Do you want to see your brand’s name in headlines? Or maybe you want to generate some buzz for an upcoming product launch?
In either case, you’ll want to work with a PR expert who has plenty of connections with the media.
To better understand how to work with a publicist, we spoke with Kosi Harris, the founder and publicist behind Kosi Harris PR. Below, she shares more about her PR services, common misconceptions about media relations, and what you can expect during a typical engagement.
Note: The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Tell us about yourself! How did you get started in PR?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. I wanted a career as a publicist when I was 17 years old after a job shadowing day that my business teacher Mrs. Gulston arranged at a PR firm. I was very inspired by the account executive who was promoting Cover Girl and Rolling Stone Magazine and I asked her background and how she got started. She mentioned attending The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), attending the Advertising and Marketing program, and applying for internships. And the rest is history so to speak. I applied to a few schools that specialized in communications and got accepted into FIT.
After a few internships, I obtained a position as a marketing/PR manager at a knitwear company, realized I wanted to expand what I wanted to promote and got a position at an agency where I was able to promote non profit, consumer, travel and hospitality brands — that was also when I went into contracting and running my business.
What type of clients do you work with? What services do you offer?
I work with nonprofit, consumer products, technology, beauty, and influencers. In regards to services, I offer PR Strategy, press release distribution, PR coaching for small businesses, and my strong suit is media relations.
Media relations are interactions with editors, reporters and journalists. Effective media relations is essential to work with and not against the media. Developing a strong relationship with journalists, bloggers and content writers who may be eager to hear what a publicist has to say can provide a client with invaluable access to the public.
If someone wants to work with a publicist, what should they consider before reaching out to one?
Here are a few questions to consider:
- What is my budget? PR is an investment and usually projects can take more than 30 days to accomplish. There is also the possibility of a writer not picking up a story right away and a publicist will need to follow up with the writer as well as develop new angles.
- What do I want to accomplish with a publicist? When one is considering working with a publicist they should consider what they are looking to accomplish. I personally love looking at it in 90 and 120 days when initially working with clients to guide them on how to measure their success.
- How can you reach your target audience? How can a publicist find your audience and how are you communicating with them currently? Providing your publicist with current routines can help.
Once you start working with a new client, what does the typical engagement look like?
We do an initial kick-off call looking over a preliminary 90 to 120-day plan that I put together, make any updates, and review milestones that the client would like to achieve. During that kick-off call we would set up a date and time for the weekly call. I then would write the first draft of a release for the client to review, build a media list for client review, and collect marketing assets (headshots, bios, videos) from the client.
What’s a common misconception people have about working with a publicist?
The most annoying misconception is that publicists go out every night to events like Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. As a publicist, I spend a lot of my time in front of my computer pitching and communicating with clients and the media. Networking is very important and as events are starting up again, I am going out more. However, this public perception of publicists going to glamorous events every night is outdated. The publicists that do go out every night are most likely the ones you don’t want to hire — what work are they getting done? 🙂
Another misconception: publicists are magicians. The media decides what to cover, publicists do not. Publicists cannot email, call or text an editor and automatically get a story placed. That isn’t how real PR operates. The publicist may have a very close relationship with a journalist, as it’s definitely encouraged to develop relationships with journalists. However, if the story isn’t strong enough, there is breaking news, or the journalist simply doesn’t like the story idea, it’s not getting placed.
In addition, there are fewer publications to promote and journalists who are now becoming freelancers themselves have to be more selective on what to write about due to the compensation they can potentially receive on a piece due to views or word count. Which means the newsworthiness value of the story is all that matters. Breaking news dictates the storylines, and publicists pitch stories that tie into the news cycle. It is not the other way around.
What makes for a successful collaboration?
Transparency! Honesty is the foundation of any strong relationship between a publicist and their clients. I’ve obtained many clients from referrals where the main topic that would come up in an initial discussion would be that their former publicist didn’t deliver exactly what they stated in their contract, made false promises and felt very defeated. After hearing that feedback from many it helped me meet client’s expectations and be transparent.
Keep clients in the loop and ensure that they understand what is happening in the project at all times. Weekly or bi-weekly touch base calls or Zooms will enforce this. Having the 90 to 120-day plan is also a way to set milestones with clients and keep them after as they view these milestones as progress towards the completion of their project.
Which discipline outside of your own would you like to team up with for a project?
I am a geek. I would love to team up with an animator or an illustrator for a project. Perhaps on a press release mailer invite for an event, campaign, or product launch — that is the beauty of it, the possibilities are endless!
To learn more about Kosi Harris PR, give her a follow on Instagram or Twitter!