Interview : Kathy Rothman - KMR Communications
I live in New York City, a have an adorable bichon frisee dog named Punky, I love to play tennis, do charity work, travel especially to Europe and the Caribbean and of course like any New Yorker I love to shop.
I worked for several years as The Vice President of Amanda Uhry Public Relations in New York.
In 1998. So as of this writing 12 years ago.A little about your company:We are a boutique sized agency with a firm niche in fashion specializing in representing fashion companies worldwide. We work with emerging designers/companies as well as those that are already established. We provide our clients we the kind of personal attention that can often be lost at a larger firms. With our emerging fashion clients we really guide them as to how to nurture and grow their company.
Approximately 50 hours per week in the office, but as a publicist one is always on the job, thinking of new ideas, reading what’s in the news, and thinking of new and creative ways to position clients.
Our most basic yet most important function is to secure ongoing consistent and quality media coverage for our clients spanning television, newspapers, magazines, radio, internet, and wire services. In addition we arrange meet and greets for our clients with key fashion editors, produce special events and fashion shows, lend trade show support, conduct focus groups, assist clients with social media, celebrity endorsements, and help them to forge meaningful trade alliances.
I personally love to take a product that is new and help to make it “the next big thing.” One of the products I really loved working with is called http://tressleek.com. They came to KMR as a start up venture. The product is essentially like Spank for the upper arms. During their time with us they were featured in outlets such as “Good Morning America, WWD, In Touch, “The Rachael Ray Show,” More Magazines, Life & Style and dozens of others. It was really exciting to see both the media and consumer interest build to a crescendo.
For a client especially in a bad economy, doing a good job is like the old Janet Jackson song, “What have you done for me lately,” There is a constant need to produce week after week for a client and keep a campaign fresh by constantly developing new media angles.
Stay ahead of the curve. Find a way that you can bring additional value added benefits to your client’s campaign. Although I always tell prospective clients that the best reason to hire us is for the first rate media coverage we provide, there are alliances we forge for our clients as well as other creative endeavors that do not put an additional strain on their budget.
One must pay attention to the media landscape, pop culture, the economy, because all of these factors tie in to how a story should be presented to the media and what consumers want. Like many businesses, public relations is about relationships. It is important to have solid connections with the fashion media and to have them trust the message you are putting forth.
A savvy publicist must craft a story.
A new designer must understand that public relations is a building process. “Fame” does not happen overnight. A new designer should expect that the public relations firm will secure media coverage in short lead publications to instantly get the name out there. The PR firm should also schedule editorial desk sides for the designer so that the designer can meet face to face with fashion/market editors in order to develop a personal rapport. It is also important for the publicist to share media feedback with the designer even if some of that feedback might be negative. Sharing constructive criticism is the only way a new designer can improve and learn to create fashions and present them in a manner that will be appealing to the press.
The internet is a good place to start. Also, if you are an emerging designer and admire the media exposure that similar companies have had, one can try to find out who they are being represented by. It would be a mistake for a small fashion company with a relatively small budget to engage a PR firm that is handling major fashion houses because they will ultimately get lost in the shuffle and not be a priority for that firm. Also, designers must look for firms who have/had similar but not competing clientele and ask for examples of the placements secured for those clients as well as a detailed PR plan of action. References are important as well.
What is most challenging in this economy is working quickly enough as a publicist so that the client can hopefully see a return on their investment as a result of our public relations efforts.
We spend a great deal of time counselling our clients on everything from their long and short term goals, media training, alliances with other entities that can prove beneficial, analyzing their web-site, product shots, logo, brand image, as well as how to leverage the media coverage we garner for them in the ongoing marketing of their business.
As a publicist I love the fact that we are no longer just relegated to the same 60 or so beauty/fashion magazines with the advent of blogs and web-sites. As most people know, monthly magazines have a lead time of four months, so it is very beneficial to our clients that there are literally thousands of great blogs and fashion web-sites that provide a much quicker turn around time.
We demonstrate results for our clients through detailed weekly e-mail reports. After a client has been with us for several months we will also provide an excel sheet of all of their media coverage, the circulation/viewership of a particular outlet and what the advertising equivalent would have cost them.
Because fashion is a niche for us at KMR, our relationships with the media are extremely solid and ongoing. They rely on us as a constant source for news from the fashion industry. We are also very careful as to how we tailor our pitches. We understand the audience of a particular outlet and we only pitch them stories that are appropriate for their demographic. We are also careful not to pitch stories that are blatantly self promotional, but rather we strive to find a relevant news hook and tie a story into a season, a holiday, a trend or pop culture in general.
After being in business since 1998 and interacting with the fashion media on a daily basis we have come to learn what a particular outlet/editor’s specific beats are and what they are planning for their editorial calendars.
The future of digital media is literally growing by leaps and bounds. I encourage every designer/fashion company to use digital and social media to its fullest. This means using twitter, facebook, linked in and all other available means to market ones company. Consider these statistics provided by facebook:
Facebook Company Figures
More than 400 million active users
50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
More than 35 million users update their status each day
More than 60 million status updates posted each day
More than 3 billion photos uploaded to the site each month
More than 5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week
More than 3.5 million events created each month
More than 3 million active Pages on Facebook
More than 1.5 million local businesses have active Pages on Facebook
More than 20 million people become fans of Pages each day
Pages have created more than 5.3 billion fans
When a client is paying a firm on a monthly retainer fee there can be no quiet times! Where we are in “real time” actually has very little to do with the media landscape. For example, some companies may experience a quiet time during December, but for a PR firm this is a prime time to generate media exposure through the all important holiday gift guides. While the talk shows do go on hiatus during the summer, magazines do not and neither do news programs so there are always thousands of media outlets a PR firm can approach at any time of the year.
A great name is important with a product that backs up what the name says. For example, we ran a very successful campaign for a denim company called “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans,” also known as Tummy Tuck Jeans. The denim line is exactly what is says and does what the name claims. The line is for women who find the low rise jeans unflattering but do not want to wear the proverbial “mom jeans.” The founders saw a niche that was not fulfilled and women who were not being catered to and developed a brand just for them.
Honestly, I do not have any friends who own PR firms. I do remain in contact with many of my former employees and interns. I love to hear about their success and it makes me feel great when they tell me that my firm was so instrumental in launching their career based on the tools and knowledge they gained here.
Obviously this is a terrible economy and I feel sorry for college graduates trying to find employment now. As unappealing as it may sound, I would advise them to intern if they cannot find a full time paid job. Companies like mine often hire interns to become JR account executives. Not only can a recent grad gain knowledge and contacts through interning but it will put them right under an employer’s nose should a full time position become available.
Fashion PR means taking a designer or brand and promoting through the use of third party endorsement in the media. The effects of a well executed campaign create a “buzz” that is responsible in large part for the success of brands such as Spanx, 7 Jeans, the Fred Siegel Store in California, and others that developed a cult like celebrity and consumer following.
Oscar De La Renta
Dolce & Gabbana.
If there is a will there is a way. If you cant get in through the front door try the back door or the side door. For creative and driven people there is always a way to realize and seize an opportunity.
My favorite business quote is from Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”