Kelly Collis Fredrick, a former partner and COO at D.C. based DBC Public Relations, has launched a new DC-based company that delivers daily, opt-in emails to shoppers searching for discounts and specials at area boutiques, restaurants, spas and specialty stores. The company, called CityShopGirl, currently covers the DC market, but plans to expand to several other markets over the next year, including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.
PR: What made you want to switch from PR into this new venture?
KCF: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and CityShopGirl is a culmination of my career in PR. I have been in PR for over 10 years and have had an incredible journey learning how to reach audiences using different communication channels, from media tours to blog outreach. I still remember sending faxes to reporters!
My work with retailers in planning and executing their PR strategies and budgets helped me to realize that there simply aren’t enough communications mediums to reach shoppers on a regular and consistent basis in the DC market. Of course, the economy has forced retailers to find creative means to get customers into their store or website which is why vendors are excited about CityShopGirl.
PR: What has the experience been like launching your own company, as opposed to helping others launch theirs?
KCF: Not really that different! I have been fortunate to work with several young companies over the course of my career, helping to navigate through some of the pains of growing a business. My most recent work in launching the e-commerce website for NationalJeanCompany was a great experience in understanding consumer behavior online which is certainly applicable to CityShopGirl.
PR: What are some of the challenges or new skills you have developed?
KCF: I am so used to promoting my clients that it is somewhat awkward to be promoting CityShopGirl. I try to look at CityShopGirl as a separate entity which makes the tough decisions less emotional. I have really enjoyed selling CityShopGirl to retailers and talking with business owners and understanding their business and marketing needs. Retailers are really excited about the opportunity to advertise with us. I certainly spend more time on the road with my laptop than ever before, and I don’t know what I would do without my Verizon wireless internet card! My husband is also an entrepreneur so the two of us were up for the many challenges involved in getting a business off the ground.
PR: How have the relationships and skills you cultivated in your PR positions helped you in City Shop Girl?
KCF: My marketing and PR skills have been valuable to CityShopGirl’s initial success. Along with signing up vendors, building CityShopGirl’s subscriber base has been the other priority. Coverage in the blogs and the local media has been instrumental in generating subscribers. The media mentions have also provided credibility, allowing vendors to feel confident they will see an ROI when they advertise with CityShopGirl. The Pappas Group was the creative team that helped with the branding and website development. I have worked with them on several joint projects during my PR career, and I knew they were the best team to brand my vision for CityShopGirl.
PR: What has been your process when pitching the idea to local boutiques?
KCF: I have a strong understanding of retail business models, and I think vendors really appreciate that. I have been surprised at how successful we have been in reaching out to vendors.
The CityShopGirl value proposition really resonates with store managers and owners – create a buzz, reach active consumers, attract customers, and keep it easy and effective.
PR: How do you plan to get the word out about City Shop Girl in DC?
KCF: We have been written up in several local blogs which has helped bolster the subscriber base. We have conducted grassroots outreach at targeted local events. We also have a great feature on the site that allows users to invite friends with the incentive of receiving a gift card after 10 friends sign up.
Word of mouth really seems to be spreading now that we have launched. CityShopGirl also has teams at local universities to help get the word out to students and recent grads.
PR: Any thoughts on where PR is heading as a profession and how practitioners can stay relevant in today’s social web?
KCF: In some ways, PR has changed completely since I first started in the industry. Years ago, if you really understood the print publication you were pitching and wrote a strong pitch, you could get a story that yielded ROI. Today, reporters write blogs, print articles, online-only stories, etc. You really need to be a disciple of marketing and to understand the multi-pronged approach to reaching your audience. Social media is a great new tool, but it needs to be used in the right manner. The goal of PR practitioners is to constantly stay on top of new ways to communicate, and in that regard, much has remained the same.
(Image, Boutique by Matt Carman)