Home Blog Uncategorized PR Rock Stars: A conversation with Rachel Kay

PR Rock Stars: A conversation with Rachel Kay


I met Rachel just a few short months ago on Twitter chatting about advice for young PR grads. Over the last few months we’ve shared thoughts on the PR industry, brainstormed ways to engage our PR colleagues and discussed the ins and outs of the golf business during her trip to the PGA Merchandise Show (hello, Jealous, party of one!).

But the thing I’ve noticed about Rachel, besides the fact that she’s a razor-sharp PR pro who’s never shy about telling you exactly what’s on her mind: She’s not afraid to jump right in. Yes, economic times may be tough. Yes, she may be resource-constrained (down a staffer at her shop). But, at the same time, she’s not afraid to try new things, take a different approach or identify an opportunity and seize it before the moment has passed. Case in point: her involvement with Danny Brown’s 12 for 12K initiative (see below). That’s the kind of Rock Star I want on my team. The type who’s smart, passionate and not afraid to take calculated risks. You can never have too many Rachel Kay’s on your team.

You’ve recently joined the 12 for 12K challenge, an initiative designed to raise $12,000 for 12 charities in 2009 (the brainchild of Danny Brown). Why did you join the fray, how are you participating and what are you doing to encourage others to rally around this cause?

I was instantly attracted to 12for12K for a number of reasons, the first being the well-deserving charities that stand to benefit from this remarkable effort. So many non-profit organizations are in desperate need of assistance right now, and with the economy in its current state, people are understandably more reluctant to give up their money. This effort doesn’t require a significant donation – so it’s important to communicate to people that we can still be frugal while helping.

I was also fascinated by the cause because of the passion of those involved, especially Danny Brown. The best way to execute a successful campaign is by leveraging the resources you have in front of you. Danny Brown combined his expertise in social media and PR with a passion for charity to create this global effort designed to benefit so many. Other partners have donated creative services and PR skills. In addition, it’s really an experiment to see how social media in many different forms can propel camaraderie of giving. Our friends on Facebook, Twitter and other vehicles are our peers and friends, and through the sheer sharing of information we can take our efforts far and wide.

My task is to rally corporate partners engaging businesses eager to join an exciting and well meaning effort. What’s great is we can tailor a program to meet the needs of any company, so the sky is the limit! We really encourage companies to join us – because there is so much buzz about how brands are approaching social media, this is such a great way for companies to add to the social Web in an impactful way. This month’s charity is Stop the Silence, which helps pay for medical and psychological treatment, social services, legal costs and much more for young victims of sexual abuse. Companies, if you are reading this, contact me to get involved!

We’ve had some discussions online about the younger PR generation. You seem to have a great deal of passion around mentoring more junior-level professionals. What advice would you give these Gen Yers looking to advance their career in this industry?

The next generation of PR pros is a significant point of passion for me – I have spoken many times to students about the industry and what to expect as they enter their careers. In addition, as someone who is currently looking for entry-level talent to join our team, I have had great insight into the areas of opportunities in the current talent pool.

As everyone is well aware, the economy is a mess right now. Newbies are struggling harder than ever before, competing not only with other new entrants, but with more experienced people that have lost their positions in the downturn as well.

Tips for the job searcher:

• Network with Social Media. This younger generation is more experienced with social media than any previous. Now move beyond simply the social. Leverage this experience to reach out for advice, referrals, and information interviews using Linkedin, Twitter and even Facebook. Ask your network to help you, and give them the professional demeanor and materials to make it easy for them.

• Customize. Customize each cover letter for each potential employer. Time consuming? Yes, but what else are you busy with? When 300 resumes fly past my desk I want to know you want to work at MY company, and not just any company. I’m amazed how many applicants have clearly sent me a generic piece. In addition, if you send me the same template you send everyone, I figure that’s the same way you approach media relations, which isn’t what I am looking for.

• Prepare. Before meeting with a potential employer, use your skills to research the company. Go beyond the Web site – what are they saying on blogs, on Twitter and product reviews? Understand the types of clients they have, or the type of business they are in. Beyond your own learning, use these points of information to form your own insights, questions, and opinions and share them in the interview. You will come across as informed, thoughtful, and well beyond the typical candidate.

• Energize. In this economy everyone will experience rejection. Working through your disappointments will require persistence. Energy in the interview will also differentiate you. In this economy an employer wants to know that you are the best investment among many candidates.

