spirit and team energy needed for success is something that will never get old.
SS: Was there anyone in particular who got you to where you are today? If so, how did they influence you? There are so many – I love connecting and surrounding myself with individuals who inspire and motivate. But to shout out a few along the way…
My first boss in LA. Not only did she guide me as I learned to navigate the ins and outs of the industry, but her leadership, direction and tough love helped me grow and ultimately pushed me to be a better publicist.
My mom. A constant reminder to maintain a work/life balance. My mom has always been there to lend an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on when things get tough, and the unwavering support as I was choosing my path.
SS: Did you ever make a major mistake? If so, how did you recover from it? YES, I’ve made mistakes. More than once. The best recovery is learning from each mistake and moving forward. The first step is taking responsibility! Whether an outcome is positive or negative, the only way to learn from an experience is to effectively understand the role you played. When you make a mistake, it’s important to identify and explore the details leading up to it and how your actions affected the final result.
Once you’re clear on what transpired and are ready to look forward, attention to detail and critical thinking will help you to avoid making future missteps.
SS: PR can apply to people, brands, and much more. Why is it important for a digital influencer to understand the basics of PR & how to market their brand? Whether a digital influencer or a brand, knowing how the PR game works will only contribute to your success. For starters, it’s important to recognize that every single brand is different. When developing a PR & marketing plan, be clear on who you are and who your audience is. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people. Once you decide who and what you want to be, you can make strategic decisions about your growth and seek exposure and partnerships in those areas.
As you pursue these new relationships, knowing how to communicate is key. The digital sphere is becoming more and more crowded. Effectively communicating your points and what value you bring will allow you to connect in an authentic, dependable way.
SS: Tips for anyone who wants to pursue a career in public relations? Be willing to put in the work – this industry takes hard work, resilience and a thick skin. If you’re still in school, take advantage of your college years! Never miss out on the opportunity to learn something new, and intern, intern, intern. And then intern again. Internships can afford you a unique insight into how an agency works, what the actual day-to-day entails and what areas of expertise you’re most passionate about.
As you enter into the job market, have enthusiasm about the industry and know how to communicate. Build your network and manage new relationships with care and authenticity. You can learn so much by meeting and listening to others. Last but not least, find a mentor! Having that person in your corner that inspires you, while being a sounding board for advice and direction is priceless.
And oh, always work to maintain a work/life balance. Not always an easy task in today’s hyper-connected world, but true balance will only lead to more success!
Learn more PR tips and tricks from Kelly at our next Session!
Topic: The Art of Promotion: Yourself, Brand & Business Teachers: Rembrandt Flores of EFG PR and Kelly Howard of EightSixtySouth Date: February 11th, 2017 from 9am to 12pm Location: La Piazza Ristorante @ The Grove