Tips for those employed:

• Perform a Level Above. Always perform at the level you wish you were at. While you may dislike the tedium of compiling clips and sending out calendar announcements, if that’s what you resign yourself to then you’ll stay there a lot longer. Get creative and show off your strategic thinking skills by sending your supervisors new ideas to generate buzz for your clients. Pull together data on what the competition is doing and present it with some forward-thinking ways to for your company to get ahead. Read the trades so you can speak industry talk with the higher-ups. Do you current job fa
bulously, but think bigger.

• Speak Up! This is PR – make yourself heard. Always publicize yourself by being a dynamic force within the company. Position yourself as a future leader by speaking up in meetings and giving opinions and ideas. My first boss used to rap me on the knuckles for staying too silent! If you are vocal, you’ll be the first to be invited to that new business meeting or client call.

• Be a Sponge. Soak up all you can. Pick your boss’s brain over lunch about issues in the PR industry. Share something you learned during Journchat and ask her thoughts about it. Call your local television station and ask if you can come in for a station tour. Offer to treat a reporter lunch in order to learn more about what he or she likes to write about. Read everything you can get your hands on. Knowledge is power!

I know you’re a big Sarah Evans fan and you follow JournChat religiously. Why do you participate and what do you think other PR professionals can gain by joining the discussion every Monday night?
Sarah Evans has done an incredible job providing credibility to the career of PR as well as leveraging social media in revolutionary ways to benefit the trade. Journchat is a fun and engaging meeting of the minds for PR up-and-comers, veterans and journalists, which takes place Monday nights on Twitter. Never has there been a better opportunity to get inside the heads of journalists to find out how they like to be pitched and what the most current tools are.

Anyone in the PR industry can gain insight by participating in or following Journchat. PR is changing with the speed of light, and pros are implementing new techniques all the time. These fantastic ideas, especially the implementation of social media, are common topics of discussion on Journchat. This is a free service which can help all of us stay on the cutting-edge of the successful techniques others are using. In addition, Journchat gives each of us the chance to position ourselves as leaders in our field and to build relationships with journalists and bloggers in an incredibly personal and engaging way. Just follow #Journchat and join the conversation or simply soak up the information.

You started Rachel Kay Public Relations a little over a year ago. What key lessons have you learned in the past year about running a small agency and the challenges that go along with that?

I learned that running an agency is a lot of work! The biggest challenge for me is juggling the administration with the client work – because we are small, I have to do a lot of things myself including sending invoices, collections, interviewing and purchasing. However, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

There is an amazing satisfaction in taking on clients based on what you enjoy and believe in. I love the thrill of courting a client, customizing a plan with exciting ideas and creative thinking, nurturing my clients understanding of communication and creating results that elevate their businesses. In addition, I also adore my team and creating an atmosphere where my employees feel empowered to own projects and share ideas.

Finally, a personal question. I know you follow the Hollywood scene closely. Any insights into what we might see at the Oscars on Sunday? Any favorites or dark horses you like? Surprises we might not expect?
I am going to be completely honest – I am in no way qualified to answer this question because I have only seen one of the flicks, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I’d like to see a few more before the big night if possible, but in true PR style, I’ll take my own direction with this question and make some bets on the fashion, since that tends to be my favorite part!

The ladies – Some of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood are vying for awards this year, which will make this year’s awards show stunning if nothing else. Angeline Jolie will shine as always, I predict in a Grecian-inspired dress, but I am hoping she goes bold with something outside of her typical neutrals. Anne Hathaway will ravish the red carpet with her classic glamour in something bright and eye-catching. Kate Winslett will rock her fabulous curves in a form fitting gown (I’m betting blue, which seems to be her favorite). Penelope Cruz has worn black (my favorite) at the last two big shows – will she change it up for the big night?

The gents – A more rugged crew than the ladies, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke are sure to be sporting just-rolled-out-of-bed disheveled hair – hopefully partnered with some dapper tuxes. Taking a big leap (note the sarcasm), I predict Brad Pitt will be his always traditionally stylish self in classic black tie. Finally I think Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire will keep it young and fresh, possibly choosing a skinny tie over typical black tie and maybe adding a pop of color. That’s all from the Red Carpet.

Rachel Kay Public Relations (RKPR) specializes in the consumer technology, food, beauty and fashion industries. RKPR helps smaller, emerging brands and Web start-ups maximize their potential and tell their story through a variety of tactics including media relations, media events and press conferences, social/online media, and media training. RKPR has landed coverage for their clients in the nation’s top press, including CNN, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Newsweek, People, Elle, US Weekly, Entertainment Tonight, Cosmopolitan, Shape, Self, Fitness, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Brandweek, Adweek and many more. You can find Rachel and her agency online at www.rkpr.net.



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